Has The G7 Lost Its Way?

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The G7, having started out as a useful and slightly unusual body with a clear and relevant agenda, is becoming more like a mini-UN. If we want to listen to discussion of social policy, normally with a leftish anti-American and anti-Western bias, we can hear it ad nauseam in the real UN and its appendages such as UNESCO or the UN Human Rights Commission.

After last month’s G7 meeting in Biarritz, the US President did what you would expect of a conscientious guest on the dinner party circuit: he invited everyone to be his guest next time round. Shortly afterwards, Bill Wirtz in The American Conservative gave two good reasons why that was a bad idea, and suggested that the US should in fact neither host nor even attend the 2020 G7 (Memo to Trump: Skip the Next G7 Meeting). Why, he said, go to a party where the other guests will be seeking a chance to engage in some Trump-bashing for home political consumption, and nothing much comes out of it anyway?

He was right. But there is another reason: the G7 has lost any justification it may once have had. The institution grew from an informal gathering of the finance ministers of the US, the UK, France and Germany, set up by US Treasury Secretary George Schultz in 1973 to work out a businesslike response to the oil crisis (Italy, Japan and Canada joined later). It had then the immeasurable advantage of being a no-nonsense business gathering directed at practical solutions to actual problems. Political posturing and social activism were entirely foreign to what it did.

No longer. If you want to see the nature of the new-look G7, look no further than a side show that didn’t hit the news big-time but should have; namely, the so-called Gender Equality Advisory Council, an official group of “experts” set up under the aegis of the G7 which took up an appreciable proportion of the time in Biarritz. This body, whose avowed aim is to “make gender inequality history”, was first insinuated into the G7 last year by then host Justin Trudeau, never one to miss an opportunity to show his woke credentials. French president Emmanuel Macron, depressingly similar in many ways to Trudeau, unsurprisingly endorsed it with enthusiasm in 2019. The membership this year is 32, a mixed crowd of equality and human rights activists, UN apparatchiks, artistes with sympathetic views, the odd female corporate executive, and a few names. The latter include reliably left-wing actress Emma Watson, the French ambassador to Canada, and perhaps surprisingly, Jamie McCourt, Trump’s nominee as US ambassador to France.

This body took up an entire session. Its manifesto started with a kind of catechism, which it expected everyone to accept as revealed truth. Violence against women and girls was, it said, all due to gender inequality, to a structurally unequal distribution of economic, social, and political power and discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes. Its action program was nothing if not ambitious, and nearly all typical of the left-leaning cosmopolitan human rights establishment. Quotas for women had to be introduced in employment, with fines for employers who missed them. Parental leave had to be legislated with a view to ensuring men take-up 50% of all homemaking duties. The composition of legislatures, and party slates of those running for legislative office, should all be subjected to legal minimum female quotas. Abortion had to be made freely available, without regard to age or circumstance, and treated as a normal medical procedure. Contraception had to be treated the same way, made available to those of all ages with parents even of the underage kept out of the loop. (Ironically, however, marriage had to be forbidden, without exception, to anyone under 18). Climate change policy had to be conducted with a constant aim of ensuring that neither it, nor measures taken to avoid it, affected women worse then men. Even foreign policy had to be explicitly feminist; aid had to be tied to the achievement of female equality world wide; and so on.

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There is, of course, no reason why a group should not say this sort of thing, even if most of it amounts to a tedious repetition of what we read all the time in university law reviews and places such as slate.com. But there is every reason why it should not say it at the G7. Despite Macron’s rather silly choice of “fighting against inequality” as the key focus area for the French G7 presidency, the raison d’être of the G7 is finding solutions to immediate economic and geopolitical problems. It is not talking endlessly about niche issues of social policy, and every hour wasted doing this is one less for the discussions that matter – of which there are undoubtedly enough, starting with the looming trade war with China. Trump’s aides to their credit made this point, though unfortunately to deaf ears, with the result that Trump – out of courtesy – had to sit through the session – no doubt with rising exasperation.

Much more to the point, however, is the sheer authoritarianism of this Gender Equality Advisory Council, now seemingly a permanent part of the G7 establishment. Issues of abortion and contraception, for example, are delicate matters of social policy, raising even more delicate issues of democracy, constitutionalism and states’ rights. For a central government to impose summary solutions at the behest of international bodies may be the practice in a number of UN member states, and in some states from which the group is drawn. It is not the American way, or for that matter the way of most democratic countries. Again, gender quotas are highly controversial, and rightly so, as a matter of discrimination law. They are even more difficult when it comes to legislatures, since essentially the demand here is that electorates be denied the right to choose the people they wants unless their gender breakdown meets certain arbitrary criteria. Yet the Advisory Council is essentially calling for their introduction by fiat, a feature not so much of democratic government as top-down managerialism. And there is something remarkably ironic about a group of liberal activists being sponsored to require aid donors, in good colonialist fashion, to dictate the social policy of recipients as regards women’s equality issues.

The last point is the simplest. The G7, having started out as a useful and slightly unusual body with a clear and relevant agenda, is becoming more like a mini-UN. If we want to listen to discussion of social policy, normally with a leftish anti-American and anti-Western bias, we can hear it ad nauseam in the real UN and its appendages such as UNESCO or the UN Human Rights Commission. Why pay over again to hear the same stuff the same stuff in the G7? The US might as well save both its President’s time and its taxpayers’ money.

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