Opinion: G20 - Just about surviving | Opinion | DW | 08.07.2017
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Opinion: G20 - Just about surviving

The G20 was marred by violence on the streets and conflicting political goals at the table - hardly what one would describe as a successful summit. Nevertheless, it could have been much worse, writes DW's Dagmar Engel.

This year's G20 summit in Hamburg could have been much worse. Not the brutal street riots; no, those were about as devastating as it gets. The northern port city was subject to a level of violence, destruction and looting unknown to most Germans.

Rather, what could have been worse was the actual outcome reached by heads of the 19 states, plus the European Union, attending the summit.  The very notion of sitting all parties down together to agree on a closing statement was enough to make anyone break out in a cold sweat.

Read more: Merkel's G20 in Hamburg proves an exercise in excess

At the table we saw true democrats sitting next to bona fide autocrats and human rights abusers. Some wear white shirts, while others face corruption charges. Then, there was a certain Donald Trump, the man who likes to stoke global tensions with his imposing and unbridled "America first" campaign.


Kommentarbild Kommentatorenfoto Dagmar Engel

DW's Dagmar Engel

Therefore, given the circumstances, one can only be satisfied with outcomes reached at the G20 summit. Incredibly, all parties agreed to fight protectionism, while sticking to the rules outlined by the World Trade Organization. That's exactly the kind of commitment to multilateralism German Chancellor Angela Merkel would have wished for. After all, it was a success of her doing, and praise rang out from the French president's corner, as well the Russian's.

On climate, however, one would be hard pressed to find any sense of achievement or unity. The US is officially pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement; we now have it in black and white in the communique. It marks the first time in the history of the G20 that open dissent has gone unchastized.

Nevertheless, all other 19 parties backed the Paris accord. Like I said, it could have been worse.


However, on days such as these, that simply isn't good enough. Proposals to empower women, fund African development projects and  promote digital skills are all very commendable, but don't do enough either.

Read more: Pursuing globalization after G20 resistance in Hamburg

The G20 summit failed to give globalization a much-needed new face. Around the globe, millions of people believe that the global economy only serves to benefit a select few.

At the end of the summit, Merkel said that the friendly demonstrations had influenced and contributed to the two days of talks. Even if that's true, there was no sign of it.

The German chancellor was accused before the G20 of wanting to use the summit to paint a symbolic image of herself as a successful global leader, ahead of September's federal election.

The symbolic images we'll all take back of Hamburg look quite different.

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