The Virtual Inception Conference held on February 8-9 inaugurated the 2021 edition of the Think20, the official engagement group of the G20 that brings together leading think tanks and research centers.
Italy, that this year holds the rotating presidency of the G20, entrusted the organization of the T20 to two renowned Italian research centers: the Milan-based Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), which was recently included by the University of Pennsylvania in the list of the best think tank worldwide, and the Institute for International Affairs (IAI), founded in Rome in 1965 by Altiero Spinelli. The two institutes will be joined by Bocconi University as chairs of the T20 Summit scheduled for October.
The T20 aims to represent a forum for dialogue between political leaders and the research community. The group will be the “ideas bank” of the G20, providing analysis and policy recommendations to political leaders. A crucial role to play in a year when the international community is called to face major problems, from the pandemic and the consequent economic crisis to the climate crisis: issues that demand quick answers but at the same time cannot be dealt with by single states acting alone, requiring instead coordinated responses.
The T20 has therefore the opportunity to significantly influence the works of the G20. As ISPI Director Paolo Magri said in his opening speech, however, to be truly effective the T20 will need to be inclusive, listening to voices from all over the world. Also, the T20 will need to coordinate its actions with those of the other G20 engagement groups to effectively help the governments prioritize the priorities, selecting the issues on which the G20 can really make a difference.
Nathalie Tocci, Director of the IAI, pointed out that the international community is today at a crossroad: on the one hand, it faces the risk of enclosure and division, characterized by nationalism, growing ideological confrontations, trade protectionism and an increasing reliance on unilateralism. On the other hand, however, the current situation offers an opportunity to revitalize multilateralism, pushing states to look for shared solutions to shared problems. The G20, thanks to its distinctive mix of inclusiveness and flexibility, can aim at being the linchpin of a renewed international cooperation.
Concluding the opening session, Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Sereni recalled the three priorities of the Italian presidency: people, planet, prosperity. “The economic impact of the pandemic risks making some social dynamics, such as the growing inequality, unmanageable” said Sereni. “We need ideas that will put people and the environment at the core of the efforts towards economic recovery, resorting to technological innovation to combine growth and sustainability.”
Finally, the following sessions of the conference saw the participation of leading figures such as former Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, EU Commissioner for the Economy Paolo Gentiloni and former president of the Italian Social Security administration (INPS) Tito Boeri.