Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations staked their claim Sunday to leading the world out of the coronavirus pandemic and crisis, pledging more than 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer nations, vowing to help developing countries grow while fighting climate change and backing a minimum tax on multinational firms.
At the group’s first face-to-face meeting in two years, the leaders dangled promises of support for global health, green energy, infrastructure and education.
The leaders wanted to show that international cooperation is back after the upheavals caused by the pandemic and the unpredictability of former U.S. President Donald Trump. And they wanted to convey that the club of wealthy democracies — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — is a better friend to poorer nations than authoritarian rivals such as China.
Speaking at the end of the three-day summit in southwest England, U.S. President Joe Biden, who was making his first foreign trip as leader, said it was an “extraordinary, collaborative and productive meeting.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the summit’s host, praised the “fantastic degree of harmony” among the group.
Johnson said the G-7 would demonstrate the value of democracy and human rights to the rest of the world and help “the world’s poorest countries to develop themselves in a way that is clean and green and sustainable.”
“It’s not good enough for us to just rest on our laurels and talk about how important those values are,” he told reporters after the 3-day meeting on the Cornwall coast. “And this isn’t about imposing our values on the rest of the world. What we as the G-7 need to do is demonstrate the benefits of democracy and freedom and human rights to the rest of the world.”
But health and environmental campaigners were distinctly unimpressed by the details in the leaders’ final communique.
“This G-7 summit will live on in infamy,” said Max Lawson, the head of inequality policy at the international aid group Oxfam. “Faced with the biggest health emergency in a century and a climate catastrophe that is destroying our planet, they have completely failed to meet the challenges of our times.”
Despite Johnson’s call to “vaccinate the world” by the end of 2022 the promise of 1 billion doses for vaccine-hungry countries — coming both directly and through the international COVAX program — falls far short of the 11 billion doses the World Health Organization said is needed to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population and truly end the pandemic.