G7 Research Group G7 Information Centre
Summits |  Meetings |  Publications |  Research |  Search |  Home |  About the G7 Research Group
University of Toronto

G7 Performance on Terrorism, 1975–2020

Katherine Yampolsky, G7 Research Group
June 9, 2021

Since G7 leaders first addressed terrorism at their 1978 Bonn Summit, they have remained committed to combatting terrorism and violent extremism, repeatedly and expansively addressing issues such as airline hijacking, hostage taking, terrorist funding and seeking approaches to mitigate the terrorist threat. The G7's shared system of values and norms, with a devotion to open democracy and human rights at the core, and the G7's potentially comprehensive approach make it well suited to confronting the many challenges that terrorism brings. Despite the persistent and growing threat of terrorism, G7 leaders' performance on terrorism has fluctuated over the years, through four phases: sporadic and small from 1975 to 1985; steady and solid from 1996 to 2001; steady and strong from 2002 to 2018; and rapidly disappearing from 2019 to 2020 (see Appendix A).

Indeed, although there were 45 commitments made at the Taormina Summit in 2017, only five were made at Charlevoix in 2018 and none at Biarritz in 2019 or the emergency virtual summit on March 16, 2020. As the dangers and consequences posed by terrorism continue to proliferate, especially against the background of uncertainty posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world now turns to the UK's G7 summit at Carbis Bay in Cornwall on June 11-13, 2021, to make more concerted and effective commitments as the G7 has in the past.

Communiqué Conclusions

Since the first mention of terrorism at Bonn in 1978, the G7 has dedicated a total of 35,846 words to terrorism in its communiqués, for an average of 780 words per summit (see Appendix A). The amount of words dedicated to terrorism at each summit rose and fell unevenly from 1978 to 2001 at Genoa with only 74 words. Then came a sharp spike to a new high of 1,127 words at Kananaskis in 2022 and another to an all-time peak of 3,960 words at Evian in 2003. The Kananaskis Summit was the first G7 summit after the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. This third phase, starting in 2002, saw most summits produce at least 1,000 words on terrorism. Many summits addressed the threat posed by al Qaeda, the Taliban and the civil war in Syria. The peak of 3,960 words came at the 2003 Evian Summit, where terrorism took 23% of the communiqué and was the second highest portion ever. With the inception of the Syrian civil war in 2011, many of the communiqués that followed both condemned and committed to take action against the rise of the terrorist threat posed by the civil unrest and its consequences. The Muskoka Summit in 2010 devoted 25% of its communiqué to terrorism. This portion was the highest ever. In the fourth phase, the number of words plunged from 1,774 words in 2017, when U.S. president Donald Trump first appeared, to 253 words at Biarritz in 2019 and none at the 2020 Virtual Summit.

Commitments

Within these communiqué conclusions, the G7 made 396 terrorism commitments, as identified by the G7 Research Group. They generally followed the same trend over the four phases as the conclusions, although the steady stream of annual commitments started only at Okinawa in 2000.

In the first phase, the first three terrorism commitments, on skyjacking, came in 1978. There were none at the summit in 1979. Commitments made sporadically, ranging from one to 14, between 1981 and 2001, with none at all in 1982, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1993, 1998, 1999 or 2001. More commitments were made after 2010. Lows came in 2012 with two, in 2014 with four and in 2015 with five. The all-time high of 45 was made at Taormina in 2017. In the fourth phase, Charlevoix in 2018 had only five, followed by none in 2019 or 2020.

Compliance

Communiqué conclusions and the commitments that come from them only matter if they are substantial and ambitious, and if the G7 members subsequently comply with them. Of the 377 commitments made on terrorism between 1978 and 2020, the G7 Research Group has analyzed 36 for compliance by G7 members during the period between the summit they were made and the subsequent summit. Compliance with terrorism commitments averaged 78%, slightly above the G7's overall average of 76% across all subjects.

