A daunting agenda - GulfToday

A daunting agenda

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

The exclusive club, dubbed the “Group of Seven,” wealthy democracies is set to hold its annual summit this weekend at a posh hotel at Carbis Bay, St. Ives, in Cornwall. The “G-7” comprises this year’s host, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the US with the European Union as an additional fixture. The G-7 represents 58 per cent of the world’s net wealth and its members are classified as the most economically advanced countries.

The G-7 was founded in 1975 as the Group of Six, became the Group of Seven when Canada joined a year later, and the Group of Eight after Russia was admitted in 1997 but reverted to the G-7 when Russia was expelled.  

This year, Australia, India, South Africa, and South Korea have been invited to attend. The absence of China, soon to be the world’s largest economy, undermines the credibility of this event. Each of the dozen leaders have their own personal and national political reasons for participating.

Britain’s Boris Johnson is determined to demonstrate he is worthy of mounting such a high-profile international event and show that Britain is on the road to prosperity after its exit from the European Union. His handling of Britain’s withdrawal has, however, been less than setllar, he has failed to manage the covid crisis, and he had aligned himself closely with former US President Donald Trump, who is largely disparaged outside the US.

Staging the summit is controversial due to its cost which is estimated at £70 million (or $99 million) for policing alone. Despite protests from opponents of the gathering, Johnson is prepared to foot the bill as the summit gives him the opportunity to cultivate good relations with incumbent US President Joe Biden and other world leaders. Biden is making his first foreign visit to attend the summit, meet with Nato officials, and confer with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

Biden seeks to use the summit to restore US world leadership. In an editorial published by The Washington Post on Sunday, Biden wrote, “In this moment of global uncertainty, as the world still grapples with a once-in-a-century pandemic, this trip is about realizing America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners, and demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age.

“Whether it is ending the Covid-19 pandemic everywhere, meeting the demands of an accelerating climate change crisis, or confronting the harmful activities of the governments of China and Russia, the United States must lead the world from a position of strength.” While he touts the pandemic and economic successes of his brief presidency, he does not recognise that wealthy Western governments are also engaged in “harmful activities” across the globe.

Biden, 78, also speaks of a bygone age when the US portrayed itself as a “shining city on the hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” Endemic US racism and violence has undermined this lovely vision while the US is no longer the global hyperpower it became after the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago. China is a rising challenge and Russia continues to adopt policies inimical to the US and its Western allies. Pax Americana is a joke in a world beset by warfare, uprisings, poverty, hunger, and the vicious, spreading pandemic, a world where 90 per cent of covid vaccines have been commandeered by rich nations, notably Biden’s US, leaving the poor unprotected and posing a threat to countries emerging from lockdown. More than 100, former prime ministers, presidents, foreign ministers are among 230 global figures urging the G-7 to pay $44 billion of the $66 billion required for vaccinating citizens of developing countries.

The Canadian, French, Italian and Japanese leaders welcome an opportunity to escape the trials and tribulations of the pandemic while Germany’s Angela Merkel will be attending her last summit since she is set to stand down as chancellor in the fall.

Ahead of the summit, G-7 finance ministers agreed to reform taxation of multinationals and to impose a global corporation tax of at least 15 per cent. This figure is sharply criticised by humanitarian organisations which call for higher taxation of the rich so that more money can be spent lifting people out of poverty and aiding victims of the planet’s many conflicts which the G-7 has either abetted or failed to halt.

The summit has a daunting agenda topped by the need to adopt a global approach to pandemics as well as a fair distribution of covid vaccines. Johnson also plans to focus on climate change by pressing for phasing out coal, financing green technologies, and aiding developing countries to avoid contributing to global warming.

In an editorial, The Observer argues that countries absent from the summit “look askance at what they see as a rich man’s clique that presumes to direct international affairs on the basis of an outdated global pecking order created several decades ago.” Furthermore, the paper complains: “its members talk big then fail to live up to their promises. Delivery is all.”

The G-7 agenda and, perhaps, delivery on pledges may be discussed at the end of October at the Rome summit of the 20 major industrialised countries set for late October. The “G-20” includes the G-7 members plus Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Spain, South Africa, and South Korea. The invited guests will be the leaders of Switzerland, Rwanda, Algeria, Brunei, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Philippines. The geographic spread to all regions is more convincing than the limited membership of the G-7.

Under the chairmanship of Italy, this summit will focus on “People, Planet and Prosperity.” Once again priority will be given to the flagging and faulty international response to the covid pandemic and measures to treat, contain and control covid and any new international outbreaks.

Britain will host the UN Climate Change Conference of environment ministers which is set to convene Glasgow following the G-20 summit. The objective of this gathering is to deliver reductions of emissions causing climate change pledged at the 2016 Paris conference. The US, the world’s second largest emitter, will be attending as the US re-committed to the Paris accord, from which Donald Trump withdrew, as soon as Biden took office.

It remains to be seen if the 2021 summit delivers on the issues gripping the globe or whether these gatherings are no more than lavish parties for world leaders.


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