How does the G20 work?

The G20's yearly agenda includes over 50 meetings of ministers, foreign ministry emissaries (known as sherpas), central bank governors, and world leaders. Each year’s agenda cycle culminates in the Leaders Summit attended by heads of state or government, where they issue a joint declaration on the policy formed by the G20 meetings throughout the year. For example:

  • At the Hamburg 2017 G20 Summit, world leaders agreed to limit protectionism, commit to a rules-based international trade system, and advance policies which share the benefits of globalisation.
  • At the Hangzhou 2016 G20 Summit, leaders agreed to expand the role of the G20 to establish more global cooperation on tax evasion, and to promote international collaboration to facilitate cross-border investment in green bonds.

The work of the G20 is generally divided into two tracks:

  • The Finance track comprises all meetings with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors and their deputies. Convening several times throughout the year, they focus on financial and economic issues, such as monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies, infrastructure investment, financial regulation, financial inclusion and international taxation.
  • The Sherpa track focuses on broader issues such as political engagement, anti-corruption, development, trade, energy and climate change, gender equality, among others. Each G20 country is represented at these meetings by its relevant minister, and by its designated sherpa, or emissary. The sherpa engages in planning, negotiation and implementation tasks on behalf of the leader of their respective country. Each sherpa orients their minister and head of state or government accordingly on the progress of the G20, and delegates the dialogue and topics to relevant working groups.

 

Each year, when a new country takes on the presidency (in this case Argentina), it works hand-in-hand with the previous presidency (in this case Germany), and the following presidency (Japan) in what is collectively known as the Troika. This is to ensure consistency and continuity of the group's agenda.

    The presidency of the G20 rotates annually between the group’s 19 member countries. As the G20 has no headquarters or permanent staff, the country which holds the G20 presidency hosts the meetings and plays a leading role in setting the agenda and building consensus among members.

    To broaden the scope and impact of the G20 and ensure its focus is truly global, leading international organizations, such the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, are invited to take part.

    The G20 seeks to enrich its agenda and decision-making by drawing on perspectives and expertise beyond its member governments. It therefore confers with a set of engagement groups: civil society organizations from the G20 nations that represent different sectors of society. Each engagement group is independent and chaired by one of its national members. It develops a set of policy recommendations that are formally submitted to the G20 ahead of the summit.

    The current engagement groups of the G20 are the following: Business (B20), Civil Society (C20), Labour (L20), Science (S20), Think Tanks (T20), Women (W20) and Youth (Y20).