W7-FES Blog | “Moving Mountains in the Alps – A G7 Paradigm Shift Towards Gender Equality in Elmau?”

12 July 2022 |

“It is time to deliver” – that was the appeal that went out from the Women7 Engagement Group to G7 leaders. From June 26th – 28th 2022, G7 leaders convened in Elmau to coordinate joint responses to the world’s most pressing crises. International civil society monitored the summit with a critical gaze. This blog post examines the extent to which gender-transformative commitments and Women7 recommendations are integrated into the G7 Leaders’ Communiqué. We find that the G7 commits to politically ambitious and inclusive language on advancing gender equality. However, we criticise the lack of concrete initiatives and financial commitments to meaningful and timely action.

The final FES W7-blog post examines the extent to which gender-transformative commitments and W7 recommendations are integrated into the G7 Leaders’ Communiqué. Read the full article here.


A picture of political unity in the Alps

On June 26th, newspapers around the world gave pride of place to the photo of seven heads of state and government – some with their arms around each other’s shoulders – against a scenic Alpine backdrop. Taken on the first day of the G7 Summit in Elmau, Germany, this year’s traditional “family photo” aimed to convey a sense of political unity and equality among G7 countries. However, although there was one (white) woman at the table, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and despite participation by G7 Outreach Partners from Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal, and South Africa on day two of the summit, there was no distracting from the sight of the seven leading industrial nations and democracies still being led by a homogenous group of white middle-aged men.

The summit was the highlight of Germany’s 2022 G7 Presidency. Several civil society engagement groups, including Women7, underwent lengthy evaluation and consultation processes in the months preceding the G7 negotiations to impact the final outcome. During the Women7  (W7) Summit in Berlin, guided by the slogan “It is #timetodeliver on gender equality”, over 60 representatives of women’s associations and feminist groups from 24 countries handed over the W7 Communiqué and Implementation Plan, comprising specific recommendations, to G7 President Olaf Scholz.

Female heads of state are the exception rather than the rule in this era marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, wars, and gender backlash. It therefore seemed rather audacious for feminists and women’s-rights activists to hope that G7 leaders would make gender equality a priority in their discussions and thus strive to attain a more gender-just future. Examining the G7 Communiqué in terms of the W7 recommendations helps shed light on whether the G7 ultimately delivered on its commitments for true “progress towards an equitable world”.

Towards a more gender-equal wor(l)ding?

The good news first: alongside the customary references in various passages to inclusion of women and marginalised groups, the G7 Communiqué incorporates a broader understanding of gender and gender equality throughout the document, including transgender, non-binary people, and the LGBTIQ+ community – a first in G7 history! In addition, it underscores that ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights is conducive to supporting diversity, also in terms of sexual orientations and gender identities, and is thus an essential and transformative driver of women’s and girls’ empowerment. W7’s calls for a gender-just COVID recovery that adopts transformative economic policies, addresses structural barriers to gender equality, and recognises the value of unpaid and underpaid care work have likewise been incorporated almost verbatim into the G7 Leaders’ Communiqué. This includes commitments to providing 79 million $ to support the World Bank-managed Childcare Incentive Fund. Nonetheless, W7 was hoping for more: pledges to invest an additional 2% of GDP in social infrastructure, including for gender-transformative health and care services would have been needed to bring about structural change. To put these figures in perspective: 79 million $ is a mere 0.002 % of Germany’s GDP in 2021. Consequently, this sum is, quite disappointingly, just a drop in the ocean and scarcely begins to tackle the massive shortcomings in social infrastructure revealed by the pandemic.

Inclusion of W7 recommendations on gender-just COVID recovery

Against the backdrop of Russia’s devastating war in Ukraine and the massive infringement of women’s and girls’ rights in Afghanistan, the G7 notably reaffirms its commitment to strengthening and improving measures to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, as well as advocating documentation of and accountability for human rights violations. Furthermore, the G7 Communiqué for the first time briefly alludes to strengthening women’s and girls’ rights “in the spirit of feminist development, foreign and trade policies”. While this indeed is quite remarkable in the G7 context and a commitment that feminist activists have advocated for resolutely, readers may frown while reading this. Quite rightly, we believe, as the purported commitment to a feminist foreign policy is not reflected structurally in the section on foreign and security policy, where the passage on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, for instance, does not differ significantly from wording previously adopted in other multilateral fora.

In addition, we remain highly sceptical when contemplating implementation of a feminist trade policy and the far-reaching economic and political changes this entails. In a world of outsourcing and non-transparent production methods,  it is critical to remember that the tangible initiatives needed to attain gender-responsive global supply-chains and women’s economic empowerment, as advocated by W7, are still lacking within and beyond the G7. The exploitative working conditions faced by women in particular every day reflect the lack of global commitment to more gender-just labour and decent work. In the context of feminist development policy, the G7’s pledge to increase the share of bilateral ODA that targets gender equality and empowerment of women and girls is an important step. However, we interpret this as merely one of the initial chapters in developing a feminist approach to development policy. Overall, there is a dearth of concrete commitments and initiatives to achieve these goals in the Leaders’ Communiqué. That once again makes feminist activists sceptical about whether G7 leaders will follow through with an holistic approach to feminist development, foreign and trade policies. READ MORE