Mission creep? The nontraditional security agenda of the G7/8 and the nascent role of the G-20.

Author:Engelbrekt, Kjell

In 2008-2011, the Group of 20 swiftly eclipsed the Group of 7, created in the mid-1970s as an informal mechanism for stabilizing markets and facilitating transnational currency exchange and investment. Several observers have expressed the view that the former, broader group is also destined to appropriate the role of the Group of 8, the G7's pioneering successor in the realm of nontraditional security. This article examines the G7/8 legacy of forging quasi-permanent institutional arrangements and frameworks in this policy area and goes on to gauge nontraditional security initiatives subsequently launched by the G-20. Having juxtaposed the past record of these bodies and analyzed the interests and power dynamics that influence member state action in the short and long term, the article outlines three basic options for how the relationship between the G-20 and the G7/8 may evolve. Keywords: G7, G8, G-20, nontraditional security, summit diplomacy.


Gardels: The advanced economies organized around the U.S. and the G7 are increasingly unable to provide global public goods--stable financial flows, a stable reserve currency, security, fighting climate change--yet the emerging economies led by China are not yet able to do so.

Is the G20, now meeting in Cannes, the mechanism of adjustment of this shifting world order since it contains both the advanced and the emerging economies? Can it collectively provide global public goods neither can on their own?

Kissinger: Yes, the G20 is the forum for this adjustment. But it will be a big and difficult effort for it to do so. There is no certainty of success, but the effort is critical if we want a stable world. (1)

After two meetings of heads of state and government held in 2008, it was the 2009 Pittsburgh summit that first designated the Group of 20 (G-20) "the premier forum for our international economic cooperation." In this capacity the G-20 swiftly eclipsed the Group of 7 (G7), created in the mid-1970s as an informal mechanism for stabilizing financial and energy markets and facilitating transnational currency exchange and foreign investment. Merely five years into its existence, the G-20 was providing two of the global public goods enumerated by editor Nathan Gardels in his interview with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, as it oversaw regulatory regimes in banking, securities, insurance, and trade. (2)

By the mid-2010s, the initial hype surrounding the G-20 had subsided. (3) Yet according to extrapolations of global economic growth, the gap between established and emerging great powers is expected to continue narrowing in the coming decades, albeit not at the accelerated pace predicted at the height of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. (4) Given this general trajectory, the question is whether the stability of financial and currency markets constitutes satisfactory ambitions for a group of leaders who collectively represent some four-filths of the gross world economic output and two-thirds of the global population, or if the mandate of the G-20 could and should broaden.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the leaders of the G7--which shaded into the Group of 8 (G8) after Russia joined in 1998 and back to G7 as a result of that country's military incursions into neighboring Ukraine in 2014_obviously felt they could not neglect high-profile issues related to foreign and security policy. (5) Early G7 summits therefore featured airplane hijacking and the stationing of US cruise and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe, prompting the group to hold parallel meetings on economic and foreign and security policy. The high point of the group's entanglement with traditional foreign and security policy appears to have been 1983, when leaders sought to stem criticism of NATO's plans to base new US missiles in Europe by adopting a Declaration on Security at the Williamsburg summit. (6)

In the late 1980s the G7 stepped back from traditional security matters, presumably due to the waning Cold War as much as the group's expanding economic agenda. Via task forces, working groups, and expert networks, the G7 shifted toward initiatives in the realm of so-called nontraditional security. (7) In 1995 the group integrated counterterrorism and the fight against organized crime into its agenda, and two years later the scope was extended to high-technology crimes. After Russia's entry in 1999, the G8 briefly reverted to an active diplomatic role to resolve the Kosovo conflict, though NATO's military intervention soon overshadowed the group's role. In response to al-Qaeda s attacks on Washington, DC, and New York on September 11, 2001, however, the G8 successfully harmonized the policies of major countries in the sphere of counterterrorist financing and adopted, in 2004, a common stance on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (8)

Indeed, following the G-20 "upgrade" to a top-level summit, the nontraditional security agenda was virtually elevated to the raison d'etre of the G8. (9) But does the rise of the G-20 as a much broader collective obviate the need for the G7/8 in noneconomic areas as well? Could the nontraditional security agenda of the G8 be transferred to the still nascent broader constellation, especially given the functional overlap in the area of banking and financial services regulations? Is it possible to satisfy the aspirations and concerns of G8 and G-20 member states so as to make this happen? If so, what would be a reasonable scope of commitments for each of them and an appropriate time frame for changing the status quo?

