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Will the G7 Biarritz Summit be a Global Gender Equality Success?

Julia Kulik, Director of Research, G7 Research Group
August 25, 2019

Will the G7 Biarritz Summit be a global gender equality success? Summit host French president Emmanuel Macron certainly set it up to be one from the very start when he outlined his commitment to combat gender equality as a summit priority at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018. He will also harness the work done by the Gender Equality Advisory Council and the G7 ministerial meeting on gender equality, signalling that he is committed to taking tangible action rather than repeating mere platitudes. On the eve of the summit, the GEAC presented him its recommendations, which he promised to act on in France and to ask his summit colleagues to do so in their countries too. There were thus great expectations as the Biarritz Summit began that it would be a great gender equality success.

One expectation at Biarritz is that G7 leaders will commit to identifying and abolishing any existing gender discriminatory laws in their own countries. This is a move away from the gender equality approach that the G7 has historically taken, which is to promote gender equality as part of its development agenda and support women and girls in Africa. This new approach acknowledges that there is still much to be done on gender equality in their own countries.

The second expectation is for a commitment to address sexual violence against women. This was championed for the first time at the G7 summit in Lough Erne in 2013, but there G7 leaders failed to mobilize any new resources for the cause. Given that the Canadian-hosted summit in 2018 in Charlevoix raised close to $4 billion for girls education, some want them to do so for gender equality again. But it may be that G7 leaders will arrive at Biarritz reluctant to pledge such money once again.

One core component of gender equality where failure is anticipated is a lack of recognition of sexual and reproductive rights, including access to contraceptives and legal, safe and free abortions. Despite the fact that the G7 has noted the importance of sexual and reproductive rights in the past, it seems unlikely to do so at Biarritz with Trump at the summit table given his administration's regressive policies on the subject.

It remains as important as ever for the G7 to be accountable for the gender equality commitments it will make here at Biarritz. The G7's current compliance record for its commitments on gender equality sits at 73%, suggesting that there is much room for improvement. It is also important to build on the great work done in Charlevoix to mainstream gender equality throughout the summit communiqué. For too many years, the G7 confined gender equality to one siloed part of the communiqué and it must not retreat back to this. Indeed, it must support the synergies, so gender equality can strengthen all the G7 Biarritz priorities and the 2030 Agenda's 17 Sustainable Development Goals too.

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