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The G7's Progress on Development at 2021 Virtual Summit

Sonja Dobson, G7 Research Group
February 19, 2021

The G7 virtual summit on February 19, 2021, was a substantial success on development. While the key topics of discussion focused on COVID-19, vaccines and health, in their joint statement the G7 leaders made considerable commitments on development. They reaffirmed support for the most vulnerable countries, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their partnership with Africa. Most noteworthy was the reiteration of their commitment to working with the G20 and international financial institutions to implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and the Common Framework fully and transparently.

Although the G7 did not make any commitments on development when they last met virtually on the March 16, 2020, it committed to the DSSI on September 25, 2020. At the February 2021 summit, the G7 also committed an additional USD4 billion for a total of USD7.5 billion for the COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and COVAX. This investment will support increasing developing countries' access to COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX . For the poorest countries, commitments on development are not all that is required. Commitments that support developing countries through health, vaccines, resilience and the economy, among other avenues, are just as important as the DSSI.

The DSSI was established by the G20 with encouragement from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2020 and took effect on May 1 . It offers 73 eligible countries a temporary suspension of debt-service payments to official bilateral creditors until June 2021. The end date of the DSSI will be revisited at the IMF-World Bank spring meetings in April 2021. More than 40 eligible countries received USD5 billion in debt relief in 2020 and in February 2021, most of the participating countries requested an extension until June 2021.

The Common Framework refers to how to approach future debt beyond the DSSI and it includes official and private creditors that are not part of the DSSI. The G20 and the Paris Club, which is "an informal group of official creditors whose role is to find coordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries," are coordinating tailored debt treatment for debtor countries. The Common Framework aims to avoid worsened unsustainable debt burdens. Both the framework and the DSSI contribute to strengthening support for countries' ability for a strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive recovery by using their freed-up resources to increase spending in response to the global crisis.

Regarding the G7's commitment to Africa and the SDGs, at the 2019 summit, the Biarritz Declaration for a G7 and Africa Partnership and Financing for Sustainable Development was agreed to by G7 leaders with the leaders of Egypt as the chair of the Africa Union (AU), Rwanda as the former chair of the AU, South Africa as the future chair of the AU, Senegal as the chair of the African Union Development Agency  and Burkina Faso as the chair of the G5 Sahel, as well as the African Union Commission chair, the United Nations secretary general, the IMF managing director, the World Bank Group president and the African Development Bank president. The declaration focuses on peace and security, inequalities, the SDGs, the AU's Agenda 2063, women's entrepreneurship through the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa, digital transformation, and transparency in public procurement and the common fight against corruption.

Prior to the 2019 Biarritz Summit, G7 development ministers committed to financing sustainable development to achieve the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This includes increasing official development assistance and concentrating on the poorest countries, as well as mobilizing the public and private sectors to strengthen financing for the SDGs. Several new and innovative initiatives were discussed, including the Integrated National Financing Frameworks to support national sustainable development strategies; the Total Official Support for Sustainable Development "to provide a more comprehensive and recipient focused view of financing flows that align to sustainable development in partner countries, including private finance mobilized by official interventions, as well as South-South cooperation"; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD) and Development and UN Development Programme's SDG-compatible financing initiatives; a common framework for measuring impact investing; the OECD Development Assistance Committee's Blended Finance Principles for Unlocking Commercial Finance for the SDGs; the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development; Development Impact Bonds; and the Menstrual Hygiene Management.

The SDGs are 17 goals set out in the 2030 Agenda with 169 targets that aim to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality and stimulate economic growth in a sustainable way that takes into consideration climate change and preservation of the oceans and forests by 2030. Progress made on them so far has been, according to UN secretary general António Guterres, "insufficient to deliver the change we need, jeopardizing the Agenda's promise to current and future generations." Goals on maternal and child health, access to electricity and women's representation in government have made some progress, yet food insecurity, deterioration of the environment and inequalities are growing. Now, COVID-19 is worsening the lives of the world's poorest and most vulnerable, whom the SDGs are supposed to be helping. The G7 is on the right path to supporting the SDGs and ideally contributing to their success in 2030.

With less than a decade to achieve the SDGs, G7 support for development and developing countries is integral to ensure the 2030 agenda is met on time. Although most of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) fell short by their deadline in 2015, much of it was by a narrow margin. Less than a decade before the MDGs were meant to be achieved, in 2008 the world suffered a global financial crisis. A similar scenario has unfolded this past year, this time with a global financial crisis triggered by a global pandemic. The commitments made by the G7 today must be fortified in the future to offset the impacts of the global economic downturn and pandemic on development and the SDGs.

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