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G7 Performance on Terrorism, 1975-2018

Katherine Yampolsky, G7 Research Group
August 24, 2019

Since they first addressed terrorism at their 1978 Bonn Summit, G7 leaders have regularly addressed issues such as airline hijacking, hostage taking, terrorism funding and counter-terrorism measures needed to mitigate the multifaceted terrorist threat. The G7's mandate to annually bring together political leaders to discuss pressing social, political and security issues means that the G7 is well suited to combat the many challenges that terrorism brings. Despite the growing threat of terrorism, G7 leaders' focus on terrorism-related commitments has fluctuated over the years. Only five commitments on terrorism were made at the 2018 Charlevoix Summit, compared to 45 at the 2017 Taormina Summit. As the dangers and consequences posed by terrorism become increasingly multinational, the world is now looking to France's leadership at the 2019 Biarritz Summit to make more concerted and effective commitments than before.


Since 1978 the G7 dedicated a total of 35,593 words to terrorism, in its public communiqués, with an average of 809 words per communiqué. In Bonn in 1978, the G7 leaders focused on air hijacking. The amount of words dedicated to terrorism in each communiqué rose and fell unevenly from 1978 to 2001, with a sharp increase in 2001 and 2002, with 1,127 and 3,960 words respectively, as compared to only 74 words in 2001. The Kananaskis Summit in 2002 was the first meeting of the G7 after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The commitments that came from this summit were largely in response to these attacks. From 2001 onwards, a new period emerged, with most communiqués recording a word count in the thousands, or high hundreds. Many of these communiqués mentioned the threat posed by al Qaeda and the Taliban. The highest word count was recorded in 2016 at the Ise-Shima Summit, with 3,558 words or 15.4% of the communiqué dedicated to terrorism. With the inception of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, many of the communiqués that followed both condemned and committed to take action against the rise of the terrorist threat posed by the civil unrest and its consequences. In the past decade, the lowest number of words dedicated to terrorism was 336, coming at the most recent summit in 2018, in Quebec.


Within these communiqué conclusions, the G7 made 377 terrorism commitments, as identified by the G7 Research Group. The first came in 1978, with none at the following summit. It made a few commitments sporadically from 1981 to 2001, with none in 1982, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1993, 1998, 1999 or 2001. During this time, the annual number of commitments ranged from 1 to 14. Following the 2001 Genoa Summit, commitments were made every year, with a record number of 45 commitments coming at the 2017 Taormina Summit. No discernible trend emerged over the last two decades, with numbers fluctuating as low as four or five in 2014 and 2015, only to rise to 31 and 45 in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The 2018 Charlevoix Summit had only five.


However, these conclusions and the commitments that come from them only matter if they are substantial and ambitious, and if the G7 members comply with them. The G7 Research Group has analyzed 34 of the commitments on terrorism to assess compliance by G7 members. It found that average compliance is 78%, just slightly above the overall G7 average of 75% across all subjects. Compliance with G7 terrorist commitments has varied widely over the assessed years from 1978 to 2017, with no discernible trend. The highest compliance in recent years was 100% in 2017, and 94% in 2015. Full compliance in 2017 was on enhancing border and aviation security. In 2014, full compliance was also recorded on efforts to address foreign fighters travelling to Syria. In 2002, full compliance came on efforts to share information on the movement of terrorists across international borders. The lowest compliance score of only 34%, was with a 2013 commitment to support multinational efforts and to welcome the establishment of the International Institute of Justice and Rule of Law in Tunisia.

Causes and Corrections

In order to maintain the high compliance witnessed in recent years, the G7 should make fewer commitments on combatting terrorism each year. Of the 20 summits assessed by the G7 Research Group, it was found that the ten highest complying years had fewer commitments made, for a total of 143 commitments (see Appendix A). Average compliance was 94%, as compared to the lowest ten summits, where compliance was only 62%.

The G7 foreign ministers at their pre-summit meeting next year should make more commitments on all subjects, for when they have in the past, compliance rises with the terrorist commitments their leaders make.

Appendix A

  Average Compliance Average Number of Terrorist Commitments Average Number of Pre-Summit Foreign Ministerial Commitments*
Ten Highest Complying Years 94% 143 58
Ten Lowest Complying Years 62% 168 38

*Note — on all subjects.

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Kat YampolskyKatherine Yampolsky is a research analyst for the G7 and G20 Research Groups based at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at Trinity College in the University of Toronto. She is especially interested in conflict resolution, terrorism, security, and the Middle East. Kat is pursuing her honours bachelor of arts, specializing in peace, conflict and justice, with a double minor in Italian and Arabic. She also holds a certification in counter-terrorism studies from the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Centre, Herzliya.

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