This week, the Saudi Arabian Presidency of the 2020 B20 cycle kicked-off with the long-awaited Inception Event, hosted in Riyadh on 15-17 January 2020.
The G20 and B20 in Saudi Arabia
The Business Twenty (B20) is the official business community engagement forum for the Group of Twenty (G20). The G20, established in the wake of the financial crisis, is the premier forum for international economic cooperation. It brings together the leaders of both developed and developing countries from every continent, representing around 80% of the world’s economic output. Throughout the year, representatives from G20 countries gather to discuss financial and socioeconomic issues, culminating with the annual Leaders’ Summits. The Presidency of the G20 rotates each year, and the host for 2020 is Saudi Arabia, with the Leaders’ Summit scheduled for 21-22 November 2020.
As the voice of the private sector to the G20, the B20 represents the global business community across all G20 member states and all economic sectors. Formed in 2010, it is the first of the now several formalized engagement groups of the G20, including the Youth 20, Civil 20 and Women 20.
Prior to the G20 Leaders’ Summit, the B20 will have its own summit in the host city and formally present to the G20 policy recommendations across a number areas, encompassing the consolidated perspective and expertise of the global business community. This year’s B20 Summit is scheduled for 26-27 October 2020.
IFAC is here in our capacity of Network Partner for the B20, a role we have played for several years. Network Partners are international business organizations and networks, including the likes of the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Economic Forum and Business at OECD. We provide essential support to the B20 by contributing their expertise and engaging our broad international constituencies in the development and dissemination of B20 policy recommendations.
Policy Priorities for 2020
For 2020, the Saudi G20 presidency is looking to the B20 to deliver impactful policy recommendations reinforcing and sustaining the critical role of the G20 business community. To organize the B20’s activities, the Secretariat considered the topics covered under previous B20s along with emerging issues facing the local and global business communities. This resulted in the creation of six Taskforces, each dedicated to developing policy recommendations around a specific theme:
- Integrity and Compliance—aims to advance the global anti-corruption agenda, touching upon key topics such as regulatory compliance, transparency and high standards of ethics and integrity.
- Energy, Sustainability & Climate—deals with key questions related to energy efficiency, clean energy, the sustainable use of natural resources and climate action.
- Future of Work and Education—seeks to improve the parameters for more and better employment, to provide adequate work conditions and to prepare the labor force for the challenges ahead.
- Digitalization—addresses the most pressing issues related to the digital economy. It develops recommendations to successfully drive the digital transformation for businesses and society.
- Finance & Infrastructure—focuses on key challenges of the financial industry and the financing aspects of quality infrastructure.
- Trade & Investment—focuses on changes needed to ensure the rules-based, multilateral system is fit for purpose and supports a fair and open trade environment.
Each Taskforce is led by a chair representing the host country and a number of co-chairs representing the global business community and has as members around 100 senior management executives of companies and business associations. The goal of each Taskforce is to produce a final policy paper detailing recommendations addressed to G20 leaders at the end of the cycle around each of these areas.
In addition to the six Taskforces, the Saudi B20 has identified two cross-cutting themes that are to be considered and addressed in all Taskforces: ‘SMEs and Entrepreneurship’ and ‘Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. The Saudi B20 will also feature a separate ‘Women in Business’ Action Council focused on addressing the issue of gender diversity in business, an issue that Saudi Arabia has identified as its signature topic for the 2020 cycle.
The B20’s recommendations will feed into the G20’s activities at the end of the cycle. The Saudi Presidency of the G20 has identified the theme for this years’ agenda as Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All, with three key priorities:
- Empowering People, by creating the conditions in which all people – especially women and youth – can live, work and thrive.
- Safeguarding the Planet, by fostering collective efforts to protect our global commons.
- Shaping New Frontiers, by adopting long-term and bold strategies to share benefits of innovation and technological advancement.
IFAC—Engaging as the Voice of the Global Profession
And it all began this week with the official B20 Inception Event in Riyadh. The Inception Event featured keynote speakers from the Secretariat, interactive panel discussions on the issues facing the global business community and the first meetings of the Taskforces. The event also featured a welcome dinner showcasing Saudi culture at historic Diriyah.
In addition to our role as a Network Partner, IFAC was selected to participate in two Taskforces: Board Member Sheila Fraser was selected to be a member of the Compliance & Integrity Taskforce, while Richard Petty was selected to be a member of the Finance and Infrastructure Taskforce. The Taskforce meetings provided Taskforce members with the opportunity to brainstorm and provide feedback on potential focus themes to develop over the course of the B20 cycle.
As in prior years, IFAC ensures that the global accountancy profession is at the table and actively contributing to global policy development. There is not a more prominent global forum, and IFAC is there—working in the public interest—on behalf of its member Professional Accounting Organizations (PAOs) and their three million+ professional accountants.