Osaka G20 summit communique: A ‘work of diplomatic art’

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) shaking hands with US President Donald Trump during their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. (AFP Photo / Saudi Royal Palace / Bandar Al-Jaloud)
Updated 30 June 2019

Osaka G20 summit communique: A ‘work of diplomatic art’

  • The Osaka declaration distills the views of 20-plus political leaders into a display of unanimity
  • The statement goes some way towards meeting Japan's wish to show unity and compromise

OSAKA: G20 leaders’ declarations — known as “the communique” — are precise works of diplomatic skill, knitted together painstakingly by the “sherpas” who work behind the scenes to distill the often conflicting views of 20-plus political leaders into a single cohesive display of unanimity. The risk is that they can try to satisfy so many different opinions that they end up as meaningless waffle.

The final communique issued in Osaka on Saturday went some way toward meeting the Japanese hosts’ wish to show unity and compromise, while retaining the substance of the diverging viewpoints on show at the G20. “It was a work of diplomatic art,” said a media professional at the event.


The leaders met, the communique read, “to make united efforts to address major global economic challenges. We will work together to foster global economic growth, while harnessing the power of technological innovation, in particular digitalization, and its application for the benefit of all.”
Nobody could argue with that, except that it gives no flavor of the disagreements over trade, inequality and climate change that were features of the two-day event. That came in the fine detail of the 7,000 word statement.
On the global economy, for example, the leaders observed that “growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside,” and reiterated their commitment to do everything in the policy-maker’s book to establish a “virtuous cycle” of growth.
But you had to read down to see that one big reason for the worrying global outlook was the on-off trade war between the US and China.
“We strive to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” the leaders said — a position that would make the Chinese and Europeans happy.
But there had to be something too for Donald Trump’s US, which dislikes the World Trade Organization (WTO) and threatens to use tariffs as an instrument of foreign policy. “We reaffirm our support for the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functions,” the communique said in a sop to the Americans.
“We agree that action is necessary regarding the functioning of the dispute settlement system consistent with the rules as negotiated by WTO members.”
There was a similar fudge in the section on data, one of the big themes of the G20. The Europeans and Americans are all for the free flow of information across borders via the Internet; the big Asian powers are keener on security of data and citizens’ information.
“Cross-border flow of data, information, ideas and knowledge generates higher productivity, greater innovation, and improved sustainable development, while raising challenges related to privacy, data protection, intellectual property rights, and security,” the leaders agreed, but they also noted that “the value of an ongoing discussion on security in the digital economy is growing.”
Inequality — of demographics and gender — is another theme that divides the leaders, but the communique managed to please everybody with an ambitious but bland commitment to “promote decent work and reaffirm our commitment to take actions to eradicate child labor, forced labor, human trafficking and modern slavery in the world of work, including through fostering sustainable global supply chains.”
But it was perhaps the section on “realizing an inclusive and sustainable world” that had to make the most twists and turns to keep everybody happy.
It reaffirmed the global predilection for economic growth and development, but simultaneously said that growth had to be sustainable to “ensure that no one is left behind.” The communique repeated its pledges on African development and investment, as well as the promotion of global health and medical investment.

G20HOSTS

Argentina — 2018

Japan — 2019

Saudi Arabia — 2020

Italy — 2021

India — 2022

On climate change — perhaps the second most divisive issue at the G20 after trade — the sherpas had worked hard to make sure nobody stormed out in a fit of anger.
“We emphasize the importance of providing financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in accordance with the Paris Agreement,” the leaders agreed, thereby pacifying the French President Emmanuel Macron, who had threatened to refuse to sign the document unless it mentioned the Paris accords on global warming.
The Americans under Trump, of course, have said they will leave the Paris deal. So, to balance things up, the leaders included a lengthy section on how good the Americans really are on climate and the environment.
“The US’s balanced approach to energy and environment allows for the delivery of affordable, reliable, and secure energy to all its citizens while utilizing all energy sources and technologies, including clean and advanced fossil fuels and technologies, renewables, and civil nuclear power, while also reducing emissions and promoting economic growth. The United States is a world leader in reducing emissions,” the communique said.
Finally, one of the initiatives that Japan was especially proud of at the G20 was the “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” to stop marine pollution, especially by the plastics industry. That got a big mention toward the end.
The sherpas will be back at their craft next year in Saudi Arabia, followed by Italy and then India.

 


Tolerance key to promoting inclusive society: EU envoy

Updated 25 min 51 sec ago

Tolerance key to promoting inclusive society: EU envoy

  • Intellectuals, diplomats discuss challenge of blending cultures, faiths and values

RIYADH/JEDDAH: The European envoy to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday called for more tolerance and respect to help bring diverse societies closer together.

