When world leaders gathered Friday night for a White House dinner on the eve of a major economic summit, the faces around the table were not just those of the Europeans and Japanese who normally mix in the highest circles of diplomacy. This time, heads of state from the across the developing world – from China to Brazil to India – had a seat at the table.
Their inclusion in this weekend's talks on the global financial crisis marks a historic power shift. The summit is being seen as a model of what high-level diplomacy will look like in the future, with emerging giants gaining a voice in a club that long included only the richest of nations.
At a time when China maintains the world's largest cash reserves and the United States is going deep into debt, the definition of rich has changed.
Leaders from developing countries – which are expected to account for nearly 100 percent of global growth next year as developed countries fall into recession – now see an opportunity to broaden their clout.
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At today's summit, they will push for more influence in the International Monetary Fund as well as the other economic institutions largely controlled by Europe, the United States and Japan.
Analysts say the shift toward global inclusion underscores how the financial crisis crippling the developed world has provided emerging giants – which are relatively healthier – with a chance to assert themselves.
“We must use the crisis as an opportunity to correct things that were wrong before the crisis and strengthen multilateral bodies,” Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told reporters this week. “In a globalized world we need serious and representative forums to take global decisions.”
With new clout, some say, comes new responsibilities. In an interview Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso called on nations such as China to offer up some of their vast reserves to the IMF, which has been charged with bailing out a number of countries in recent weeks. With the economic crisis deepening, he said, the IMF would need more than the roughly $200 billion in its war chest to help troubled nations.
Most nations, including the United States, have acknowledged that a new world order has emerged and that the developing world should have a larger say in international organizations.
Support for that notion, analysts say, was underscored by the way in which this weekend's summit came together. Pressed to convene a gathering of world leaders to address the crisis, President Bush eschewed the G-8, and called instead on the broader “Group of 20” nations – which includes countries such as Argentina, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
“We share a determination to fix the problems that led to this turmoil,” Bush said at the White House dinner Friday night. “We share a conviction that by working together, we can restore the global economy to the path of long-term prosperity.”