Research-based
policy recommendations
for the G7

Social cohesion, economic transformation and open societies

The Think7 task force on social cohesion, economic transformation, and open societies will explore themes at the confluence of three pressing topics – the environmental transition, social protection systems, and digital democracy. Strengthening social cohesion will be pivotal for successfully maneuvering through the coming decade: Successful global climate action will require social conditions that promote willingness at all levels to engage. To relieve the strain from regional inequalities, de-industrialization, and ageing demographics, G7 countries will have to dramatically increase the efficiency and efficacy of their social protection systems and make them more adaptable, empowering, inclusive and sustainable. Last but not least, democracy requires that social cohesion be rooted in shared perceptions of facts and realities; thus, establishing “data citizenship” – whereby users gain individual and collective control over the data about themselves – is central to the long-term health of democratic governance.

The task force will develop specific policy recommendations for the G7 that address these challenges and strengthen social cohesion.

Publications

Call for Action: New Conception of Prosperity and Measures of Progess Needed

To overcome the major challenges the world is facing today – from recovering from the pandemic to mitigating climate change – the global community will need concerted, transformative policy efforts, aligned with collective values and societal goals. To achieve this, a new conception of prosperity, along with a related comprehensive yet concise set of goalpost indicators, are needed. We call upon the G7 to begin systematically measuring progress through internationally comparable, multidimensional metrics that cover (1) social well-being, (2) economic well-being, and (3)
environmental sustainability.

Issue Paper: Social Cohesion, Economic Transformation and Open Societies

G7 nations have a significant opportunity to strengthen the social contract between their governments and citizens, reconciling their economies and societies in ways that foster greater social cohesion. Equipping citizens with the participatory tools to navigate through future periods of uncertainty – including the next set of economic and environmental transformations – should be a priority for G7 governments as they continue to strive towards open societies, democratic freedoms, and enhanced political participation. Achieving such objectives will require three actions. First, G7 governments must replace the inadequate social safety nets of the past with new robust and resilient welfare systems, tailored to the needs of economies and societies in the 21st century. We call these systems ‘Universal Social Protections’. Second, G7 countries must leverage the potential of digital democracy, recognising that data is a new form of capital which will be critical to the running of our economies and societies in the future. Redirecting the flow of benefits from the digital transition into the hands of citizens themselves is essential if we are to rebuilding trust and social cohesion throughout G7 and G20 countries, and the wider world. Third, G7 countries need to redefine prosperity to encompass social and environmental flourishing, and develop new metrices to measure progress against these goals.

Our recommendations in this Issue Paper thus reflect a ‘New Multilateralism’ for the 21st Century: the belief that many of the challenges facing us today are inherently global in nature, requiring collective participation and co-operation. This expanded notion of social cohesion will only be achieved through a series of interlocking actions and policies linking social resilience to economic transformation, digital citizenship and multilateral decision procedures. This will require new institutions and new forms of collaboration with citizens themselves.

Implementing an Individual-empowered Data Governance Regime

Although the digital revolution has unleashed a vast array of new opportunities for economic, social and political exchange, there is a misalignment of interests between the users and suppliers of digital services. This policy brief identifies a central flaw of current digital governance systems: “third-party funded digital barter”. Consumers of digital services get many digital services for free (or under-priced) and in return have personal information about themselves collected for free. In addition, the digital consumers receive advertising and other forms of influence from the third parties that fund the digital services. The misalignment between the digital consumers and the digital third-party funders is responsible for a wide variety of malfunctions, which ultimately threaten the continued functioning of our economic market systems, weaken mental health, expose users to far-ranging manipulation of attention, thought, feeling and behavior; erode appreciation for objective notions of truth, undermine our democratic processes, and degrade the cohesion of our societies. The benefits from the digital revolution are not immutably tied to the current digital governance regimes. The central challenge of digital governance regimes lies in finding ways of making these regimes human-centred without sacrificing the technological benefits. The policy brief presents four policy guidelines that aim to correct this flaw by shifting control of personal data from the data aggregators and their third-party funders to the digital consumers. The proposals cover “official data” that require official authentication, “privy data” that is either generated by the data subjects about themselves or by second parties, and “collective data.” The proposals put each of these data types under the individual or collective control of the data subjects. There are also proposals to mitigate asymmetries of information and market power. The policy brief outlines in detail the technical mechanisms and business models which will enable the proposals to be practically implemented in very large scale.

