06/09/2013 11:31 BST | Updated 05/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Progress on Syria Is Vital but G20 Must Not Forget Longterm Crises

G20 security has never been more fun - to get to the remote location of the St Petersburg Summit we are ferried on two long boat rides watched over by smiling sailors in dress uniform. We have even been given branded, brightly-coloured fleeces for the long and somewhat chilly journey.

But overall, it's not a jolly mood for the start of the Summit. As leaders continue to arrive, most talk is not about the G20's core agenda of fixing the global economy but of the crisis in Syria, with rumours circulating as to its effects on how the talks will go: from changes to the official schedule, right down to the detail of seating plans - with reports of revised plans moving Presidents Obama and Putin further apart.

Global leaders do not meet so very often, so it is important they take opportunities to talk about urgent, humanitarian crises such as the Syrian conflict, which has already claimed an estimated 100,000 lives and where more than one third of the population is in need of humanitarian aid.

In such a context, it would be wrong to suggest that those leaders should not make the space to work towards a solution for peace in Syria, but it is also right to remind them that it should not be used as an excuse to neglect the chronic problems of the global economy.

There is a danger that persisting problems are seen as intractable, inevitable or - worse still - they become invisible. Problems in the Indian economy and reports from the OECD of higher levels of unemployment than during the crisis in developed economies are timely reminders that the G20 still has a lot of work to do.

This is especially true of its work on development - despite the expiry this year of its first "multi-year action plan" on development, launched in Korea in 2010. The G20 is expected to present its thinking on the way forward for this work at this Summit.

We're hoping this will include the following elements:

- Making G20 support for the least developed economies work for poor small-scale entrepreneurs. For most poor men and women, small businesses are the biggest employer and most likely route out of poverty. So far, the G20's development agenda has not focused on their needs - concentrating on large-scale infrastructure projects, instead of rural roads to help farmers get goods to markets, for example. Looking at who benefits from G20 interventions would be a solid step in the right direction.

- Making the G20 core agenda work for development. The development impact of the G20 is not limited to the activities of its working group on development. The instability and unfavourable conditions created by the lack of a system to deal with currency exchange rates and the lack of mechanisms to deal with government debt reducing public revenue for essential services, also affect the viability and competitiveness of small businesses.

- Continuing to improve G20 outreach to developing country governments and civil society. Russia has offered a promising start to the "Civil 20" process, but without more systematic and direct input from those who represent poor men and women, it will be difficult for the G20 to know how to deliver on its development ambitions.

As always, progress will be incremental, but with 600 million jobs needed in the next fifteen years, most in developing countries, keeping up momentum will be critical.