Higher compliance on gender equality commitments is driven by factors including specific targets and ministerial meetings, writes Julia Kulik, director of research, G7 Research Group, as she shares the data on the performance of G7 members
When G7 leaders assemble on 24–26 August 2019 for their summit in Biarritz, they will do so under a French presidency that has committed to fighting inequalities of all kinds, including gender inequality. This comes just over a year after a historic win for gender equality at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Canada, which saw record attention to this issue across all thematic areas of its communiqué and a $3.8 billion investment in education for women and girls in conflict. Expectations are high for Biarritz to deliver results. The positive trajectory in recent years indicates a high likelihood of success.
G7 leaders first addressed gender equality at their 1990 summit. Their focus was largely sporadic in subsequent years, but the issue has remained in the communiqué since the early 2000s and focus has steadily increased since 2013. G7 communiqués averaged 643 words on gender equality at each summit, or close to 6% of the total words.
The three most recent summits dedicated the most words to gender equality. The 2016 communiqué contained 3,826 words (27% of the total) on gender equality. This increased in 2017 to 3,888 words (45%) and reached its highest point in 2018 with 5,086 words (45%). In 2016 and 2017, the first stand-alone documents on issues related to gender equality were issued. The 2018 summit produced two, one on improving education for women and girls in developing countries and the other on ending gender-based violence in a digital context.
Because for many years commitments directed specifically at gender equality were absent, the G7 Research Group’s analysis includes commitments with gender equality at the core of the commitment’s goal and those that include gender as a related issue. Since 1975, the G7 has made 270 collective, future-oriented and politically binding commitments on gender equality, accounting for 5% of the total number identified by the G7 Research Group.
The majority of these commitments have been made since 2016. Until 2015, most were gender-related commitments, directed at, for example, addressing HIV/AIDS, improving maternal and child health, and improving educational outcomes for girls in Africa. By 2015, gender equality became a more central focus. There were 25 commitments made in 2015, 36 in 2016, 69 in 2017 and a record 72 commitments in 2018.
The G7 Research Group has assessed 29 core and related gender equality commitments for compliance by G7 members. Compliance averaged 73%, only slightly below the 75% average across all issues. The commitments with the highest scores focused on acknowledging women’s rights as human rights and improving health outcomes for women.
The commitments with the lowest scores focused on removing legal barriers to women’s economic participation and supporting refugee and internally displaced women and girls affected by conflict and disaster.
Across all 29 commitments assessed, the highest complying G7 member was Canada at 85%, followed by the European Union at 80% and the United Kingdom at 78%. The lowest compliers were Italy at 46% and Japan at 69%.
The five summits with the most commitments related to gender equality tended to have higher compliance, averaging 78%. The eight summits with the fewest gender equality commitments averaged compliance of only 73%.
The presence of certain catalysts, embedded in the text of a commitment to help guide implementation, also improves compliance. Commitments containing catalysts averaged 83% and those without averaged 74%. Commitments with the highest compliance contained a reference to a specific target, a past summit or an international organisation.
For other issues, evidence suggests that holding ministerial meetings on the same issue tends to increase compliance. There have only been two ministerial meetings on gender equality, in 2019 under the French presidency and in 2017 under the Italian presidency. Preliminary evidence suggests that hosting ministerial meetings will have a positive impact.
Thus, to improve compliance with their gender equality commitments at Biarritz, G7 leaders should make more of them, insert references to a specific target, a past summit and an international organisation, and encourage the United States to hold a ministerial meeting on gender equality before the summit it will host in 2020.