Canada is currently hosting the G7 in Charlevoix, Quebec, which will bring together the leaders of the 7 wealthiest nations in the world for two days of discussions on major international issues. For the occasion, the Government of Canada has put forward a series of questions that are grouped under five themes, and of which three are directly connected to the advocacy priorities of Development and Peace – Caritas Canada:
- Promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women;
- Working together on climate change, oceans, and clean energy; and
- Building a safer and more peaceful world.
A number of the questions that Canada intends to raise under its presidency speak directly to concerns we have for building a world of a justice, including the following:
- How can the G7 improve the access of women and girls to resources, education, and financial services and empower them to control these elements?
- How can the G7 increase the use of innovative funding sources for developing countries so asto foster sustainable economic development?
- Recognizing that social change cannot be achieved by focusing exclusively on women and girls, how can the G7 convince men and boys to become further involved in transforming power relations, challenging social norms, and promoting gender equality?
- How can the G7 accelerate the transition to low-carbon economies that can adapt to climate change? What should the G7’s priority issues, areas, and initiatives be in this regard?
- How can the G7 support open societies that intend to promote democracy, human rights, gender equality, the rule of law, and respect for diversity?
- On which current and emergent issues should Canada and the G7 focus their efforts so as to help build a more peaceful world?
- How can Canada and the G7 help women and girls play leading roles in building a more peaceful and prosperous world, especially in the context of conflict prevention, fighting against violent extremism, and developing more prosperous societies?
Drawing upon over 50 years of solidarity with the Global South, Development and Peace – Caritas Canada has formulated several recommendations for the Government of Canada and other G7 members:
In the fight against climate change, the initiatives that need to be enacted by Canada and the G7 countries are essentially twofold: 1) taking action on the causes, i.e. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; and 2) mitigating the impacts, in particular on the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable communities.
Historically, countries of the Global North are most responsible for climate change, yet it is the most poor and vulnerable communities in the Global South that are, for the most part, hardest hit by the impacts of the resulting climate disasters. For a number of years now, we have known that a drastic change of course is needed, socially, politically, and economically, in order to keep the temperature rise below 2° Celsius.
Despite this fact, Canada remains one of the biggest emitters of GHGs per capita. Also, in comparison with other developed countries, we are slow in implementing follow-up actions relative to the commitments adopted by the international community. For example, the federal government has not yet submitted a detailed roadmap for putting an end to fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, a commitment adopted by the G20 back in 2009.
Development and Peace – Caritas Canada, along with other Canadian organizations working on climate change, has put forward a number of strategies for the Government of Canada to adopt and actively promote among its peers at the G7 summit, so it can fulfill its role as the climate leader that it has promised to be:
- Adopting more ambitious GHG emission reduction targets. Currently, the targets defined within the framework of the Paris Agreement only cover one-third of what is required to hold the overall temperature rise at 2° C.
- Contributing significantly to public financial mechanisms so as to provide the Global South with the necessary resources to adapt to climate change. This is a necessary measure to ensure the credibility of and trust in Canada and its G7 colleagues among the rest of the international community and, especially, to assume our historic responsibility toward the Global South.
- Publishing a detailed roadmap toward completely ending all public subsidies to the fossil fuel industry by 2020. Canada must take steps to act immediately in this regard; and committing to the development of national, participatory, and longer-term plans to entirely decarbonise economies.
- Prohibiting any new infrastructure project that would further commit Canada to an economy that is dependent on the extraction of non-renewable and polluting natural resources. This also applies to oil pipelines, gas pipelines, hydraulic fracturing projects, and any increase in oil tanker traffic along coasts.
This year, we launched a campaign entitled “Women at the Heart of Peace” and established that women currently represent the best hope to build peace in the world. The statistics are clear: when women participate in peace talks, the resulting agreements are 35% more likely to last at least 15 years. Active participation of women in politics is also a key factor in building peaceful societies: when 35% of parliamentarians are women, the risk of renewed conflict is close to zero. Yet, only 2% of international funding for peace and security goes toward fostering parity or empowering women.
In light of the above, we strongly suggest that Canada, and all G7 countries, support democratic processes in nations affected by armed conflicts by investing heavily in citizen organizations and initiatives, in particular those spearheaded by women working to prevent violence and to build peace.
In other words, Canada must take a 180-degree turn and move away from investing heavily in the military industry, such as selling light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia and increasing the military budget by nearly $14 billion, i.e. 70%, in 10 years, and provide more in the way of international development assistance. After a freeze of the aid budget at the level at which it had been reduced by the previous government, an increase was announced, as part of the last federal budget, presented in March: $2 billion over 5 years. This represents the biggest investment made in the sector in 16 years. However, the additional amount will barely meet inflation and is still insufficient to catch up to and raise our level of aid above 0.26% of gross national income, where it currently stands, and which ranks us 5th in the G7, behind the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy.
We also believe that this choice to invest heavily in militarization, rather than in development and humanitarian aid, will prevent Canada from achieving the objectives of its new international aid policy which is nearly completely dedicated to empowering women and ensuring gender equality. Armed conflicts represent one of the main causes of vulnerability, insecurity, and violence against women and girls in many countries around the world.
If Canada wants to present itself as a global leader in supporting women in overcoming poverty and marginalization, it will certainly have to increase funding for development assistance and ensure that the funds will be used to support local organizations and women's initiatives, especially those combating violence and promoting conflict prevention, as well as building and maintaining peace, including a respect for human rights. Strengthening these organizations remains the most promising strategy that the G7 countries, and above all Canada, can put in place for a safer and more peaceful world. G7 countries must recognize their historical role in perpetuating poverty and conflicts in the Global South and, as such must support local populations in building peaceful, prosperous, inclusive, and just societies.
Whether in economic and community development, fighting and adapting to climate change, or conflict prevention and peacebuilding initiatives, the participation of the affected communities – especially marginalized groups, such as women and girls – is crucial for the implementation of effective strategies and lasting solutions.
Increasing the number of people involved in encounters or consultative processes is not enough to reach this goal. Communities and marginalized groups must be supported in developing the capacity to exercise their influence and political power, so as to guarantee their autonomy and that they have a voice in the decisions that affect them.
With this in mind, one of the most effective ways to reach such ends is by providing long-term support to local community and civil society organizations, and by putting the priorities and strategies identified by communities themselves at the heart of all initiatives.
During the G7 Summit, we encourage the Government of Canada to take this opportunity to increase its influence on the international stage and play a role in meeting and overcoming the great challenges of our world.