What to expect from the G20 summit in Indonesia’s Bali

Special Indonesia hopes that as host of the G20 Summit it can play a pivotal role in defusing the conflict in Ukraine, as well pushing forward talks on food insecurity, climate change and vaccine access. (AFP)
Indonesia hopes that as host of the G20 Summit it can play a pivotal role in defusing the conflict in Ukraine, as well pushing forward talks on food insecurity, climate change and vaccine access. (AFP)
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Updated 14 November 2022

What to expect from the G20 summit in Indonesia’s Bali

What to expect from the G20 summit in Indonesia’s Bali
  • Event caps Indonesia’s presidency which included 200 working group meetings and side events
  • G20 members account for 80 percent of global economic output and nearly 75 percent of exports

DUBAI / DENPASAR: World leaders meet in Indonesia this week to discuss key issues affecting the stability of the global market, with talks likely to be affected by tensions over the war in Ukraine and its economic fallout.

The Group of 20 summit is taking place in Nusa Dua on the island of Bali, on Nov. 15 and 16, marking the culmination of Indonesia’s presidency of the G20 biggest economies and more than 200 working group meetings and side events held throughout the year.

What is the G20?

It was established in late 1999, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. Initially focused on broad macroeconomic policy, it has later morphed into a forum to address urgent problems such as vaccine access, food security, and climate change.

The group’s members are 19 states — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkiye, the UK, and the US — and the EU.

Together, these 20 economies account for 80 percent of global economic output, nearly 75 percent of exports, and about 60 percent of the world’s population.

Every year, the leaders of G20 members meet to discuss economic and financial matters and coordinate policy on other issues of mutual interest.

The group’s annual summit is hosted and chaired by a different member, giving host countries an opportunity to push for action on issues that matter to them.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has pushed for a meeting between Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who says he has no plans to attend the summit. (AFP)

Indonesian presidency

The largest Muslim-majority nation and the world’s fourth most populous, Indonesia focused its presidency on steering post-coronavirus pandemic recovery, energy transition, and digital transformation.

But just three months into its chairing of the group, in February, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine added new variables to the equation, bringing to the center of discussions food and energy security — two issues that have become global concerns as a result of the ongoing war.

High fuel and food prices are often correlated with mass protests, political violence, and unrest. While Sri Lanka and Peru have already begun to see riots, Turkiye, Pakistan, and Egypt are also at risk for social unrest as the cost of living accelerates.

These problems are expected to dominate G20 summit talks.

Teuku Rezasyah, international relations lecturer from Padjadjaran University in Bandung, told Arab News: “Most of us have learned what happened in the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the global economic crisis in 2008, and that was the reason behind the foundation of the G20.

“They will talk about energy security, food security, and then they will also talk about how to maintain global economic stability and development.”

Inflation, energy crisis, food insecurity

Inflation running at levels not seen in decades, an unfolding debt crisis, and cost-of-living problems are the biggest threats to doing business for G20 countries in the next two years, according to an early November survey by the World Economic Forum.

The global economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been further aggravated by the ongoing war in Europe.

While the G20 is an economic forum and not one for addressing armed and political conflict, the situation in Ukraine is expected to permeate discussions.

Saidiman Ahmad, program manager at the Jakarta-based pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, told Arab News: “This war has become the source of energy and agricultural crises. It would be strange if a matter as major as this did not become one of the main issues on the G20 forum agenda.”

The grain deal between Russia and Ukraine establishing safe corridors along which Ukrainian ships can come in and out of three designated Black Sea ports in and around Odessa creates a traffic jam in Istanbul. (AFP)

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions slapped on Moscow, the fuel price spike has been the second highest since the 1970s. The conflict has also disrupted supplies of wheat and fertilizers — the two countries account for one-third of the global wheat, while Russia is also a top exporter of nitrates used in agriculture.

While sustained food shortages and high food prices could send millions of people around the world into acute food insecurity, and the UN has already been warning about looming famines, G20 finance and agriculture ministers committed during an October meeting to addressing global food insecurity. It is not clear, however, if the matter will be reflected in the leaders’ final declaration.

Attempts to address the power crisis, on the other hand, should be expected to appear in the summit’s communique.

The Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources announced last week that G20 members had agreed to accelerate energy transition — a shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources — and include efforts for energy security in the summit’s final declaration.

Who will attend?

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has confirmed that 17 leaders of the G20 countries have confirmed their attendance, including US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The presidents of the world’s two biggest economies are set to meet in Bali on Monday, in what will be their first face-to-face chat since Biden took office, and as tensions between America and China are high — over trade policies, technology, and Beijing’s increasing military activity in the South China Sea and actions on Taiwan.

China has also avoided direct condemnation of Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, while the US has been the main initiator of sanctions on Moscow.

Besides G20 leaders, dozens of other top-level officials are also expected to attend, and the Indonesian military announced in its summit security updates that it had prepared VVIP task forces for an additional 42 heads of state arriving in Bali to attend the forum.

Indonesian diplomacy

Indonesia was trying to arrange a meeting between Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia — one of the G20’s key members — and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, who has been invited to the summit as a guest.

While the Russian embassy in Jakarta has already said that Putin would not come to the summit, Zelensky’s press secretary told the Ukrainian news media he would attend, but most likely virtually.

In late June, Widodo was the first Asian leader to travel to Kyiv and Moscow to meet his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts in an effort to ease the conflict’s impact on the international community.

There is a strong belief among Indonesians that the Southeast Asian country as the G20 host can help defuse the war.

A survey conducted by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting in August showed that 84 percent of Indonesian respondents familiar with the G20 forum agreed that their country — which has been trying to remain neutral — could play a role in conflict resolution.

US President Joe Biden meets with Indonesia President Joko Widodo (not pictured) on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 14, 2022. (AFP)

The hopes, however, may be inadequately placed.

Dr. Luthfi Assyaukanie, international relations lecturer at Paramadina University in Jakarta, told Arab News: “The main objective of the G20 meeting is economical, not political. That’s one thing that we have to highlight.

“If this forum is projected to reconcile Russia and Ukraine, then we’d put a lot of burden on this forum, because the forum is not designed to do such a thing. Even the United Nations or the European Union cannot handle this problem, so I don’t think we should expect too much from this forum in terms of Russia-Ukraine reconciliation.”

What about a final communique?

The war is likely to affect the summit leaders’ final declaration. Indications of it were already seen in July, when a meeting of G20 ministers failed to produce a consensus on the reasons of the current crisis.

While Western states blamed it on Russia’s invasion, Moscow in turn said the problems were caused by the sweeping sanctions against it and a European blockade on the transport of some Russian goods through EU borders.

“In the communique, you have to explain why there is food insecurity currently in the world. They could not reach an agreement on what caused the food crisis and inflation,” Assyaukanie said, adding that the same hurdles would now appear at the summit.

“The ultimate goal of the G20 forum is to formulate a communique. I am concerned that the G20 summit will not, and if that happens, people may consider this forum a failure.”


Indonesian farm workers left stranded in debt in UK, embassy warns

Indonesian farm workers left stranded in debt in UK, embassy warns
Updated 12 sec ago

Indonesian farm workers left stranded in debt in UK, embassy warns

Indonesian farm workers left stranded in debt in UK, embassy warns
  • Over 1,450 paid vast sums to recruitment agents for fruit picking jobs in Britain
  • One employer ‘very concerned’ about payments demanded by third-party agents

LONDON: More than 200 Indonesian fruit pickers have since July sought help from their nation’s embassy in London after wracking up huge debts traveling to the UK for work, only to find their jobs being cut short, the mission said on Friday.

The true number of Indonesians struggling in the industry was likely to be much higher, it added, with more than 1,450 of them sent this year by a company called AG Recruitment to work on six-month seasonal worker visas.

An embassy official told The Guardian newspaper that initially people “started coming to us with problems about the targets on farms.”

But the official added: “Currently, most people are contacting us because there’s no more work at the farms. They try to transfer, but AG tells them there’s no other work.”

One worker told The Guardian he had borrowed £4,650 ($5,700) in Java to pay an agent to take him to the UK, but that his job at Castleton Farm in Scotland paid only about £200 per week. When he was dismissed after just two months he still owed £1,700.

