G20’s Osaka Summit to Grapple with Technology Governance
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The 2019 Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan will focus on harnessing the power of technological innovation, as an overarching theme and cross-cutting debate topic.

Japan’s representative for the G20 Koji Tomita briefed the UNGA on preparations for the Summit.

Ahead of the sherpas' second meeting in April, all plans are still preliminary.

11 March 2019: The 2019 Group of 20 (G20) summit in Osaka, Japan will focus on harnessing the power of technological innovation as an overarching theme and cross-cutting debate topic. Japan’s representative for the G20 (“Sherpa”), Koji Tomita, briefed the UN General Assembly on preparations for the Summit, stressing that all plans are still preliminary.

The G20 summit will convene in Osaka, Japan, from 28-29 June 2019. Introducing Tomita’s briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 11 March 2019, UNGA President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces and UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs head Liu Zhenmin, who is also the UN’s sherpa to the G20, highlighted the G20’s importance in the world economy, the member countries of which represent 80% of global trade and GDP. Espinosa stressed, “what the G20 does matters.” She also suggested that the Osaka summit may be remembered as the one that sparks global data governance, saying this issue is crucial for the 2030 Agenda.

Tomita said Japan assumes the G20 presidency at a “critical juncture in the global economy.” While the G20 process began as a “crisis management exercise” in the wake of financial shocks, risks of a serious downturn are developing again, and he said that a key challenge for the Osaka G20 is to prevent these risks from manifesting themselves. Beyond Osaka, he said the outcomes also must lead to broader, inclusive efforts to address challenges facing international society.

Following the first sherpas’ meeting in January 2019 and ahead of their second meeting in April, the plans for the G20 summit are tentatively considered to focus on three main topics: G20 efforts to achieve sustainable growth in the global economy; efforts to address global challenges; and how to harness the power of technological innovation, as an overarching theme.

The pace of innovation-driven change makes it hard to respond in a timely way, and governance lags behind.

Under the first topic, on sustainable global growth, Tomita said leaders’ urgent task is to restore confidence in the multilateral trading system, making reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) an important priority for Osaka. He said that although the G20 is not a negotiating forum, it can lend political impetus to a better functioning WTO. He also cited the importance of improved labor participation by women, and population aging.

Under the second topic, on addressing global challenges, he highlighted several themes including climate change and energy, corruption, migration and immigration, all other issues covered by the SDGs, the unique challenges facing Africa, and marine plastic litter.

Tomita said the cross-cutting debate theme of harnessing innovation will address the fact that the pace of innovation-driven change makes it hard to respond in a timely way; thus systems to create governance lag behind, and the problems associated with this lag are increasingly acute. He flagged the danger of technological development leading to “a new divide within and across societies.”

The Osaka summit will aim to develop an ‘STI for SDGs Roadmap,’ providing a shared communication tool regarding what must be done, by when, and by whom. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [Summit website]


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