The annual G7 summit, hosted by Canada this year and held in Charlevoix, Quebec earlier in June, brought together leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States to debate foreign policy issues related to economics. This year’s G7 had the potential to advance a feminist agenda globally—and now, advocates and experts in issues of women, peace and security are weighing in on whether it succeeded.
In December 2017, Canada assumed the presidency of the G7 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced his vision for a heavy emphasis on the empowerment of women and girls during Canada’s tenure. He spoke of the creation of a Gender Equality Advisory Council to advise him and other G7 leaders, which includes brilliant and world-famous feminist advocates such as Malala Yousafzai. Additionally, Trudeau implemented a feminist emphasis on the Women Seven (W7), a summit which this year championed intersectional, grassroots feminist activists from the Global South. These two achievements demonstrated Canada’s commitment to creating a more feminist approach to international governance.
“I have enormous respect for the effort to integrate a gendered lens in everything they’ve done,” Sanam Anderlini, the co-founder and Executive Director of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), told Ms., referring to Canada’s groundbreaking approach. “In every issue they’re working on, they’ve brought a gendered lens, which is unprecedented.”
Lyric Thompson, the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), told Ms. that the results were exactly what Trudeau had asked for. “Trudeau asked for bold proposals for a feminist G7—which was ground breaking in and of itself, the world having never seen a G7 presidency explicitly invite a feminist approach,” Thompson said. “And he received just that, from his Gender Equality Advisory Council and from the W7, which for the first time was entirely comprised of feminist advocates, not just from G7 countries but also from the Global South.”
But ultimately, despite Canada’s determination, the priorities of the other nations at the summit proved to be a challenge for its feminist agenda. “There are competing issues,” Bonnie Jenkins, the founder and president of Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS), told Ms., “particularly where we’re having leadership from different countries that want to focus on various other issues and we are also faced with leadership in the U.S. that is hampered by allegations of sexual misconduct.”
The International Center for Research on Women created a report card on the commitments put forth by the G7 as the countries met and discussed. The score sheet was broken down into five categories: a feminist G7 process, economy, peace and security, health and adolescent girls. Within those sections, G7 results were broken into the categories of rhetorical, policy, funding and accountability commitments. All categories featured strong rhetorical commitments from G7 countries—but some lack financial and policy commitments alongside them.
Regarding women peace and security, in a joint statement by G7 foreign ministers the group committed to “coordinate efforts as appropriate and provide targeted support to conflict-affected partner countries working to build peace and security through the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1352 and subsequent WPS resolutions.” Anderlini stated that the underpinning all of the G7’s commitments should continue to be a commitment to peace. “If you ignore the backdrop of rising conflict, rising extremism, social fabrics of society being frayed it’s like saying you’re asking Picasso to paint a masterpiece but you’re giving him a frayed torn canvas,” she told Ms. “You can’t do education and economics if you’re not doing peace.”
The G7 did achieve substantial funding commitments from the year prior—including the commitment of three billion dollars from Development Finance Institutions (DFI) to be invested in business activities that empower women. This could be pivotal: Jenkins said funding is what’s necessary in order to achieve a feminist approach to the G7 in the future. “If we don’t have funding to support the rhetoric, it is difficult to accomplish goals. We are not going to get things done,” she told Ms., “so where there isn’t funding, that’s where more attention can be paid.”
In 2019, France will assume the presidency of the G7, and has promised that President Emmanuel Macron will place a continued emphasis on gender equality. While there were significant strides forward under the leadership of Canada and Prime Minister Trudeau, the results were lacking the truly revolutionary nature that had been promised. However, France’s strong support of advancing gender equality at the G7 indicates that this year’s focus was not a one-time event.
“If there’s one bit of hope, it’s that France is already positioning itself on this agenda,” said Thompson. “Luckily, we’ll always have Paris.”