The 45th annual Group of Seven (G7) summit, taking place on 24–26 August 2019 in Biarritz on France’s Atlantic coast, will be an important event. It comes when the climate change crisis has reached a critical stage, when the established liberal multilateral order is under assault, and when growing populism, protectionism, provincialism and doubts about democracy tempt many to turn inward to temper the inequalities that globalization has often intensified in their societies at home.

To address these concerns, G7 leaders at Biarritz will focus on the ambitious goals that French president Emmanuel Macron as summit host has set.

Under the theme of fighting inequality, they will focus on five priorities.

  1. The first is enhancing equality of opportunity through gender equality, access to education and high-quality health services.
  2. The second is environmental equality through climate finance, a fair ecological transition, the oceans and biodiversity.
  3. The third is more fair and equitable trade, tax and development policies.
  4. The fourth is promoting peace, amid security threats and terrorism.
  5. And the fifth is seizing the opportunities offered by digital technology and artificial intelligence.
  • The Biarritz Summit will also address the reform of the world’s major international institutions, notably the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) (on its 100th anniversary), and spur a more coherent configuration in which the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and new powers have a prominent place. It will consider the role of non-state actors and the manipulation and taxation of information and will improve the G7’s alliance with Africa.
  • G7 leaders will also address key security issues such as nuclear proliferation in North Korea; regional security risks in Ukraine, the Baltic states, the Middle East and North Africa, Venezuela and Asia; terrorism; crime and corruption; and violations of democracy and human rights.
  • France also seeks to reform the G7 format by inviting the leaders of several other powers to pioneer new forms of coordination to meet the unprecedented challenges of today’s globalized, digitalizing world. The first set consists of leaders of democracies from other global regions: India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa and Chile’s president Sebastián Piñera. The second set comprises African leaders: Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Senegal’s Macky Sall, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Burkina Faso’s Roch Marc Kaboré, as chair of the Sahel G5, and African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki.
  1. On gender equality the Biarritz Summit will advance the legal status of women in the lead-up to the UN’s Beijing+25 conference in 2020 and mobilize money for women’s financial inclusion in developing countries.
  2. On education and health, it will boost the desired 15% funding increase for the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis and strengthen the response to the Ebola outbreak in the Congo after the shock of its spread to Goma in mid July.
  3. On the environment all members but the United States will promise to implement and improve the Paris Agreement on climate change, support the UN’s Climate Action Summit in September and bolster biodiversity, while U.S. resistance will cripple the needed response to the extreme heat now reaching new peaks around the world.
  4. There will be important agreements on proportionally fair and minimum digital taxation and efforts to regulate the cryptocurrencies introduced by private giants, lest they undermine the protections provided to citizens by their sovereign states.
  5. G7 leaders and their partners will also protect their democratic elections from internal interference, curb social media use for violent extremism, and narrow their differences over the threats to democracy and human rights from Iran, Russia and China.

These advances will be spurred by recent ecological, health, security and economic shocks, and the failure of the major multilateral organizations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), World Health Organization, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to respond to an adequate degree.

Thus the G7, with its globally predominant financial and specialized capabilities, will be inspired to act, in ways based on its members’ common principles and characteristics of open democracy and human rights. Constraints will come from the gap between rising U.S. capabilities and declining ones in most other members, and the low domestic political cohesion that most leaders have. Yet the compact participation of their cherished club, reinforced by the four democratic guests, will induce them to adjust to produce successful summit at least to a moderate degree.


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