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G7: what is it, when was it formed and what will be discussed at the 2024 summit in Italy?

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is welcomed by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on the first day of the 2024 G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, on June 13 (AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is welcomed by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on the first day of the 2024 G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, on June 13 (AP)

Italy is hosting the 50th G7 summit this week — with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak present.

Mr Sunak is expected to announce a £240 million aid package to Ukraine as world leaders discuss how to intensify financial pressure on Russia.

The Government said (as per Sky News) that the money would be used for emergency humanitarian aid and to rebuild energy infrastructure targeted by Russian bombing — and reconstruction.

"We must be decisive and creative in our efforts to support Ukraine and end [Vladimir] Putin's illegal war at this critical moment,” Mr Sunak said.

"The UK remains at the forefront of the international response as we have been from the outset.

"We must move from 'as long as it takes' to 'whatever it takes' if we are to end this illegal war.

"From Ukraine to the Middle East, we will be discussing significant global threats at the summit. Such threats are why it is so vital to strengthen the UK's national defence, through our commitment to spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence by 2030."

Mr Sunak is also expected to discuss challenges with global migration, climate change, and artificial intelligence (AI) at what could be his final G7 summit.

But what is the G7, why was it formed, and when is the 2024 summit?

What is the G7?

The G7, or Group of Seven, is an intergovernmental organisation of seven of the world's largest advanced economies. The member countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the United States. The European Union is also represented within the G7 but is not counted as one of the seven nations.

Key points about the G7:

  • Meetings: The G7 holds annual summits where the leaders of the member countries meet to discuss a broad range of global issues, including economic policy, international security, and climate change. These summits often result in joint declarations and policy initiatives.

  • Economic influence: The G7 countries represent significant global wealth and economic output portions. They are also influential in international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

  • Criticism and controversy: The G7 has faced criticism for being an exclusive club of wealthy nations, often seen as out of touch with the needs and concerns of developing countries. Additionally, its effectiveness in addressing global issues has been questioned at times.

  • Evolution: In response to the changing global landscape, the G7 has occasionally expanded its discussions to include non-member countries — and has sought to enhance cooperation with other international organisations and forums, such as the G20. Russia was a member from 1998 until 2014, when the organisation was still known as the Group of Eight (G8). However, its membership was suspended due to its invasion of the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine.

Why was the G7 formed and what is its purpose?

The G7 was formed in response to the economic turmoil and instability of the early 1970s, particularly the collapse of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates, the 1973 oil crisis, and the subsequent global recession. The founders of the G7 sought to create a platform where the leaders of the world's largest advanced economies could come together to coordinate economic policy and address common challenges.

Formation:

  • Historical context: During the early 1970s, the world faced significant economic disruptions. The collapse of the Bretton Woods system led to floating exchange rates, and the oil embargo by OPEC in 1973 caused a spike in oil prices, leading to inflation and recession in many countries.

  • Initial meeting: In 1975, the leaders of six major industrialised nations—France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the United States—met in Rambouillet, France, to discuss these economic challenges. This meeting marked the first G6 summit.

  • Expansion to G7: Canada was invited to join the group the following year, expanding it to the G7.

Purpose:

The primary purpose of the G7 is to provide a forum for the world's largest advanced economies to discuss and coordinate economic and policy issues. Its objectives include:

  • Economic coordination: The G7 aims to facilitate cooperation among member countries on economic policies, particularly amid global financial instability. This includes stabilising exchange rates, managing inflation, and fostering economic growth.

  • Policy collaboration: The group discusses and aligns policies on diverse issues beyond economics, including international security, environmental sustainability, and development aid. This collaboration helps shape global standards and practices.

  • Addressing global challenges: The G7 addresses pressing global issues such as climate change, trade policies, public health (including pandemics), and geopolitical conflicts. By leveraging their collective influence, the G7 members aim to provide leadership and drive international action on these challenges.

  • Promoting democratic values: The G7 countries share common values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The forum provides an opportunity to promote these values and support countries undergoing democratic transitions.

  • Crisis response: The G7 has played a crucial role in responding to global crises, such as the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the Covid-19 pandemic, and various geopolitical conflicts. The group often coordinates financial aid, humanitarian assistance, and policy responses to such crises.

When is the 2024 G7 summit and what are its aims?

The G7 summit takes place from Thursday, June 13 to Saturday, June 15 in the city of Fasano in Apulia, Italy.

The summit is an opportunity for G7 leaders to demonstrate their strong determination to uphold the international order based on the rule of law, and to strengthen their engagement with developing nations.

The main issues to be addressed during the six working sessions are:

  • Africa, climate change and development.

  • The ongoing situation in the Middle East.

  • Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

  • Migration.

  • Indo-Pacific and economic security.

  • Artificial intelligence, energy, Africa-Mediterranean.

For information, visit the official website here.