G7 Revived: Key Takeaways from the 2022 G7 Leaders' Summit

"The G7 are back,” according to dpa; it took Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to "breathe new life" into the group, which has experienced decreasing significance as the G20 has gained traction in recent years. Rebranding itself as a ‘club of democracies’, the G7 Leaders’ Summit demonstrated unity against Russia, made strides to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and reaffirmed commitments of interest to development advocates. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and its ramifications on food security and energy markets monopolized the agenda; however, G7 Leaders addressed other key themes relevant to development advocates’ work, with the resulting G7 communiqué highlighting commitments to climate response, gender equality, and global health.


 

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7), which consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US, as well as the EU, which is a non-enumerated member, met in Elmau, Germany from June 26 – 28, 2022, to discuss global issues and progress. The G7 Leaders were joined by the leaders of Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa, and Ukraine at the end of the conference. As expected, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting intensified global food crisis dominated the agenda, with G7 leaders continuing to pressure Russia while simultaneously trying to counteract the invasion’s effects on the global economy. The summit’s areas of interest for development experts included climate, gender equality, and global health, as well as economic recovery.

Response to the crisis in Ukraine

As a cross-cutting issue affecting multiple sectors and development levels, the Russian invasion of Ukraine garnered the most attention at the recent G7 Leaders’ Summit. G7 leaders demonstrated unified support for Ukraine by strengthening sanctions, which includes halting Russian gold sales and exploring ways to cap Russian oil prices and coal exports.

While Russian aggression has brought ‘Western’ leaders together to condemn Russia over the last five months, the domino effects of the invasion can be felt globally. G7 leaders focused their conversations and communiqué on not only sanctioning Russia but ensuring that the invasion does not add to the burden of the world’s most vulnerable. The communiqué specifically addresses the Russian invasion’s effects on the global energy market and committed “assistance to developing countries to combat surging energy prices” and access to energy markets, including Russia’s.

G7 Leaders signaled that they would attend the upcoming G20 Summit in Bali, scheduled for November 15-16, 2022, and hosted by G20 President Indonesia, even if Russian President Vladimir Putin attends, and they hope to use the opportunity to leverage an end to the invasion.

Food Security

In direct response to the intensifying global food crisis as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the G7 pledged to contribute an additional US$4.5 billion to protect the world’s most vulnerable people from hunger and malnutrition. The US government has announced it will provide US$2.8 billion of the funding – US$2 billion will be channeled as humanitarian assistance and US$760 million will go to short- and medium-term food assistance. Germany will contribute €450 million (US$476 million) of the funding. With this fresh funding commitment, the G7 countries' funding for global food security will total US$14 billion so far this year.

In their G7 Statement on Global Food Security, G7 leaders also highlighted the pivotal role of the newly built Global Alliance for Food Security, co-initiated by German Development Minister Svenja Schulze and World Bank President David Malpass to address the current food crisis. Similarly, existing initiatives such as FARM, Team Europe’s response to global food insecurity, and regional initiatives were mentioned as essential to tackling the ongoing food crisis. In addition to reiterating their call upon Russia to end any activities that impede Ukrainian food production and exports as well as that hinder export of Russia’s own grain and fertilizers, G7 leaders committed to establishing alternative routes, e.g., by building on the already implemented EU “Solidarity Lanes” initiative.

To address fertilizer shortages, G7 leaders committed to supporting more efficient and targeted use, temporarily increasing local and global production as appropriate, and promoting alternatives to inorganic fertilizer. They also called on partners with large food stockpiles and the private sector to make food available without distorting the markets, including by supporting the World Food Programme´s purchase strategy. G7 leaders also committed to keeping food and agricultural markets open and to strengthen their support to the G20 Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) by providing additional financial resources, timely data, and transparent information, as well as asking for the same from all AMIS members. 

Several Development NGOs have raised criticism, stating that G7 funding for food security is far from adequate. According to Stephan Exo-Kreischer, Director of the ONE Campaign Germany, the World Food Programme would need US$21.5 billion this year to address food security, marking the G7 pledges as insufficient. Oxfam Germany called the summit decisions a "dazzle designed to distract from the historic failure of the G7" to bring 500 million people out of hunger with more suffering from hunger now than when the commitment was made. An additional US$28 billion at least is needed to end hunger and fund the United Nations, according to Oxfam.  

