The G20 forum
The G20 is an informal forum that promotes discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on issues related to global economic stability. It was created as a response to the financial crises of the late 1990s and to a recognition that emerging-market countries were not adequately included in other economic discussions. The member countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and the European Union is also a member. The G20 countries represent around 90 per cent of global gross national product, 80 per cent of world trade and two-thirds of the world's population.
The Washington Summit
The first meeting of the leaders of the G20 countries took place in Washington on the 15th of November 2008. Its purpose was to agree upon the actions to be taken in response to the crash of 2008 and the impending recession of 2008. The leaders reached agreement concerning the actions to be taken by each of their countries, but did not agree to coordinate their fiscal and monetary policies.
After a brief review of the causes of the crisis, the communique  recorded agreement to:
- take whatever further actions are necessary to stabilize the financial system,
- use monetary policy and fiscal measures to stimulate domestic demand while maintaining a policy framework conducive to fiscal sustainability,
- help emerging and developing economies gain access to finance through liquidity facilities and program support,
- encourage the World Bank and other multilateral development banks to use their full capacity in the areas of infrastructure and trade finance, and ensure that they have sufficient resources to continue playing their role in overcoming the crisis,
- strengthen financial market transparency and accountability,
- strengthen regulatory regimes, prudential oversight, and risk management,
- protect the integrity of the world's financial markets by bolstering investor and consumer protection, avoiding conflicts of interest, preventing illegal market manipulation, fraudulent activities and abuse, and protecting against illicit finance risks arising from non-cooperative jurisdictions; and promote information sharing, including with respect to jurisdictions that have yet to commit to international standards with respect to bank secrecy and transparency,
- coordinate the regulation of financial markets and strengthen cooperation on crisis prevention, management, and resolution,
- advance the reform of the Bretton Woods Institutions to give emerging and developing economies greater voice and representation.
That was followed by a statement of "commitment to an open global economy", including a commitment to free market principles and an undertaking to refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services; and a reaffirmation of the Millennium Development Goals and other commitments of assistance to the developing countries.
The action plan
The communique concluded with an agreed list of over 40 proposed actions, most of which were scheduled for completion by the end of March 2009. The list is summarised on the Addendum subpage with a link to a subsequent (April 2009) progress report.
The London summit
The second meeting of G20 leaders was held in London on 2 April 2009. The principle action agreed was to triple the resources of the International Monetary Fund, but there was also agreement to develop or strengthen the regulation of hedge funds, credit agencies and tax havens. Proposals for internationally coordinated fiscal and monetary measures were abandoned in face of boycott threats by the French and German delegates.