The 2018 Charlevoix Summit will work to build a more peaceful and secure world based on a rules-based international order through democracy, human rights, the rule of law and territorial integrity. Charlevoix’s security themes are in line with the key democratic values of both Canada and the G7, which is especially important given current concerns over growing authoritarianism in North Korea and Russia. This democratic devotion also underscores the importance of upholding human rights, as exemplified by Charlevoix’s focus on crimes against humanity in Syria and the abuses against the Rohingya in Myanmar. Led by Canada, Charlevoix will infuse security issues and solutions with the theme of empowering women and girls.
A strong global security governor
From its start in 1975 until the 2017 Taormina Summit, the G7 made 1,308 commitments on peace and security across an expanding array of subjects including terrorism, non-proliferation and conflict prevention. These commitments were led by terrorism with 372 commitments, followed by non-proliferation with 308, crime and corruption with 288, regional security (recently including Russia and Ukraine) with 210, peace and security with 53, East-West relations with 51, and conflict prevention with 26. Between 2011 and 2017, G7 security commitments focused on terrorism, with 95, followed by regional security with 78, and crime and corruption had 74 commitments. Conflict prevention virtually disappeared. Thus, the G7 summit has become a strong global security governor both in traditional national security and the newer human security sphere. Charlevoix will add gender security to the range.
Over the 28 years from 1985 to 2013, G7 members’ compliance with their security commitments averaged 65%, below the overall average of 75%.
The United States scored the highest with 93% on terrorism, 95% on regional conflict, and 86% on crime and corruption. It tied with Germany and Canada with 94% on conflict prevention. On East-West relations, Japan scored highest with 75%. On non-proliferation, Germany scored highest with 95%.
Across the various security issue areas, compliance on non-proliferation was highest with 83%, followed by regional security with 82%, terrorism with 80%, crime and corruption with 72%, conflict prevention with 76% and East-West relations with 50%. Non-proliferation (including North Korea, Iran and Syria), regional security and terrorism continue to be important topics and will remain so at Charlevoix.
The G7 has historically been a significant body for tackling peace and security because three of its members are also permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The G7 can, therefore, effectively address global security concerns. It can also do so when the UNSC is paralysed, as seen in its response to the recent security shocks involving Russia’s nerve gas attack in the United Kingdom in March 2018 and Russia’s support for Syria over the use of chemical weapons in Douma a month later. These acts resulted in G7 members’ expulsion of Russian diplomats, the introduction of new sanctions, a military strike by the United States, United Kingdom and France in Syria, and collective endorsement by the G7 leaders and their ministers of these moves.
Increasingly, all G7 members have fully taken the necessary actions to achieve the desired results, whether through the G7 or the UN. Yet across various security issues both Japan and Italy have at times achieved the lowest average compliance scores, hampering the G7’s full security effectiveness. Furthermore, neither institution has yet halted North Korea’s nuclear advances, Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing or the atrocities in Syria.
A higher degree of compliance
To improve compliance with their security commitments, G7 members can use low-cost accountability measures under their leaders’ direct control. Between 1996 and 2003, the highest rates of compliance with terrorism commitments coincided with G7 ministerial and other meetings on this topic. Compliance generally increases when G7 foreign ministers meet and publicly proclaim their conclusions before and after their leaders themselves make a commitment. There, specific security dimensions can be addressed with more depth by ministers who are familiar with the field. At the most recent foreign ministerial meeting in Toronto on 22–24 April, ministers met by themselves and then with their fellow security ministers to make 138 commitments in all – the second highest in G7 history, following their 2017 meeting on their own. This suggests that peace and security commitments made in Charlevoix will be complied with to a high degree. It could also mean that G7 foreign ministers should meet more often, for example at the meetings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with Japan invited.