Politics of Poverty

How to be successful, according to the G7

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World leaders at the G7 Summit posing for a photo in Shima, Mie Prefecture, Japan on the sidelines of the 42nd G7 summit on 26 May 2016. Source: http://bit.ly/1UxxVsO

The Ise-Shima G7 lacked the ambition and political will to tackle many of the problems discussed by the G7 leaders.

Kel Currah leads the G7 Global Taskforce and is the Editor of the G7 Channel (g7channel.co). He has worked on campaigning and advocacy on G7 Summits since 2005. 

The Ise-Shima G7 Summit concluded last week when G7 leaders and their retinues swept back on to their planes and jetted home. The Summit was short, not counting planting trees and other photo ops, but the communiqué (or Declaration) that followed was long. G7 advocacy groups agreed that the Summit communiqué was comprehensive but delivered little in terms of agreement on action, commitments, and resources pledged to deal with the array of global concerns noted.

How do leaders of some of the seven largest economies get together, discuss so much and conclude so little?

If I were to venture a guess, or get my hands on a coffee-stained copy of the what is probably the guidebook outlining measures of ‘success’  or the 6 Sigma to follow  I imagine it would look something like this:

The 6 Sigma of a Successful G7 Summit
(Not for Distribution)

  1. Keep it short. Effectively just two half days between ‘wheels down’ and ‘wheels up’ in the parlance of world leaders. One afternoon session and one morning session then wrap it all up and get everyone out the country quick.
  2. Make it long. Throw everything into the communiqué – list all the hopes, concerns, and troubling countries. And be sure to include every government’s own domestic priorities: kidnapping and ransoms, Mr. Trudeau, no problem; Brexit and the steel industry, Mr. Cameron, lets add it in! This year’s G7 produced the longest communiqué in recent history – a whopping 33 pages compared to 17 for the 2015 German Summit and just 12 pages for the Brussels G7 (excluding annexes but that’s a whole separate story).
  3. Make it vague. Don’t agree to anything and don’t map out any action plans and certainly don’t commit any money. The Ise-Shima Declaration achieved this brilliantly. The communiqué was comprehensive with references to many of the global concerns facing the world, but it avoided any agreement on the means to addressing them such as committing actions plans, or allocating funding. For example, the section on Universal Health Coverage was welcomed by global advocates, but did not include plans or a roadmap to achieve it. Even revenue efficient actions like addressing the fragmentation of aid programs for health was not included. Similarly, on tax havens, the G7 supported OECD measures to tackle tax avoidance, but the leaders ignored concrete actions they could take in their own countries that could make a real impact, like a global public register of the real owners of businesses and trust.
  4. Go equipped. Do you know how many synonyms there are to ‘welcome’ and ‘support’? Well you should, as you will need to use them all to fill in 33 pages of language in order to avoiding using words like pledge and commit.
  5. Be repetitious. Repeat old communiqués. Like old exam papers, whole clauses are rotated between Summits – no one remembers the previous year’s communiqué anyways. Entire sections of the Declaration can be copied over from the previous G7 summit: the Ise-Shima statement on official development assistance (ODA), for example, was exactly the same as that from the German G7. Don’t forget to take a compendium of previous G7 Declarations on a USB stick before you head out to the Summit.
  6. Pick a big media venue: You will need the large venue with lots of rooms and different areas for the International Media Centre so you can invite NGOs to come to the press center so they feel included. Give them their own center with photocopiers and all the free cookies and coffee they can consume. Set it up somewhere near the main Media Centre but make sure no one knows where it is (especially the press) and certainly don’t help anyone find it. The NGO Centre should be like Area 51 – rumored to exist but never confirmed by anyone in authority and definitely not marked on any maps.

In the end, the Ise-Shima G7 was a competent Summit but lacked the ambition and political will to tackle many of the problems discussed by the G7 leaders. Next year the G7 will meet again in Sicily under the Italian presidency. Hopefully the Italian government will ignore the 6 Stigma of Success and get down to work in delivering the financing and actions to address pressing global priorities.


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