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The Role of the G7 in the Regional Integration - Global Security Link
John Kirton

G8 Governance No.2 (June 1997)

~ Statement of Editorial Policy ~ Editorial Advisory Board ~ Professional Advisory Council ~

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Many observers would regard it as unusual, or even inappropriate, to include the G7 as an institution of central relevance in dealing with the defining issues of global security and regional integration in the second half of the 1990's. In their view the G7, with its annual Summit of the leaders of the seven major industrial democracies and the European Union and several supporting institutions and processes, is primarily an economic body, brought into being by former finance ministers turned leaders to confront the stagflation of the 1970's and to rebuild the shattered or stalled international regimes for exchange rates, trade and north-south development co-operation. Its abiding agenda is economic, consisting of exchange rate management, macroeconomic policy co-ordination, multilateral trade, north-south relations, and more recently microeconomic restructuring, the environment, and international economic institutional reform. Its effectiveness is thus is judged by its ability, assisted by its finance ministers, to reach ambitious package deals, requiring active intervention and major policy adjustment, for co-ordinated exchange rate and macroeconomic policy management [1].

This conception of the G7 provides, however, at best a partial account of the G7's purpose, priorities and performance, and, at worst, one which potentially misses the essence of its role and relevance in world affairs. For the G7 is best viewed as a modern international concert, increasingly able, and effectively acting on a global scale against those global, regional and transnational security threats most acutely challenging the established and evolving international order in the contemporary post cold war, globalizing system. The G7 was conceived and created to defend the global political and security order as a modern international concert, through its unique institutional characteristics of concerted power, constricted participation, common purpose and political control [2]. From the inaugural Summit in Rambouillet, France in 1975 to the start of its fourth seven year cycle in Lyon, France in 1996, the G7 has addressed the central issues of the classic internal, traditional interstate, and new transnational security agenda, dealt with both global and regional security subjects, and developed several institutional mechanisms to enhance its effectiveness as a security forum. In the post cold war world of the 1990's there is an increasing demand for a centre of global governance to maintain the momentum towards internally stable, pacific, democratic polities, to deal with the proliferation of new, often personal, transnational security challenges a globalizing system has brought, to preserve compatibility among rapidly emerging regional regimes, and to offer a global capability to deal with crises in areas where regional security regimes remain weak. Alone among global institutions, the G7, now with its accompanying G8 involving Russia, is expanding its ability to meet these needs, by enhancing its character as a modern international concert. Despite its many failures, its record during the 1990's in reaching timely and well tailored agreements, respecting collective commitments, and shaping international order suggests its growing relevance as a global security institution in the coming years.

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