Today’s guest blogger is Michael Wilson from Global Citizen. The full version of this post was first published on globalcitizen.org.
Things weren’t looking very good 40 years ago. Oil prices had shot up to record levels, the global economy was in crisis, and nobody quite knew what to do.
This is what prompted six of the world’s most powerful industrialised countries to sit down and talk it through. The 1975 meeting of the USA, UK, Italy, France, Germany, and Japan was repeated the following year, with Canada joining in, too. These annual meetings have continued ever since, with Russia joining in 1998. The eight countries were known as the “G8”.
After Russia’s recent illegal antics in Ukraine, the other seven countries decided to send Russia to the naughty corner, and the G8 has been the G7 since 2014. The current stance is that Russia won’t be invited to any future meetings until it starts behaving again.
Also, even though I’ve already listed seven countries, the European Commission is also represented at all G7 meetings. But because it’s not technically a country, I guess it was decided to leave the number at 7. Anyway…
What does the G7 talk about when it meets?
In the first few years, the conversation was mostly about economic issues. In the 1980s, this expanded to foreign and security policy topics such as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The discussion topics for the G7 meeting vary from year to year, depending on what the most pressing world issues at the time are.
The G7 is an informal group, which means that it has no administrative structures of its own, and makes no formal resolutions. But the fact that it doesn’t try to behave like a conventional organisation doesn’t mean that it’s not highly influential. During the annual meetings, some of the world’s most powerful countries talk their way to common positions on global political matters, and that can set the global tone for the year ahead.
Where does the G7 meet?
The G7 has a rotating presidency each year, and the annual meeting is held in that country. In 2015, it’s Germany, and the meeting is taking place at Schloss Elmau, a castle in the mountains near Munich.
Why those 7 countries?
In the mid 1970s, these countries were the some of the most powerful nations, with some of the biggest economies. They also had good working relationships with each other, and thought that they could be more effective at solving tough problems if they did it in a coordinated manner.
But lots can change in 40 years, and China is the world’s second largest economy today, with the world’s largest population. Despite this, China is not in the G7, and neither are countries like India or Brazil, which are increasingly important politically and economically. This has led to criticism that the G7 is protecting the old world order, though the investment bank Credit Suisse estimated that the 7 countries in the G7 still accounted for 64% of global net wealth in 2014.
The pressure is building to either include big emerging countries in the G7, or replace the group with something new. This may happen in the future, but what we know for sure is that there are 7 countries meeting in Germany in 2015, and what they’re going to discuss will have big consequences for the world. So let’s focus.
What’s on the agenda for the 2015 meeting, then?
A lot has happened since the 2014 G7 meeting. The Ebola pandemic, the ongoing conflict related to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a surge of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and Nepal earthquake just to name a few. And there are other very important things happening this year, like preparations for a new United Nations climate treaty, and the unveiling of a set of poverty eradication goals that will guide the world for the next 15 years. The world’s marine environment, and the condition of the global economy are also expected to be discussed.
What can we do to get the G7 to show leadership in ending extreme poverty?
When world leaders gather in Germany to make key decisions that will affect the lives of the world’s poor, you don’t have to just sit quietly off to the side. Global citizens have already been signing petitions, tweeting and emailing political leaders, and spreading the word about issues that the G7 needs to tackle at this year’s meeting.
One of the most important things that we need the G7 to show strong leadership on is poverty eradication. Addressing climate change and health systems is part of it, but the amount of funding that G7 governments direct to aid and development needs to be a big focus. With the UK now directing 0.7% of its national income to aid, it’s time for the other G7 countries to rise to the occasion.
Here at Global Citizen, we’ll provide you with powerful ways to make your voice heard.
Oh, and are you doing anything in Munich on 6th June?
On the eve of the G7 summit, musicians, political figures, activists and global citizens will call on Chancellor Merkel and others to show the leadership needed to overcome extreme poverty by 2030.
At the iconic Konigsplatz in Munich on June 6th, just a few miles away from where the G7 meeting will take place on June 7th and 8th, 20,000 people will gather to learn about heroic stories of leadership from around the world and call on the leaders of the world’s richest countries to show the same courage to end extreme poverty.
This epic event is called United Against Poverty, and is brought to you by Global Citizen, ONE and five other NGOs who are committed to ending extreme poverty. In addition to political leaders and inspiring stories of overcoming extreme poverty, it’s going to feature performances from iconic Dutch DJ Afrojack, Radio Doria, Claudia Koreck, a special appearance by Usher, and more to be announced!