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Munk School of Global Affairs

G7 Democratization: Responsibilities and Results

John Kirton
Director, G7 Research Group
May 29, 2018

Introduction

To assess the G7's democratic responsibilities and results, the proper starting point is the political state of the world just before the G7 was born and began its work, at Rambouillet, France in November 1975.

Back then, in the dark days in the wake of Watergate and the war in Vietnam, from 1971 to 1975, democracy was in retreat and defeat.

Today, after 43 years of G7 governance, we now live in a democratically dominant world, in Europe, Africa, the Americas (save for Cuba and Venezuela) and even Asia (with Korea and Indonesia nor firmly in the democratic club).

This great transformation is due importantly to the G7's democratic governance

The recent small setbacks can also be overcome by a united, democratically devoted G7.

The G7's Democratic Responsibility

Since its start in 1975, the G7 summit has been the international institution centrally responsible for defending and spreading democratic governance.

Its distinctive core mission is to protect within its members and promote globally the values of "open democracy, individual liberty and social advance."

These words from its declaration at Rambouillet were repeated at its Brussels summit in 2014, when the G7 returned, after a recidivist Russia was suspended from the expanded G8 club.

This democratic mission remains central to this day, as seen in the key leaders' articles in the just published background book for this year's G7 Charlevoix Summit on June 8-9th (Kirton and Koch 2018).

The host Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau (2018: 9) wrote: "Canada will guide the world's advanced economies and leading democracies towards real progress on five themes — investing in growth that works for everyone; helping people prepare for the jobs of the future; advancing gender equality and women's empowerment; working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy; and building a more peaceful and secure world." He concluded: "We will continue to champion human rights and democratic principles around the globe."

As next year's summit host French president Emmanuel Macron (2018:11) wrote: "it is our responsibility within the G7 to reaffirm the strengths that unite us. First and foremost, this group of countries was founded on shared values and a love of freedom. The G7 has defended democracy, human rights and respect for the rule of law ever since it was created."

The G7's Democratization Successes

How well has the G7 defended and promoted democracy in the past? Very well, with several historic successes. These include:

However, a direct reference to democracy in the text of a G7 commitment does not catalyze the compliance of most members with that commitment. It does so only for the United States, United Kingdom and Germany (see Appendix).

Critical Challenges Today

What are the critical challenges to democracy that the G7 faces now? They come in two categories.

Reversing Recidivism

The first is reversing recidivism, or recent retreats from democracy. Here two countries stand out.

The first is Russia, with its flawed electoral system producing a popular president with a new mandate earlier this year.

The second is Venezuela, with its flawed election on May 20th.

Sustaining Success

The second is sustaining success in countries to which democracy has come but where it struggles to endure.

This long list includes:

Afghanistan, as noted above;

These cases show that the democratic revolution continues to this day.

The Charlevoix's G7 Response

How does the G7 intend to address these challenges at its Charlevoix Summit on June 8-9, 2018? In several ways, as foreshadowed by the results of the meeting of G7 foreign and security ministers in Toronto in April and the recent statements of its key leaders.

As Macron (2018:11) stated: "We are facing inequalities created by globalization, threats that hang over our planet, assaults on democracy and the destabilisation of the international community by new forces … Today … the G7 is able to respond to interference with our democracies and the unprecedented virus of fake news."

Russia

As Macron signalled, Russia stands first among the threats to democracy that Charlevoix will address.

Canada is developing with its G7 partners a major deliverable on promoting democracy and shielding G7 members from foreign interference in their elections and media. The focus is on Russia's cyber presence and its projection of hostility in that way.

The US is pressing it G7 allies to join all US sanctions against Russia, in response to "Moscow's disinformation campaigns and cyber-attacks" (Manson, Weaver and Peel 2018: 2). It wants "co-ordinated action against 'state and non-state actors' behind cyber intrusions" It asks all G7 members and the EU to "adopt sanctions under the so-called Global Magnitsky law" and appoint a "cyber tsar" to co-ordinate policies against these Russian threats and human rights abuses and corruption.

Civil society support for such moves has come from the Think Seven (T7) engagement group. Its 17 consensus recommendations were delivered to and discussed with all G7 sherpas at their final pre-summit meeting on May 23. A key recommendation was to "develop a strategy for public data security and integrity, including for securing our electoral system, CBRN non-proliferation, and government-to-government data record sharing."

