The Test of Global Leadership
On June 11th 2021, Cornwall, an English county, welcomed G7 (“Group of 7”) leaders to gather for the official 2021 G7 summit. As leaders were seen coming together to discuss and resolve politically challenging global issues, the world’s eyes rested on the decisions and declarations made. The three day event hosted by the UK, under its current presidency, gave leaders of the developed world the opportunity to unite and combat threats of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, unfair taxation and strengthen international relations and trade. Officials of the European Union alongside invitees from India, South Korea, Australia and South Africa were also seen in attendance, both physically and virtually, participating in various discussions over the three day event. Guests such as Sir David Attenburough, Melinda French Gates, UK Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance and UN Secretary General António Guterres also addressed the summit leaders, to provide specialised insight into the various issues being discussed.
An association of the seven leading democracies and economies in the world, the G7 consists of the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and France. Founded in 1975, the group included Russia and was formerly known as the G8. This however changed following the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, when Russia was expelled, as the annexation was seen as a direct violation of the principles of the group.
Initially designed to be a support for democracies around the world to sustain their industry and economy, the G7 later expanded its vision to international peace and security and more recently, public health and climate change. With a rotating presidency, the seven leaders reconvene annually to discuss and tackle global challenges and maintain global peace, security and stability.
The summit has previously proven to be a success in achieving a diplomatic and cooperative approach to global governance. Having focused on various goals throughout the years, some highlights include access to education for girls in conflict zones in 2018. This forum has been created through a collaboration with governments, intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Although small in size, the G7 platform presents world leaders with a unique opportunity to break past fundamental borders, adding more value to its work when compared to regional organisations such as the African Union (AU) or ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations). Though relatively transnational, these regional organisations center their focus on regionally faced challenges. Conversely, moving beyond these borders or regional blocs not only allows the G7 to address globally faced challenges and build an interdependent ecosystem, but further gives it an upper hand in effective global changemaking.
The 2021 Agenda
The agenda for the summit this year prioritised public health, the reversal of climate change and economic equality. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the world, leaders came together to establish protocols to increase preparedness and response for any future global outbreaks. The generation of a report titled ‘100 Days Mission for diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to respond to future pandemic threats’ put together by the G7, highlights a list of recommendations for leaders, in collaboration with international organisations, governments and industries to quicken their initial pandemic response.
By encouraging accelerated scientific research and development, all members promote a more effective and equal ‘first response’ to a pandemic. Outlining the need for fair immunization programmes and protocols for safe data collecting and sharing, the group of leaders further acknowledged the current scale of inequality in access to health care on all levels of analysis. In an address made by Melinda French Gates, the philanthropist stated that “the world can only achieve global health security by prioritising global equity”, offering a holistic and public centered perspective to the gathered leaders.
Sunday, 13th June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Joe Biden announced the ‘Build Back Better for the World’ (B3W) plan, uniting member countries to offer “high quality financing” to improve infrastructure in developing countries. In an attempt to reverse the drastic and threatening effects of climate change, this initiative promotes and enables countries to initiate ‘green transitions’ to become more environmentally sustainable. Efforts to establish railways across the African continent, and develop wind farms in Asia are some of the leading projects announced by the Group.
Egregiously polluted oceans are a significant concern worsening the Earth’s climate and having identified an increase in unsustainable fishing, plastic pollution and loss of marine biodiversity and ecosystems, the G7 simultaneously announced the ‘Blue Planet Fund’. By financing £500 million to less economically developed countries such as Ghana, Indonesia and the Pacific islands, the group aspires to overcome such challenges and meet the global goal of protecting 30% of land and 30% of water by 2030. Following renowned natural historian Sir David Attenborough’s address, all seven members pledged to be net-zero by 2050. Attempting to reverse the rapidly warming climate, this seems to be the latest and most ambitious goal of reducing carbon emissions taken on by world leaders thus far.
G7 in the Global Ecosystem
It goes without saying that the need for global cooperation has fueled the creation of various international organisations over time. Pre-existing organisations such as the UN, NATO, and EU have already laid the foundation for such diplomatic alliances, raising the question of whether a forum like the G7 is truly necessary. An extension to existing alliances, the G7 allows democratic leaders to come together to devise strategies to combat commonly shared threats. The current global system, from a liberal perspective, functions on the principles of democracy, encouraging states to use diplomatic means of problem solving. While promoting a global system of this nature, the Group of 7 allows for effective, hands-on decision making and functionality to make a change, differentiating it from other established organisations. Larger organisations struggle with timely action due to the large number of members and parties who must find common ground. The G7 has a distinctive advantage of being a smaller group, making lobbying and decision making easier, faster and more effective.
Although seen as ambitious and meticulously planned, the policies and directives established by the G7 at the 2021 summit, have faced criticism on the global front. While democratic nations are seen to greatly support and benefit from the policies founded by the organisation in order to sustain global order and peace, nations including China, perceive it as a threat and form of westernisation. Viewed as contradictory to its aim, this method of developed nations dominating and dictating the developing world is no longer being blindly accepted as leaders strive to maintain their independence and voice. Not only do such differences shed light on the work remaining in achieving an interconnected global system, but further suggests an uncertain future. Nations around the world have repeatedly prioritised and maintained their independence and sovereignty. This, however, has become a challenge with a small group of leaders establishing and running the global ecosystem, initiating disagreement and conflict regarding policies and universal terms, among states.
The Global Inequality
Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press conference at the end of the summit, the Chinese embassy in London issued a statement opposing the universal protocols established. Stating clearly that “the days when global decisions were dictated by a small group are long gone”. The Chinese embassy has expressed concern over the inequality displayed, as the seven developed nations decide the fate and processes of smaller developing countries. It is interesting to note that a forum, otherwise viewed as a progressive leader for the world to follow, can also become a cause for concern, giving some nations more power over others.
Consisting of the world’s leading democracies, the group has been criticised for its dictatorial approach in proposing universal policies and fueling power inequality among nations, in order to put forth its newly devised plans. The derivation of the ‘Build Back Better for the World’ (B3W) plan this year was further opposed by the Chinese who have previously mentioned and begun implementing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), intended to finance railways, roads and ports across Asia and Africa, to enhance regional connectivity. While the western world has been vocal in highlighting the debt imposed on developing countries through the BRI, the Chinese government has countered the B3W plan, based on a similar foundation, for being a western and dictatorial approach to restructuring countries and furthering development.
A grave power struggle brought to light by these differing perspectives has fueled international debate surrounding the extent of Western cooperation with the developing world, as western domination continues to threaten multipolarity. The changing global order has enabled numerous leaders of the developing world to raise questions over the power held by the West.
The Global North is seen to dictate alliances, intervene and promote negotiations, and maintain diplomatic interdependence among all nations. It is worth wondering whether such dominance and power could potentially lead the current global system back to a unipolar or bipolar world. Despite the struggles however, the G7 has undeniably been successful in taking action against pressing issues faced by the entirety of the world, and continues to expand its vision and outreach at every annual conference. Their maintenance of diplomatic relations has encouraged global peacekeeping and successfully ensured global development, enabling the G7 to be a vital member in maintaining global order.
Written by Veda Rodewald
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