Scholarly Publications and Papers
Help | Free Search | Search by Year | Search by Country | Search by Issue (Subject) | G8 Centre

Keeping Sustainable Development Commitments:
The Recent G7 Record

Ella Kokotsis

[Document Contents] [Next]


Since their inception in 1975, the annual summit meetings of the leaders of the major industrialized democracies have become a "highly publicized fixture in international diplomacy". (Watt, 1984; 3) As the only regular gathering of the political leaders of the seven leading industrial countries - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, together with the European Union and now Russia - the summits have naturally attracted much international attention, and likewise aroused expectations. The summits have been praised by many scholars, bureaucrats and journalists as an effective forum for greater policy coordination. But they have also invited considerable and continuing criticism. Some contend that the "scale of the G7 summits has been seen to be disproportionate with the results" and have thus questioned "whether summits can produce concrete decisions and actions." (Background Information, 1994; 22). The summit process has been attacked as an excessively costly exercise, often concerned more with ceremony than with substance. As a result, a great deal of scepticism has loomed concerning the overall accomplishments of these annual meetings, especially once the leaders produce their communique-encoded collective agreements, and return to normal politics back home.

Advocates and supporters of the summit process view these communiques, or declarations as documents that do, in fact, have an important impact in altering subsequent behaviour. There are others, however, who contend that the final communiques are intentionally left vague, are largely rhetorical, and impose imprecise obligations. Moreover, even when precise results and far reaching agreements are secured, there is much doubt about whether they are kept when the leaders return home to their respective national bureaucracies, agendas and interest groups.

Thus, scholars, bureaucrats and journalists remain deeply divided on the question of the summit's overall credibility. Yet there exists very little empirical work on the actual record of compliance, or the extent to which summit members subsequently comply with the agreements reached at the summit table.

The one major study of summit compliance, dealing with the summit's economic and energy agenda from 1975 to 1989, finds that compliance varies widely by country and issue area. (Von Furstenberg and Daniels, 1992) As Appendix A indicates, Britain and Canada have the highest compliance record, and France and the United States, the lowest. Moreover, the authors conclude that "the degree to which commitments in the area of energy have been lived up to in the past stands out from commitments in all other areas", while compliance with trade commitments is also strong; development issues reside in the middle range. Given this variation by country and issue area, a detailed examination of the G7's recent compliance record in the fields of environment and development areas is required to identify what sustainable development initiatives, supported by what countries, will produce durable progress at Halifax and beyond.

This paper will thus address the following questions:

[Document Contents] [Next]

G8 Centre
This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Library and the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to:
This page was last updated .

All contents copyright © 1995-99. University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.