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Gender and France's 2019 G7 Agenda

Marie Dubois, G7 Research Group
October 22, 2018

The G7 has established itself since 1975 as a symbol of economic and democratic global governance. However, since then new themes have emerged such as human rights or sustainable development. Those new themes were reflected by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which highlighted the importance of the economic and non-economic development of developing countries.

In 2010, France actively and visibly contributed to the reduction of gender inequality in the world for the first time thanks to the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, created by the Canadian presidency at the G8 Muskoka Summit in 2010. The Muskoka French Fund continues to carry on this initiative. It facilitates access to family planning, including access to contraception and obstetric care, and supports national health systems in designated countries as well as programs linked to nutrition and hygiene. Evidence shows that the initiative has had a real impact on the maternal mortality rate among targeted countries. The World Health Organization reported that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mortality among pregnant women compared to females of reproductive age went from 24.8% in 2010 to 22.3% in 2015, five years after the start of the initiative.

However, despite the goodwill of developed countries to help empower women and girls in developing countries, the very theme of gender equality did not return to the top of the G7 agenda until the Taormina Summit in Italy in 2017. Several commitments were made regarding women's participation in the economy, women and girls' trafficking and exploitation, and intersectionality discrimination. Although the leaders spent less time on the gender question than on the usual themes such as global security, it received a significant proportion on the Taormina agenda. In 2018, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau also dedicated an important place to gender equality for the Canadian presidency of the G7 and the Charlevoix Summit.

The Charlevoix Summit marks the end of a summit cycle, since the 2011 Deauville Summit in France. Charlevoix emphasized women's rights and gender equality in various themes such as health, education and job markets. One of the five major themes was the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment. The Canadian presidency also created the Gender Equality Advisory Council, which published its recommendations in a report called Making Gender Inequality History. The usual themes of health and education are present, but so too are new themes such as security, economy, the environment and the public participation of women and girls. This council, as well as its report, is a first in G7 history, perhaps creating a precedent for future G7 summits.

Indeed, it appears that French president Emmanuel Macron wishes to continue what Canada began in 2018. During his speech at the United Nations in September 2018 he mentioned his intention to include the fight against inequality on the agenda of the G7 summit he will host in 2019 in Biarritz. This would be the first time that a French G7 presidency will dedicate an entire theme to gender equality, having presided over six G7/8 summits since the first in 1975. The French presidency has confirmed its plan to continue a gender quality advisory council for the 2019 summit. However, even though France seems to participate in many initiatives and projects promoting women's empowerment and gender equality throughout the world, gender equality seems to be rarely present in reality.

One of the main initiatives from France is, of course, its International Strategy for Gender Equality (2018–2022). It is intended to lead the French position on gender equality in every area, including in politics. This strategy is particularly visible thanks to funding directed by the French Agency for Development to several developing countries for women's empowerment and gender equality. Although many of the strategy's recommendations can be found in the 2018 Charlevoix G7 Summit Communiqué, it will be interesting to see if France will carry them forward on its agenda for the 2019 Biarritz Summit in order to increase its influence on gender equality.

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Marie DuboisMarie Dubois is a student from France pursuing a master's in international studies at the Université de Montréal. She is currently an intern with the G7 Research Group based at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. She is a graduate of the Université Lumière Lyon 2 with a bachelor of arts in political science. Her research focuses on gender studies, and she plans to work with international organizations on ending inequality between women and men.

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