The leaders of the world’s most advanced economies are gathering in Charlevoix, Canada, this weekend for the G7, and gender issues are on the agenda in a serious way.
Host country Canada has emphasized the importance of women and girls throughout its G7 presidency. Ahead of the summit, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau appointed the first Gender Equality Advisory Council to advise negotiators and leaders on making firm commitments to investing in women and girls.
The council, which features high-profile leaders such as Melinda Gates, Christine Lagarde, Malala Yousafzai, Winnie Byanyima and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has already released its recommendations to the summit, which include a commitment to increase the number of women on boards, invest in childcare, legislate for parental leave, provide incentives for equal pay and reduce the labor-force participation gap by 25 percent.
A recommendation that nations raise official development assistance (ODA) to 0.7 percent of national income and dedicate 20 percent of that money to gender will be difficult to realize – the U.K. is currently the only G7 country to meet the 0.7 percent target. While Canada has been praised for its feminist aid policy, it has also been criticized for only allocating 0.26 percent of national income to overseas assistance.
The U.S. is the world’s largest aid donor in dollar terms, but dedicates 0.15 percent of overall national income to ODA, and the Trump administration has vowed to cut, not increase aid. There could be tension over commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights, as Donald Trump reinstated the Global Gag Rule, which cuts funding to organizations that provide counseling or referrals on abortions. But common ground could be found over the World Bank’s Ivanka Trump-backed Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative.
Though gender equality has been trumpeted as a headline issue in the lead-up to the summit, it’s possible that issues such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and internal disputes over trade and tariffs will push it further down the agenda in practice.
News Deeply spoke to four international leaders in the field of gender and development to find out what they would like to see out of the negotiations for women and girls.
Leaders Must Innovate – Stefano Manservisi, Director-General, European Commission Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development
We are looking for is to have a commitment for development in terms of endorsing the path to increase ODA, but at the same time, to innovate: It’s not just a question of more ODA to spend in a classical way, but rather to innovate, utilizing the private sector, pension funds, new ways of generating additional money. And to have initiatives that could be preventative. I hope our Spotlight Initiative [on gender-based violence] will be part of this, as it is on the summaries of the work in Whistler. [We want] to have policymaking, but also a global initiative that can realize resources and concrete action within countries. We are working to have a feminist approach.
The G7 very often has been the origin of innovation in development: The Global Fund was created as G7 initiative, the Global Partnership for Education also came from the G7, as did the Gleneagles commitment, so we try this time to get this [for gender]. The G7 require unanimity and there is one member of the G7 which is particularly difficult in that relation, but let’s see how far we get.
G7 Governments Must Set a Global Example – Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO, Global Fund for Women
The G7 is a very powerful group of people – if they all commit to gender equality, then the kind of resources that they could put together and the kind of influence they could have for other people with more resources, especially the business world, [they] can influence how businesses use that money.
Governments can influence tax, governments can influence how positively people look towards positions [on gender]. If right now there were governments who say to other governments, “We have resources and these resources must go towards preventing childhood marriage and promoting the education of girls,” then there would be many, many people who would ensure their resources go to the same places.
These are governments that really could say, “We will not tolerate any sexualized abuse or sexual violence, or anything that makes inequality for girls and for women and for trans people.” That would be a big step forward.
If they could follow it with funding I think that others would be able to follow. I hope that the larger [governments] lead smaller governments to also support women at this particular time. We have [already] heard it from a number of governments. We have heard it from the Canadians, we have heard it from the Dutch. We want to hear them all.
Canada Must Work on Its Own Record With Indigenous Women – Joan Carling, Secretary-General, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
Canada needs to take political action. They have said now they would implement the U.N. Declaration [on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples], that they will reconcile with Indigenous peoples in Canada. But at the same time they’re still selling out the lands, getting into concessions for pipelines. There’s inconsistency in what they’re saying and what they’re doing. More actions are needed to demonstrate that they are really amending [their] ways and building genuine partnerships with Indigenous peoples, and women especially.
Cases of violence against [Indigenous] women in Canada are so bad. And that has to be addressed in the context of what Indigenous women are saying as the solution. It has to come from the Indigenous women themselves. How are we going to work together to address this situation? How are we going to address the health issues of indigenous women, the education, the continuing discrimination?
If [Canada] want to show themselves as the champion on gender equality, then they need to do their homework. And by demonstrating that they can do their homework, it gives the world a good example that they really are the model for gender.
Women’s Financial Inclusion Must Be Prioritized – Greta Bull, CEO of CGAP and a Director at the World Bank Group
I think the G7 can put [financial inclusion] on the radar screen and I think a lot of effective work has been done already – there’s an organization called the GPFI, the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, that involves the G20. But I think the gender aspects are not there yet, and I think Canada has a very strong focus on gender so they’ll be putting it there.
Having the G20 [and] the G7 mobilized around this is really important because that eventually trickles through to aid programs, it trickles through to things like standards in the financial sector that actually really do have an impact on how we can provide financial services in countries. So, hopefully they will put it firmly on the agenda and have some really concrete action items for it.
These responses have been edited for length and clarity.