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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Finnegan

How the G7 can truly build a better world (and why they won’t)

Does the G7 actually want to build a better world? What's stopping them?

In June of this year, the G7 announced a new global infrastructure initiative to “Build Back [a] Better World” (B3W). The leaders of some of the world’s biggest economies hope this “Better World” will be a place where issues of “climate, health and health security, digital technology, and gender equity and equality” are a thing of the past. While this no doubt seems all too utopian, to the extent of being unattainable, there are several very real obstacles the G7 must address to pave the way for any amount of success through this initiative.

It does not take long to uncover the skewed priorities of the G7 in undertaking the B3W partnership. In the White House statement released on June 12th about the initiative, “competition with China” is identified as the first goal they seek to accomplish, only then followed by the more noble objective of meeting “the tremendous infrastructure needed in low- and middle-income countries”. Although China is not mentioned again in the document, there is no doubt that this partnership looks to counter China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative (BRI) which is slowly but surely giving rise to further dominance by China throughout the emerging world.

Since September 2013, the BRI has looked to more efficiently link Europe, Africa and Oceania to China, through billions of dollars in chinese investment into infrastructure projects such as railways, roads and ports. Not only will this pivot the world’s economy towards China, experts fear the potential use of debt-trap diplomacy, whereby China will gain political influence over weaker nations who may fail to repay these often excessive investments.

As such, it is clear that the B3W presents a somewhat delayed attempt to compete with the BRI, as the G7 looks to limit the extent of and damage from this seemingly inevitable economic powershift. After all, any gain to China, whether that be economic or political, must inherently come at the cost of the world’s other leading economies who the G7 largely represent.

If this is the case, if the B3W is in fact prompted primarily by an apparent need to counter China, then the initiative is doomed to failure. Such a priority moves the focus from empowering low- and middle-income countries and instead focuses on self-empowerment, as the members of the G7 look to maintain a stranglehold on their collectively diminishing economic standing.

It would certainly not be a stretch to liken current events to imperialist acts such as the Scramble for Africa of the late 19th Century which, far from meeting “the world’s biggest challenges”, catalysed and exacerbated many of the issues that the B3W is allegedly now trying to solve.

Therefore, if the G7 do in fact want to build back a better world they need to focus on doing just that, laying aside political rivalries or fears and dealing with the systemic issues that plague the emerging world, whether that be through infrastructure investment or otherwise. There are plenty of agreements, treaties and objectives already in place, why not focus on these, instead of starting from scratch once more?

Take the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals as an example. The types of infrastructure expenditure the G7 is proposing could work wonders in achieving ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’, ‘Affordable Energy’ or ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’, to name a few, when spent in the right way and for the right reasons.

There is no doubt that our world could be better. Health crises, environmental disasters and international conflicts are only the tip of the iceberg when we look at a globe torn by devastating inequality and disadvantage. The G7 have a genuine opportunity here to create long-term change, and ultimately the choice is theirs as they decide the priorities of this new initiative.

By Christopher Finnegan - First Year Bachelor of Commerce and Advanced Studies (International Business and Economic Policy)


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