The French G7 Presidency: Context


The G7 (“Group of 7”) brings together Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Heads of State and Government of which meet during an annual Summit. The European Union is also represented. France held the Presidency of the G7 in 2019. It made the Biarritz Summit, held from 24 to 26 August 2019, a strong declaration of support for multilateralism, with a central theme of combating inequality.

The G7 was originally conceived to address global economic crises. It has since become a forum to seek common responses to major global challenges such as peace and security, including counter-terrorism; development; access to health care worldwide; environmental protection; the climate and biodiversity; gender equality and the digital transformation. Thanks to its flexible and informal format, the G7 fosters frank discussions between leaders on solutions to global challenges.

Fighting inequality, the central priority for the French G7 Presidency

Rising inequality is a threat to the cohesion of societies, a barrier to inclusive economic development, and a source of rejection of globalization. France made the social dimension of globalization and the reduction of inequality central to the priorities of its G7 Presidency, as announced by the President of the Republic in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2018:

“Per capita wealth is 50 times greater in OECD countries than it is in low-income countries. Do we believe we can build stability, balance, over the long term, given such a situation? No, we must act!”

These efforts are split between several priorities:

Taking action for peace, against security threats and terrorism which weaken the foundations of our societies;
• Promoting fairer, more equitable trade, tax and development policies;
Fighting inequality of opportunity, promoting in particular gender equality and access to high-quality health services;
Reducing environmental inequality by protecting our planet through climate finance and a just ecological transition, based on preserving biodiversity and the oceans;
• Forging a renewed G7 partnership with Africa to work together on the challenges facing the continent, which has great development opportunities;
• Adapting our societies to the challenges of the digital transformation, to ensure that this technological revolution brings progress for all.

The Architecture of the Presidency

The French G7 Presidency was managed by the Presidency of the Republic. To prepare the year’s G7, a steering committee was established, led by the “Sherpa”, the Diplomatic Adviser to the President of the Republic. It included three “tracks” supporting the work of the Presidency, following the guidelines set down by the President of the Republic:

  • The “Sherpa Track”, with a dedicated team led by the G7 “Sous-Sherpa”, handles coordination and steering of all work;
  • The “Political Track”, for matters including foreign affairs;
  • The “Finance Track”for economic and financial matters.

Find out more about the G7 (role, how it works, etc.)

The Secretariat General of the French G7 Presidency was responsible for identifying the logistical needs of all events, and for preparing, organizing and ensuring the security of the preparatory meetings and Summit. In liaison with the relevant departments of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, it handled steering of communication and of protocol matters. Lastly, it managed and ensured the coherence of the whole programme and budget of the French G7 Presidency.

Ministers were also involved. In 2019, France organized nine G7 ministerial meetings to seek tangible common solutions to major global challenges with the members of the group.
Interior (FR) (4-5 April 2019, Paris);
Foreign Affairs (5-6 April 2019, Dinard and Saint-Malo);
Environment (FR) (5-6 May 2019, Metz);
Gender Equality (FR) (9-10 May 2019, Bondy);
Health (FR) (16-17 April 2019, Paris);
Employment (“Social G7”) (FR) (6-7 June 2019, Paris);
Development and Education (4-5 July 2019, Paris);
Finance (FR) (17-18 July 2019, Chantilly).

All official documents from the ministerial meetings

The ministerial meetings produced tangible ideas to address the global challenges of today, and laid the foundations for the success of the Biarritz Leaders’ Summit.

G7 working groups meet every year, bringing together experts representing each member of the group on subjects where international cooperation is essential, such as security (disarmament, peacekeeping, combating terrorism and organized crime, non-proliferation, etc.) and global challenges (health, food security, environment, education, etc.) These meetings produce common recommendations that feed into work up to the Summit.