Ross Mitchell, managing director of Castleton Fruit Ltd., said the farm had employed 106 Indonesian workers this year, 70 of whom were still on site, working an average of just under 42 hours per week, with an average weekly gross pay of about £450, excluding costs such as accommodation.

He added he was “very concerned” about “payment demanded by third-party agents” and that the company relied on “approved agents to have carried out due diligence to ensure that the workers are not paying excessive fees.”

“We had hoped the relevant bodies would have dealt with this issue,” he told The Guardian.

An investigation by the paper in August revealed Indonesian workers were regularly taking on debts of up to £5,000 to work in the UK for a single fruit picking season.

AG Recruitment, which has no presence in Indonesia, used Jakarta-based Al Zubara Manpower to source workers, which in turn used third-party brokers who charged the high fees to prospective workers, The Guardian said.

AG Recruitment denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the practice, but has since been investigated by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, a UK government agency.

A GLAA spokesperson told The Guardian: “Where there are allegations of labor exploitation we will investigate and take appropriate action if our licensing standards are not being fully adhered to … Scheme operators are fully aware of their responsibilities to workers.”

AG director Douglas Amesz said: “Workers should never pay fees to anyone to receive a job in the UK; this is UK law. However, unfortunately this is not law in all the countries we have historically recruited from so we are actively working to educate citizens abroad that they should never pay anyone fees to receive a job in the UK or anywhere else.”

Yulia Guyeni, director of Al Zubara, said: “We send workers based on the request from AG. We only charge based on the placement agreement the workers signed.

She added: “It is not our responsibility (to check the debts of workers) as we do not encourage them to have debt. They are old enough and should be responsible to realize the consequences of debt.”

Castleton Farm supplies fruit to some of the UK’s biggest supermarket brands. In a statement, the British Retail Consortium said the supermarkets “are concerned by these allegations and are investigating as a matter of urgency.”

EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies

EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies
Updated 02 December 2022

EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies

EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies
  • The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that treatments containing pholcodine should be withdrawn from sale
  • "Use of pholcodine in the 12 months before general anaesthesia... is a risk factor for developing an anaphylactic reaction"

THE HAGUE: Cough medicines containing the chemical pholcodine should be banned due to the risk of potentially deadly allergic reactions in people under general anaesthetic, the European Union’s drug regulator said Friday.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that treatments containing pholcodine, which is used in adults and children to treat dry coughs, should be withdrawn from sale.
“Use of pholcodine in the 12 months before general anaesthesia... is a risk factor for developing an anaphylactic reaction” to muscle relaxants in the anaesthetic, the Amsterdam-based watchdog said.
Anaphylactic shock is a “sudden, severe and life-threatening allergic reaction,” it added.
Medicines with the chemical were “being withdrawn from the EU market and will therefore no longer be available by prescription or over the counter.”
Opioid-based pholcodine has been used as a cough medicine since the 1950s.
Medicines containing the chemical are currently authorized in the EU countries of Belgium, Croatia, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Slovenia, under brand names including Dimetane, Biocalyptol and Broncalene.
France had said in September that pholcodine could be banned due to the risk of allergies.
In April 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when a dry cough was one of the main symptoms of the disease, French authorities had recommended against the use of syrups with pholcodine.
The EMA in January had recommended updating packaging to warn of the risk of allergies, based on new data.

UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows

UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows
Updated 02 December 2022

UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows

UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows
  • Program aimed to resettle 5,000 vulnerable people during first year of operation
  • Second policy for Afghans who supported the UK military has helped 6,500 people

