By Spogmay Ahmed, policy associate
The 43rd Group of 7 (G7) Summit is set to take place on May 26-27 in Taormina, Italy. Composed of the world’s top industrialized economies, the G7 meets annually to address economic stability. Each year, the G7 is led by a different presidency, which sets the main agenda and organizes the summit. To address citizens’ increasing lack of confidence in their government’s ability to meet their needs, the Italian G7 Presidency has identified its mission as “Building the Foundations of Renewed Trust.” This mission rests on three core pillars: 1) citizen safety; 2) economic, environmental and social sustainability and reduction of inequalities; and 3) innovation, skills and labor in the age of the Next Production Revolution. The second pillar identifies inclusive growth and women’s and girls’ economic empowerment among its target areas. Ambassador Raffaele Trombetta, Italian Sherpa to the Prime Minister, has expressed the Presidency’s commitment to mainstreaming gender across the G7 Agenda, as well as gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
These commitments will be put to the test at this year’s G7 Summit, where Heads of State and Government will gather to discuss the world’s most pressing political and economic challenges. Following a series of preparatory meetings, the Summit will compose a final Leaders’ Communiqué that lays out a plan of action for addressing these concerns. According to Julia Kulik of the G7 Research Group, issues of gender equality and women’s rights have been regularly referenced in G7 communiqués. However, they were not prioritized until 2015, when the German Presidency listed women’s economic empowerment as a key focus of its agenda. In 2016, the Japanese Presidency continued this momentum, including women’s active participation, education, and engagement in natural sciences and technology among its priorities. The outcomes of this year’s Summit will determine the Italian Government’s willingness to further advance recent precedent and promote gender equality on an international stage.
The Joint Communiqué of the G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting, held on April 10-11, includes several commitments related to gender equality and women’s rights. Foreign ministers pledged effective implementation of key platforms and conventions, like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and reaffirmed commitments to protecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms; combating all forms of violence and harmful practices; and promoting women’s active participation in peace and security in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325. The Communiqué also recognizes women’s empowerment as integral to inclusive development and decent job creation in Africa, and affirms support for civil society, human rights defenders, and journalists.
While this language is hopeful in tone, it must be matched by measurable commitments to gender equality that will hold G7 governments accountable. As Kulik writes, G7 leaders have been more likely to comply with commitments that do not include targets and timelines – since it is easier to promote gender equality and women’s rights under the façade of positive language. However, while G7 countries represent the world’s most advanced industries, the International Monetary Fund reports that these countries continue to lag in establishing equal pay, reducing the burden of unpaid work and care, and closing the gender gap in politics and managerial positions. In fact, a report from Grant Thornton reveals that the percentage of women in senior management roles in the G7 ranks below the global average – lagging behind Eastern Europe and ASEAN countries. If the G7 wishes to maintain its platform of leadership, it must monitor each government’s progress on gender equality and women’s advancement.
On behalf of the policy team on women’s economic empowerment for the InterAction G7/G20 Advocacy Alliance, ICRW and partners have issued our own recommendations, calling on G7 leaders to offer education and training for women and girls, increase women’s labor market participation through the redistribution of unpaid care work, and recognize and support the role of migrant care workers.
Several preparatory meetings have laid out recommendations that leaders should adopt in their final communiqué. Starting with the Women 7 (W7), which was established in 2015, G7 representatives were joined by members of civil society, business, and academia to deliver policy recommendations on gender equality and sustainable development. The group of experts urged the G7 to demonstrate leadership in instituting effective, gender equitable policies and practices. They highlighted the importance of recognizing individual efforts to advance sustainable development, while also analyzing macro-trends and big data. The W7 was divided into four Working Groups, each delivering recommendations on key drivers of gender equality: 1) investing in girls’ economic empowerment and fostering growth; 2) social inequalities and the future of democracy; 3) health and science; and 4) migrants, refugees and integration.
Like the W7, the Civil 7 (C7) – a coalition of civil society representatives – met with G7 leaders to influence commitments on key issue areas, one of which was gender. Members of the 2017 International G7/20 Parliamentarians’ Conference on gender and migration, held in Rome, also implored the G7 to adopt a human rights-based approach to issues of migration, internal displacement, and refugees – particularly regarding women and girls.
As evident, numerous stakeholders are seeking to keep G7 governments accountable on their pro-gender equality rhetoric. With advocacy on all fronts, there remains hope that the G7 will adopt effective, measurable commitments to promoting gender equality and women’s rights. If the Italian Presidency retains its commitment to gender mainstreaming, it must defend diverse policies and agreements that seek to improve the lives of women, girls and vulnerable populations – such as the Paris climate agreement. As proclaimed world leaders, G7 governments must act on their potential and demonstrate that they truly are committed to their mission – “Building the Foundations of Renewed Trust” – by pledging to support and advance opportunities for those still marginalized by ongoing sustainable development efforts.
1. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States
2. Of the G7 countries, 6 have signed and ratified CEDAW. The United States has signed, but not ratified, the Convention.