Climate response

“A Sustainable Planet” stood at the top of this year’s G7’s agenda, with leaders reaffirming their support for the Paris Agreement, the Glasgow Climate Pact, and upcoming nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which are due at COP27 in November 2022, the next UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties. G7 leaders responded well to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Climate Club (in German) suggestion, noting a timeline of the end of 2022 for the establishment of the cooperative. Of interest for development advocates, G7 leaders committed to ensuring that international development assistance will not harm nature by 2025, addressing climate impact within the development sector.

Despite stated support, additional financial commitments and resilience targets for climate were not included in the communiqué. In addition to stated domestic commitments to climate neutrality, the G7 countries focused on continuing to coordinate with low- and middle-income countries on climate adaptation and mitigation, citing cross-cutting challenges that climate change could exacerbate, like peace, stability, and security.

G7 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Global Methane Pledge, which was originally introduced at COP26 and aims to reduce global anthropogenic methane emissions by 30%+ from 2020 levels by 2030. They also reaffirmed their ‘strong’ commitment to delivering the previously pledged US$100 billion in climate finance “as soon as possible and through to 2025,” including commitments to step-up planning and implementation in the lead-up to COP27. The communiqué emphasized the importance of leveraging Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to reach the US$100 billion goal and called on other global leaders to reallocate their SDRs, including by making pledges to the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust and the Resilience and Sustainability Trust. The G7 leaders also recommitted to double adaptation finance to ‘developing countries’ from 2019 levels by 2025.

Notably, G7 leaders included a call to scale-up action and support for Loss & Damage (L&D), including climate and disaster risk finance and insurance (CDRFI) as well as working toward a Global Shield Against Climate Risks built on the InsuResiliance Global Partnership and other initiatives. The communiqué called on the G7 Development Ministers to address the Global Shield by COP27; though the Global Shield does not exactly meet requests from vulnerable countries, it opens the door for pooling existing resources to cover losses. Responding to recent reports from both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and global climate advocacy organizations, the G7 included a commitment to exploring nature-based solutions to climate change, in addition to scaling-up efforts to mobilize private climate finance.

On a related note, the G7 leaders committed to ramping up infrastructure, especially sustainable infrastructure, through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), which was launched at the Summit. The leaders announced their commitment to mobilize US$600 billion in public and private investments for PGII, which will target low- and middle-income countries. Many see this move as an effort to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative. According to a White House press release, the US aims to mobilize US$200 billion for PGII over the next five years and "Team Europe" will provide approximately €300 billion (US$317 billion) over the next seven years. It remains unclear whether the initiative aims to mobilize new money or relabel funds from existing initiatives.

Gender equality

Critics have noted that while the recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was not a central topic of the Summit, the decision loomed over US President Joe Biden at the meeting, with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressing concern over the state of gender equality in the US and potential global ramifications. However, the communiqué offered hopeful language regarding “feminist development, foreign, and trade policy,” and introduced a mechanism to continuously monitor G7 commitments and progress towards achieving gender equality, as recommended by the Gender Equity Advisory Council (GEAC) and the Women 7 (W7) - the G7 Dashboard on Gender Gaps - which covers key gender equity indicators across multiple policy areas.

The G7 leaders committed to increasing efforts to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) globally as well as enhancing women’s economic empowerment (WEE). The leaders also committed to “make every effort” to increase the G7’s share of bilateral allocable ODA to advance gender equality in the communiqué, as well as mentioned putting gender equality at the core of multilateral contributions to global health.

Additionally, the G7 committed US$79 million to the Childcare Incentive Fund, increasing the growing importance of care work on the international agenda and the resulting impact on women’s economic empowerment in vulnerable countries. Details about individual donor contributions were not provided.

