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Tales Taormina Can Tell G7 Leaders

Brittaney Warren and Meredith Williams, G7 Research Group
May 25, 2017

On May 26-27, 2017, Italy will host the Group of Seven (G7) leaders at Taormina, Sicily for their 43rd summit to deliberate on the world's most pressing issues. Taormina's rich heritage, as the first Greek settlement in Sicily and with its ancient ruins and maritime culture well preserved, is a symbolic choice as the summit site. Indeed, Italy has recognised the significance of preserving culture, integrating it into the G7 summit process with the first ever culture ministers' meeting held on March 30-31, 2017, in Florence. Here the ministers agreed to strongly support the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in protecting and preserving cultural heritage with the goal to counter violent extremism and radicalisation. The culture-terrorism connection falls under Italy's first pillar of Citizen Safety. This pillar encompasses three priorities: management of human mobility, stability in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), and the prevention of terrorism. Under this third priority, the leaders' will also address terrorist financing, of which cultural looting plays a prominent role.

The recent attack in Manchester serves as a gruesome reminder of the shared vulnerabilities G7 nations face, and of the reality that millions in North Africa suffer from daily. Thus the decision to close Taormina's ports during the summit is also symbolic, with the leaders facing much criticism. To date, approximately 45,000 North African refugees have been brought to Sicilian ports, where they are given medical care before being sent to reception centres across the country. Taormina itself acts as a triage point for refugees, and was chosen as the summit site to shine a spotlight on the crisis. However, with ports closed from May 22 to May 28, refugees' already perilous journey will be extended for an additional two days, while the leaders, ironically, deliberate their fate. Thus, at Taormina, leaders must act swiftly to demonstrate to the world they are serious about tackling the root causes of the refugee crisis, including stopping key sources of financing such as stolen cultural property and promoting secure, but open, borders. This should include deliverable commitments to ensure inclusive integration of those in search of safety that support the G7's foundational missions of promoting democracy and human rights for all.

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Brittaney WarrenBrittaney Warren is a researcher with the G7 and G8 Research Group, the G20 Research Group and the BRICS Research Group, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Trinity College at the University of Toronto. She has worked in Spain and in Peru where she conducted field research on a sustainable development project with women living in extreme poverty. She has conducted research on the compliance of CARICOM members with their summit commitments on non-communicable diseases. Brittaney leads the social media strategy and marketing program for the G7 and G20 Research Groups' books and works on climate change, and was the lead researcher on an e-book project on "Delivering Sustainable Energy Access." Follow her at @brittaneywarren.

Meredith WilliamsMeredith Williams, BAH, is a research associate and social media strategist with the G20 Research Group and the G7 Research Group based at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Trinity College at the University of Toronto. She completed an honours bachelor of arts in political science from Queen's University, with a focus on international political economy and international relations. She is the lead researcher on financial resilience and economic regulation. She has worked on compliance reports on financial regulation in response to the 2008 global financial crisis and other research projects, was a member of the home team during the 2016 G20 Hangzhou Summit and attended the T20 think tank conference that kicked of Germany's 2017 G20 presidency. She is currently employed full time at one of Canada's largest banks.

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