The goal of Civil7 (C7) is to enter into dialogue with the German government and the heads of states of the G7 countries in order to introduce civil society positions into summit decisions. In a transparent and open process, Working Groups will develop policy recommendations on global key topics which are then summarised and passed on to the G7 representatives. One main focus of C7 is to represent points of view from countries that are not officially represented in the G7. These countries are often particularly affected by global crises such as the Corona pandemic or climate change, but have fewer opportunities to exert influence internationally – both at the political and civil society level. For the first time, the C7 process under the German G7 presidency will be accompanied by an international Steering Committee (for its members’ tasks and responsibilities see below).
Having long met behind closed doors, the G7 governments are now actively seeking dialogue with non-governmental actors from businesses, civil society and research institutions. In this context, the Engagement Groups play an important role by providing a platform that will help create a more structured exchange. The C7 is one of the official Engagement Groups of the G7, alongside Women 7 (W7), Science 7 (S7), Business 7 (B7), Labour 7 (L7), Youth 7 (Y7) and Think tanks (T7). In close exchange with the G7 representatives, the Engagement Groups contribute their positions on current G7 issues to the process. At best, their suggestions and recommendations can find their way into G7 agreements and policies.Each interest groups remains independent and organises its work autonomously. The respective presidency mandates national representations for co-ordination according to the interest groups. VENRO, the Association of German Development and Humanitarian Aid NGOs, and the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development were mandated to coordinate this year’s C7.
How relevant is such a forum of the world’s seven (supposedly) leading economies in a globalised world that can no longer be divided into developed and developing countries? What is the G7’s economic and political weight – also given their regular meetings within the framework of the G20?
In contrast to the G20 whose members have met for the first time in 1999, that is almost 25 years after the initial G7 exchange, the latter positions itself as a community of values whose aim is to strengthen multilateralism and jointly address global challenges. Even if the exclusivity of the G7 is to be questioned, not least the Corona pandemic has shown how important international coordination is. To this end, the G7 represents an informal forum in which central structural issues are discussed and courses of action are agreed upon, thereby also contributing to sustainable development goals as formulated in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.
The involvement in the C7 process enables civil society actors to expand their international networks and to develop recommendations for action on selected subjects. The dialogue and recommendations brought about by the C7 are sought and valued by the Federal Government and the G7. This opens up the possibility to represent civil society positions at the international level as well as to raise concerns and contribute expertise. Involvement in the C7 process is voluntary and unremunerated.
The Steering Committee is responsible for the strategic orientation of the C7 process. It meets at regular intervals and plays an important role in the thematic allocation of the Working Groups and the preparation of a final position paper. The Steering Committee was put together by taking into account professional expertise, geographical origin and gender aspects in order to guarantee the greatest possible representation of the various international civil society groups.
The Working Groups are responsible for professional exchange and position finding. Participation in the Working Groups is open to all interested civil society organisations and actors. They can introduce topics and ideas and also take over a coordinating role. In each group, positions and recommendations for action are drawn up under the direction of coordinators. The key points are summarised in a final document, the C7 Communiqué, which is officially handed over to the G7.
The German Government will present its priorities at the beginning of the presidency. The C7 will, on the one hand, be guided by these focal points, and on the other hand, will set their own substantive priorities which, from a civil society perspective, should also be introduced in the dialogue with the G7. These priorities are also, but not exclusively, based on previous C7 processes and the parallel C20 process. The Steering Committee will play a guiding role in the final selection of topics.
The Working Groups are led by at least two coordinators who steer and moderate the dialogue and the position finding of the participating organisations and networks. They are supported by the C7 Secretariat. The Working Groups’ proposals are confirmed by the Steering Committee.
VENRO and the NGO Forum on Environment and Development have received the mandate from the German Federal Government to coordinate and moderate the C7 process. In accompanying the G7 presidency, they advocate subjects that are important for international civil society by opening up the process on an international level. By organising and communicating the process, they facilitate a structured dialogue between the G7 and civil society. They organise and coordinate the framework needed to produce the final Communiqué and hand it over to the G7.