In 2021 the UK assumed the Presidency of the G7, and in June convened the group of wealthiest liberal democracies for the first summit since France’s presidency in 2019, after the 2020 event was delayed and ultimately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The summit which took place in scenic Carbis Bay, Cornwall, saw Heads of Governments from the core member countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, UK and USA) meet with EU leaders who have been invited to the summit every year since 1977. As hosts, the UK also extended an invitation to Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea, making up what Boris Johnson nicknamed the “Democratic XI”, who in no coincidence are among the key trading partners for a post-Brexit global Britain.
The UK set the agenda, and discussions over three days covered seven key issues:
1. To secure a cleaner, greener, freer, fairer and safer future for our people and planet.
2. End the pandemic
3. Reinvigorate economies
4. Secure future prosperity
5. Protect the planet
6. Strengthen partnerships
7. Embrace our values
This last commitment – embrace our values – focuses on driving equality, in particular gender equality, setting out a target to get 40million more girls into education through pledging at least $2¾ billion for the Global Partnership for Education. While this is commendable, campaigners on gender equality issues are looking for greater commitments and a more integrated response – embedding gender equality into all discussions.
One such group is the W7, a collection of civil society organisations from G7 countries who are working to advance rights and equality for women and girls. The W7 convened earlier this year to develop their recommendations that fed into the Carbis Bay summit, in order to extract concrete commitments matched with funding from the G7 leaders, and give voice to those who may not be heard during the main event. The first priority of the W7 was to ensure that “gender equality must be genuinely mainstreamed across all G7 priorities including climate change, open democracy, finance, trade and foreign policy”.
The G7 summit Communique pledged to centre the advancement of gender equality, as part of the overarching theme of building back better. Under this, there were three key priorities identified: Educating girls, Empowering women, and Ending violence against women and girls. Notable commitments from the summit in these areas include an agreement to protect women and girls from gender based violence online, and in the climate discussions with a pledge to “develop gender-responsive approaches to climate and nature financing, investment and policies, so that women and girls can participate fully in the future green economy.”
The Carbis Bay summit looked ahead to another key milestone on the journey towards gender equality, committing to “close alignment” with the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) which culminates in Paris from 30th June to 2nd July. The G7 also committed to convening the Gender Equality Advisory Council as a standing feature of all G7 Presidencies, ensuring that gender issues are firmly on the table in years to come.