One view is that diluting the financial and economic agenda of the G20 jeopardizes its performance on achieving stable global growth. (10) Others believe that, if short- and long-term concerns of great powers can be aligned, an expansion of the mandate of the G-20 may help offset the weaknesses of formal intergovernmental bodies." Western European governments ultimately regard the weakening of G7/G8 with apprehension, realizing that their relative weight in a larger group declines. Leaders of countries that aspire to gain a permanent seat at the UN Security Council--primarily India, Brazil, South Africa, Germany, and Japan--are wary that expanding the scope of G-20 initiatives could circumscribe the former body's role. China and Russia, from their privileged position as Council incumbents, have deliberately sought to enhance their leverage within the G-20 by promoting the Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) constellation. Russian's sudden annexation of Crimea in early 2014 and further military inroads into Ukrainian territory, however, will at least temporarily hurt that country's international standing.

I begin this article with an overview of the nontraditional security legacy of the G7/8, analyzing existing institutional arrangements and frameworks. (12) I go on to explore nontraditional security initiatives originating from the G20 summitry that overlap with the former, identifying transfer/nontransfer of arrangements and frameworks to the larger body. I further examine the power dynamics at work among key G7/8 and G-20 stakeholders and outline three options for how the respective mandates in nontraditional security may be delineated. The first option implies a swift and structured transfer of commitments from the G7/8 to the G-20 whereas the second consolidates the division of labor roughly where it is drawn at present. A third option is to retain a tentative separation of G8 and G-20 responsibilities, in what can be described as "mission creep." (13)

The G7/8 and Nontraditional Security

Over the past twenty-five years, the G7/8 established a series of intergovernmental programs, working groups, task forces, and expert networks assigned to different nontraditional security objectives. Several such initiatives gradually acquired the characteristics of "nested formality" within the informal setting of the G7/8, in that they were made quasi-permanent with regular scheduled meetings devoted to specific sets of issues and reporting mechanisms. (14) Influential frameworks with quasi-permanent status are the Roma-Lyon Group (RLG), the Counter-Terrorism Action Group (CTAG), the Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Experts Group (PPEG), the Africa Clearinghouse, and the Global Partnership Working Group, all created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on US soil. But a particularly important institutional arrangement is the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which was already set up at the 1989 G7 Paris summit. The FATF opened the door for nontraditional security cooperation and was later granted formal status through the creation of a plenary, a secretariat, and a presidency. (15)

In the first decade of its existence, the FATF pioneered a novel approach to transnational counter--money laundering. The forty recommendations adopted in April 1990 have remained the core of FATF activities. After its original emphasis on preventing the unimpeded circulation of money generated through drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime, the FATF turned to vulnerable business sectors and their entanglement with financial services in free-trade zones, the real estate sector, casino and betting services, migrant remittances, and international arms trade. The number of member states rose to twenty-eight by 1992 and the regime--through the creation of so-called FATF Style Regional Bodies--grew to comprise almost the entire world. Today, FATF-inspired monitoring activities cover financial operations from fund-raising to money transfers, capital management, and money disbursement. (16)

The 9/11 attacks prompted the crucial adoption of Security Council Resolution 1373 as well as the adding of nine FATF recommendations, all aimed at the prevention of terrorist financing. Especially as the Council strengthened its enforcement capacity, the implementation of Resolution 1373 and the FATF regime became mutually reinforcing. (17)...

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