Venezuela

Venezuela is a second subject where G7 leaders will act to promote democracy. Their G7 Leaders Statement on Venezuela, issued on May 23, 2018, condemned the Venezuelan election on May 20th for "not securing basic guarantees for an inclusive, fair and democratic process" and not being "representative of the democratic will of the citizens of Venezuela." It blamed President Maduro's "authoritarian grip" for "human rights abuses" and "increasing displacement which is affecting countries throughout the region. It called on Maduro to "restore constitutional democracy in Venezuela, [and] schedule free and fair elections that can truly reflect the democratic will of the people." It promised support for "a peaceful, negotiated, democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela including "through humanitarian assistance."

China

China is a third key concern. Leaders will discuss it in private, in an intense but low profile way. Their concern dates back a few years to when a divided G7 had its European members rapidly join the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which the US never has. At Charlevoix, leaders will discuss how to handle China, but now across a broader agenda, including the South and East China Seas, North Korea and China's internal political closure following its recent party Congress and the prospect of having a president for life.

Prospects for Success

The prospects are that Charlevoix will succeed in promoting democracy on these key subjects and in other ways.

Russia

On Russia, the prospects for success are favourable. Initial opposition to the G7 strategy had come over its use of the word "interference," as some members wished to reserve the right to "interfere' in others elections, in support of the democratic forces there. More recently, the new Italian government, containing a more pro-Russian League party in its coalition, could inspire Italian resistance to a strong, co-ordinated G7 move. But a more influential Germany's new coalition government is more unified in standing firm against Russian moves of this sort. And the US under President Trump has turned from a G7 laggard into a G7 leader in countering Russia for such misdeeds.

Further momentum will come from the remarkable recent G7 unity against Russia over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the Salisbury nerve gas attack in the UK, as seen in the unprecedented sequence of special statements by G7 leaders.

Venezuela

On Venezuela, resistance to major G7 moves could come from Europe and Japan, which see this as a regional rather than global concern. But the push for action from Canada and the US is likely to prevail, as all members share the US concern about the massive refugee outflow and the rising oil prices that Maduro's repression breeds.

China

On China, the G7 response is likely to be moderate, as G7 concern with disquieting internal developments is tempered by China's more responsible behaviour in the South and East China Seas, on North Korea and on international trade.

Remaining Tasks

Beyond these prospective Charlevoix successes, several larger democratic challenges remain.

The first is fostering Russia's return to a democratically devoted G8, dedicated to dealing with the common threats of climate change, North Korean nuclear proliferation, terrorism, disease, oceans, the Arctic, environmental pollution and much else.

The second is deepening democracy throughout the Broader Middle East and North Africa.

And the third is bringing democracy to China, North Korea, Cuba, North Vietnam and the other places where the old Cold War has not yet been fully won.

References

Kirton, John and Madeline Koch, eds. (2018), G7 Canada: The 2018 Charlevoix Summit (London: GT Media/Global Governance Project).

Macron, Emmanuel (2018), "France's Priorities for the G7," in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds.,G7 Canada: The 2018 Charlevoix Summit (London: GT Media/Global Governance Project), p. 12-13.

Manson, Katrina, Courtney Weaver and Michael Peel (2018), "US Pushes Europe Allies for Harsher Moscow Sanctions," Financial Times May 25, p. 2.

Trudeau, Justin (2018), "Canada's G7: A Better, More Hopeful Future,: in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds.,G7 Canada: The 2018 Charlevoix Summit (London: GT Media/Global Governance Project), pp. 8-9.

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G7 Compliance with Democracy-Related Commitments

