G7: Uncovering the origins and agenda of this yearly meeting of world leaders6 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
The G7 Summit took place recently in Cornwall in England, with big world leaders in attendance. But just like you folk, we had some questions too about what this summit is all about and why it takes place. Let’s explore…
What is the G7?
The Group of 7 (G7) is an informal group of seven countries — the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. The political heads of these countries hold an annual summit with some invitees. Together the member countries represent 40% of global GDP and 10% of the world’s population.
Owliver’s Obscure Observations
What is GDP?
Gross domestic product (GDP) is the monetary value of all finished goods and services made within a country during a specific period. GDP provides an economic picture of a country, which is then used to estimate the size of an economy and its growth rate.
However, unlike other bodies such as NATO, the G7 has no legal existence, permanent secretariat or official members. It also has no binding impact on policy – all decisions and commitments made at G7 meetings need to be checked independently by governing bodies of the individual countries.
Owliver’s Obscure Observations
Do you know what NATO stands for?
NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – an international organisation composed of the US, Canada, Britain, and a number of European countries.
How did it come into existence?
The G7 draws its roots from a meeting between the current G7 members, excluding Canada, that took place in 1975. At the time, the global economy was in a state of recession. Amid this crisis, the then US Treasury Secretary George Schultz decided that it would be beneficial for the large players on the world stage to coordinate with each other on economic initiatives. After this first summit, the countries agreed to meet annually and a year later, Canada was invited into the group which marked the official formation of the G7 as we know it. Until the mid-1980s, G7 meetings were held discreetly.
The President of the European Commission was asked to join the meetings in 1977 and following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia was also invited to join the group in 1998. Thereafter, the group was named the G8 until 2014, when Russia was expelled.
The handling and organising of G7 meetings is held by each of the seven countries in turn, each year. That country is responsible for organising and hosting the meeting, holding the ‘presidency’ for that year. The UK held the G7 presidency for 2021 and organised the conference in Cornwall from June 11 to June 13.
This year, India, South Korea and Australia were invited to attend the G7 summit as participating guests.
What’s on the agenda?
This summit provides a forum for member countries to discuss shared values and concerns. While it initially focused on international economic policy, in the 1980s, the G7 now includes issues related to foreign policy and security as well. In recent years, G7 leaders have discussed challenges in development, education, health, human rights and climate change.
Some key developments at past summits
The G7 Summit has been the birthplace for several global initiatives, including:
- In 1997, the G7 countries agreed to provide $300 million to the effort to contain the effects of the reactor meltdown in Chernobyl.
- At the 2002 summit, members decided to to fight the threat of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Their efforts led to the formation of the Global Fund, a financing mechanism that has disbursed more than $45 billion in aid and, according to its website, has saved the lives of over 38 million people.
- The Global Apollo Program was launched at the 2015 G7 Summit meeting. Designed to tackle climate change through clean energy research and development, the Apollo Program was conceived by the UK. The programme calls for developed nations to commit to spending 0.02% of their GDP on tackling climate change from 2015 to 2025.
What happened this year?
The summit that happened this year saw some important things being discussed. This included developing a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to call for the G7 to work on a global approach to pandemics to ensure an equal global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and to prevent future pandemics.
He proposed a five-point plan to prevent future pandemics, which includes a worldwide network of zoonotic research hubs, developing global manufacturing capacity for treatments and vaccines, the design of a global early warning system, the agreement of global protocols for a future health emergency and the reduction of trade barriers.
The G7 nations agreed to pledge 1 billion vaccines to other countries. Johnson also focused on climate change.
Another topic of discussion was co-ordination on economic policies. The G7 countries also launched the Build Back Better World initiative, a plan to fund the infrastructural developments in the low and middle income countries.
The summit was the first face-to-face meeting of heads of states since the Covid pandemic began. The summit has come under heavy criticism on social media, with many users claiming world leaders openly flouted Covid restrictions. Several snapshots of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron, among others, show them without masks and in close proximity.
Sources: BBC, Mint, Al Jazeera, Indian Express, Business Standard