G20 now G21 as group admits the African Union as a permanent member leaders final declaration fails to condemn Russia
The African Union (AU) has formally taken its seat as a new member of the G20 group of leading economies. The announcement was made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the bloc’s summit in New Delhi on Saturday.
The AU now has the same status as the European Union, which was the only regional bloc with full membership. The African Union’s previous designation was “invited international organization.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (r) hugs Azali Assoumani of the African Union at the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, September 9, 2023 © Getty Images / picture alliance / Contributor
“With everyone’s approval, I request the AU head to take his seat as a permanent G20 member,” Modi said in his opening address, with the African bloc’s head Azali Assoumani then taking a seat alongside world leaders.
The AU was announced in the Sirte Declaration in Sirte, Libya, on 9 September 1999, calling for the establishment of the African Union made up of 55 African countries and encompasses virtually the entire continent. The member-states collectively make key political and economic decisions. One of the AU’s main objectives is to eliminate “the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid” as well as promoting unity and solidarity among its members.
South Africa was previously the only African country with membership in the G20.
The idea of the AU taking a permanent seat at the G20 was first advocated by Senegalese President Macky Sall, who told the UN General Assembly in September 2022 that the move would mean “that Africa can, at last, be represented where decisions are taken that affect 1.4 billion Africans.”
With Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping both skipping the event in New Delhi, the media expected the summit to be dominated by the US and its allies. However, the West was unable to persuade the nations of the so-called Global South to change their stance in regards to Russia.
The nations of the G20 managed to agree a final declaration of the summit in New Delhi that acknowledges the lack of consensus among the world’s top economies regarding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks as U.S. President Joe Biden with other leaders listen during the first session of the G20 Summit, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. Evan Vucci/Pool via REUTERS
“Friends, I just received a piece of good news,” the host of the gathering, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told other leaders of the group on Saturday. “Thanks to the hard work of our teams and your co-operation, the New Delhi G20 Leaders’ Summit have agreed a joint declaration,” he said. The Indian leader later shared the full text of the 34-page document on his account on X (formerly Twitter).
Reuters reported earlier that the Ukrainian issue had been a major stumbling block in finalizing the document as the Western push for strong condemnation of Russia over its military operation in the neighboring country faced resistance from other G20 members.
According to the agency, the paragraph devoted to the “geopolitical situation” remained blank in the declaration’s draft on Friday, while all the other paragraphs covering topics ranging from global debt and cryptocurrencies to climate change had already been agreed.
The final text of the declaration said that the G20 members “highlighted the human suffering and negative added impacts of the war in Ukraine with regard to global food and energy security, supply chains, macro-financial stability, inflation and growth.” Developing countries, which have already been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, are the ones suffering the most due to the conflict, it added.
However, the document stressed that “there were different views and assessments of the situation” among the members about the conflict in Ukraine.
According to the declaration, the G20 leaders vow to “unite” in tackling the impact of the crisis on the global economy. It also said that the group would “welcome all relevant and constructive initiatives that support a comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine” that would uphold the principles of the UN Charter.
Biden, Scholz, Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Bin Salman, South Africa’s Ramphosa and Japan’s Fumio Kishida, among others, attended.
“It’s incumbent upon the Chinese government to explain” why its leader would or would not participate, Jon Finer, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, told reporters in Delhi.
Biden said on Saturday: “It would be nice to have him here but the summit is going well.”
Finer said there was speculation that China is “giving up on G20” in favour of groupings like BRICS, where it is dominant.
BRICS includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and has agreed to add another six members — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates – accelerating its push to reshuffle a world order it sees as outdated.