Earlier this month, civil society gathered in Berlin at the C7 Summit to discuss the key global challenges and present the key priorities and asks to the G7 presidency.
The German government’s G7 programme with its fivecore themes – sustainable planet, economic stability and transformation, healthy lives, investment in better future, stronger together – resonatewell with the vision and priorities highlighted bycivil society, but the action taken by governments lags behind promises and we all have homework to do.
Here are the key takeaways.
1. A broken economic system won‘t fix and transform itself
Our current economic model is failing not only people, but also our environment and planet. Despite various voluntary initiatives to improve businesses‘ social and environmental impact, it is not enough and won’t transform our economies fast enough.
We need a strong, well-resourced and innovative public sector to not just keep fixing endlessly market failures, but to proactively shape sustainable economic system which works for all through advanced, targeted regulation, incentives and taxation. This will help guarantee and deliver essential public goods for all and incentivise the creation and maximisation of public value by all sectors.
2. Democracy is on decline everywhere and needs protection
Chancellor of Germany, OlafSchulz confirmed that democracy needs a vibrant civil society and said he appreciated civil society’s expertise, advise and engagement. But right now shrinking civic space in the G7 countries affects the G7‘s legitimacy and diminishes its global leadership in defending democratic values at home and globally.
It is critical, especially in light of the current war in Ukraine, that there be no compromises in terms of protecting of democratic values, civil society and its capability to speak up. Democratising our global economic system or nurturing and investing in civil society organisations around the world are critical tasks to protect and strengthen democracy as a cornerstone of both peace and prosperity.
3. There is enough money, but not enough political will
Most global challenges we face need more money, not just commitments to give more money. The years 2008 and 2020 provedwe can find billions and even trillions of dollarsif there is a sense of urgency and political will. And it is not just about increasing public debt. In the 1970s the richest in the UK paid 83% income tax rate and many other European countries increased public spending to renew the post-war economy and build a welfare state. Financial and digital sectors are heavily under-taxed and equally oil and gas sectors are heavily subsidised.
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This week at Davos, millionaires themselves are asking for higher taxes. This is not the time for creative accounting, saving, austerity or procrastination. This is the time when global public interest should be put above corporate lobbying and short-term commercial interests.
4. Multilateralism is not always easy but it’s the only way
Global peace, security and prosperity relies on an effective, fair, representative, well-funded multilateralism. The G7 has a crucial role to play here – instead of moving important decision-making out of the UN system (for example, the global corporate tax deal), it has a historic responsibility to lead and support urgent democratisation of global economic governance, and to renovate, strengthen and revitalise multilateralism, and lead any necessary reforms or fill funding gaps to make it an effective diplomacy tool.
The G7 must acknowledge that the UN system is the only democratic instrument for global decisions on global challenges and therefore needs to treat the G7 as a space where UN-level commitments and agreements are boosted with ambition, leadership, funding and decisive action. We hope that the German Chancellor’s commitment to strengthen the World Health Organization‚ so it can do its job, will materialise. Plurilateralism might be easier, but it will never substitute the democracy and justice of multilateralism.
5. Failure to address deeper, longer-term, systematic causes behindcrises
Economic and financial turbulence, inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic, humanitarian crises, climate change and stagnant poverty levels are all issues which have lacked bold decisions and actions to address the systemic causes behind them. The motto of this year’s G7 presidency, “Progress towards an equitable world”, must be more than a promise. Unless we address the systemic and structural causes of the interconnected and parallel ongoing crises, we will keep acting as firefighters running from one crisis to another which is costly to the government’s budgets, humanity and the planet.
The war in Ukraine for obvious reasons has taken over the G7 agenda and is stretching further financial capacities, but it is important that while we deal with the war we don’t underprioritise our work on the tackling the underlying root causes of the challenges we face today. G7 must take much more anticipatory action to prevent crises to save lives and resources and maintain peace and stability.
6. Climate action is too slow
Back in 2016, the G7 agreed to stop fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. The German government acknowledged that we are not on track. Since 2015, UK alone has given around £13.6bn in subsidies through tax breaks and decomissioning costs. We need fast-track weaning off fossil fuels – global dependence on fossil fuels is still 80%. A fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty could put fossil fuels right in the centre.
In April, Germany adopted the largest comprehensive energy package spearheading its transition to renewable energy to reach 100% by 2035. Nothing less than this kind of ambition is needed now by all G7 countries to lead global decarbonisation and inspire others.
7. Path to global prosperity is decolonised and developmentlocalised
Last but not least, civil society was also vocal urging to end colonial practices in international development and to start trusting local partners. We need to stop the extraction of cheap labour, resources and capital in lower- and middle-income countries(LMIC). We need to stop making decisions which affect LMICs behind their backs. We need to update our global economic governance so it is not giving advantages to high-income countries.