Ambassador Michele Cervone d’Urso, head of the EU delegation to the Kingdom, made his appeal as he welcomed attendees to a high-profile lecture to discuss Saudi and European perspectives on religious tolerance and diversity.

Organized by the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS), the event gathered together top intellectuals, diplomats and scholars to debate the issues of tolerance, forgiveness and acceptance of others.

Opening the lecture at the King Faisal Foundation building in Riyadh, d’Urso spoke about tolerance and how it was core to the transformation of societies, especially in Europe which had become more diverse.

“Today’s European society is a mixture of cultures, faiths, values, ideas, and habits. The challenge is to make sure our society is more inclusive, enhance mutual understanding and promote tolerance and respect,” the envoy said.

He pointed to the UN’s blossoming partnership with the KFCRIS and the importance of the lecture as key building blocks in the process of bridging cultural and religious gaps between societies.

“I think there are few more teams that are exchanging on the Saudi and European perspectives of religious tolerance and diversity. All of us know that the KFCRIS builds from the legacy of the late King Faisal and has been a pillar in promoting Islam,” d’Urso added.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ambassador Michele Cervone d’Urso, head of the EU delegation to the Kingdom, made his appeal as he welcomed attendees to a high-profile lecture to discuss Saudi and European perspectives on religious tolerance and diversity.
  • Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), told delegates that when he talked about tolerance in Islam, he also meant tolerance in Saudi Arabia as a state that applied and was governed by Shariah law.
  • The director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Dr. Michael Privot, who converted to Islam 26 years ago, spoke about how the EU was characterized by increasing diversity, including religious and philosophical beliefs, even from the Muslim perspective.

He noted that in Europe there were many people of faith that had respect for coexistence. 

Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), told delegates that when he talked about tolerance in Islam, he also meant tolerance in Saudi Arabia as a state that applied and was governed by Shariah law.

He said a state that respected others, human existence and brotherhood could not exist “unless there is respect for diversity and differences as a universal norm that no one can collide.”

According to Al-Issa, the Charter of Madinah (regarded as the first Islamic state constitution) was considered one of the best achievements of civil legislation in human history. “This document was held by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, with the Jews and represented binding legislation for Muslims toward religious minorities.”

The MWL chief noted that the document included the protection of civil and religious rights. “The document cannot be absorbed by extremism, it is clear. These rights and freedoms have been preserved by this legislation. And the Prophet Muhammad coexisted with everyone and understood these differences and diversity.”

In his speech, Al-Issa explained how the Qur’an gave Jews and Christians a special name to celebrate their religious origins where they were called “people of the book,” in reference to the Torah and the Gospel. The history of Christians and Jews was also never omitted.

Addressing the event, director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Dr. Michael Privot, who converted to Islam 26 years ago, spoke about how the EU was characterized by increasing diversity, including religious and philosophical beliefs, even from the Muslim perspective.

“We encounter such a diversity of ways of being Muslim from a theoretical, cultural, philosophical, ideological point of view. Any single Muslim group or community is represented somewhere in Europe and this situation puts European Muslims in a very unique environment which is different from any other Islamic majority society in the world,” said Privot.

He pointed out that for the first time in history Muslim groups from Uzbekistan and Senegal were living together and trying to become a community in European societies.

“Societies, which have completely liberalized the market of religions, believe all faiths are accepted,” he added.

Earlier on Monday, an MWL forum in Makkah recommended that Islamic discourse should adhere to the principles of the Qur’an and Sunnah, the Muslims’ uppermost legislative sources, which are also known as the Two Divine Revelations.

The forum, titled “The Service of the Two Revelations,” called upon concerned authorities in the Muslim world to regulate Islamic fatwas in a way that prevented extremism and stopped producing any misguided explanations of the divinely revealed texts.

The participants also encouraged the use of modern technology, especially social media, to better serve the Qur’an and Sunnah to help link Muslim youths with the two revelations.

In addition, the gathering proposed establishing platforms for producing software and smart apps related to the Qur’an and Sunnah and the launch of an international service award under the umbrella of the MWL.

Al-Issa added that the MWL had staged a number of Qur’an memorization programs in 78 countries and said there were now 68 colleges and institutes where 7,500 students were studying the Qur’an.

“Some 61,275 Qur’an readers have graduated from these institutes, with 5,055 reciters having obtained authentic reading certificates. The IOQAS (International Organization of Qitab and Sunnah) has also carried out 193 training courses and provided nearly 3,000 scholarships,” he said.