Compliance has varied widely, with a sharp rise to a significant level starting with commitments made at Genoa in 2001, when implementing action largely came after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Indeed, there was 100% compliance with those commitments, and also with commitments made in 2002 on sharing information on the cross-border movement of terrorists, 2005 following the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London, in 2014 on foreign fighters travelling to Syria, and in 2017 on enhancing border and aviation security. The most recent assessed commitments was made at the 2018 Charlevoix Summit and averaged 82% compliance.

Causes and Corrections

Causes of compliance may include the features of the specific summit, notably the number and portion of its conclusions on terrorism, the number of commitments it makes on terrorism, and the presence of a ministerial meeting on terrorism in the summit year. The "more the merrier" hypothesis suggests that more terrorism conclusions, commitments and ministerial meetings, the higher the compliance. The competing "fewer for focus" hypothesis suggests that fewer conclusions, commitments and ministerial meetings results in higher compliance, because leaders can focus on a few specific big issues and ensure the implementation of the commitments. Of the 20 summits with assessed commitments, the 10 highest complying years made 143 commitments and averaged 94% compliance. By comparison, the 10 lowest complying summits made 234 commitments and averaged averaging 62% compliance. This suggests that the fewer-for-focus hypothesis correlates with higher compliance.

This finding supports previous research that found that G7 compliance with commitments on security, including terrorism, seem to coincide with higher numbers of commitments on security (Khan 2018). Moreover, Jessica Rapson (2020) has conducted an statistical analysis across subjects and found that more commitments on a subject coincides with higher compliance on that subject, up to a certain point.

Rapson also found that ministerial meetings on the same subject and the involvement of official bodies can increase compliance. With regards to compliance with terrorism commitments, this was the case only in 2002, when a G8 expert meeting on transport security (i.e., an official body) was held, and there was 100% compliance on commitments made at the 2002 Kananaskis Summit. A Counterterrorism Action Group meeting preceding the 2003 Evian Summit, which had high compliance of 82% on terrorism, and there was an International Working Group on Land Transport Security meeting preceding the 2007 Heiligendamm Summit, which had 75% compliance on terrorism. These results suggest that compliance with terrorism commitments likely increases following specific meetings on terrorism and security in a given summit year.

Other causes of compliance may lie within the commitments themselves. One promising candidate is the strength of the commitment, measured by the use of a highly binding verb, rather than a low binding one (including those that merely repeat a commitment made before), as demonstrated by John Kirton and Jessica Rapson (2020). In the case of terrorism, commitments with a highly binding language included references to "re-dedicate" efforts to combat terrorism and terrorist financing, which indicates commitment to a specific action, or references to direct action, such as the creation of a list or an action group to combat terrorism. The group of 14 total commitments with highly binding language had averaged 79% compliance, compared to the 22 low binding commitments, which averaged 39%.

Conclusion

The G7's compliance with its terrorism commitments has wavered over time, especially in light of the challenges in international cooperation over the last few years. Although its 78% average compliance is higher than the 76% average for all compliance subjects, G7 members must address this issue and act now. As countries across the world struggle with the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and race to vaccinate their citizens, rising uncertainty, disillusionment and tensions have continued to fuel growing social unrest. It is therefore critical that G7 leaders address the pressing social, political and security challenges that terrorism brings.

They can start at the Cornwall Summit by making fewer and more focused commitments on terrorism, by creating a specialized working group on terrorism, and by ensuring their commitments use highly binding language to increase compliance.

References

Khan, Tasnia (2018). "G7 Performance on Security," in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G7 Canada: The Charlevoix Summit (London: GT Media), pp, 98–99.

Kirton, John and Jessica Rapson (2020). "Raising Compliance with G20 Commitments: Two Evidence-Based Instruments," Global Solutions Journal, 4(5): 224–233.

Rapson, Jessica (2020). "Increasing the Impact of the G7," in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G7 USA: The Virtual Year (London: GT Media), pp. 126–127.

