By: Martín Waldman

The G8 Research Group, based at UofT’s Trinity College and the Munk School of Global Affairs, has released an Interim Compliance Report outlining the progress of G8 countries in complying with the key promises they made during last June’s summit in Muskoka.

Formed in 1987, the G8 Research Group is a large network of scholars, professionals and students aiming to give an independent analysis of the G8 and its accomplishments, or lack thereof, over time. Their regular compliance reports rely entirely on publicly available materials and information. To help focus the latest report’s findings, 18 specific commitments deemed to be the highest priorities were selected for analysis out of more than 70, among them health care funding, food and agriculture, terrorism, and climate change. The findings assess compliance up to February 8th of this year, and are presented on a scale from +1 (full compliance) to -1 (no action taken).

This time around, Canada has found itself at the top of the country rankings, having followed through with most of their stated commitments, despite conspicuously taking no action towards their pledges on the reduction of mid-term carbon emissions. In second place, somewhat surprisingly, was Russia, which usually ranks between sixth and eighth. “Russia is the outlier in these findings,” explains G8 Research Group chair Netila Demneri. “The average compliance of the rest of the countries has not deviated much from their historical interim trends. On average in the last five interim reports, Canada, the UK and the EU have scored within the first three places.”

As a group, the G8 achieved a score of +0.41, up from +0.33 this time last year. As Demneri notes, the findings also show that “the compliance gap between members has decreased compared to previous interim reports, which means that G8 members are being more compliant with the pledges they make at the summits.”

However, one area in which the entire G8 fell well short of their commitments was health care funding, also known as the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Stephen Harper’s Conservative government had heavily publicized their plans to make maternal health a major policy priority at the June 2010 summit, despite announcing that his government would not provide funding for abortion services overseas. Even so, progress in the health care funding criteria has been much slower than in other areas, with the G8 scoring a combined -0.67 . France, Russia and the UK have pending funding commitments for health care, which could boost the overall score, but the Muskoka Initiative has nevertheless had less of an impact than initially hoped.

When asked to speculate on what some of these results suggest about the G8 itself, and its member countries, Ms. Demneri explains that interpretation and commentary fall outside of the group’s mandate. “The G8RG only researches and documents the G8 members’ actions; our mandate is to capture and present facts and actions – we do not interpret these or the causes behind them.”

The G8RG’s Interim Compliance Report is an extremely detailed and painstakingly researched document, with far more data than can be discussed in this article. Given the political neutrality of its analysis, and Ms. Demneri’s stated focus of evaluating compliance data without interpreting it, the report is a useful springboard for any thorough investigation of the G8, and its role in the international community.

Key findings:

Canada placed first in compliance with stated goals, tied with the European Union, and followed in second place by Russia.

Commitments on Health Care Funding were most neglected, with most countries taking no action.

Canada scored -1 (no action taken) on its commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

Overall compliance was highest for terrorism- and security-related areas.

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