G7 Leaders’ Summit in Germany ended with the members reconfirming their shared goal to “make progress towards an equitable world”.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was labelled a “radical turning point in international relations” and China’s growing influence unsurprisingly dominated. Both issues impacted the G7’s overall priorities as well as how they should be addressed.
UK civil society has been actively engaging with the G7 agenda, addressing the challenges we face today and asking the seven countries with the highest incomes in the world, representing 45% of the global economy, to do their fair share.
So, what do the Summit outcomes mean for international development?
Humanitarian assistance and conflict
One of the key asks in a letter, sent to the prime minister from NGOs just before the Summit was the full implementation and a progress report of the 2021 G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Crisis Compact – one of the biggest successes of the UK’s G7 presidency last year. Sadly, the compact was totally absent from the Summit’s outcome documents.
The G7 Communiqué did confirm that the drought in the Horn of Africa will be treated as a high priority. A special G7 statement on Global Food Security was made, where they reaffirmed their “goal to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030” and “over USD 14 billion as our joint commitment to global food security this year”. Though welcome, only USD 4.5 billion was new funding, so the announcement amounts to just 66% of what the World Food Programme (WFP) needs this year alone to tackle hunger and prevent famine. The failure to address the root causes of humanitarian emergencies, which are symptomatic of wider systemic problems, is short-sighted both politically and financially.
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The establishment of the Global Alliance for Food Security is a step in the right direction, but nutrition needs more attention. It’s also crucial that the Alliance be used as a platform for meaningful engagement between governments, local farmers, smallholders and social actors to develop and strengthen local food chains – and boost long-term food security, sovereignty and resilience. The UK’s readiness to reduce biofuel mandates, in response to the shortage and growing prices of food, has not led to G7-level consensus to reduce using food for fuel.
The G7 leaders’ special statement on resilient democracies and commitment to work with civil society and other partners is an improvement on the 2021 open societies statement because:
It has increased the prominence of civic space in the statement and there is now more detail.
There is now a commitment to “advancing programmes for the protection of human rights defenders and all those exposing corruption”, which we can use to hold G7 leaders accountable.
There is also a commitment to “speaking out against threats to civic space, and respecting freedom of association and peaceful assembly.”
One of the asks of Civil7 (C7), the official Engagement Group of the G7 representing international civil society, was to establish a special task force to strengthen and expand protection mechanisms for civil society organisations and activists under threat. This wasn’t taken on board by the G7, unfortunately.
Economic justice and transformation
While the G7 recognises urgency “to improve multilateral frameworks for debt restructuring and to address debt vulnerabilities”, they failed to admit the weaknesses of the existing G20 Common Framework and the need for a reform of international debt architecture, which includes cancelling unsustainable debt for the countries that need it the most and establishing effective engagement with private creditors and China.
Similarly, recognition of the weaknesses and limitations of the global tax deal reached in 2021, especially for the low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), was absent. There was no mention of the need to consider the global tax bodyas proposedby the G77 representing more than 130 LMICs and respond to a call by African Ministers of Finance to start negotiations of UN Convention on tax matters. Instead, G7 leaders endorsed the implementation of the G20 Inclusive Framework Two-Pillar Solution and didn’t even mention tax avoidance and illicit financial flows (except in the context of Russia’s invasion and refugees) as a global problem.
Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) will remain an under-used resource for LMICs to tackle their fiscal challenges and drive through post-Covid recovery as the G7 leaders failed to commit to more ambitious reallocations ($2-3 trillion), instead aiming to reach a total global ambition of USD 100 billion.
Lots of attention was given to gender equality, both in terms of addressing and mainstreaming it, and there was even the suggestion of developing “feminist development, foreign and trade policies.” While this is welcome, what this means in practice, and specific examples of how it will be delivered, are unknown. Regarding official development assistance (ODA), there was no re-commitment made to 0.7% of GNI, but the G7 did commit to using ODA for “employment and skills promotion programmes”, and to “make every effort to collectively increase the share of G7’s bilateral allocable ODA advancing gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment over the coming years”. Encouragingly, G7 leaders also committed to ensuring that ODA “does no harm to nature by 2025, and delivers positive outcomes overall for people, climate, and nature”.
Climate and environmental justice
Despite noting “with concern” that we are a long way from where we need to be, G7 leaders did not take any concrete steps forward on climate and environmental justice. They instead backtracked on their commitment to stop funding fossil fuels overseas. The G7 Leaders’ Communiqué watered down the COP26 commitment to end new direct public support for fossil fuels by the end of 2022. G7 climate, energy, and environment ministers had reaffirmed this pledge barely a month before, with Japan signing on for the first time. This commitment could have shifted USD 33 billion a year into clean energy sources. Instead, the G7 agreement opens the door to exceptions, allowing for taxpayer funds to be poured into gas projects in other countries and even called increased investment in liquified natural gas (LNG) “necessary.”
The G7 committed to mobilising up to USD 600 billion in public and private investments over the next five years to support India, Indonesia, Senegal and Vietnam with energy transitions. It is great to see a clearer alignment of multilateral development banks (MDBs) and development finance institutions (DFIs) in their efforts to invest in LMICs to decarbonise and adjust their economies to deliver green and decent jobs. But allowing continued international public finance for gas projects risks undermining the global energy transition.
No progress was made on increasing support for those on the frontline of the climate crisis, with the $100bn-a-year climate finance commitment reiterated but not met two years after failing to meet the delivery deadline. There was instead simply a restatement of other existing commitments such as the doubling of adaptation finance. No concrete commitments were made to provide finance to address loss and damage –the missing component of climate finance – only empty words about scaling up climate and disaster risk finance and insurance.
Global health and care
Germany’s G7 Presidency led to significant progress on care as it is important “to recognise, reduce, and redistribute unpaid care work, and to reward paid care work adequately, guaranteeing care workers representation”.
Commitment to the collective support of USD 79 million for the Childcare Incentive Fund is a welcome step in the right direction, but the care economy should be seen beyond childcare and be part of adequately funded (2% of GDP) social protection.
Though vaccines were mentioned 12 times in the Communiqué, G7 Leaders did not commit to the critical TRIPS waiver, which would relax intellectual property rules and share Covid-19-related tech and know-how with LMICs, allowing them to produce and use Covid-19 vaccines.
G7 leaders also made a commitment to Universal Health Care by 2030, stepping up their efforts in pandemic prevention, preparedness and response under the One Health approach. They did endorse the G7 pact for pandemic readiness, which will provide support to “at least 100 LMICs in implementing the core capacities for another 5 years until 2027”. They also committed to supporting a successful Seventh Replenishment of the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) with the goal of ending the three diseases, though it was not backed up with funding.