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It's important

What Is the G20? (And Why Am I Going?)

This week, I’m going to stand in front of the leaders of the largest 20 nations on earth and ask them to keep their promises – and to re-commit to helping the poorest people on earth.  How on earth did I get here?

Well, first off, I was asked. The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the G20 invited me to prepare a report about creative ways to find more money for development aid. I’m very honored to be presenting a report to the G20 Summit, increasingly the most important forum for advancing international economic development. In this time of crisis for the world economy, I’m grateful that the summit is setting aside time to discuss development assistance to the world’s poorest people.

I’m excited to have a chance to contribute to the growing realization within G20 countries that their own prosperity depends on their helping raise the living standards of the world’s poorest. As the G20 declared at the summit in Seoul a year ago, “For prosperity to be sustained it must be shared.”

Formally known as the Group of 20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, the grouping was set up in 1999 in response to the financial crises of that decade and to bring together important industrialized and developing economies to discuss issues in the world economy. The United States, European Union and other large industrial economies all belong, along with dynamic, emerging ones such as China, India and Brazil. Presidents and prime ministers often participate in summits, along with their finance ministers and central bankers, and leaders of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

To me, the G20 is more important than ever now, because the world economy is in a precarious state, and if it weakens further, the world’s poorest people will be the ones who suffer the most. The governments in Cannes represent the countries in a position to play a role in driving development forward and getting the world economy back on track. The delegates include representatives from rich countries as well as rapidly emerging and poor countries.

Yet in difficult times like these, when unemployment is high in many rich countries, it’s easy for them to maybe forget about conditions in poor countries. That’s why I’m especially glad to see the G20 continuing to focus on development aid not only as a humanitarian obligation but also as a way to help stabilize demand and growth worldwide, which is the G20’s core mission.

My report will encourage the G20 to emphasize support for innovation that can spur development, especially innovation within developing countries. I have ideas about how industrialized countries can increase support for aid programs, and how to get the private sector more involved. The G20 can bring together resources, innovative ideas and leadership, which can have a huge impact in a new world of development.

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