Governance and public sector management, Regional cooperation and integration

Will the G7 Apulia Summit Follow Think Tanks to Rearticulate Multilateralism?

By the end of 2024, people across 65 countries, nearly half of the global population, will have cast a vote in an election, marking the biggest manifestation of the democratic process in history. [1] With populism on the rise, the geopolitical landscape of 2025 could therefore look very different from that of today. Multilateralism can be seen as being under threat, but think tanks can play an important role in supporting it through new forms of scientific and policy cooperation.

For many, globalization has become synonymous with social or economic inequities and governments’ inability to address widespread crises and transformations. The G7 leaders’ summit in Apulia, Italy, takes place at a time when there can be no status quo. In such a context, the enduring cooperation of think tanks during the past G7 and G20 presidencies offers valuable insights.

In 2023, the final communiqué of the Think7 (T7), G7 Japan’s engagement group of think tanks, promoted the “bridging of G7 and G20” to “address intersecting security, financial and environmental crises” and “re-ignite a universal approach to the 2030 Agenda.”[2] The communiqué, which was formally presented to the Prime Minister of Japan, was the result of extensive dialogue between think tanks from G7 Japan and G20 India. It was first initiated during G7 Germany and G20 Indonesia the year before and spanned several months, involving representatives of the sherpa and finance tracks and other stakeholders, such as foundations and philanthropies.[3]

In 2024, the T7 communiqué, adopted at the T7 Summit held at Luiss University in Rome and chaired by the Italian Institute for International Affairs (IAI) and the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), called on G7 leaders to “promote new instruments of cooperation and governance” based upon “inclusive and holistic approaches”. This recommendation was embodied by the T7 task forces on energy, climate and sustainable development, science, and digitalization for a better future, which drew on the work of more than 150 high-level experts from G7 and G20 countries and beyond.

How can such cooperation expand and support governments to make progress on global challenges, such as climate, during this super year of democratic elections?

Last year at the G7 leaders’ summit in Japan, Giorgia Meloni, the Prime Minister of Italy, said the “South” would be central to Italy’s G7. The leaders of Brazil and India have been invited to join G7 leaders in Apulia, along with their counterparts from a dozen countries from the Global South, plus the African Union. The G7 Italy leaders’ summit includes sessions on the Indo-Pacific, economic security, Africa, climate change, and development, which demonstrates the G7 is slowly moving away from a long-prevailing, narrow-minded, and short-sighted “the West and the rest” approach.[4]

The G7 alone can no longer decide the future of multilateralism, but it can certainly help showcase that it is a common good. Yet, to do so, new forms of international cooperation are necessary. By convincing people and their governments that multilateralism yields benefits that far outpace the costs, think tanks could also meet the demand for more social, economic, and climate justice. A few convening platforms, such as the annual Global Solutions Summit in Berlin, have played an important role in showcasing the work of think tanks to a larger audience, including the German Chancellor.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, innovative and efficient forms of cooperation among civil society engagement groups have multiplied. During G20 Italy and G20 Indonesia in 2021 and 2022, joint initiatives by the group of think tanks, businesses, and the D20 Long-Term Investors Club, in coordination with the respective presidencies, have helped transform the landscape of infrastructure and global financing for a just energy transition. During G20 India in 2023, the group of think tanks incubated the ambitious University Connect project, which mobilized several dozens of universities across India, in cooperation with many of their counterparts in lower- and middle-income countries. The think tanks were also instrumental in the launch of the Global Alliance on Life Economy Research and Innovation, echoing the agreement of G20 leaders to reignite the 2030 Agenda. Those efforts are complemented by new initiatives, such as ThinkAsia, a global knowledge platform for think tanks across the globe, and the NEXT Forum created by ISPI to nurture young talent and future leaders.

Hence, rearticulating multilateralism is not about any grand plan to reform international institutions or the global financial architecture overnight. It is about reiterating that multilateralism matters and demonstrating how it matters. It is about supporting joint efforts from civil society and governments to go beyond short-sighted attempts to make cuts in regulatory systems regarding social, economic, scientific, or environmental matters. It would be very easy to lose the multiple benefits gained from decades of building a world much less exposed to poverty, hunger, and illiteracy just by closing on globalization. Yet, it is still possible to avoid such a huge collapse.

Last year, in 2023, the cooperation and steadfast dialogue among think tanks from the G7 and G20 helped understand the links between debt and rising gaps in financing climate, biodiversity, and development agendas, especially in lower- and middle-income countries. In response, think tanks jointly formulated a 10-point action plan, which the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) has continued through the Asia Africa Pacific Climate Finance Forum, together with the monetary authorities from over a dozen developing countries. This year, G20 Brazil has assigned a pivotal role to the civil society engagement group, Civil20 (C20). Hence, the C20 has initiated a dialogue on climate action and sustainable development with national and global think tanks, the G20 presidency, and other institutions.

There are many ways to make even more progress by promoting more regular and consistent dialogue among the different engagement groups in the G7 and G20. For instance, Civil7 (C7), the civil society group of the G7, convened representatives of the civil society group of the G20 at its summit in Rome. Last year, over half a dozen of the G7 Japan engagement groups cooperated with T7 to issue a joint declaration promoting gender equality in times of digitalization.

Looking back, from the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008 to the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the past decade or more has delivered creative ways to connect science, policy making, development, and culture. [5] As new patterns of competition, multipolarity, and complementarity emerge,  think tanks can play an even greater role and positively respond to those rejecting international cooperation.

The proximity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and G20 summits in 2022 and 2023 played in favor of the adoption of a shared G20 leader’s communiqué. This year, the Brazilian G20 presidency wants to impress a sense of continuity with next year’s BRICS summit and COP30, as both take place in Brazil.

The G7 leaders’ summit in Apulia begins just a week after the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, and before a significant summit in Switzerland on the war in Ukraine. Think tanks have demonstrated the benefits of greater cooperation among themselves and with other groups, and their ability to innovate across geopolitical fault lines. It is time for think tanks to strengthen the case for “track two diplomacy” while valuing the many lessons learned in the G20 and G7. This is a responsibility shared with governments and international financial institutions.

1Plackett, B. 2024. What the Science of Elections Can Reveal in This Super-Election Year. Nature. 10 June.

2The T7 Japan Communiqué was complemented by a joint communiqué with the groups of Civil Society (C7), Youth (Y7), Women (W7) and Pride (P7) promoting gender equality and inclusion in a digital society.

3Rockefeller Foundation. 2023. Think7 and Think20 Launch a Shared Agenda for Global Cooperation. 15 May.

4Reuters. 2024. G7 Puglia Summit: Participants, Agenda and Key Issues Explained. 13 June.

5In 2023, ADBI edited a book, A World in Crisis, a World in Progress: Growing Better Together, which reviewed the outcomes of the T20 since its inception in 2012 during G20 Mexico.

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Nicolas Buchoud

About the Author

Nicolas J.A. Buchoud is a senior advisor to the dean and CEO of ADBI. He is also a senior fellow at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries in New Delhi and a fellow at the Global Solutions Initiative in Berlin.

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