Oxfam G7 Verdict: Big Issues, Little Commitments

August 26, 2019

President Macron put inequality at the top of the agenda, but G7 leaders failed to make meaningful commitments to solve the crisis they have helped create, said Oxfam at the end of the Summit today.

“Held in the beach town of Biarritz, France, the G7 Summit brought very few results, which will wash away with the next tide,” said Oxfam’s spokesperson, Robin Guittard. “After failing to get all seven leaders to commit to a comprehensive effort to address inequality, President Macron opted instead for a scattershot approach of piecemeal commitments that unfortunately do not add up to much.”

G7 leaders paid lip service to the dangers of inequality, but they have encouraged and enabled this unequal system to thrive by enabling the super-rich to control politics, by under-funding public services and foreign aid, by under-taxing corporations and wealth, and by fueling climate change and sexism. Perhaps it should be no surprise that at the end of the Summit, they made no commitments to reform the global tax system, invest in universal public services like education, healthcare, and social protection, or in foreign aid. The promised feminist agenda, with the ambition to follow on last year’s Canada presidency, delivered only on limited initiatives.

New business coalitions and corporate pledges pop up on a daily basis, as they did in Biarritz, but Oxfam warns that they are not the solution to the fight against inequality and climate change.

“Everyone must do their part to address inequality and climate change, but voluntary commitments by the private sector cannot replace necessary and urgent public policy and regulations,” said Guittard. “If corporations truly want to do their part, they can start by paying their fair share of taxes in the countries they do business, ensuring gender equality in their corporations, addressing CEO-worker pay ratios, and re-directing their political influence to address inequality and climate, not making it all worse.”

Sahel, one of the poorest regions in the world, was also presented as a top priority for this G7 Summit, but France failed to mobilize the richest countries in the world to commit to anything new and instead announced a hazy Franco-German partnership primarily focused on security.  

“Security efforts will not get anywhere without investing in the fight against inequality,” said Guittard. “The multiple crises the people in the Sahel face - humanitarian, environmental, security - are all rooted in dramatic inequality and injustice, but only 1 per cent of the total G7 development aid goes to the region.” 

Even with the daily reminders that the climate crisis is upon us, the G7 did not commit to dramatically cut emissions. While France and the UK joined Germany to pledge to the Green Climate Fund, other G7 leaders missed their chance to step up to help poor countries who bear the burden and cost of climate change.

"Time is running out and the world cannot afford to squander moments like this. As the emergencies grow and the alarms ring, the public is increasingly active, showing up in millions on the streets, and in voting booth,” said Guittard. “Public pressure is growing, with young people leading the way. If leaders won't act, they should step aside and let a new generation take charge."

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