Debating the International Legitimacy of the G20: Global Policymaking and Contemporary International Society

There have been growing debates about the legitimacy and the future of the G20 (the Group of Twenty) leaders forum despite this forum playing a prominent role in response to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. While states within the G20 assert the legitimacy of the G20, states outside the G20 actively question this forum’s legitimacy. This article contends that while the G20 is important to contemporary global governance and efforts to create a common framework of rules for global capitalism, this ongoing debate demonstrates that the legitimacy of the G20 is fundamentally uncertain and problematic because the G20’s membership and connection to existing forms of multilateralism remain contentious. This article contends that G20 leaders need to consider these issues in light of the prevailing expectations of states in contemporary international society.

Given the scale and complexity of global problems and the large number of states and International Organisations (IOs), the G20 is going to be an important forum for timely global agenda setting and decision making at an executive level.
However, the G20 faces a range of challenges in attempting to develop and sustain its legitimacy. Importantly, legitimacy is not an abstract concept, as it derives from the prevailing norms and institutions in international society.
Since the emergence of the G20 there have been ongoing debates about the legitimacy of the G20 in international society, where it is clear that considering the views of nonmember states and the relationship of the G20 to existing forms of multilateralism are important.
Consequently, consideration ought to be given to measures to strengthen the legitimacy of the G20, including stronger connections between the G20 and core multilateral bodies like the UN, as well as developing avenues of interaction between the G20 and the public in its member states, as well as transnational NGOs and business interests.