Hugh Jorgensen is a Research Associate in the Lowy Institute's G20 Studies Centre.
The G20 is no stranger to obscurantist titles and curious nicknames. The chief advisers to the G20 leaders at summits are officially known as 'Sherpas', and the Sherpa's deputies are lumped with either 'Sous-Sherpa' or the beast-of-burden honorific 'Yak'. The finance ministers' advisers are known as finance deputies, and the deputies to the finance deputies have wittily come to be known as finance-deputies-deputies.
And then there is the 'Troika'. Established in 2002, several years before the great global recession of 2008 and the decision to turn the G20 into a leaders' forum, the Troika is a concept that harks back to the G20's earlier incarnation as a forum purely for finance ministers and central bank governors. Desperate to avoid the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of a bureaucratic secretariat, as seen in any other number of multilateral bodies, G20 participants determined they would be better off sacrificing some of the continuity afforded by a secretariat in return for a rotating agenda-setting triumvirate that contained the hosts of G20s past, present and future.
However, the Troika concept largely fell into disuse between 2008-2010 as the dramatic collapse witnessed in the global economy saw G20 leaders' meetings being held on a more impromptu basis. It was not even clear where or who the next summit host would be. Indeed, the first three G20 leaders' summits (Washington, London and Pittsburgh) all occurred within the space of ten months.
Yet by 2011, as the pace of the crisis slowed, G20 leaders turned their minds towards helping the G20 transition from a crisis-fighting forum to a body of international economic cooperation with a more long-term focus.
While various hosts have mooted the possibility of creating a secretariat, the majority has repeatedly rejected the proposal. Although the Troika doesn't capture all the benefits of a permanent secretariat, it is still felt to be preferable to wasting all of the time and political energy that would otherwise be expended on selecting and appointing a neutral secretariat. Moreover, aside from institutional tradition, the Troika's main strength is that it directly involves key political capitals and doesn't get caught up in the trappings of multilateral bureaucracy.
So for the time being, the Troika is here to stay. And under Australia's G20 presidency in 2014, it will be crucial for the new/re-elected prime minister to work closely with his Troika colleagues in not only ensuring any work from this year's Russian G20 presidency is continued, but also to ensure any progress made under Australia's presidency continues on into 2015 under the next host, Turkey.
Russia. Australia. Turkey.
Without further ado, I'm laying claim to the newest G20 colloquialism. Henceforth, this is the term to describe the G20 troika for 2014: the RAT pack.