G-7 leaders 'keep the ball rolling' on global development

From left to right, clockwise: European Council President Herman van Rompuy, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, British Prime Minister David Cameron, United States President Barack Obama, French President François Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo by: European Commission

Leaders of seven of the world’s major industrialized nations — France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, United States and Canada — gathered on Wednesday and Thursday for a two-day G-7 summit, hosted for the first time by the European Union in Brussels.

Deviating from the standard G-8 format, the summit — originally scheduled to take place in the Winter Olympic city of Sochi — was held without Russia for the first time in 17 years following condemnation for Russia’s interference in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

Indeed, behind-closed-doors discussions at the annual summit were dominated by the ongoing and deteriorating crisis in Ukraine, but a number of key global development issues were tackled at a working lunch on Thursday.

According to a statement released by the ONE Campaign, despite “low expectations due to these special circumstances,” there was “more progress than expected” on development priorities at the summit, including on areas concerning transparency and the extractives industry.

Following an afternoon of discussions, leaders announced the launch in New York later this month of the so-called CONNEX initiative “on strengthening assistance for complex contract negotiations” that aims to provide developing country partners with “extended and concrete” expertise for negotiating complex commercial contracts. Initially, work will focus on the extractives sector, Devex has learned, harnessing existing fora and facilities to avoid duplication of efforts.

Commenting on the summit’s outcomes on Thursday, Eloise Todd, ONE’s international advocacy director, noted that G-7 leaders have “kept the ball rolling forward on transparency, health, agriculture and the push for ambitious new goals on development,” as well as setting clear and measurable objectives for the post-2015 global development framework, and calling for action on HIV and AIDS and a replenishment for the GAVI Alliance’s vaccines initiative in 2015.

According to an official at the European Council — the summit’s Brussels-based host — development issues were “pushed in the agenda” by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in advance of next year’s summit set to take place at Schloss Elmau, near the ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and coinciding with the 2015 deadline for reaching the Millennium Development Goals.

The official also revealed that the seven leaders reached consensus “without controversy” on a number of global development priorities and have committed to providing a status report in 2015 on the progress towards the attainment of previous summit commitments, including the unfinished business of the MDGs.

Here are 10 highlights from an official G-7 outcome document, released on Thursday:

1.   Reach a common position on a post-MDG development framework

Leaders have agreed to work with all bilateral and multilateral partners to agree on an ambitious and universal post-2015 agenda, anchored in a “single set of clear and measurable goals.”

2.   Continue to promote inclusive and resilient growth in Africa

Working with governments and citizens to enhance governance and transparency, leaders have committed to improve infrastructure throughout the continent — notably in the energy sector, as well as eliminating trade barriers, facilitating direct foreign investment, and strengthening the responsible and sustainable management of natural resources and the revenues they generate.

3.   Support stabilization and crisis resilience in Africa

In recognition of ongoing efforts by African country partners and the African Union, G-7 leaders have committed to mobilizing the support of the international community to reinforce the continent’s capacity to respond to crises and foster stability.

4.   Improve governance and stimulate inclusive growth for Arab states in transition

Leaders confirmed their “strong commitment” to the Deauville Partnership — an international effort launched at the 2011 G-8 summit in Deauville, France, to provide support for the historic political and economic transitions of the people in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Yemen — and pledged support to Arab countries in transition in their continuing efforts to create jobs, particularly for youth and women.

5.   Increase transparency within the extractives industry

Leaders confirmed their commitment to working towards common global standards to increase transparency in the extractives sector, notably by ensuring the full disclosure of company payments to governments.

6.   Continue to tackle illicit financial flows

In order to tackle tax evasion and illicit financial flows, measures proposed by leaders included support for developing countries to strengthen their tax base and help create stable and sustainable states. Leaders also confirmed their commitment to deny safe haven to the proceeds of corruption — building on existing efforts of the G-20 — and to the recovery and return of stolen assets.

7.   Prioritize support for maternal, newborn and child health

Reaffirming their commitment to the $5 billion Muskoka Initiative launched at the 2010 G-8 summit in Ontario, Canada — which aims to accelerate progress towards MDGs 4 and 5 on maternal, infant and child mortality in advance of the 2015 deadline — leaders recognized the impact of the GAVI Alliance on vaccines and immunization and welcomed its efforts to expand access to vaccines to an additional 300 million children in 2016-2020. The statement further noted a commitment to ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, as well as ending child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other harmful practices.

8.   Enhance health security around the world

To address the threat posed by infectious diseases, leaders pledged to support the global health security agenda and reaffirmed their collective commitment to working with partner countries to strengthen compliance around the World Health Organization’s international health regulations.

9.   Food security and nutrition efforts to take center stage

Leaders stated that they were looking forward to the second International Conference on Nutrition — to be held in Rome in November 2014 and jointly organized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and WHO — as well as the Expo Milan 2015, which will provide a further platform for the post-2015 debate on sustainability, food and nutrition. They also reaffirmed their support for the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, making mention of the alliance’s “strong African leadership” and the successful completion of principles for responsible agricultural investment by the Committee on World Food Security aimed at enabling smallholder farmers — especially women — to benefit from sustainable rural development.

10.  Rome G-7 energy initiative endorsed

Leaders confirmed their support for an energy initiative adopted by their ministers last month, and stressed the urgency of reaching a global climate deal at next year’s U.N. climate talks in Paris.

Commenting on global development talks at the summit’s closing press conference on Thursday afternoon, outgoing European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that the G-7 had again shown that “fairness and solidarity towards the world's poorest is one of our most important concerns.”

“We have agreed that all of us work for an ambitious outcome of the discussions on a universal post-2015 development agenda,” he said. “And we had the time to discuss some concrete initiatives that are important, not least from a health point of view.”

What do you think about the agreement reached by G-7 leaders? Have your say by leaving a comment below.

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About the authors

  • Eva Donelli

    As a correspondent based in Brussels, Eva Donelli covers EU development policy issues and actors, from the EU institutions to the international NGO community. Eva was previously at the United Nations Regional Information Center for Western Europe and in the European Parliament's press office. As a freelance reporter, she has contributed to Italian and international magazines covering a wide range of issues, including EU affairs, development policy, social protection and nuclear energy. She speaks fluent English, French and Spanish in addition to her native Italian.
  • Richard Jones

    In his role as Editorial Director Richard oversees content for digital series, reports and events, leading a talented team of writers and editors, conducting high-level video interviews and moderating panels at events. Previously partnerships editor and an associate editor at Devex, Richard brings to bear 15 years of experience as an editor in institutional communications, public affairs and international development. Based in Barcelona, his development experience includes stints in the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Ecuador, as well as extensive work travel in Africa and Asia.