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India Assumes G20 Presidency : “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth One Family One Future”

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Pooja Paswan
February 13, 2023

India assumed the G20 presidency in December and, not surprisingly, the ongoing Ukraine conflict, the COVID-19 recovery and global economic stability will all continue to be part of the major discourse for 2023. While at the helm of framing the platform’s priorities, however, New Delhi now has the chance to play an important role in shaping and strengthening global architecture and governance on all major international economic issues. The G20 Presidency, for India, also marks the beginning of “Amritkaal”, the 25-year period beginning from the 75th anniversary of its independence on August 15th, 2022, leading up to the centenary of its independence, towards a futuristic, prosperous, inclusive and developed society, distinguished by a human-centric approach at its core.

What is the G20?

Formed in the wake of the financial crisis that swept through Southeast Asian economies in the late 1990s as a forum for finance ministers and central bank governors, the G20 was upgraded in 2007 to include heads of state and governments. The G20 was founded in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis as a forum for the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to discuss global economic and financial issues. The G20 was later upgraded to the level of Heads of State/Government and was designated the “premier forum for international economic cooperation”. Since 2011, the G20 Summit has been held annually, under the leadership of a rotating Presidency. The G20 initially focused largely on broad macroeconomic policy, but it has since expanded its ambit to include trade, climate change, sustainable development, energy, environment, anti-corruption, etc.

What Does G20 Presidency Entail?

The G20 does not have a permanent secretariat, and one member takes over the presidency each year to steer the grouping’s agenda that is split into two tracks—the Finance Track and the Sherpa Track. Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors lead the Finance Track, while Sherpas lead the Sherpa Track.

The Finance Track is led by Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the member countries. Within the two tracks, there are thematically oriented working groups in which representatives from the relevant ministries of the members as well as from invited/guest countries and various international organisations participate.

The G20 process from the Sherpa Track is coordinated by the Sherpas of member countries, who are personal emissaries of the Leaders. The Sherpa Track oversees inputs from 13 Working Groups, 2 Initiatives—Research Innovation Initiative Gathering (RIIG) and G20 Empower, and various Engagement Groups, all of whom meet throughout the year and develop their issue notes and outcome documents in parallel. These substantive discussions then feed consensus-based recommendations to the Sherpa Meetings. The outcome document of the Sherpa-level meetings eventually forms the basis of the Leaders’ Declaration, which will be debated and signed (after and if consensus is reached) at the final New Delhi Summit in September next year by the Leaders of all G20 member countries.

After India, Brazil will take over the presidency of the G20, followed by South Africa in 2025.

During its term, India will hold more than 200 meetings across some 50 cities involving ministers, officials and civil society, leading up to a marquee summit in the capital New Delhi in September 2023.

“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth One Family One Future”

The G20 Logo draws inspiration from the vibrant colours of India’s national flag—saffron, white and green and blue. It juxtaposes planet Earth with the lotus, India’s national flower that reflects growth amid challenges. The Earth reflects India’s pro-planet approach to life, one in perfect harmony with nature. Below the G20 logo is “Bharat”, written in the Devanagari script.

The theme of India’s G20 Presidency—“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth One Family One Future”—is drawn from the ancient Sanskrit text of the Maha Upanishad. Essentially, the theme affirms the value of all life—human, animal, plant and microorganisms—and their interconnectedness on the planet Earth and in the wider universe.

The theme also spotlights LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment), with its associated, environmentally sustainable and responsible choices, both at the level of individual lifestyles as well as national development, leading to globally transformative actions resulting in a cleaner, greener and bluer future.

The logo and the theme together convey a powerful message of India’s G20 Presidency, symbolizing striving for just and equitable growth for all in the world, as we navigate through these turbulent times, in a sustainable, holistic, responsible and inclusive manner. They represent a uniquely Indian approach to our G20 Presidency, of living in harmony with the surrounding ecosystem.

What are India’s G20 Priorities?

  • Green Development, Climate Finance & LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment)

The opportunity to lead G20 comes at a time of compounding existential threat, with the COVID-19 pandemic having exposed the fragilities of our systems under the cascading impacts of climate change. In this regard, climate change is a key priority for India’s presidential Presidency, with a particular focus towards not only climate finance and technology, but also ensuring just energy transitions for developing nations across the world.

Understanding that the issue of climate change cuts across industry, society and sectors, India offers the world LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment)—a behavior-based movement that draws from our nation’s ancient, rich, sustainable traditions to nudge consumers, and in-turn markets, to adopt environmentally-conscious practices. This ties closely with India’s G20 theme: ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ or ‘One Earth. One Family. One Future.’

  • Accelerated, Inclusive & Resilient Growth 

Accelerated, resilient and inclusive growth is a cornerstone for sustainable development. During its G20 Presidency, India aims to focus on areas that have the potential to bring structural transformation. This includes an ambition to accelerate integration of MSMEs in global trade, bring in the spirit of trade for growth, promote labour rights and secure labour welfare, address the global skills gap,and build inclusive agricultural value chains and food systems, etc.

  • Accelerating progress on SDGs

India’s G20 Presidency collides with the crucial midpoint of the 2030 Agenda. As such, India acknowledges the detrimental impact of COVID-19, which changed the current decade of action into a decade of recovery. In line with this perspective, India wants to focus on recommitting G20’s efforts to achieving the targets laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

  • Technological Transformation & Digital Public Infrastructure

India can foreground its belief in a human-centric approach to technology, and facilitate greater knowledge-sharing in priority areas like digital public infrastructure, financial inclusion and tech-enabled development in sectors ranging from agriculture to education

  •  Multilateral Institutions for the 21st century

India’s G20 priority will be to continue pressing for reformed multilateralism that creates a more accountable, inclusive, just, equitable and representative multipolar international system that is fit for addressing the challenges in the 21st century.

  • Women-led development

India hopes to use the G20 forum to highlight inclusive growth and development, with women empowerment and representation at the core of India’s G20 deliberations. This includes a focus on bringing women to the fore, into leadeing positions, in order to boost socio-economic development and achievement of SDGs.

Youth20 Engagement Group of G20

As the youth of India, it is important that you are not only aware of G20 activities but also of India’s approach that I have just summarised. Under the Youth20 Engagement Group of G20, India will focus on skill development, future of work, access to quality health and youth as equal partners in its development agenda.

The Road Ahead

India’s role is critical in making this multilateral forum more relevant. And even though the Ukraine conflict, coupled with heightening geopolitical tensions due to the rise of an assertive China, will test India’s robust leadership and its ability to revive the G20’s credibility in an otherwise declining era of multilateralism, India will rise to a presidency that will be “inclusive, ambitious, decisive and action-oriented.”

Author: Pooja Paswan is currently enrolled at the John.F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, India. She has Ph. D in Public Administration and specializes in Public Policy. She was recipient of the ASPA 2019 Founders Fellow. She has worked extensively in the area of development administration and policy. She can be reached at https://jmi.academia.edu/PoojaPaswan and [email protected]. Twitter @poojapaswan


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One Response to India Assumes G20 Presidency : “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth One Family One Future”

  1. Prof. Suresh Kunar Reply

    February 13, 2023 at 9:46 pm

    India is playing it’s real role in the changing globe cycle believing in Vasudhaya Kutumbkam. The rich source of knowledge, ancient Guru of World education and believing in One Earth and One Family is the tradition and practice of Bharat.
    Heartily Congratulations to the author

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