Navigating Global Commitments: From Rhetoric to Reality in International Forums : Daily News Analysis

Date : 20/11/2023

Relevance: GS Paper 2 – International Relations - International Organizations ( Also Relevant for GS Paper 3 - Environment and Ecology)

Keywords: G20, COP28, UNFCCC, Self- Governance


In the complex landscape of international forums, a recurring question persists: Are the resolutions adopted mere political rhetoric or genuine catalysts for change? This inquiry gains significance in the context of the Indian G20 presidency, where India has championed the cause of the Global South, emphasizing inclusive policies and addressing critical issues such as vaccine access, fair trade, and sustainable development. As the world grapples with the urgent need for green initiatives and climate action, the upcoming COP28 summit prompts a closer examination of the historical patterns of international commitments and their translation into tangible outcomes.

About COP 28

The 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is scheduled to convene in Dubai from November 30th to December 12th, 2023. This gathering holds particular significance as it signifies the culmination of the inaugural Global Stocktake, a comprehensive evaluation of advancements towards the objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement.

Key Points:

  1. Global Stocktake's Debut:
    COP28 is noteworthy for hosting the conclusion of the first-ever Global Stocktake, a pivotal assessment aimed at gauging progress in fulfilling the goals set by the Paris Agreement. The primary objective of this stocktake is to comprehensively evaluate global actions against climate change and lay the groundwork for future initiatives in the years to come.
  2. Three Key Areas of Evaluation:
    The Global Stocktake focuses on three key areas of evaluation:
    - Mitigation: Assessing efforts to prevent further global warming.
    - Adaptation: Addressing strategies to cope with the inevitable impacts of climate change.
    - Means of Implementation: Encompassing aspects such as finance, technology transfer, and capacity building.
  3. Shift in Terminology and Compromise:
    In 2022, negotiators faced challenges in reaching a deal on a phase-down of fossil fuels during COP27. Seeking compromise, 80 countries proposed new terminologies. A potential breakthrough emerged in April when the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations agreed to expedite the "phase-out of unabated fossil fuels." This pledge specifically targeted fuels burned without emissions-capturing technology.
  4. Obstacles in the G20:
    Despite the promising development in the G7, the larger Group of Twenty (G20), which includes major oil and gas producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia, encountered difficulties in reaching a consensus on the issue. The initial momentum towards a faster phase-out of unabated fossil fuels faltered within the G20, reflecting the complex dynamics of international negotiations.

Indian G20 Presidency:

The Indian G20 presidency has been noteworthy for its focus on the Global South, representing a substantial portion of the world's population and emerging economies. Through advocacy for inclusive and equitable policies, India has shed light on critical issues affecting developing nations. From the accessibility of vaccines to fair trade practices and sustainable development, the presidency has aimed to bridge the economic and development gap on a global scale. While these efforts are commendable, the efficacy of such initiatives hinges on their translation from rhetoric into concrete actions that uplift vulnerable nations.

Challenges and Skepticism:

Despite the commendable efforts during the Indian G20 presidency, skepticism arises from the historical track record of international agreements, especially in climate forums like COP. The failure of affluent nations to fulfill climate financing commitments raises doubts about the sincerity of promises made. This skepticism necessitates a robust system of accountability within the international community to ensure that pledges are not mere words but transformative actions benefiting the entire world, particularly the Global South.

The Rhetoric of International Forums:

In recent years, international forums have become platforms for grand declarations and commitments on global issues. A recurring theme has been the urgency of green initiatives and climate action. However, the concern lies in the aftermath of these forums when declarations seem to dissipate, leaving behind a cycle of inaction. The 'haves' and 'have-nots' divide deepens, with vulnerable populations and developing nations disproportionately bearing the consequences of climate change.

The Rhetoric of International Forums:

The application of IHL in conflicts is a contentious issue. While IHL aims to limit the effects of armed conflict for humanitarian reasons, its enforcement is challenging due to the lack of a supra-national authority. Compliance largely depends on the goodwill of the states involved, making it difficult to ensure adherence in practice.

Challenges in Holding Nations Accountable:

One of the central challenges lies in holding nations accountable for their commitments. Domestic politics, diplomatic considerations, and evolving geopolitical stances often create a complex web where national interests take precedence over global concerns. The volatile nature of geopolitical currents further complicates the longevity of commitments made in multilateral forums. To address this, robust mechanisms for accountability and transparency are crucial to ensure that promises endure despite changing political landscapes.

Transparent Reporting and Self-Governance:

Transparent reporting on governments' commitments and their performance in international forums is integral for fostering self-governance. Openly sharing progress and challenges contributes to a culture of accountability and trust. Such transparency provides a clear understanding of each government's stance on its promises, enabling a self-assessment beyond diplomatic rhetoric. This public scrutiny not only holds leaders accountable to their citizens but also creates a constructive feedback loop, fostering a proactive approach to self-governance.

Mechanisms for Accountability:

To establish effective mechanisms for accountability, an independent monitoring and reporting system within each forum could be implemented. For example, G20 2024 could assess the commitments made in previous sessions, ensuring a tangible follow-up. This would shift the focus from reiterating promises to implementing actions such as transitioning to renewable energy, implementing carbon pricing, and investing in climate-resilient infrastructure. Equitable access to resources and technology transfer must also be ensured for the collective global effort to combat climate change.

Empowering Global Citizens:

Global citizens must be actively engaged in the conversation. Their voices and concerns should be elevated, not sidelined, in decision-making processes. Empowering individuals and civil society to demand action and transparency from their governments is essential for accountability. Ensuring the participation of global citizens in shaping policies will contribute to a more inclusive and responsive governance structure.

Looking Ahead to COP28:

As the world anticipates the COP28 summit, critical questions arise about breaking the cycle of promises and disappointments. Can international commitments finally translate into meaningful action? The success of COP28 will depend on the collective efforts of global citizens, policymakers, and the international community to ensure that promises are not illusions but tangible steps toward a sustainable future. The need for stronger and more resilient self-governance within global forums is paramount, with the future of the planet hanging in the balance.


In conclusion, the rhetoric versus reality debate in international forums, exemplified by the Indian G20 presidency and looming COP28 summit, underscores the need for a paradigm shift. While commendable efforts have been made, the true measure of success lies in the tangible impact on the ground. Transparency, accountability, and the active participation of global citizens are imperative for turning promises into meaningful actions. The upcoming COP28 provides an opportunity to break free from the cycle of inaction and set a course towards a future where international commitments lead to substantial positive change. The fate of our planet hinges on the collective dedication to transforming rhetoric into reality.

Probable Questions for UPSC mains Exam-

  1. Critically analyze the role of the Global South in shaping international policies during the Indian G20 presidency. How can the effectiveness of such initiatives be measured in bridging the economic and development gap on a global scale? (10 marks, 150 words)
  2. Discuss the challenges and importance of establishing robust mechanisms for accountability and transparency in international forums, citing examples from the Indian G20 presidency and the upcoming COP28 summit. How can these mechanisms ensure that global commitments translate into meaningful actions? (15 marks, 250 words)

Source- Indian Express