Was anything serious ever solved during a summit?

There is a proliferation of summit meetings all over the world. Representatives of international organizations, governments and NGOs, among other stakeholders, are on the world’s roads and in the skies to address and, allegedly, solve global problems. And global problems we have plenty, some of which are looking threatening. But the question is what the outcome of all these meetings might be.

The recent G7 summit in Bavaria provided photo opportunities and promises to reduce emissions. Binding obligations, though, were difficult to find. The whole event cost the German taxpayer around €260 million – well invested money? There was and continues to be an apparently never-ending chain of meetings to finally settle the Greek insolvency. Each of those meetings is connected to a qualification like the last chance, or 2 minutes before 12. Alas, no solution so far. A similar rush of get-togethers is registered for the otherwise not-so-noteworthy city of Minsk (addressing the Russia/ Ukraine problems), Tel Aviv (debating the near east crisis), and Geneva (whatever has to be addressed).

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  1. Shen Dingli 3 years ago

    Summits are high-level meetings between/among the head of states, either regularly, or on a needs basis. They are planned to address issues and to help resolve issues. However, often they are not planned to resolve issues at once, so it is not necessary to expect a summit or a few of them to resolve issues.

    For instance, Chinese and American presidents have their annual summit. After President Xi Jinping took over power in March 2013, he has visited the US to meet with President Obama in Annenberg, California in June 2013. Then, he hosted President Obama’s visit to China in November 2014 in Beijing. This year, he will visit the US in September and will have a summit in Washington, DC with his host. In 2016, he shall receive President Obama in China again, on the occasion of China’s hosting of G20, which is also a summit.

    Have Xi and Obama have resolved anything? No. Even though they decided to create a China-US Cyberspace Security Working Group, the US still attempted to indict five Chinese officers, though Edward Snowden had revealed that it was the US that had hacked more massively and sophisticatedly. Even though they claimed at previous summit(s) that the Pacific is spacious enough to host both of them, the US still feels that China is undermining the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. It is also clear that the US will not end arms sales to Taiwan, no matter how many summits they are going to have.

    The truth is that if it were not for summits, China-US relations would be even worse. With a summit or two, the chance of deterioration of their relations could be more or less tempered. While their summits have indeed engineered a number of important cooperations, they have employed summits for damage control so as to stabilize their ties.

    This tenet applies to many other summits: generating ideas, nurturing trust, building personal bonds, controlling damage, and lastly and hopefully, resolving a few issues.

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  2. Caroline King 3 years ago

    Yes, I think we are all summit weary. What is going on? First, they seem to be popping up like mushrooms all over the planet – on every issue conceivable. An effect of globalization, hyper-communication and pluralization of the international stage, I suppose. And in our western societies – still caught under the often overbearing mantle of political correctness – we are eager to ensure that all stakeholders are at the table. These summits are increasingly hard to manage, and often it seems to be more about the process than the goal. On the political front there is definitely a tectonic shift underway that is probably also contributing to this effect. The old democracies have weakened central governments, the new democracies seem increasingly autocratic, the 20th century multilateral platform is not able to cope.

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1 Comment

  1. seawithoutshore 3 years ago

    Perhaps the question is a little too complicated to paint with broad strokes like that. Summits, or in other words, international diplomatic efforts, are a very good idea. Not all summits and high level conferences are equally valuable. Each depends on the number and the genuine good will of its participants. It makes a difference whether all of the relevant parties are invited. Sometimes, international diplomacy in this way is crucial, especially when dealing with the potnetial for military conflict. When the diplomats stop talking, the guns start firing.

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