[back to top]

Appendix A: G7 Summit Counterterrorism Performance, 1975–2020

Year

Deliberation

Decision making

Delivery

Development of global governance

Shock-activated vulnerability

Words

Commitments

Ministerials

Official bodies

Events

Deaths

#

%

On terrorism

On all subjects

Compliance

# commitments assessed

1975

0

0

0

15

-

 

-

 

 

 

1976

0

0

0

10

-

 

-

 

 

 

1977

0

0

0

55

-

 

-

 

 

 

1978

113

3.7

3

50

57%

3

-

 

 

 

1979

0

0

0

55

-

 

-

 

 

 

1980

410

10.2

5

55

-

 

-

 

 

 

1981

435

13.7

7

40

50%

1

-

 

 

 

1982

0

0

0

24

-

 

-

 

 

 

1983

0

0

0

38

-

 

-

 

 

 

1984

309

9.4

5

31

-

 

-

 

 

 

1985

0

0

0

25

-

 

-

 

 

 

1986

600

16.7

14

38

-

 

-

 

 

 

1987

626

12.3

13

52

-

 

-

 

 

 

1988

217

4.4

2

27

-

 

-

 

 

 

1989

309

4.3

9

61

-

 

-

 

 

 

1990

355

4.6

7

78

-

 

-

 

 

 

1991

186

2.2

0

53

-

 

-

 

 

 

1992

244

3.2

1

41

-

 

-

 

 

 

1993

46

1.3

0

29

-

 

-

 

 

 

1994

139

3.3

1

53

-

 

-

 

 

 

1995

149

2.0

2

77

-

 

1

-

 

 

1996

725

4.7

7

128

92%

1

2

-

 

 

1997

612

4.7

13

145

-

 

1

-

24

26

1998

80

1.3

0

73

-

 

2

-

19

52

1999

146

1.4

0

46

 

 

2

-

12

31

2000

207

1.5

4

105

70%

1

-

-

10

12

2001

74

1.1

1

58

100%

1

2

1

18

3,015

2002

1,127

9.4

20

187

100%

1

-

1

5

7

2003

3,960

23.4

36

206

91%

2

1

-

1

2

2004

506

1.3

33

253

50%

1

1

-

4

4

2005

1,547

6.9

14

212

100%

1

-

-

8

60

2006

2,673

8.7

23

317

57%

1

-

-

3

3

2007

3,258

12.6

29

329

75%

2

-

-

6

8

2008

947

5.6

12

296

39%

1

 

 

1

2

2009

2,141

12.9

4

254

89%

1

 

 

7

21

2010

2,628

24.7

13

73

89%

3

 

 

2

3

2011

1,545

8.4

8

193

78%

1

 

 

 

 

2012

718

20.2

2

141

-

 

 

 

5

8

2013

2,077

19.6

18

214

73%

4

 

 

9

24

2014

280

5.5

4

141

100%

1

 

 

17

27

2015

536

4.2

5

376

88%

2

 

 

25

207

2016

3,558

15.4

31

342

75%

3

 

 

 

 

2017

1,774

20.5

45

180

83%

4

 

 

 

 

2018

336

3.0

5

84

82%

1

 

 

 

 

2019

253

3.5

0

71

-

 

 

 

 

 

2020

0

0

0

25

0

 

 

 

 

 

Total

35,846

 

396

5,403

 

36

 

 

176

3,512

Average

779

2.17%

8.6

120.1

78%

 

 

 

3.9

76.3%

[back to top]

Katherine Yampolsky is a research analyst leading the work on terrorism of the G7 Research Group and G20 Research Group, based at the University of Toronto. She focuses on conflict resolution, terrorism, security and the Middle East. She is pursuing a master's degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University, after completing an honours bachelor of arts, specializing in peace, conflict and justice, with a double minor in Italian and Arabic, at the University of Toronto. She also holds a certification in Counter-Terrorism Studies from the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya.

[back to top]


G7 Information Centre

Top of Page
This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Libraries and the G7 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to: g7@utoronto.ca
This page was last updated June 09, 2021.

All contents copyright © 2021. University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.