G7 conferences are nearly always billed as the most important international political event of each year. The tranche of communiqués, the side room meetings and the grand conference room assemblies nearly always result in the same outcomes. A series of statements of intent, bold speeches and group photos, but little discernible action.
The outcomes of such gatherings are hard to measure. This year, as host, the United Kingdom has identified women’s education, COVID and climate change as key discussion points for the agenda. Despite previous conferences billing themselves as seminal moments, it would be hard to argue that this year’s conference is not one of great importance.
The course of the last fourteen months has seen a seismic global shift. Our economies have come closer to faltering than at any other point in modern history. Our freedoms have been curtailed. Outside of the UK, the virus continues almost unabated due to slow vaccination programmes. When this virus passes, and it will do so, there can be no return to normality. The pre-pandemic world already looks to be alien. As the global order resets and the US reasserts the international rules-based order, we must take the opportunity to strengthen our ties through trade, diplomacy, development and defence. The rise of despots and the prominence of human rights violations can all be checked and countered, but only if we learn from what has come to pass.
Beyond COVID the international attention has rightly shifted towards a cleaner and greener world. However, big global players continue to lag far behind. China, Russia, India and America must move further and faster. Here in the UK, we can rightly highlight the fact we are a global leader in environmental policy and emissions reduction. With the fastest emission reduction of the G7 and some of the greenest policies, we are not just talking but walking. Our G7 leadership in climate policy should serve as an example and a roadmap for others to follow. We must use our global networks to persuade, cajole and inspire other countries to follow this very necessary example.
Much of my non-constituency work in Westminster has been based on fulfilling our commitments to the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI). The Prime Minister is rightly perusing women’s education at the G7, but it is worth considering that to be able to achieve success in this area will require eradicating gender-based violence first. Millions over the last year have been forced back into the hands and homes of their tormentors. This is not a case of one initiative being more worthy than the other, but recognising that the two must go hand in hand. You only need to look at the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region, Ethiopia to recognise the need to address both issues.
In recent days we have seen the incredibly welcome news that a global tax level has been agreed upon by the G7 finance ministers. Our Chancellor has made his mark in the sand and this truly remarkable agreement will be to the benefit of all nations and their citizens. Let this example strike a chord with the heads of state meeting this week. Meaningful action is required and expected. With COP 26 set to take place in Glasgow in the Autumn, we are under the gaze of the world. We have the platform; we have the need; but let us hope, and dare to dream, that we have the determination to act.
In each of these three areas, the UK can show global leadership. The phrase ‘Global Britain’ is thrown about a great deal these days, but for it to mean anything it must show us stepping forward not backwards.