G7 needs a reset

GS  2 – Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Source : The Hindustan Times dated 11/06/2021


Context In his final year in office, the United States (US) President Donald Trump found G7 to be an “outdated group of countries”. He was forthright in his denunciation, saying “I don’t feel that it represents what’s going on in the world”.

What is 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 heads of which hold an annual summit with European Union and other invitees.
  • Together the member countries represent 40% of global GDP and 10% of the world’s population.
  • 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 and all decisions and commitments made at G7 meetings need to be ratified independently by governing bodies of member states.
  • It was formed in 1975 by the top economies of the time as an informal forum to discuss pressing world issues.
  • At the time, the global economy was in a state of recession due to the OPEC oil embargo.
  • 1976 –  Canada was invited into the group which marked the official formation of the G7 .
  • 1977The European Union began attending it.
  • 1997– The G-7 was known as the ‘G-8’ for several years after the original seven were joined by Russia in 1997. The Group returned to being called G-7 after Russia was expelled as a member in 2014 following the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.
What is G20?
  • The G-20 is a larger group of countries, which also includes G7 members. The G-20 was formed in 1999, in response to a felt need to bring more countries on board to address global economic concerns.
  • Apart from the G-7 countries, the G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.
  • Together, the G-20 countries make up around 80% of the world’s economy. 
  • As opposed to the G-7, which discusses a broad range of issues, deliberations at the G-20 are confined to those concerning the global economy and financial markets.
Achievements of G7

The G7 Summit has been the birthplace for several global initiatives.

  • 1997 – Agreed to provide $300 million to the effort to contain the effects of the reactor meltdown in Chernobyl.
  • 2002 – the Global Fund
    • Members decided to launch a coordinated response to fight the threat of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
    • Their efforts led to the formation of the Global Fund, an innovative financing mechanism that has disbursed more than $45 billion in aid and has saved the lives of over 38 million people.
  • 2015 – The Global Apollo Program
    • Designed to tackle climate change through clean energy research and development.
    • The programme calls for developed nations to commit to spending 0.02% of their GDP on tackling climate change from 2015 to 2025; an amount that would total USD 150 billion over a 10-year period.
Criticisms against G7
  •  G7 as an exclusive, closed group that blatantly exercises their power over other nations
    • Until the mid-1980s, G7 meetings were held discreetly and informally
    • After discussions at a G7 summit in 1985, member countries subsequently signed the Plaza Accords, an agreement that had major ramifications for global currency markets.
    • Their actions caused strong international backlash, with other nations upset by the fact that a meeting between a small group of countries could have such a disproportionate effect on the world economy. 
    • The G7 began to announce the agenda for their meetings in advance so that markets could prepare themselves.
    •  However, several countries and individuals still perceive the G7 as an exclusive, closed group.
    • As a result, virtually every summit since 2000 has been met with protests and demonstrations
  • G7 is outdated
    • At the time of their inception, G7 countries were the de facto engines of global economy. Together, they constituted 60% of the global GDP.
    • Its share in global economy has declined to one-third of the global GDP. 
    • Countries such as India, Australia, and South Korea have risen as important powers upholding the key values of G7. Purely on economic terms, countries such as China have also emerged as major powers. 
  • Multilaterals, minilaterals and microlaterals – reduced significance of G7
    • Multilateral – Eg:  A bigger and more inclusive G-20 is present since 1999.
    • Minilaterals – Substantive alliances such as BRICS, TPP, RCEP and QUAD have emerged.
    • Microlateralism–  smaller countries play significant roles in addressing specific challenges with the tacit support of big powers
      • Norway played a pivotal role in clinching the Oslo accords in 1993 to attempt to resolve the vexed Palestine-Israel dispute. 
      • Peace in Lebanon was brokered by the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in 2008, by bringing together the warring factions and clinching the Doha Agreement. 
      • Jordan’s Aqaba Process and New Zealand’s Christchurch Call have become substantive counterterrorism initiatives after 2015. 
      • Austria created the First Movers Group in 2020 bringing together Australia, Israel, Greece and Singapore for a discussion on pandemic response. 
      • Finland raised more than $3 billion in November 2020 by hosting the Afghanistan Conference.
  • G7 has had a history of overlooking “values
    • for the sake of economic and strategic interests
    • Russia was invited as a member in 1997 converting G7 into G8. 
    • But when Russia attacked  Crimea in 2014, the group was forced to expel Russia and return to the G7 nomenclature.
Way forward
  • G7 should reform itself and rechristen as G10 or G11
    • India, Australia and South Korea have been invited to join in the meeting this year- a welcome step.
  • The grouping should uphold values like democracy, freedom and human rights.
    • Because the pandemic has catalysed authoritarian concentration of power in many countries. 
  • A Global Pandemic Radar should be created – as suggested by British PM
    • to strengthen our collective ability to prevent another pandemic and provide early warning of future threats, including by creating a network of surveillance centres.
  • Global Partnership for Education
    • has a target of raising $5 billion for schools in the developing world.
    • The grouping should take the lead because millions of girls around the world are denied an education, holding back the development of entire societies.

All the post-Covid agenda items such as climate protection, healthcare, human-centric development and people-friendly technologies depend on the crucial question of growing democratic deficit and how to address it; G7 should take the lead here and reform itself. Meanwhile for India, the G-7 summit is an opportunity to expand the global dimension of India’s growing partnerships with the US and Europe.

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