Global Health

While global health was not as prominent a theme at the summit compared to the UK’s G7 Leaders’ Summit in 2021, the sector, entitled “Healthy Lives”, still saw robust support and adopted several parts of the joint Development and Health Ministers’ communiqué. This includes support for equitable access to COVID-19 tools (especially important in the wake of the recent WTO decision to grant partial TRIPS waivers for vaccines), the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), and regional and local manufacturing capacity-building. No clear additional commitments to COVAX or ACT-A were made, but the communiqué highlighted past support.

The communiqué mentioned global health research and development (R&D), referencing the 100 Days Mission to Respond to Future Pandemic Threats as a tool for PPR, in addition to a reaffirmed commitment to universal health coverage (UHC), health systems strengthening, and the intersection of climate and health within the development space. The G7 leaders committed to making their respective health systems environmentally sustainable and climate-neutral by 2050, as well as more resilient.

In addition, G7 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPR); the communiqué explicitly mentioned strengthening PPR and disease surveillance “based on a highly qualified and trained public health workforce at all levels.” They explicitly supported the establishment of a new financial intermediary fund for PPR.

Economic Recovery

With the background of severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine on the global economy, G7 leaders committed to strive for strong, sustainable, gender-equal, and inclusive global recovery. Recognizing the importance of full, equal, and meaningful participation of women for the success of economies, G7 leaders committed to removing structural barriers to gender equality.

Acknowledging the severe and challenging debt crisis that currently burdens many low- and middle-income countries, G7 leaders encouraged efforts to ensure an accelerated implementation of the G20 Common Framework and increased predictability, calling on all G20 partners to join the swift implementation of the framework. G7 leaders also called on non-Paris Club members, including China and private creditors, to contribute constructively to the necessary debt treatments. Oxfam Germany criticized the communiqué for lacking an agreement on debt relief. According to Charlotte Becker, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Oxfam Germany, “for every dollar in assistance, two dollars would have to be paid by low-income countries to their creditors.” "The G7 should have agreed to cancel this debt," Becker stressed.

In the communiqué, G7 leaders also affirmed their commitment to implement the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) / G20 Inclusive Framework Two-Pillar Solution, which is intended to address tax challenges related to increasing globalization and digitalization. Consequently, the G7 leaders reaffirmed support for low- and middle-income countries to implement the agreement.

Outlook

Following the meeting, NGOs remained skeptical about commitments made; organizations hope that these commitments will be followed by action and backed up financially. Despite hopeful language and clear areas of support, the G7 communiqué was underpinned by few tangible financial targets and contributions. Development advocates should focus on calling for clear financial commitments from G7 countries to achieve their stated goals, in addition to closely monitoring discussions in the lead-up to the G20 Leaders’ Summit in November 2022.

Advocates working on gender equality should ramp up pressure for G7 leaders to stick to their commitment to “make every effort” to increase bilateral allocable ODA to advance gender equity, as momentum for the move was stated in the communiqué. Global health advocates should also prepare to advise on increased long-term financing requests for PPR. In recent months, the immediate COVID-19 response has lost traction and advocates should be prepared to see diminishing support for short-term COVID-19 response mechanisms and increased interest in future-oriented planning.

The new PGII, which aims to mobilize US$600 million in financing for sustainable infrastructure, was perhaps the most influential commitment at the meeting; however, its financing flows are blurry, and finance recipients may be incentivized to utilize China’s already-established Belt and Road Initiative for infrastructure investment, since reporting standards and requirements may be lower. However, the G7’s aim is to encourage partnerships with democracies, and potential partners could see benefits in the new PGII program, as G7 countries could be less inclined than China to saddle poorer countries with too much debt. Advocates should seek clearer PGII financing flows, as well as clarity on reporting mechanisms and partner country expectations.

Each year, the G7 leaders meet and make commitments to improve key thematic areas and promote global progress; however, accountability remains unclear, because there is no tracking mechanism in place to determine whether G7 leaders follow through on nonbinding commitments made at the summit. Advocates should push for clearer accountability and tracking mechanisms for commitments made by the G7, with a special focus on the global development agenda, including gender equality, global health, climate, and food security commitments.


Further Reading

Communiqué - G7

Climate Club Communiqué - G7 (in German)

Press release – White House

Press release - BMZ

News article - CNN

News article – dpa (in German)

News article - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German)

News article - Global Times

News article – BBC

News article - Devex