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Now Is the Time for the G7 to Leverage Its Influence

Michaëlle Jean, secretary general, International Organization of La Francophonie

Special supplement to G7 Canada: The 2018 Charlevoix Summit,
John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., GT Media, 2018
Version français

Michaëlle Jean, secretary general, International Organization of La FrancophonieThe Charlevoix G7 Summit, under the Canadian presidency, takes place at a very special moment in international life. Indeed, in recent years, the effectiveness of the multilateral system has been seriously questioned by some states, and in public opinion some scepticism has arisen about collective action and regional integration. The loss of confidence is obvious. Consider the divisions inside the United Nations Security Council and how much they hamper the resolution of many international crises. Consider also the decline of European integration as a result of Brexit. Consider, too, the growing risks of trade wars between the major world economic powers, resulting in the marginalization of the World Trade Organization.

Despite its informal nature, the G7 can leverage its strategic influence to mobilise international institutions around widely shared priorities and ensure that effective and inclusive responses are reached and implemented.

The International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), which brings together 84 states and governments on five continents, welcomes the relevance of the themes selected by Canada for this G7, because they correspond very largely to the actions that the OIF is currently implementing within the francophone world. The emphasis on the empowerment of women and girls, for instance, is also at the heart of our organization's programming: it is a cross-cutting priority in all the actions we undertake, especially in the economic sphere. The OIF is strongly committed to increasing women's participation in the labour market and promoting the undeniable contribution that women make to the economic growth of their countries. For this purpose, in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean the OIF is deploying and supporting incubator-type structures, accelerators and collaborative spaces that gather and support, in a structured way, thousands of start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises. These economic initiatives are intended to boost productivity and generate innovative activities that will strengthen value chains. These projects are mainly carried out by women and young entrepreneurs, who are key vital forces for any country, and constitute strategic human capital in which to invest for growth and prosperity.

Such capacity building includes also institutions, with regard to implementing national legislations to improve business environment, or revitalising and consolidating economic ecosystems. As such, the OIF has formed a network of finance ministers from its lower-income countries, and supports them in their discussions with international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

All these actions truly contribute to ensuring that inclusive, responsible and shared economic growth benefits everyone, which is another priority of the G7 Charlevoix Summit.

The achievement of the 2030 Agenda will require considerable funding for developing countries. While the involvement of the private sector, alongside official development assistance, is of increasing interest, especially for infrastructure financing, developing countries need monitoring tools to keep control of these projects, avoid unbalanced public-private partnerships and not fall back into new cycles of debt. The G7 should call on the international financial institutions to strengthen their technical assistance to developing countries on these issues.

As for the future of work, this is a critical issue, also on the G7 agenda, and a matter of concern for all countries, advanced as well as developing. The current technological revolution, driven by artificial intelligence, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, will transform the definition of work worldwide, so millions of jobs will be affected in the very short term. Although the G7 encourages research and innovation among its members on these issues, it also has a responsibility towards developing countries, which may be excluded from the future world economy by these technological disruptions. The OIF is already working on these issues, which have major economic repercussions and also have cultural and political impacts. The key global leaders fuelling this tech revolution are large international companies based mostly elsewhere than in francophone countries. So La Francophonie members need to assemble their strengths, achievements, capacities and expertise in this area more vigorously. The G7 should mobilise international financial institutions to assess the impact of this new digital revolution in developing countries in terms of jobs and modes of production. In addition, the issue of global regulation for these activities should be on the agenda of the G7 as well as other international forums in the coming years.

The issue of climate change, oceans and clean energy is another major area of concern. La Francophonie expects the G7 to maintain the momentum of the 2015 Paris Agreement, especially with respect to financing adaptation to the devastating effects of global warming in the poorest countries. Our organisation is very involved on these issues, through the Quebec-based La Francophonie Institute for Sustainable Development, which supports our states and governments in international negotiations as well as in developing and implementing their national sustainable development plans. Recent meetings on the United Nations Convention on Climate Change have shown that the sense of urgency that led to the conclusion of the Paris Agreement is already fading. The Francophonie counts on the Canadian G7 presidency, as well as on France, to maintain and strengthen international cohesion on this subject, despite the position of the current United States administration.

With regard to peace and security, the francophone world is unfortunately not spared, neither from regional crises nor from the asymmetrical threats of transnational organised crime and terrorist attacks. The OIF is very mobilised to support its members affected in their fight against radicalisation and violent extremism, a problem that involves both cultural and economic dimensions, beyond the security aspect. La Francophonie is also an important partner of the United Nations in training personnel and contingents deployed in peacekeeping operations in French-speaking countries. We hope that the G7 will raise new resources to address these challenges, and we welcome the emphasis on the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution.

I wish a full success for the Charlevoix Summit and its ambitious agenda. The Canadian presidency and the future French presidency know that they can count on the commitment, the strong contribution, the dynamism and the added value of the Francophonie so that at the heart of globalisation, this universal and integral humanism that defines us can triumph.

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