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Editorial of the Day: The trajectory of progress must change (The Hindu)

Context: The article is discussing the G-20 summit and its significance, particularly in the context of India’s leadership role and involvement. The G-20 is an international forum consisting of 19 individual countries and the European Union, representing major advanced and emerging economies from around the world. The article highlights that the G-20 summit is seen as an opportune stage for India to showcase its  leadership on the global stage. India’s role as the world’s most populous country makes its leadership of the G-20 particularly significant, as it represents a substantial portion of the global population and economy. The article also mentions the expansion of the G-20 in the past, where it included countries like China, India, Russia, Brazil, and others to address global financial crises and find solutions to global problems. This expansion was necessitated by the limitations of the G-7, a group of western countries led by the United States, in dealing with global financial issues. The article also highlights the current challenges faced by the organization due to differing interests and perspectives among its members. Overall, the article highlights the complex dynamics and differing interests within the G-20, with India asserting its stance on focusing the agenda on the concerns of the broader world population and not being easily swayed by the preferences of the G-7 members.

Decoding the Editorial

The article is discussing how the United States, as a prominent member of the G-7, wants the G-20 to take a more confrontational stance towards Russia and China, considering them as threats to its global hegemony. On the other hand, India appears to be more resistant to such pressure and seeks to prioritize the concerns of the majority of the global population outside the G-7 countries.

The article also discusses the following dimensions:

  • Global governance is in trouble:
    • The article suggests that the current state of global governance is facing significant challenges.
    • The world is witnessing divisions and conflicts between nations and within nations, including military, financial, and trade wars.
    • Additionally, there is a stark contrast between the struggles of millions of people seeking better lives and safety and the extravagant pursuits of a few wealthy individuals.
  • Unsustainable economic growth:
    • The author argues that the present model of economic growth is not sustainable and equitable.
    • While economists may present data showing reductions in poverty and increasing incomes, the reality experienced by people on the ground is different.
    • The planet is under increasing pressure due to consumptive economic practices, and further economic growth alone will not solve the world’s problems.
  • India’s vision:
    • As the chair of the G-20, India has offered a vision of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (One Earth, One Family, One Future) to unite all citizens of the world and work towards making the world a better place for everyone.
  • Need for a new paradigm:
    • Einstein’s quote, “To continue to solve systemic problems with the same approach that caused them is madness,” underscores the necessity for a new paradigm in global governance.
    • The adoption of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 was a step in this direction, but time is running out to achieve them, especially with the challenges posed by climate change and unequal solutions.
  • Complexity of problems:
    • The SDGs address a combination of complex environmental, social, and economic problems.
    • Each country faces multiple challenges in unique ways, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
    • Local contexts and realities must be considered when formulating policies and initiatives to address these issues.

Ground Reality:

  • McKinsey’s detailed map:
    • The McKinsey Global Institute has created a detailed map called “Pixels of Progress,” which divides the world into 40,000 micro-regions.
    • This map aims to provide a granular look at human development around the world, going beyond statistical averages at the country level and GDP growth to examine the actual progress on the ground.
  • Importance of local realities:
    • The McKinsey report concludes that only 20% of progress on the ground can be explained by the growth of GDP at the country level.
    • The remaining 80% is attributed to local and specific factors.
    • This suggests that local realities and conditions play a significant role in determining the well-being and development of people in different regions.
  • Flaws in top-down problem-solving:
    • The article points out that the present theory-in-use of top-down problem-solving is conceptually flawed.
    • Merely having smart experts or managers at the top of the system may not be sufficient to address complex systemic problems that exist in various places.
    • Instead, a more effective approach involves local systems solutions developed through cooperation and implemented by communities to address economic, environmental, and social problems.
  • India’s LiFE approach:
    • India has proposed an approach called LiFE (lifestyles for sustainable development) to the G-20.
    • This approach emphasizes the need for coherent actions among stakeholders at all levels and collective actions across society to achieve sustainable development goals.
    • Principle 7 of LiFE specifically emphasizes recognizing and amplifying the role of local communities, local and regional governments, and traditional knowledge in supporting sustainable lifestyles.

State of Local Governance:

  • Incomplete democracy in India: The article suggests that while India holds elections, true democracy requires more than just an elected government providing benefits to the people from the top-down. It emphasizes the importance of governance “by the people themselves” to achieve “poorna swaraj” or full political, social, and economic freedom for all citizens.
  • Lip service to local governance: Despite having provisions for local governance in the Constitution, the political leaders in India since Independence have not fully embraced the vision of decentralized governance. There seems to be a lack of genuine commitment to empowering local communities and giving them more control over their own affairs.
  • Importance of local movements: The article implies that real change and progress can only come when there are movements and pressure for change from the grassroots level. Relying solely on the centers of power and the existing power structures may not bring about the necessary transformations in governance paradigms.
  • G-20 Summit and symbolism: The inauguration of a world-class venue for the G-20 Summit in Delhi is seen as symbolic. While the resolutions adopted at the summit may not have a significant impact on changing paradigms, the real change is believed to happen through movements on the ground that challenge and question the existing systems of governance.
  • Centralized governance system: The article criticizes the current system of governance in India, referring to it as a top-down, expert-driven, and centralized system. It suggests that this centralized approach to governance hinders the realization of true democracy and the empowerment of local communities.

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