Big Words, No New Action:
G7 Leaders' Foreign Policy Statement
Senior Researcher, G8 Research Group
June 5, 2014
In the G7 Leaders' communiqué on foreign policy issued late on June 4, 2013, G7 leaders, meeting without Russia for the first time since 1992, produced very little that was new in response to their central challenge — the conflict in Syria. There was a significant decrease in proportional attention to Syria from the communiqué released in Lough Erne just last year, which had devoted seven paragraphs compared to this year's two. Critics believed that little success and consensus could be achieved on Syria without the presence of Russia, which hosted the G20 in St. Petersburg in September 2013. The G20 there made significant progress on ending the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons. At Brussels, beyond calling on Syria to comply with its obligation under the relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2118, G7 leaders did not indicate whether they would authorize any further punitive measures to enforce the removal of chemical weapons. The foreign policy communiqué rightly condemned the Assad regime's brutality toward the Syrian people, which has left over 160,000 dead and 9.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
A successful response would have required a commitment for additional humanitarian assistance. While G7 leaders called for the international community to meet the funding needs of the UN appeals, the Brussels communiqué did not commit to any new funding from G7 members to do so. It acknowledged that there have been grave human rights abuses in Syria. But without identifying them as crimes against humanity it is unlikely that international law will be upheld. Furthermore, it states that those responsible for the human rights abuses must be held to account but it fails to take any leadership in doing so, placing the onus on other groups and institutions.
On Libya, it had been expected that under the leadership and initiative of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi there would be a call for further international assistance to address the increasing number of refugees as a result of the worsening security situation. There was, however, no reference to the refugee situation in Libya, and no urging of the international community to address it.
On Mali, the leaders devoted one paragraph to a conflict for which G8 members had authorized the use of military force at their 2013 summit in Lough Erne. While initially the UN stabilization forces looked like they would be successful in dismantling the terrorist safe haven in Mali, no peace agreement was reached and the conflict had resumed. Beyond reaffirming their support for the UN's stabilization mission, G7 leaders did not indicate how they planned on addressing the conflict.
At the end of their communiqué, G7 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the protection of human rights, a fundamental component of the G7's foundational mission.
Leaders made a strong statement to show unprecedented resolve to promote gender equality. They properly reiterated the importance of ending sexual violence against women, a priority of UK foreign secretary William Hague at the 2013 Lough Erne Summit. Furthermore, it condemned the recent kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram and committed to doing everything possible to support their return. On this issue, G7 leaders were successful in using strong language but disappointingly introduced no new initiatives or pledged any financial support.
While G7 leaders paid close attention to the major regional security issues and conflict of the day, including Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, and the South and East China Seas, they did little to move beyond what they said at their last summit in Lough Erne or to address the gaps in funding and support for ongoing crises, particularly in Syria and Mali. They issued two important paragraphs on the promotion of gender equality, emphasizing the importance of ending child marriage and sexual violence against women and also returning the hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls to their homes. Some strong statements were made. However, strong leadership and real success requires new commitments, action and funding to address the shortfalls in previous commitments, especially in the face of new threats.
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