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What Is the G20?

Saudi Arabia is a member of the G20.
South Africa is part of the G20.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
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  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2014
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The G20, or “Group of 20,” is an international organization that brings together the leaders and heads of finance for 19 individual countries, the European Union, and international financial groups such as the World Bank and the International Money Fund (IMF). Each year, the G20 holds summit meetings during which global economic concerns are examined and discussed by members and select invited guest nations. Consistently controversial, G20 meetings are often gathering points for protesters, many of whom object to the lack of political transparency and exclusivity of membership.

Conceived in the 1990s by a collective of leaders known as the G8, the organization was preceded by several previous economic forums between international leaders, including the G33 and G22. While members of the G8, which include the heads of Germany, France, Japan, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Russia, continue to meet on a variety of topics, the G20 has become the main international forum for pure economic discussion. The members of the G20 include the G8 countries plus additional nations such as Australia, Mexico, China, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia. The countries are represented by their ministers of finance and central bank heads, but political leaders may also attend.

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The goal of the G20 is to create an open and cooperative forum for the discussion of global economics. Member nations include both heavily industrialized nations, such as the United States, and developing nations, such as Argentina. The inclusion of both wealthy and developing nations is intentional, so that more developed nations can serve as consultants to less economically stable regions. By doing so, the G20 aims to reduce the chances of global financial crisis caused by the economic collapse of a vulnerable country.

The development of a stable, efficient global economy is another goal of the G20. During summit meetings, much work is aimed toward the creation of economic standards and policies that can be applied in all nations. Through these efforts, the organization attempts to fight some sources of financial instability and risk, such as terrorist financing, counterfeiting, and the growth of black markets.

Since its inception, the organization has been met with considerable criticism. Many nations not included in the organization claim that its exclusivity is both detrimental to the growth of a truly global economy, and runs the risk of creating an economic superpower that could be used against non-members. Citizens of member nations frequently object to the secrecy surrounding G20 summits, suggesting that it is unethical, if not illegal, to draft policy in secret meetings without the input of voters. Summits throughout the world have been disrupted by riotous protests, making the honor of hosting a G20 meeting a dubious honor for many cities.

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