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Maintaining the Mainstream on Gender at the Hiroshima Summit

Julia Kulik, DIrector of Research, G7 Research Group
May 22, 2023

G7 leaders assembled in Hiroshima on May 19–21 for their 49th summit to address the many interconnected crises facing the world and to signal that they stand united against them. The Japanese presidency, unusually, did not articulate a set of priorities that would frame the summit discussions, but it was clear that regional security and nuclear disarmament would dominate the agenda against the hugely significant backdrop of the summit's location at the site of the first ever atomic bomb attack. G7 leaders were expected to produce a lengthy communiqué with several stand-alone statements on a several issues, one being gender equality. There is a precedent for this, as G7 leaders have incorporated and addressed gender equality at their summits for decades, including in several stand-alone statements between 2016 and 2019 and through large-scale investments in several gender-related initiatives.

Among the two documents issued on the first day of the Hiroshima Summit, there was one reference made to gender-related issues in the G7 Leaders' Statement on Ukraine. Leaders deplored the incidents of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, with memories of Bucha and similar atrocities no doubt top of mind. Leaders subsequently issued the Hiroshima Action Statement for Resilient Global Food Security and the importance of gender-responsive approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation. In the G7 Hiroshima Leaders Communiqué, they continued the trend of mainstreaming gender throughout the document, including references additional to the specific section on gender in the sections on global economy, finance and sustainability; labour; education; digital; human rights, refugees, migration and democracy; and counter-terrorism.

The leaders highlighted gender equality in the communiqué's preamble in a section that championed a set of shared principles and values. Of note in the body of the communiqué, the leaders expressed their strong concern for the rollback of women's and girl's rights and condemned violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Here they made a particular reference to LGBTQIA+ people around the world, a reference that gender-related engagement groups had hoped for, despite the recent regressive stances of two members – Italy and Japan. This signalled that some convergence was possible during the deliberations. Leaders recognized the transformative role of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health rights in gender equality, including access to safe and legal abortion.

There was an expectation and hope that G7 leaders would issue a stand-alone document on gender detailing new commitments and possibly new investments. Instead, the summit issued the G7 Fact Sheet: Promoting Gender Mainstreaming through the Nexus Approach, which is not considered an official, action-oriented, collectively agreed document issued in the leaders' name but rather a supplementary, information-based one. It laid out gender equality commitments previously made by G7 leaders in several subset issue areas, including peace and security, economic empowerment in developing countries, and gender-based violence. It noted the importance of accountability and measuring progress on gender equality, including by the Gender Equality Advisory Council's G7 Dashboard on Gender Gaps.

By the end of the Hiroshima Summit's three days, some important affirmations were made, including specific references to topics on which there has been division among leaders in recent years, including safe and legal access to abortion and protection for a diverse range of gender and sexual identities. Although there were no new commitments or resources pledged, the G7 maintained its commitment to mainstreaming gender throughout the G7 Hiroshima Leaders Communiqué and to ensuring gender considerations are made across its agenda, including in this year's priority area of peace and security. However, the G7 must ensure that it does more than just make statements, that it remains committed to previous initiatives and that it continues to take new concrete action, including on financial and the gender dimensions of its expanding agenda.

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Julia Kulik, MPP, is director of research for the G7 Research Group as well as for the G20 and BRICS Research Groups and the Global Health Diplomacy Program, all based at the University of Toronto. She has written on G7, G20 and BRICS performance, particularly on the issues of gender equality and regional security. Kulik leads the groups' work on gender, women's health, higher education and summit performance.

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