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International Conferences and Summits: Catalysts for Global Change

By: Sanjana Bajaj

Abstract – International conferences are some of the most important and looked-at forums for social change. They have been fairly successful in the past, but this often overlooks all the limitations that are also attached to these conferences. This article looks at these conferences and summits, and their limitations with a focus on the G20 Conference.

International conferences and summits have become an important platform for addressing
pressing global issues by bringing together world leaders, experts, and activists. These events
provide an opportunity for countries to collaborate on solutions, share best practices, and make
commitments towards achieving shared goals. The Paris Climate Agreement, signed in 2015 by
196 countries, set the goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-
industrial levels. This historic agreement also called for limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees
Celsius, which could significantly reduce the risks and effects of climate change. The UN
Sustainable Development Goals Summit, also held in 2015, resulted in the adoption of 17
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and
ensuring prosperity for all. The World Humanitarian Summit, held in 2016, sought to improve
crisis response and increase funding for humanitarian aid. These events have been successful in
bringing global attention to these issues and have led to significant achievements in addressing

Limitations and the Path Ahead

While conferences are often successful in raising awareness and gaining commitments, it
is crucial to follow through in order to achieve tangible change. This is where independent
monitoring and accountability come into play, as they can ensure progress towards established
goals. A great example of this can be seen in the annual assessments carried out by the United
Nations to track progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. However, despite these efforts,
there are still challenges that need to be addressed. Limitations in representation and gaps
between goals and practical actions often hinder progress. Furthermore, global cooperation is
becoming increasingly difficult in our polarized world. To effectively translate words into action,
continuous engagement and practical implementation are essential. Addressing issues
transcending national boundaries requires a collective effort from governments and stakeholders.
This will require a sustained and collaborative approach to problem-solving, where all parties
work together to identify and implement effective solutions.

Therefore, while conferences are an important first step, it is only through independent
monitoring and accountability, as well as practical implementation and continuous engagement,
that we can truly achieve the goals we set out to accomplish. The United Nations is one
organization that tracks progress on Sustainable Development Goals through its annual SDG
progress report. World Bank also provides data and analysis on progress towards the SDGs. The
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) monitors the
implementation of commitments made by G20 leaders, including on climate change,
development, and trade. However, while these organizations provide valuable analysis and
monitoring, there is still a need for greater transparency and accountability. This includes regular
reporting on progress, independent evaluations of policies and programs, and increased
participation from civil society.

The G20 Summit

The G20 summit brings together major developed and developing economies
representing most of the global GDP and trade. The members represent around 85% of the global
GDP, over 75% of the global trade and about two-thirds of the world’s population. The collective
actions taken by these economies could significantly affect the environment, society, and
economy on a global scale. At the 2019 summit, the members pledged to tackle ‌plastic pollution
and empower women. If fully funded and implemented, these could reduce ocean plastic and
support women’s advancement, benefiting the environment, society, and economy. However, the
G20’s mix of developed and developing nations brings both opportunities and challenges for
coordinated global action on issues transcending borders. Therefore, it is critical to monitor the
implementation of previous pledges and strengthening future commitments will be critical to
realizing the G20’s potential for a positive impact.
International cooperation on global issues could be strengthened by increasing civil
society involvement in major summits and conferences. Non-governmental organizations
representing those most affected by the issues at hand can bring valuable perspectives and voices
to the dialogues. Following up on commitments with concrete actions and making progress
transparent through regular reporting can build accountability and trust. Following up on
commitments can be done through various means. One way is to establish regular reporting
mechanisms that track progress towards meeting the commitments made at the conference or
summit. This reporting should be transparent and accessible to the public. Independent
monitoring by civil society organizations can also be helpful in ensuring accountability. Peer
review mechanisms where countries review each other’s progress towards meeting commitments
can encourage compliance. It is important to note that following up on commitments requires
sustained effort and continuous engagement from all parties involved.

By convening world leaders and experts, G20 provides opportunities for countries to
make commitments to tackle issues collectively and share best practices. For example, the Paris
Climate Agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals Summit have led to emissions
reduction goals and global development targets, respectively G20 could have a significant impact
on the environment, society, and economy if collective actions are fully implemented. However,
its mix of nations at different stages of development presents both opportunities and challenges
for global action. To enhance cooperation, civil society involvement and transparency are
needed. Follow-through and accountability are necessary for realizing change from international
conferences. The G20 and other summits have the potential to positively affect the environment
and society if pledges are achieved through continuous action and monitoring. Global
cooperation could be improved by including more perspectives and strengthening transparency
and accountability.

About the Author

Sanjana Bajaj is a third-year student majoring in Economics at O.P Jindal Global University.

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