This post is co-authored by Kaysie Brown, UN Foundation Special Adviser and Head of Policy Planning and Megan Roberts, UN Foundation Deputy Director of Policy Planning

By now you have probably seen the headlines and know that the recent G7 Summit, hosted by Canada, was one of the most tumultuous the group has seen. Tensions around the U.S. decision to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel reached a crescendo following President Trump’s early departure and decision to withdraw U.S. endorsement of the summit’s communique, threatening to unravel an already strained process for advancing international cooperation.

Yet, beneath the high political drama, global leaders took a number of important steps that are worth attention. They signify progress in the quest to push for greater empowerment of girls and women, a commitment to put oceans on the international agenda, and leadership by the investor community and governments alike to continue to put financing for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) high on the international agenda. Here is what you may have missed in the G7 coverage.

Empowering women and girls

Canada made gender equality a top priority of its G7 presidency, creating for the first time a Gender Equality Advisory Council, co-directed by Melinda Gates, to ensure that equality was advanced across the entire G7 agenda.

A group of 21 female leaders presented their recommendations last weekend to the G7, which included a recommendation that G7 countries commit to investing 20% of their Official Development Assistance on advancing and empowering women and girls. The recommendations also included a greater focus on data, sexual rights and reproductive health, combating gender-based violence, and gender equality in the workplace.

The G7’s development finance institutions announced 2XChallenge on the sidelines of the summit, which calls for these institutions to mobilize their funds, in combination with private capital, to support women as entrepreneurs and business leaders, and to improve their access to products and services that enhance their economic participation. Whether France, next year’s G7 president, helps to institutionalize a G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council going forward remains to be seen.

Educating women and girls in crisis environments

On the sidelines of the summit, Canada, the European Union, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the World Bank announced $3 billion in funding to educate girls and women in crisis and conflict situations, the largest investment of its kind. The funding aims to reduce the unique barriers that many of the world’s most vulnerable girls and women face in obtaining quality education and has the potential to improve the educational outcomes of millions of girls and women.

Combating climate change and cleaning the world’s oceans

In the summit’s communique, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the European Union all recommitted to implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Recognizing that the world’s oceans face mounting challenges, Canada also hosted an outreach event just following World Ocean’s Day to bring together members of the G7 with heads of state from a number of countries with threatened coastlines to strategize how to address pressing oceanic challenges including plastics pollution and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

UN Secretary General António Guterres traveled to Charlevoix for this session. Five members of the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom – also agreed to the G7 Oceans Plastics Charter, which commits members to reduce marine plastics pollution and promote more sustainable and reusable plastics. Although the agreement is voluntary and non-binding, it represents an important step in tackling the growing threat of marine pollution. Also of significance, in the lead up to the summit, IKEA announced that it would phase out all single-use plastic products from home furnishings by 2020 and make all products and packaging renewable or from recycled materials by 2030.

Financing global development

G7 leaders also emphasized the important roles for both government resources as well as innovative financing options to deliver on the SDGs.

Here, the G7, as both the world’s largest donors and largest host of private wealth, have an opportunity to explore new partnerships and other innovative tools to mobilize greater investment in development.

The summit’s communique included a strong acknowledgement of the role of public financing, including ODA and domestic resource mobilization, to advance the “achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.” And one of the major areas of engagement during the G7 came from a small group of institutional investors, representing approximately $6 trillion of assets under management, who not only embraced sustainable finance but also raised the level of ambition by committing resources, expertise, and networks to help elevate infrastructure financing, opening opportunities for women in finance, and accelerating climate disclosures.

The investors pointed to the potential of initiatives like the World Benchmarking Alliance, of which the UN Foundation is a partner and which seeks to develop, fund, house, and safeguard free, publicly available corporate sustainability benchmarks as an opportunity to advance the SDGs within the financial, investor, and corporate communities.

Although the political drama before, during, and after the G7 summit captured media attention, and may have important implications for the future of the grouping, looking beyond the headlines shows green shoots in areas that will be critical for progress if the world is to deliver on the SDGs.

In particular, next month the UN will host the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, where countries will report on their progress in implementing the global goals with a thematic focus on the environment and sustainable societies.


Photo: G7 Canada