LONDON: One of the UK’s programs to house Afghan refugees has resettled just four people since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August last year, The Independent reported.
The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, one of two UK government programs for the urgent relocation of vulnerable Afghan refugees, aimed to resettle 5,000 people in Britain within its first year of operation.
However, Home Office data shows that while about 6,500 Afghans had been welcomed as part of a second scheme — the Afghan Relocation Assistance Policy — only four had been resettled as part of ACRS.
The more successful ARAP targeted Afghans who worked with and supported British military operations during the country’s near two-decade civil war.
ACRS, which launched in January, aims to help Afghans who “assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, freedom of speech, and rule of law,” the government said.
Unlike ARAP, the scheme receives referrals for vulnerable Afghans directly from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Due to safety issues within Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, many of the potential targets of the scheme have already fled to neighboring countries, including Pakistan and Iran.
They have since been left in limbo, however, awaiting responses from the UK government amid warning calls from the UNHCR.
A former high-ranking Afghan prosecutor who has resided in Pakistan since the fall of Kabul has been unable to relocate to the UK despite having family members there.
He said: “I am constantly terrified; I am worried that I will go to jail. I don’t know what is going to happen.”
His lawyer, Deena Patel, said that the prosecutor’s case had been referred to the UNHCR but that progress has been slow.
She added: “The number of four Afghans (relocated through ACRS) is highly believable. The prosecutor’s case was a strong case on merit.
“He should have been relocated under pathway two, but he’s been waiting months on end.
“This is just taking way too long. The UNHCR have to do a refugee assessment in each case, if they are not even speeding up this process then they are not going to make a referral to the Home Office.
“We know the crisis that this is causing — a large proportion of those arriving (in the UK) illegally are Afghans. What can you do if there is no legal route?”
The opposition Labour Party’s shadow immigration minister, Stephen Kinnock, said: “Britain owes a debt of gratitude to courageous Afghans who served British interests in Afghanistan, and it is a debt that must be honored.
“UN figures show that since last summer at least 160 Afghans have been killed through reprisal attacks.”
The government “must urgently clear the asylum backlog at home, while working more effectively with the UNHCR to keep the promise they made last autumn to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety,” he added.
Mary Atkinson, campaigns officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, described the latest Home Office ACRS figures as “disgraceful.”
She added: “We shouldn’t allow this government to get away with its shameful abandonment of the Afghan people — we need a fully functioning Afghan resettlement scheme now.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has made one of the largest commitments to support Afghanistan of any country and, so far, we have brought more than 22,800 vulnerable Afghans to safety.
“However, the situation is complex and presents us with significant challenges, including safe passage out of the country for those who want to leave and who are eligible for resettlement in the UK.”

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies
Updated 02 December 2022

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies
  • The “bloody parcels” were received by the Ukrainian embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Italy and Czech
  • Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko said that “we are studying the meaning of this message”

KYIV: Ukrainian embassies and consulates in six European countries have received packages containing animals’ eyes in recent days, a Ukrainian official said Friday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko wrote on Facebook that the “bloody parcels” were received by the Ukrainian embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia and Italy, as well as by consulates in Naples, Italy; Krakow, Poland and the Czech city of Brno. He said that “we are studying the meaning of this message.”
Nikolenko said they arrived after a package containing an explosive device that was sent to the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid ignited upon opening on Wednesday and injured an employee. That was one of multiple explosive parcels found in Spain this week.
In addition, the entrance to the residence of the Ukrainian ambassador to the Vatican was vandalized and the embassy in Kazakhstan was warned of a mine attack, though that wasn’t confirmed, Nikolenko said.
All Ukrainian embassies and consulates have stepped up security measures. Nikolenko quoted Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as saying that “we have reason to believe that a well-planned campaign of terror and intimidation of Ukrainian embassies and consulates is taking place.”

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police
Updated 02 December 2022

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility and officers are still investigating

ATHENS: Two explosive devices targeted cars belonging to the Italian embassy in Greece on Friday, one of which went off causing no injuries, Greek police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility and officers said they were investigating.
A homemade bomb exploded at around 4:00 am (0200 GMT), damaging a vehicle parked at the home of an embassy officer in an Athens suburb, police said.
The other device, placed near a second diplomatic vehicle, did not go off.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed “deep concern” at what she called an “attack... probably of anarchist origin.”
The far-right leader sent her “personal thoughts and those of the Italian government to the first counsellor of the Italian embassy in Athens, Susanna Schlein.”
Meloni added she was following the case “with the utmost attention” and through Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani who was in Athens for talks on Friday.
The Greek foreign ministry “strongly condemned the attack” and said such “unacceptable” acts “would not disrupt... the excellent relations and ties of long-standing friendship between Greece and its partner and ally Italy.”
Crude, homemade devices, which cause damage but rarely injuries, are commonly used against political or diplomatic targets, banks or foreign companies in Greece.
Police often blame groups on the extreme left or anarchists.