This past weekend (19th-21st May), the 49th G7 Summit was hosted by Japan and held in the city of Hiroshima. The city serves as a poignant backdrop for the summit due to its tragic history. In 1945, Hiroshima was one of two Japanese cities to be devastated by an atomic bomb, causing death and destruction previously thought of as unimaginable. By choosing Hiroshima as the venue for the summit, Japan aimed to remind the international community of the most extreme costs of war while also highlighting the importance of seeking peaceful solutions to conflicts. This is a particularly powerful message more than one year on from the start of the war in Ukraine. It is also worth noting that this summit was the first G7 summit as heads of government for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, both of whom took office last year in the midst of politically difficult circumstances at the domestic level. While it made no attempt to hide the challenges the world currently faces, the G7’s emphasis on global collaboration provides at least some room for optimism.
One of the most significant challenges that the nations of the G7 faces is the ongoing war in Ukraine. In a show of solidarity, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was invited to the Hiroshima summit, where leaders continued to express their support for Ukraine. At the beginning of the conflict last year, many nations, including those in the G7, were reluctant to provide extensive support to Ukraine, fearing escalation and retaliation from Russia. However, this is recently begun to change as Ukraine’s allies have continued to supply the nation with funding, weapons, and training in order to aid Ukraine in defending itself from Russia’s attacks. This support was made clear by American President Joe Biden, who has pledged additional funding and training for Ukrainian forces, while also committing to supplying F-16 fighter jets, a clear improvement from Ukraine’s current fighter jets which date back to the Soviet Era. If anything is clear from Zelenskyy’s visit to the G7, it is that this conflict is far from over and this was demonstrated during the summit, where Russian forces have claimed to have captured the city of Bakhmut, in the eastern Ukraine. However, this claim has been denied by President Zelenskyy himself. Despite the ongoing conflict, the continued supply of resources to Ukraine suggests that the support of the international community has not wavered, which Russia likely did not expect at the start of the conflict.
Another challenge discussed by the G7 was the continued rise of China. At the end of the summit, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described China as this generation’s biggest challenge to global security, while also claiming that China is becoming “increasingly authoritarian at home and assertive abroad”. While this is a strongly worded description, Sunak has clearly chosen his words carefully. Describing China as a “challenge” rather than a threat demonstrates that while the G7 nations are concerned about China’s growing influence on the world stage, they also understand the value in maintaining a trade relationship with one of the world's most powerful economies.
There was also a focus on the economy and climate change at this year’s summit. The rising cost of living has become a global issue, although the impact has varied between nations. This is evident in the impact on the economy in the UK, the only G7 nation with a weaker economy today than before the COVID-19 pandemic, with other economies still facing considerable challenges in their own right. Meanwhile, there was a continued discussion on climate change, with leaders discussing means of transitioning to renewable energy sources. However, efforts towards a greener energy supply have been slow as time runs out to keep global warming at manageable levels. Despite this, there has been a greater focus on energy independence since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, with leaders seeking to take the opportunity to develop a renewable energy infrastructure.
Overall, this year’s G7 summit showed that the leaders of these nations were keen to maintain the sense of international cooperation. This was reflected in the summit’s continued support for Ukraine in addition to its discussions regarding China, the global economy, and the environment. While it may be encouraging to see signs of international cooperation, it remains to be seen as to whether significant action will follow the Hiroshima summit.
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