Syed Munir Khasru and Tetsushi Sonobe October 18, 2022
Global cooperation should be getting stronger given the numerous interconnected crises facing the world, including the Ukraine war, rampant inflation, and high energy and food prices. Yet compromise appears increasingly out of reach. The Group of 20’s gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors in Bali in July notably ended without even a joint communique due to disagreements related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. There is growing apprehension that next month’s G-20 leaders’ summit in Bali may fare no better.
Meanwhile, Japan is due to take over the presidency of the Group of Seven in the new year. Given its commitment to multilateralism, this is a great opportunity for Japan to assume the leadership of the leading grouping of advanced economies. However, in a world of rising uncertainty due to protectionism and nationalism, promoting multilateralism will be easier said than done.
Japan can lead from the front by strengthening collaboration with partners, including the G-20 and the U.N. The goal should be to realize coordinated action based on universal human rights, shared democratic principles and rule-based multilateralism. The priorities of Japan’s G-7 presidency should include tackling food insecurity, including both its short- and long-term causes. Energy security should be a focus as well, given the effects of the Ukraine conflict.
The U.N.’s Global Stocktake, which will assess progress on national commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, will take place concurrently with Japan’s G-7 presidency. As the world’s’ fifth-largest carbon emitter, Japan will be one of the nations in the spotlight. A coordinated effort by the G-7 can highlight paths for rapidly decarbonizing the power sector and moving away from coal and gas while accelerating the development of renewable energy sources.
As with climate change, it is important for liberal democracies to cooperate on pressing issues affecting the prosperity of millions that require technological solutions. The G-7 should make a commitment to collaborate on safeguarding space sustainability by starting work on a treaty for the development of orbital space. The present uncontrolled course risks turning these far heavens into a junkyard of unmanageable debris.
Having served as president of the G-20 three years ago, Japan can help build bridges across the divide between the two groupings. The two clubs have overlapping global governance agendas, though the G-7 focuses more on political and security-related concerns while the G-20 leans toward global economic and financial governance. The primary goal of the G-20 has always been to support inclusive cooperation and collective action among the world’s largest developed and emerging economies, although the agendas of this varied group of nations frequently diverge. G-20 countries believe that as the COVID pandemic continues to have an impact on all spheres of society, the future of shared prosperity will depend on a collective ability to generate inclusive and sustainable growth.
The G-7 must find ways to help important G-20 nations deal with domestic political pressures without resorting to protectionism and nationalism, which risk disrupting global supply chains and pushing up commodity prices. To stabilize price surges amid the market turmoil caused the Ukraine war, some countries have unfortunately restricted or banned exports to prioritize domestic supply, as with chickens in Malaysia, palm oil in Indonesia, and wheat and vaccines in India.
The G-7 should also respond to the needs of developing nations by initiating a systematic dialogue to ensure that the group’s development priorities remain relevant, visible and responsive. Doing so should help developing nations to avoid taking on unsustainable debt burdens as occurred in Sri Lanka with the massive infrastructure projects launched under the umbrella of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The G-7 nations’ shared agenda for global action demonstrates commitment to multilateralism as the group seeks to revitalize economies, safeguard the planet by committing to net-zero carbon emissions, ensure future prosperity and strengthen partnerships.
The Japanese presidency has a pivotal role to play in promoting resource efficiency as the next step-change for achieving a sustainable future. Equally important is ensuring that the concerns and interests of smaller countries are not neglected in the collective quest to promote sustainable and inclusive growth. G-7 members have a responsibility to develop a promising future in the spirit of sustainable economic recovery for a healthy planet and to seek progress toward a more equal world.
During Japan’s G-20 presidency, members committed to work together to address global financial crises, promote economic growth, and exploit the potential of technological innovation, particularly digitalization, for the benefit of all. The late Shinzo Abe, then prime minister, emphasized multilateral leadership as part of his effort to recast Japan’s position in the developing international order. The G-7 presidency provides Japan an opportunity to strengthen global governance and follow through on the commitments made in 2019 and, in the process, bring the two important global platforms closer in pursuit of their common agendas.
Growing worries about the possible use of nuclear weapons in the Russia-Ukraine conflict led Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to strategically designate Hiroshima as the destination for the G-7 leaders’ summit next May. At last June’s summit in Germany, he said, “We will make sure to deepen discussions on realistic measures toward the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons.” By working with the international community to address diverse global concerns, Japan can contribute to developing a prosperous and peaceful international society.
Prof. Syed Munir Khasru is Chairman of the international think tank The Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance (IPAG) with presence in Dhaka, Delhi, Melbourne, Dubai, Vienna, and Mauritius. Tetsushi Sonobe is Dean and Chief Executive of the Asian Development Bank Institute, Japan.