Boris Johnson went to the G7 summit this weekend promising to “vaccinate the world”. But on Sunday evening it was clear that even the highly planned – and completely insufficient – commitment to donate a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the middle of next year would not be met. Nor has there been any radical announcement about climate change or canceling out southern debt. In the words of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the summit “will come down as an unforgivable moral failure.”
Vaccines have dominated this G7, unsurprisingly given the strong inequality in vaccine development in the world. While G7 nations vaccinate their citizens at a rate of 4.6 million people a day, low-income countries can handle only 63,000. The G7 will have vaccinated almost all its citizens by the end of the year while, at current rates, low-income countries wait 57 years. That is why the global South is asking rich countries to support a renunciation of intellectual property rules to allow countries around the world to increase production as soon as possible. But with the very important exception of U.S. President Biden, and occasional promising rumors from French President Macron, the G7 has largely parted ways with major pharmaceutical companies in protecting the right to profit whatever the cost of living.
These leaders wanted to use the G7 summit to prove that they could help the global South by leaving Big Pharma’s profits intact. On Friday, a billion doses were put on the table. This alone would have been enough to immunize about 10 percent of the population without global vaccination. As of Sunday, that number had dropped to 870 million, of which only about 600 million were truly “new,” most of which would not be offered until next year, and some seem closer to the exports (to be paid for) rather than donations.
When you keep in mind that a single factory in Bangladesh could produce between 600 and 800 million doses a year if patents were waived, it becomes clear that this G7 commitment does not even function as a fig leaf.
Beyond the vaccines, the pandemic has triggered a debt crisis in several countries, which could increase poverty and inequality for a generation. However, the G7 offers nothing new to change this situation, in particular not to take any action against banks and hedge funds that continue to steal billions of dollars a year from countries that have to spend for it. health and economic protection. And on the biggest challenge of our times, stopping climate change, the summit reaffirmed just a decade-long goal to give developing countries $ 100 billion a year to adapt to climate change – a promise that they failed to comply in practice – and made a commitment to gradually eliminate coal, but without real details.
Maybe none of that should surprise you. After all the forerunner of the G7 was put into operation in the mid-1970s as a sort of coup against a more democratic and equal world order. The first summit – then only the six most powerful governments in the world – took place in 1975 just outside Paris. Those leaders met to discuss the threat to their control of global energy markets from Middle Eastern suppliers who had turned off the oil taps, and how to deal with their former colonies demanding economic liberation from the the international economy controlled by the West. Acting as part of the non-aligned movement, these southern countries have used the UN to demand a more democratic global economy where big business and big finances will be constrained, raw material producers will get a fairer share of global income, and important technologies to be shared for the benefit of all.
The G6 summit was a counterattack to this project for a fairer world. The UN’s refusal to integrate the interests of the richest meant, in view of the G6, that it had to be marginalized. Strategic economic decisions were transferred to the closed chambers of a privileged political class.
The G7 (or sometimes G8 when it is united by Russia) has remained a forum for establishing the rule of the global economy ever since. At times, it was a body that could spread enough charity to maintain the status quo. In 2005, the G8 in Scotland, controlled by Gordon Brown, saw large-scale debt cancellation packages and promised to increase foreign aid balances, although it did nothing to change the direction of Gordon Brown. a global economy that was already on its way to the biggest crash since the 1920s.
In 2021, the G7’s pious donations and vague promises did not convince anyone that they had the answers to the world’s problems. True, there has been some movement, also led by the United States, to establish a minimum global tax rate. But this has been the product of the campaign both in the United States and around the world for many years. What the G7 approved was a very low corporate tax rate, with countries like the UK reaching out to exempt parts of their economy from tax rules.
No, the real lesson of this G7 is that we should not delude ourselves that the world’s leading powers are capable of solving the fundamental problems we now face. I’m not even able to hide behind an impressive array of funding commitments. It has been a long time since this old-fashioned, neocolonial piece of global governance was abandoned. This group of governments is ready to proclaim their democratic credentials, so we ask to sit down with the poorest governments, not as donors, but as equals, and submit to truly international decisions.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.