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1997 G7 Compliance Report

Defining Commitments

The first challenge in the compliance exercise lies in developing a definition of a commitment. A standard encoding mechanism for identifying actual commitments is required to assist in the task of distinguishing firm agreements from the often vague language of communiqués. A commitment,is defined as a discrete, specific, publicly expressed, collectively agreed statement of intent, a "promise" or "undertaking" by Summit members that they will take future action to move toward, meet or adjust to an identified welfare target. There are several key criteria contained in this definition. First, commitments must be discrete, in that each specified welfare target represents a separate commitment, even if a single set of actions is declared to be in support of these multiple aims. A sequence of specified measures through which these targets will be achieved, however, do not represent separate commitments, but a single commitment, defined by the given welfare target.

Second, commitments must be sufficiently specific, in the future action (the instrument), or the timetable of the welfare target to be both identifiable and measurable. The nature of the future action itself need not be specified. Targets can include changes in members' behaviour, in the behaviour of other countries or classes, in international organizations or private actors, or in general conditions ( for example, stable markets, ozone layer). General statements of desiderata, such as "prosperity" are excluded, although statements with specified parameters such as "sustainable, noninflationary growth" would be included.

Third, commitments must be future-oriented, rather than represent endorsements of previous or simultaneously unfolding action. However, pledges that "we will continue to..." are included, because they indicate a bound pattern for future action. They rest on an assumption that in the absence of Summit reaffirmation, re-articulation, or remembrance each year at the annual Summit, they would normally expire (or be taken less seriously and dwindle). Excluded are actions or decisions in the past that the Summit members "welcome".

Fourth, while action by Summit members is assumed to be required in the future, this need not be specified. Verbal instructions to international institutions, issued at the time of the Summit in the passive - "The WTO should pay more attention to the environment" - are included as there is an assumption that summit members will take action to move toward this result. There is also a specified actor target and welfare target.

Excluded are statements that identify the agenda or priority of issues ("Sustainable development is a critical concern", "this conference is a landmark one"), or even descriptions that contain logical language or that set parameters, ("debt relief helps promote democracy").

Although the Lyon Communiqué was found to contain a number of commitments on a wide range of issues, in order to make our study more manageable, we limited ourselves to one (or, at the most, two) "major" commitment for each of 17 selected issue areas. "Major" commitments were determined according to three criteria: ambition (how far-reaching is the commitment), timeliness (does the commitment address current or "hot" issues?) and clarity (is the commitment easily identifiable and measurable?). See Appendix A for the list of "major" commitments appearing in the same order as they do in the communiqué.

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