France’s action at the G7

The G7 and its history

The G7 was created on France’s initiative to deal with the crisis following the first oil shock. An informal group of the world’s seven leading economies, it first met at the Rambouillet Summit in 1975, and since then the Heads of State and Government have convened for an annual summit. The G7 countries accounted for 50% of global GDP in 2016, compared to 70% in 1975. They currently represent about 10% of the world’s population and 65% of international trade.

Objectives

The G7 is an informal group which takes no binding measures. Its role is to guide, coordinate and provide political impetus. Its added value and effectiveness are because it is direct and informal, has a strong tradition of collaborative work and a foundation of shared values: democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the free market, compliance with international law and each Member’s keen sense of their international responsibilities.

The G7 Members strive to together identify measures to take, where their joint action can provide added value, on major political issues regarding security, globalization governance, and global public goods management. The G7 is not an international institution. It does not take binding measures but sets shared objectives and standards.

Over the last 40 years, the G7 has been the main body providing international guidance and impetus across an increasingly wide range of areas over time: economics from the start, but also peace and security, the fight against terrorism, development, health, the environment and climate change. It thus enabled the implementation of a shared framework to regulate globalization.

The G7 also made the fight against terrorism a priority and established the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 1989 at the Paris Summit to combat illicit financial flows. The G7 was attentive to the reaction of the international community at the end of the Cold War (creation of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 1989) and, more recently, the “Arab Spring” with the Deauville Partnership launched in 2011.

Since the Rio Summit in 1992, development issues and combating global warming have been at the heart of the G7 agenda. In this area, the G7 was behind the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (2001) and strongly supported the negotiation and subsequent implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement (2015).

The G7 is based on discussions with third countries, especially developing countries, with civil society representatives and relevant international organizations providing input for its work. Since 2010, the commitments made in the area of development are part of an annual “accountability” exercise.

Membership

The G7 Members are France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada. Initially comprising six members upon its creation in 1975, it increased to seven with the addition of Canada the following year, and to eight when Russia joined in 1998. As a result of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, in March 2014 the G7 members chose to suspend the work of the G8, at the time under the Russian Presidency. The Brussels Summit (4-5 June 2014) marked the resumption of all G8 work in a G7 format. The European Union has been associated with it since 1977.

Presidency and Summits of G7 leaders

The G7 operates on a rotating Presidency, from 1 January to 31 December, in the following order: France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada. Although represented at the G7 by the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, the European Union is not part of the annual rotation. Third countries can be invited by the Presidency to take part in certain G7 sessions, in particular with regard to development. African countries are often invited as a priority.

In 2017, Italy held the G7 Presidency, with the summit in Taormina (Sicily) on 26-27 May 2017. Canada holds the Presidency for 2018 and will host the Summit in Charlevoix (Quebec) on 8-9 June 2018. France will preside over the G7 in 2019.

Since its inception, France has hosted six G7 Summits:

  • Rambouillet, Yvelines (1975)
  • Versailles, Yvelines (1982)
  • Arche de la Défense, Hauts-de-Seine (1989)
  • Lyon, Rhône (1996)
  • Évian, Haute-Savoie (2003)
  • Deauville, Calvados (2011)

How the G7 works

The country holding the G7 Presidency hosts the summit and organizes a number of preparatory meetings. The Presidency is also responsible for communicating information on behalf of the G7 and for relations with non-G7 countries, international organizations, NGOs and civil society in general.

The G7 leaders appoint personal representatives, known as “sherpas” to prepare the work of the G7. The appointment of sherpas varies from one country to another. In France, the sherpa is normally the President of the Republic’s diplomatic adviser, while the G7 sous-sherpa is the Director-General for Global Affairs at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. The sherpas and sous-sherpas are responsible for leading negotiations on the G7 communiqué and their regular meetings enable them to hold high-level dialogue in G7 format throughout the year.

In addition to the Summit, the Presidency can choose to organize G7 Ministers’ Meetings, whose conclusions are published in communiqués. Finance Ministers’ Meetings have been held since 1973, predating the creation of the G7 itself. Foreign Ministers’ Meetings have taken place every year since 1998, to discuss political crises and security issues. Other ministerial meetings are held to discuss the work of the G7 in further detail on a number of priority themes chosen by the Presidency.

Expert groups, which meet regularly, take part in the preparation of the G7 summit and enable regular dialogue between specialists, on subjects for which international coordination is essential. Over 15 working groups are currently active. They deal with subjects linked to security and cross-border threats (disarmament, peacekeeping, the fight against terrorism and organized crime, etc.) and global issues (health, food security, migration, the climate and vulnerabilities, etc.). Each year, the Accountability Working Group (AWG) draws up a report to assess the implementation of G7 commitments in the area of development.

In recent years, the G7 has greatly increased the involvement of civil society in its work, through the creation of engagement groups. These groups enable representatives from various sectors of society to discuss issues between them and send recommendations to the Heads of State and Government. The seven existing groups bring together representatives from NGOs, young people, women, expert panels, research bodies, unions and employer organizations.

Updated: April 2018

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