In a small gallery in Redruth, the Mining Exchange Art Studios, a painting hangs on the wall, representing a former fire station in need of a makeover. Lorna Elaine Hosking, a 29-year-old artist who runs the studios, thinks G7 leaders don’t really think of cities like hers.
“The G7 is a positive thing because it underlines how wonderful the county is, but it would be nice if the Cornish people were celebrated for more than the image of the seaside, because it is so much more than that”, a- she declared.
“We never really got over the economic crash of the 80s, and we’ve had a lot more recessions since then. We do our best, but sometimes we get overlooked. These leaders who come in, they only see the edge. sea, but we inland people – in old mining towns like Redruth – the wages are very low. There are a lot of problems. ”
But what happens in this Cornish town is the same story in so many parts of the world. Little progress has been made around the world in improving equality since the 2008 financial crisis, and the frustration of hundreds of millions of people has culminated in movements like Occupy Wall Street, the election of populist leaders like Donald Trump, and a movement away from globalization towards parochialism. and protectionism.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who chairs the summit, said at the first leaders’ meeting on Friday that it was “vital” to avoid repeating the same mistakes of the 2008 crisis, “when the recovery was not not uniform in all parts of society. “
“And I think what’s wrong with this pandemic, or what’s likely to be a lasting scar, is that inequalities can be ingrained.”
Land for democracy
At RAF Mildenhall Air Base upstream of the G7, US President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned speech on the importance of defending democracy.
“Every step of the way, we will make it clear that the United States is back and that the democracies of the world are mobilizing to tackle the most difficult challenges and the problems that matter most to our future,” he said. he declares.
“We must discredit those who believe that the era of democracy is over, as some of our colleagues believe. We must expose, as false, the narrative that dictators’ decrees can match the speed and scale of the 21st century. [century] challenges. ”
Unable to ignore the problem any longer, G7 ministers have set an agenda to tackle inequality – they have already agreed to a plan for a global tax system, requiring companies to pay a minimum tax of 15%, to avoid they don’t hide their profits in offshore havens. . Improving access to education for girls around the world is firmly on the agenda. They seek to make the pandemic recovery inclusive and green, and have pledged to send 1 billion Covid-19 vaccines to the poorest countries by the end of 2022.
This is an excellent argument for democracy, but can the G7 deliver it?
Already members of the US Congress and the UK Parliament are pushing back against the global tax system. The US and UK have come under fire for piling up millions of plans for their own people, even before they were developed, under pre-agreements with drug companies. Even now, experts say plans to share vaccines are not ambitious enough.
The US and UK have been among the worst offenders of vaccine nationalism, keeping vaccines for their own people, only agreeing to send vaccines for good until they are close to the line. arrival. EU countries – including Germany and France, members of the G7 – have not been much more generous.
Sara Pantuliano, chief executive of the London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI), praised Johnson’s pledge to send 100 million vaccines overseas by the end of the year after residents British have received at least one dose, as well as the G7 commitment for 1 billion doses. But she points out that COVAX, the pool from which vaccines are shared with developing countries, is sorely lacking in supplies.
“These doses must be shared as quickly as possible, without waiting until the end of the year and until 2022. The success of the G7 summit will be judged mainly on whether enough concrete measures are agreed to accelerate the response. global pandemic. With new variants continually threatening global and local stimulus efforts, there may never have been a public policy challenge where national and international interests are so closely aligned, and the G7 countries would do well to do so. take it into account, ”she said.
Experts from the working groups advising the summit leaders are all calling for concrete action on equality issues, warning that many G7s have ended with bold words but little action in member countries when their leaders return.
Making promises but not keeping them will only damage the credibility of the group and its position in favor of democracy and globalization.
A blatant failure was that of an estimated $ 100 billion climate finance fund, supposed to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of global warming. The G7 countries, among others, are far from on track to pay.
“The biggest failures of the G7 in recent years have been due to a lack of shared goals – most clearly seen in 2018, when President Trump disowned the final communiqué on his way home from the meeting. Yet pledges of $ 100 billion a year to help the developing world cope with climate change have created some skepticism about the real commitment of rich countries to climate justice, ”said Anthony Dworkin, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
But with Trump out of sight and Biden clearly committed to multilateralism, G7 leaders appear to be more aligned than they have been for many years. And the sense of urgency, around the pandemic in particular, is very real. The first day of the summit ended with a sense of energy and optimism.
“There is a change in mood in the G7 countries that shifts the focus from markets to states – opening up new possibilities for corporate taxation and regulation. So I think we’ll see an effort to keep those promises – but with a few caveats, “Dworkin says.
What the G7 leaders need to do is convince the world that a new version of their capitalist democracies is the right model for the world, a daunting task as China’s power and influence grows and countries like Russia remain defiant in their authoritarianism, while the pandemic has only encouraged them to violate civil liberties.
“Biden feels strongly that democracies need to prove the value of their system by acting more effectively together to counter China’s influence in the world,” Dworkin said.
To convince the world of this, the G7 countries will need to ensure that their own inequality gaps are closed.
Two students waiting at a bus stop in Redruth certainly want their hometown to take an elevator. They both recently graduated from high school and applied to study medicine at universities far from their home county of Cornwall.
“There aren’t a lot of opportunities in Cornwall like there are in London so a lot of young people just want to leave,” said one of the students, Martha Richards.
While excited for her own future, she is pessimistic that seven costumed leaders sitting at Carbis Bay will be life-changing in Redruth, and says Boris Johnson, who like many British prime ministers has gone to the elite Eton school, is offline.
“We need more money for a lot of things. Sometimes our schools can’t even afford to buy more glue sticks when they run out. Mental health facilities here always have long lists of things. ‘wait,’ said Richards.
“Boris Johnson has been to Eton. I don’t think he’s going to figure out what it’s like to live in Redruth. I don’t think the G7 is going to mean much.”