During the French G7 Presidency, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs ran several working groups, some of which produced public reports:

• Nuclear Safety and Security Group (NSSG). The NSSG provides strategic advice on safety and security in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy, in close liaison with multilateral organizations. Consult the 2019 NSSG report and Key messages on nuclear safety and security to the G7 Leaders.

• Food Security Working Group. Today, one in nine people worldwide are suffering from hunger and almost 10 billion people will need food by 2050. The Food Security Working Group prepared the G7 Development Ministers Meeting, which was held in Paris on 4 July 2019 and addressed two subjects: rural youth employment in the Sahel and combating malnutrition in the same region.

The monitoring of G7 development commitments is essential, so a working group publishes a “progress report” to assess the commitments made during Summits. The report published by the French G7 Presidency assesses 48 commitments across 10 thematic chapters: aid and aid effectiveness, economic development, health, food security, education, equality, governance, peace and security, environment and energy, and human mobility.

A renewed format to better defend multilateralism

The French President wanted to give new momentum to the G7, in terms of both its working methods and its format. By fostering frankness between leaders and involving international organizations and civil society, the French G7 Presidency made the group central to efforts to achieve collective solutions to global challenges, in the spirit of supporting multilateral initiatives.

During the G7 Biarritz Summit, the French President sought to promote open and frank discussions between national leaders to ensure their common positions were genuinely shared by all. The summary published after the Summit was therefore the result of negotiations between the Heads of State and Government themselves.
View the text of the declaration

France wanted to involve partner countries closely, from preparatory work through to the Summit:

Four partner countries, involved in protecting and promoting democratic freedoms and with major regional influence: Australia, Chile, India and South Africa;
Six African partners to build an equal partnership with the continent: Rwanda, Egypt and South Africa, successive Chairmanships of the African Union from 2019 to 2021; Senegal, chairing the Heads of State or Government Orientation Committee of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in 2019; Burkina Faso, holding the Presidency of the G5 Sahel Council of Ministers; and the African Union, in order to involve the whole continent in the G7’s work.

International organizations have a key role to play in defending multilateralism in today’s world. In Biarritz, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union (AU) Commission took part in certain sessions. Working with international organizations and strengthening synergies between and with them was a priority of the French G7 Presidency.

Lastly, the French G7 Presidency innovated by closely involving civil society in its work, building on the opening-up of the group in recent years. Doing so helps engage with all those involved in seeking innovative solutions to global challenges, such as environmental protection and gender equality.

Civil society is involved through the topical G7 engagement groups. These groups bring together civil society members from G7 stakeholders by type of stakeholder: young people (Youth 7), feminist groups (Women 7), non-governmental organizations (C7), trade unions (Labour 7), employers (Business 7), think tanks (Think tanks 7) and academies of science (Science 7). And this year, for the first time, universities (Universities 7) and lawyers (Lawyers 7) met in G7 format. These groups produced proposals that fed into the Presidency’s work ahead of the Summit.

In parallel, a dedicated G7 working group was created within the National Council for Development and International Solidarity (CNDSI). Eight meetings organized from August 2018 produced concerted recommendations on the priorities of the French G7 Presidency.

Find out more about the CNDSI

Beyond these forums, the French G7 Presidency also supported civil society initiatives such as the Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) initiative, which brings together 34 companies that want to effectively combat equality.

During a citizens’ dialogue day organized on 2 July 2019 at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris, almost 220 representatives of civil society met, in the presence of six ministers, to discuss their thematic recommendations and present the deliverables envisaged for the Biarritz Leaders’ Summit. For the first time, all G7 engagement groups, as well as members of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, high-school pupils, citizens selected by lottery and representatives of the Basque country, were present to debate the main objectives of the Leaders’ Summit together.

A day of discussions with the President of the French Republic was held at the Élysée Palace, centred around the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, NGOs in the fields of human rights, development and environmental protection, and companies committed to combating inequality and climate change, with the aim of presenting the results of their work and preparing the discussions between the Leaders in Biarritz.

Updated: December 2019