Ladies and gentlemen,
Today is a kick-off and premiere.
It is the first of seven engagement group meetings to prepare the G7 Summit in Elmau at the end of June.
Let me say one thing in advance: the German G7 Presidency remains committed to tackling the global challenges that the war in Ukraine has only exacerbated.
“Progress towards an equitable world” – that is our ambition. And we will achieve this goal only if we work together.
That is why we have not only invited representatives of international organisations to Elmau. But also a number of additional Heads of State and Government.
And that is why we have very deliberately decided on this outreach to you, our civil society partners, as a key pillar of our Presidency.
We want to make clear: the G7 is far more than just an association of advanced industrialised nations. It is a strong global alliance based on liberal democratic values and goals.
And in the face of the major global challenges, we are doing everything we can to ensure that no cracks open up in this alliance.
That’s why I am pleased that the first G7 outreach summit is taking place with you, our civil society partners.
Because – and this is my first point – democracy needs a vibrant civil society. It needs you! Especially now.
A dreadful war has been raging in Ukraine for over two months. Not a day goes by without terrible news and images from Mariupol, Bucha and other Ukrainian towns and villages.
It is unacceptable. And that is why the G7 today stands as united as seldom before.
The war of aggression against Ukraine has given rise to unprecedented close coordination.
Because we can feel what unites us across borders – freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
We must defend and enforce these values against oppression, injustice and dictatorship.
This holds true for governments.
It holds true for the citizens of our countries.
And it also holds true for the civil society organisations you represent.
There is a greater need than ever for your expertise, advice and experience. Particularly because we can see how the scope for civil society engagement is being restricted – not only in Russia, but around the world.
We hear of “shrinking spaces”, especially in authoritarian states.
And we want to send a clear signal of opposition to this during Germany’s G7 Presidency.
That is why we are strengthening protection programmes for human rights defenders, academics, journalists and artists.
And we are strengthening international criminal jurisdiction and accountability mechanisms – not least in Ukraine.
Secondly, civil society engagement can break down barriers – between individuals, between social groups, and across borders.
In Germany alone, there are about thirty million citizens engaged in a host of ways, many of them on a voluntary basis.
Men, women, young people, old people – citizens from very different backgrounds. They get involved. They roll up their sleeves and get stuck in where necessary.
This engagement creates ties. It connects people and organisations across borders.
We are seeing an example just now in the solidarity with refugees from Ukraine.
I saw it for myself in Berlin-Tegel: Many citizens are helping in initiatives and arrival centres.
I am incredibly moved by the solidarity of the hundreds of thousands of professional aid workers and volunteer helpers. Over the past few weeks, they have gone the extra mile.
And I am particularly impressed by the organisations pooling, coordinating and directing this engagement.
Many of them are international organisations like yours, with experts and many years of experience on the ground.
They are enabling assistance and support to be provided across borders to the areas in crisis – especially humanitarian assistance and medical care, sometimes under extremely adverse conditions.
And they are also documenting atrocities and human rights violations. Therefore, they are often the ones who can really provide reliable information about the situation on the ground.
For example: the images from Bucha or Mariupol prove how important the work of photographers and journalists is for reporting – particularly when unfiltered, unattributed information is being spread via social media.
This engagement to ensure press freedom and combat misinformation requires courage and great intercultural skills. But it is desperately needed!
Therefore, the G7 will hold even more intensive discussions about disinformation campaigns and coordinate our responses to them.
My third point is this: we need support from civil society to tackle the major global challenges.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, human-induced climate change, food and energy security and the economic transition are among them.
Addressing them requires creative responses and fresh impulses.
I firmly believe that those who want to bring about change should cooperate with those who stand for change.
These are often none other than the stakeholders from civil societies.
You and your organisations play a key role.
On the one hand, you are communicators to civil society, promoting acceptance and engagement.
On the other, you are important seismographs who sound the alarm – for instance, in the face of menacing food scarcity in the developing countries and emerging economies.
You also combine interests and can represent them very effectively.
This means more than people having their say and being involved. It means taking an active part in policy making.
I want to give you two examples:
One is international climate policy, where we are aiming for a paradigm shift.
The task that lies before us is immense, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. And that is something we must do. There is no way around it.
In concrete terms, it means that we must reduce global CO2 emissions by 48 percent compared with 2010. And that until 2030. Which means we have less than eight years left.
And, by the middle of the century, we must reach “net zero”, which means carbon-neutrality, around the globe.
An international climate change policy geared to the lowest common denominator won’t get us there.
Therefore, instead of waiting for the slowest, we will go ahead with the most ambitious countries. This is the idea behind an open, cooperative Climate Club, which we will push forward at the G7 Summit in Elmau in June.
Together with other committed countries, we want to accelerate the decarbonisation of our industrial sector and identify minimum standards for climate change mitigation.
This will give rise to an international market with a level playing field, a market that rewards countries for climate-friendly economic management while offering protection against competitive disadvantages.
All these changes will have a massive impact on each and every one of us, on the way we live.
Support from you, our civil society partners, is needed to assist, guide and advice policy makers in this process.
This is also true when it comes to global health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made one thing clear: we either fight the virus everywhere, or nowhere.
We therefore want to advance the issue of global vaccine fairness during our G7 Presidency.
To that end, the international community launched the ACT Accelerator – an initiative that makes vaccines, medicines and diagnostics available around the world.
Germany has pledged a contribution of 1.5 billion US dollars this year for that and supporting measures.
With a view to future crises, we also need a strong international healthcare infrastructure.
That’s why we are strengthening the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the prime international health organisation.
Just last week, the WHO Working Group on Sustainable Financing agreed on a clear target: to increase assessed contributions to 50 percent of the base segment of the programme budget.
That sounds technical, but means that we enable the WHO to do its job.
In addition, we will drive forward global vaccine production.
To that end, together with colleagues from four African countries, the European Union, the African Union and the private sector – German-based company BioNTech – we launched an initial project to kick-start the production of mRNA vaccines in Africa.
Because only sustainable progress can be real progress towards a fairer world.
I know that is what you are working for, too.
I would like to thank you all for your engagement in this outreach process.
My thanks go in particular to the Association of German Development NGOs “VENRO” and the German Forum on Environment and Development for coordinating this C7 process.
You have done a great job!
And I would like to thank you especially for also having taken account of civil society perspectives from non-G7 countries – in particular those hit hardest by global crises such as the pandemic or climate change.
It is in this spirit that we are finalizing our preparations for the G7 Summit in Elmau in just under two months’ time.
Our goal for this meeting is to send a strong message from the G7 – for progress, prosperity, peace and security.
Now I’m looking forward to your recommendations. Let me assure you that we will include them in our work, which I see as a joint endeavour.