G7 performance on development
G7 Summit

G7 performance on development

Development is central to fighting inequality – one of the main priorities of the Biarritz Summit. Julia Tops, co-chair, summit studies, G7 Research Group, looks at G7 action on development since the group’s inception

The issue of development is included in the 2019 G7 Biarritz Summit as one of five goals for fighting inequalities. France’s presidency is focusing on methods to reduce inequality of opportunity, so everyone has the same chance in life regardless of location or gender, in order to ensure global stability and peace. Under this theme, France has promised to promote more fair and equitable development policies.

For Biarritz, the issue of development includes inclusive growth, which has been carried over from Canada’s presidency in 2018. Development plays a part in creating equal opportunities and equitable investments to improve prospects for all.


The issue of development has been on the G7’s agenda since the start, but the amount of attention it has received has varied. At the first summit in 1975, the number of words devoted to development was 164 (15% of the total). This rose from 270 words (17%) in 1976 to 490 words (18%) in 1977, and then again to 585 words (20%) in 1978. From then until the 2001 summit, it fluctuated between 3% in 1984 and 20% in 1996. In 2002, it spiked to a record high of 56%, with 6,693 words on development as the summit supported the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and produced the African Action Plan. However, attention to development plunged to 695 words (4%) in 2003 and continued to decline to an all-time low of 461 words (1%) at the 2004 summit. In recent years, there has been an upward trend with 1,176 words (14%) at the 2017 summit and 2,032 words (18%) at the 2018 summit.


Despite the low number of words devoted to development in the summit communiqués, the G7 has made 701 collective, future-oriented, politically binding commitments as identified by the G7 Research Group – more commitments than on any other issue.

The 1975 summit made four commitments. The highest number was 53 commitments made at the 2002 summit. The number has fluctuated and declined overall until a resurgence of 32 commitments at the 2018 summit.


The G7 Research Group has assessed 48 of the 701 development-related commitments for compliance by G7 members. With a 73% average – slightly below the overall average of 75% – development has evidently remained an underlying priority throughout the G7’s decision-making process. Compliance was at an all-time high at 100% with the commitments made in 2015, where leaders focused on the post-2015 development agenda. The three summits from 1996 to 1998 each produced the lowest score of 50%; only one commitment was made and monitored at each of these summits.


G7 Research Group findings suggest that G7 performance on development is improved by having a summit produce multiple documents, such as the Africa Action Plan in 2000. When there are several documents to support the development commitments, compliance tends to be higher. Compliance is also higher for commitments that refer to a multi-year timetable. References to key international organisations responsible for development also improve compliance.

Therefore, at Biarritz G7 leaders should reiterate and indeed reignite their commitment to creating long-term development opportunities, manifested in multiple and specific summit documents with references to key international organisations and a multi-year timetable, in order to promote equal opportunities for all. France has consistently complied with its commitments on development and this can be an opportunity to use its presidency to improve the G7’s performance on development.