Core Issue Other N = 13 Commitment Text Average Canada France Germany Italy Japan Russia United Kingdom United States European Union
ICT Digitalization 2001-40 "We also encourage development of an Action Plan on how e-Government can strengthen democracy and the rule of law by empowering citizens and making the provision of essential government services more efficient." +0.75 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 −1 +1 +1  
Democracy Countries in transition (Middle East and Africa) 2002-44 "Supporting the NEPAD's priority political governance objectives — including by: Expanding capacity-building programmes related to political governance in Africa focusing on the NEPAD priority areas of: improving administrative and civil services, strengthening parliamentary oversight, promoting participatory decision-making, and judicial reform." +0.38 +1 +1 +1 −1 −1 0 +1 +1  
Democracy Countries in transition (Middle East and Africa) 2004-73 "Establish with willing partners in the region a Democracy Assistance Dialogue that will, under the auspices of the Forum for the Future, bring together in a collaborative and transparent environment willing governments, civil society groups and other organizations from the G-8, EU and others, and countries in the region to: Coordinate and share information and lessons learned on democracy programs in the region, taking into account the importance of local ownership and each country's particular circumstances;" +1.00 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1
Democracy Countries in transition (Middle East and Africa) 2004-74 "Establish with willing partners in the region a Democracy Assistance Dialogue that will, under the auspices of the Forum for the Future, bring together in a collaborative and transparent environment willing governments, civil society groups and other organizations from the G-8, EU and others, and countries in the region to: Work to enhance existing democracy programs or initiate new programs;" +1.00 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1
Democracy Countries in transition (Middle East and Africa) 2004-75 "Establish with willing partners in the region a Democracy Assistance Dialogue that will, under the auspices of the Forum for the Future, bring together in a collaborative and transparent environment willing governments, civil society groups and other organizations from the G-8, EU and others, and countries in the region to: Provide opportunities for participants to develop joint activities, including twinning projects;" +1.00 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1
Democracy Countries in transition (Middle East and Africa) 2004-76 "Establish with willing partners in the region a Democracy Assistance Dialogue that will, under the auspices of the Forum for the Future, bring together in a collaborative and transparent environment willing governments, civil society groups and other organizations from the G-8, EU and others, and countries in the region to: Foster exchanges with civil society groups and other organizations working on programs in the region." +1.00 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1
Democracy Digitalization 2009-167 "Recalling the Okinawa Charter on the Global Information Society and the Genoa G8 Action Plan for Digital Divide, we support further initiatives to narrow the digital gap to underpin institution-building, the modernization of public services and the strengthening of legislative and democratic processes." 0.00 0 −1 0 −1 0 +1 +1 0 0
Democracy Countries in transition (general) 2012-102 "[In response to transition countries' request for support with reforms that promote transparency, accountability, and good governance, G-8 members will take the following actions:] Launch a Partnership exchange program to pair legislators, judges, regional and municipal leaders and labor unions with G-8 counterparts to build institutional capacity, promote knowledge sharing, and strengthen accountability and good-governance practices in transition countries." 0.00 −1 0 +1 0 0 −1 +1 +1 −1
Democracy Countries in transition (Libya) 2014-117 We reaffirm our support for a free, prosperous and democratic Libya which will play its role in promoting regional stability.">/td> −0.13 0 −1 −1 +1 −1   0 +1 0
Development Countries in transition (Africa) 1997-55 "We will work with African countries to ensure adequate and well-targeted assistance for those countries which have the greatest need and carry out the necessary broad-based reforms. The assistance will include support for democratic governance, respect for human rights, sound public administration, efficient legal and judicial systems, infrastructure development, rural development, food security, environmental protection, and human resource development including health and education of their people". 0.00 −1 −1 +1 −1 0   +1 +1  
Human Rights Fundamental freedoms 1996-72 We will take care to ensure that women as well as men benefit fully and equally from the recognition of human rights and fundamental freedoms, which were reiterated on the occasion of the Beijing Conference, and that the rights of children be respected." +0.83 +1 +1 +1   0   +1 +1  
Human Rights Fundamental freedoms (religion) 2012-66 We also commit to supporting the right of all people, including women, to freedom of religion in safety and security. +0.11 +1 −1 +1 −1 −1 −1 +1 +1 +1
Human Rights Countries in transition/fundamental freedoms (Afghanistan) 2012-49 We will also continue to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in its efforts to meet its obligation to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, including in the rights of women and girls and the freedom to practice religion. +0.78 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 −1 +1 +1 +1
Average N=13 Democracy related commitments +0.52 +0.54 +0.31 +0.77 +0.25 +0.23 +0.10 +0.92 +0.92 +0.56
Average N=499 +0.54 +0.66 +0.53 +0.63 +0.31 +0.41 +0.25 +0.65 +0.61 +0.67
  Average Canada France Germany Italy Japan Russia United Kingdom United States European Union

Notes:

Core Issue = the issue the commitment is categorized under in the overall compliance dataset.

Other = the more specific issue the commitment is referencing.

Inclusions terms taken from direction setting = democracy, democratic, freedom, openness, open, transparency, transparent. Freedom is assumed to included "fundamental freedoms," including religious freedom. The term "participatory decision making" was included as a cognate term and because the commitment using this term (2002-44) was categorized in the overall dataset under the issue area of "Democracy."

Exclusions: good governance, human rights (unless the commitment explicitly referenced "fundamental freedoms," i.e. commitment 1992-72).

G7 compliance with the remaining commitments (N=499) is +0.54. By member, in order of compliance: EU +0.67, Canada +0.66, UK +0.65, Germany +0.63, US +0.61, France +0.53, Japan +0.41, Italy +0.31, Russia +0.25.

Compiled by Brittaney Warren, May 25, 2018.

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