The G7’s performance on its infrastructure commitments has gone from strength to strength, but there is still room for improvement, and there are several measures available to help
When G7 leaders meet in Hiroshima in May, infrastructure may contribute more prominently than it has before by building on Germany’s 2022 presidency, which advanced the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment and gave the most attention to infrastructure to date. Although Japan has not set infrastructure as a core 2023 priority, it is the only G7 host to publish an infrastructure-specific summit document: the 2016 G7 Ise-Shima Principles for Promoting Quality Infrastructure Investment. Moreover, infrastructure will be reflected in ongoing talks on the reconstruction of Ukraine. Addressing infrastructure and its financing is critical for sustainable, inclusive, resilient development.
G7 leaders first addressed infrastructure in 1980, dedicating 105 words (3%) of their communiqué. It disappeared until 1990, but for only 0.6% of that communiqué. From 1991 to 1996, it stayed below 2%. In 1997 it rose to 4%, dipped to 1% in 1998, then hit a new high of 6% in 1999. Between 2000 and 2008, infrastructure took 3%–5% of the communiqués.
In 2008, a new phase began, with 8%, and 7% in 2009. In 2010, this dipped to 4%, followed by 7% in 2011 and 6% in 2012. Between 2013 and 2015, it fluctuated between 1% and 5%.
Since then, there has been an upward trend: 9% in 2016, 12% in 2017 and 13% in 2018. It then dropped to 7% in 2019, but increased to 12% in 2021. The 2022 summit reached 15%, the highest to date.
The G7 has made 98 core and related commitments on infrastructure. The first came in 1980, accounting for 2% of all commitments made that year. Between 1991 and 2005, the G7 made between 1% and 2% of its commitments on infrastructure. In 2006, there was a high of 4%. Between 2007 and 2017, it hovered between 1% and 3%. It hit 4% again in 2018, but fell to 1% in 2019 and 2% in 2021. The 2022 summit produced a new high of 6%.
Of the 98 infrastructure commitments, 13 have been assessed for compliance by the G7 Research Group. Members’ compliance with them averaged 81%, above the 76% average across all subjects.
Infrastructure compliance started low, at 50% from the 1997 summit. It rose to 84% on commitments made in 2002, but again fell to 67% for 2005. For 2006 it was 78%, rising again to 89% for 2009. For 2013 it was 84% and for 2014 it was 88%.
Keeping the upward trend, the 2015 and 2017 commitments both had 88%. For 2018, it was 82%, then it dropped to 75% for 2019, before rising to its historical peak of 100% for the 2021 summit. By January 2023, G7 compliance with the infrastructure commitment assessed from the 2022 summit was already at 94%.
Causes and corrections
How can the G7 improve its infrastructure compliance?
First, the G7 should focus on the private sector. Commitments that refer to the private sector averaged 87% compliance; those that did not averaged 79%.
Second, the G7 should consider adding particular forms of specificity to commitments. Commitments that referenced a specific country or region averaged 76% compliance. Furthermore, three of the five highest-scoring commitments included regional specification, averaging 88%; however, commitments without this reference averaged 90%. The four lowest-scoring commitments, averaging 67%, also referenced a specific country or region.
This discrepancy could be attributed to the level of specificity in the commitment, reflecting the ambition of G7 leaders. Overall, the lowest complying commitments encompassed a long list of topics. The lowest-scoring commitment, with 50%, referenced Africa and used very politically binding language, but attempted to address several core subjects alongside infrastructure. In contrast, the high-scoring infrastructure commitments typically targeted one specific area. This catalyst calls for future research and attention.
Third, the G7 should use highly binding language in its infrastructure commitments. Commitments with highly binding language, such as “commit”, averaged 83%. Those with low binding language, such as “reaffirm”, averaged 77%.
Finally, the G7 should launch – for the first time – a regular infrastructure ministerial meeting. Infrastructure is naturally interconnected with other issues and could benefit from an agenda-specific discussion that outlines infrastructure-specific priorities. Research shows a positive correlation between same-subject ministerial meetings and higher compliance with summit commitments on other G7 subjects.