Maria Zelenova, senior researcher, G7 Research Group, highlights four ways in which the G7 can improve its performance on its Middle East security commitments, from making more explicit links to democracy to increasing outreach to regional partners
The unique, informal structure and democratic mandate of the G7 makes it well suited to shape cooperation on security issues in the Broader Middle East. The region includes Afghanistan to the west, the Gulf States to the south, Egypt and Libya to the east, and Turkey to the north. The G7’s first mention of security in this region appeared at the 1980 Venice Summit, where the G7 coordinated the use of force, sanctions and financial support to mitigate the ongoing conflict there. Since then, the G7 has continued to commit to comply with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions related to the Middle East.
In their first mention of Middle East security at Venice in 1980, the leaders endorsed the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning the Soviet military occupation of Afghanistan. They dedicated 474 words and eight paragraphs to building a more secure Afghanistan. The leaders then addressed Middle East security at almost every summit except in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1990 and 2003. The most words on the BME were produced at the 2012 Camp David Summit, where the leaders dedicated 4,803 words to the issue. Across all summits, communiqué text tended to focus on resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute and on promoting compliance with relevant UNSC and UNGA resolutions.
From their start in 1975 until 2019, G7 summits produced 144 collective, politically binding, future-oriented commitments on BME security, as identified by the G7 Research Group.
The first commitments were produced at the 1980 Venice Summit, with the leaders making four separate commitments to stabilising the situation in Afghanistan. The next year, at the 1981 Ottawa Summit, they committed to work together to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan. Thereafter, the leaders produced BME commitments at every summit except in 1982, 1983, 1985–1987, 1989, 1990, 1999–2001 and 2003. The 2016 and 2017 summits produced commitments on stabilising the ongoing war in Syria and defeating existing terrorist networks in the region. The 2019 Biarritz Summit produced two commitments to de-escalate tensions with Iran and one commitment in support of a long-term ceasefire in Libya.
The G7 Research Group has assessed 12 of the 143 commitments on BME security for compliance by G7 members. It found an average of 87%, which is higher than the overall average of 76% across all subjects.
Commitments made at the 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2011 summits achieved the highest scores. Specifically, leaders achieved full compliance with commitments on mobilising political support for financial contributions, offering economic and humanitarian support for Lebanon, establishing an Afghan-led national reconciliation and reintegration process, and supporting the transition process of Afghanistan. The lowest compliance score, 72%, was on a commitment made at the 2008 summit on accelerating Afghan police reform and other elements of security reform.
The overall trend of compliance with BME security commitments has decreased. Although some commitments made between 2005 and 2011 achieved perfect scores, more recent commitments from 2016, 2017 and 2019 scored 87%, 75% and 81% respectively.
Research conducted by the G7 Research Group suggests that the G7 can improve its performance on the Middle East in four ways.
First, making more commitments on security in the Middle East at a summit does not increase compliance with them. For instance, the 2013 Lough Erne Summit produced five commitments, but the one assessed for compliance scored 83%, which is lower than the previous years’ scores. Thus, leaders should be cautious about producing more commitments on security in the Middle East.
Second, leaders should make more explicit links in their commitments to their core values of democracy and individual liberty.
Third, leaders should produce more commitments on issues related to BME security such as financial regulation, economic development and immigration. Commitments with references to these subjects achieved near-perfect compliance scores.
Finally, the leaders should invite more regional guests to the summits. Doing so increases outreach and transparency, which relates to higher compliance scores. Inviting regional guests such as the leaders of Egypt, Turkey or Libya also helps produce more ambitious commitments.
The G7 leaders can and should continue to put security issues in the Middle East on their agenda, address the impact of these issues on global economic growth, and increase outreach to regional partners and relevant international organisations. These actions have proven to increase compliance with its Middle East commitments.