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Do Ambitious G7 Commitments Secure Less Compliance?

Sarah Burton, G7 Research Group
June 3, 2016

At the G7 Research Group's press briefing at the 2015 G7 Schloss Elmau Summit, a question was raised about whether the ambition of the commitments selected affected the overall compliance score of the 2014 Brussels Compliance Report. In response, the G7 Research Group analyzed the relationship between a commitment's ambition and members' compliance with that commitment during the following year.

The instrument/outcome balance was developed to measure of the ambition of a commitment. An instrument is defined as a measure under the G7 member's direct control (such as increasing official development assistance). An outcome is defined as the outcome (welfare) sought that lies beyond the member's direct control (such as reducing inflation or raising growth by 2% above trend). This method uses a four-point scale with commitments classified into four groups. From least to most ambitious, these groups are as follows:

Given the record high average compliance score of the 2015 Schloss Elmau G7 Summit, the ambition level for each commitment was analyzed individually and compared to the compliance-assessed commitments of the previous five years since the 2010 Muskoka Summit. The ambition of the commitments for each summit was then analyzed and the average ambition score per summit was compared to the average compliance score for that summit. This study included 108 commitments over six years, based on a roughly equal number each year.

Running a correlation coefficient on this sample of 108 commitments revealed a high negative correlation between ambition and compliance, with the coefficient measuring −0.78. This indicates that as ambition rises, compliance with that commitment falls. This is particularly evident with the summits that received the highest and lowest compliance scores, namely the 2015 Schloss Elmau and 2010 Muskoka summits, respectively. At Schloss Elmau, members received a compliance score of +0.68 (88%) but ranked the lowest on ambition, with a score of 44 (70%). Comparatively, the compliance score for the Muskoka Summit was +0.46 (73%), which also ranked highest on ambition, with a score of 51 (94%).

This finding suggests that the commitments selected by the G7 Research Group as priority commitments for compliance assessments may affect the overall compliance scores. The next step in this research project is to compile information on the ambition score of commitments for all years dating back to 1996, when the G7 Research Group published its first compliance report. The correlation between the ambition scores for commitments selected for the reports and for the total number of commitments made at each individual summit will then be analyzed. These correlations will also be measured for each member.

Correlation does not imply causation. Many causes affect the compliance and the rising overall compliance scores such as shifts in issue areas (for example finance, climate change and migration). Until these other conditions are assessed, the extent to which ambition level affects compliance scores will remain unknown.

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Sarah BurtonSarah Burton is an analyst for the G7 Research Group. During her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, Sarah concentrated her research on transitional justice mechanisms and peace building, and obtained a bachelor's degree in peace, conflict and justice studies and in political science. Her current research on the ambition of G7 members and their commitments, with particular interest in the Deauville Partnership, regional security in Ukraine and Syria, the refugee crisis and nuclear deterrence.

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