G7 performance on development
G7 Summit

G7 performance on development

Compliance on development commitments falls slightly below average, but effective compliance-enhancing tools are available – including one-year timetables and referring to G7 finance ministers

The United Kingdom’s policy priorities for its Cornwall Summit include focusing on support for the poorest countries, democracy, girls’ education, food security, health and sustainable development financing.


Since their first summit in 1975, G7 leaders have dedicated an average of 17% of their communiqués to development, beginning with 14.5% at the 1975 Rambouillet Summit. The amount fluctuated between 3.3% in 1984 and 22.1% in 1994 before an all-time high of 55.9% at the Kananaskis Summit in 2002. It plummeted to 4.1% in 2003, sunk to 1.1% at Sea Island in 2004, and then fluctuated heavily. The Virtual Summit in March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, had 2%.


G7 leaders have made 704 development commitments since 1975, more than any other subject, for an average of 16 per summit. Here, too, numbers have fluctuated. In 1975, G7 leaders made four (29%) commitments on development, then only one (14%) in 1976. This jumped to 13 (45%) in 1977 and varied between three and nine commitments before 1984, when 13 (42%) were made. The 1976 and 1991 summits were the only ones to make one on development.

The summits from 1978 to 1995 averaged seven or 17% of total commitments each. In 1996 the number rose to 23 (18%), declined in 1997 to 19 (13%) and to seven (10%) in 1998. It rose slightly to eight (17%) in 1999 and 19 (18%) in 2000 before decreasing to 11 (19%) in 2001. In 2002, it jumped to 34 (18%), fell to 24 (12%) in 2003, and rose to a peak of 53 (22%) in 2004. The 2005 Gleneagles Summit made 21 (10%) commitments on development and the 2013 Lough Erne Summit made
10 (5%).

Between 2005 and 2013, the number of development commitments averaged 28, which was only 13% of total commitments. In 2014, 22 (16%) commitments were made, increasing to 43 (11%) in 2015, then decreasing to 23 (7%) in 2016. Only two (1%) commitments came in 2017. The Charlevoix Summit in 2018 made 32 (10%). The 2019 Biarritz Summit made eight (11%), and the 2020 Virtual Summit made none.


The G7 Research Group has assessed 58 development commitments for members’ compliance since 1996. They average 73% compliance, below the G7’s overall 76% average. The highest compliance on development was 95% with the 2006 commitments. The lowest was 40% with the 2011 commitments. Compliance started at only 50% for the 1996, 1997 and 1998 summits. It skyrocketed to 93% for the 1999 summit, before plummeting back to 50% for 2000. Compliance increased to 75% with the 2001 commitments, dipped to 55% for 2002, and stabilised at a higher level of 81% for 2003, 75% for 2004 and 85% for 2005. Compliance fluctuated significantly from 2006 to 2012, with the full range of highs and lows. The 2013 summit had 64%, rising to 88% in 2014, lowering to 75% in 2015, and steadying after 2016 at 82%, 88% for 2017, 93% for 2018 and 84% for 2019.


One possible cause of compliance is the catalysts embedded in the commitment text. Compliance-enhancing ones include a reference to the core development organisation of the World Bank; such commitments average 92% compliance. Commitments that refer to one-year timetables average 90% and those that refer to G7 ministers, specifically finance ministers, average 87%.

Additionally the 20 assessed commitments that specify regions or countries, such as Africa, Iraq or Syria, average 77%, slightly higher than the G7’s overall average compliance of 76%. The 38 commitments without this specification average lower compliance of 73%. By subject, the 18 commitments on debt relief average 76% compliance. This is higher than the 74% average for the 31 commitments on official development assistance.


At Cornwall, G7 leaders should make commitments that refer to the World Bank, have short timetables of a year or less, mention finance ministers, and relate to Africa and debt relief. More broadly, as part of the UK’s policy priorities on supporting the poorest countries and financing sustainable development, G7 leaders should commit to expand the timeframe and scope of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, as well as seek new, innovative and sustainable ODA mechanisms.