One week after the G20 Finance ministers’ meeting in Paris, Sarkozy’s very ambitious vision for the G20 continues to present a rhetoric leap that intrigues advocates of a reform in global governance.

On January 24th, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development –sometimes thought of as ‘the OECD of developing countries’– hosted a rather interesting “first” where Cyrille Pierre, France’s Deputy Director for Global Economic Affairs and Development Strategy, spoke on behalf of his country’s presidency of the G20. Indeed, not only was it the first time that the G20 Presidency presented its program in front of the related multilateral institution but this very program is the first to include an agenda for development (as agreed at the Seoul Summit last November).

Once the rationale behind the meeting and the program itself were outlined, experts attending pondered the nine key pillars decided in Seoul (infrastructure, human resource development, growth with resilience and food security), and representatives of non-G20 countries had the opportunity to voice their concerns. Senegal warned against the absence of a substantial role for developing countries and Egypt emphasized the links between growth and social development.

For us global governance geeks, the core of the issue is to find out whether France’s “New world, new ideas” plan for 2011 does indeed push towards “new ideas” in a world that requires a new paradigm of global governance. The answer certainly leans towards a prudent “yes”. Clearly, the vision here is that economic governance–the primary preoccupation of the G20 until now– is moving from (here, Mr Pierre quoted Sarkozy himself) a “G20 of crisis” to a “G20 of construction” that breaks from, instead of returning to, the dominant paradigm.

This rupture is ever present in the development agenda, from the recognition of shifting geopolitical power translated in the weight given to South-South cooperation and the expanding lending position of emerging economies, to the emphasis given to UNCTAD’s role in the development debate. As exemplified by the presentation itself, the proposed agenda aims not only at improving communication and coordination among the different organisms of the multilateral system but also at blurring the dichotomy between insiders and outsiders of the G20. Pierre indeed concluded that “globalized solidarity” must “mirror globalization”: not only acknowledging the systemic risks inherent to the present form of global interconnectedness but pinning them to notions of inclusiveness and popular sovereignty.

In other words, an ambitious but unsurprising agenda, in line with the state interventionism that has characterized Sarkozy’s economic policy since the end of the financial crisis but which is now leading the informal but influential coordination effort that is the G20. Sarkozy the Socialist? Not quite: his move is in line with France’s history and foreign policy tradition. Something between a genuine impulse for change and a political strategy related to the upcoming presidential elections in 2012? That’s more likely.

–Laura Bullon-Cassis