A socially just transformation through integrated social protection 'plus' programming

Increasingly, the world’s 2-3 billion poor and vulnerable people face multiple overlaying crises – climate-related disasters, conflict, the Covid-19 pandemic and others. The complex challenges resulting from the ambition to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and tackle these crises in tandem will adversely affect vulnerable people and communities as well as groups suffering from intersecting inequalities that can be exacerbated. To achieve its ambitious goals, not least in climate and health, the G7 should lead a global campaign in favour of  integrated social protection programmes and the concept of ‘growth from below’ as cornerstones of development strategies.  This will enable a green recovery and fair transition towards sustainability in G7 countries and beyond, while helping and protecting vulnerable people and households against at least some of the many risks they face. This approach would not only contribute to reducing poverty rates and preventing impoverishment but also address multidimensional inequalities, working towards the 2030 Agenda’s mandate of leaving no one behind.

Sowing Seeds for Peace: Micro-level peacebuilding methods towards a just and sustainable urban transformation process

Wealth inequality is strongly associated with ecological inequality. Environmental degradation impacts poorer, more vulnerable communities, fuelling larger and more intertwined systemic crises. In this context, we need to open spaces to reach the veins of society for implementing ideas and for debating the practices of peace architecture, design, digital arts and urbanism that may positively impact, innovate and benefit specific communities and our cities. Towards meeting such need in the field and through nature-based solutions, the pre-existing peacebuilding methods can be transformed into micro and local level solutions for a just and sustainable urban transformation process. These tools also suggest new methods of dialogue for policy makers, scientists and transformers, particularly towards helping to build trust. This transformative approach for an open society aims to address intercultural and interreligious dialogue on the axis of a sustainable and just future, to strengthen women, to change consumption habits and behaviours accordingly, and to reorganise unusual collaborations with various actors in the city. This policy brief is an initiative that proposes solutions for policymakers by sharing positive results from field research on how we can take steps towards making our societies and economies more resilient and cohesive, and serve the public interest, particularly that of marginalised groups. As all these experimental approaches explore “socially innovative” ideas and concepts of “knowledge construction”, they continue to develop independently, converging more and more over time. This brief sets off by explaining the need for a peacebuilding process to jointly tackle climate change while exposing visible inequalities such as oppression, exploitation, marginalisation and discrimination in an urban environment. Then, it explains how the data obtained by the help of transdisciplinary (non-academic) and interdisciplinary (knowledge sharing) approaches may help us to establish dialogue between vulnerable groups and other actors in the city. Finally, it concludes with a concrete example from a peace project of the city of Wuppertal, with promising micro-level peacebuilding methods and a transformative space.

Establishing a Global Social Protection Fund from Revenues of Global Taxation

The recently agreed upon global minimum corporate tax will, from 2023, set a minimum tax rate of 15% on profits of large multinationals. We recommend that such a landmark progress in global taxation cooperation be accompanied by a landmark advancement in global solidarity. We urge G7 countries to devote half of the revenues they will collect from this tax (approximately $75bn) to the establishment of a Global Citizen Fund. The main purpose of such a Fund would be to pay out a universal global basic income equal to the international poverty line of $1.90 daily (adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity). This sum would enable to take approximately 260million poor people worldwide out of poverty (about a third of the people estimated to follow under the poverty line by the World Bank). Such a transfer could be progressively extended to become a global universal basic income. This policy would provide an automatic safety net against the occurrence of major economic shocks and empower the least advantaged individuals to fully realise their capacities. The now widespread tool of electronic money could be used as a means to provide cash transfers. The Global Citizen Income would be a step forward toward the creation of global social cohesion, and would be the most natural way to tackle the global crises that are looming. It would also be a way for global institutions like the G7 to reclaim trust and legitimacy.

Toward a Global Universal Basic Income for Children

Our policy brief directly addresses Germany’s G-7 priority of tackling issues of “particular global urgency …. to achieve tangible improvements for the people – within G7 countries and beyond, especially in newly industrialising and developing countries” by proposing a global basic income for all children. Even before COVID-19 hit, children were globally twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty, with long-term consequences for their life chances. During the past two years, the economic fall-out from the pandemic as well as school closures have further disproportionately hit children. Global shocks, whether pandemics or extreme weather conditions linked to climate change, are likely to only become more common, with negative shocks to our economies and social fabric, and ensuing humanitarian and migratory crises. We call for the establishment of a global universal basic income for all families with children, targeted preferentially via mothers, to ensure access to basic needs. This technically and fiscally feasible measure will have far-reaching benefits in the wellbeing and human capital of the next generation, directly addressing the G-7 policy priorities #2 (economic stability and transformation), #3 (healthy lives) and #5 (stronger together), and indirectly addressing priorities #1 (a sustainable planet) and #4 (investment in a better future). Furthermore, it will set a historical symbolic landmark: the beginning of a true sense of global citizenship where every child born will have his/her most basic needs ensured.

Digital Utilities for Scientific Research Towards an Equitable World

A vast amount of future-altering information has been created and gathered and is sitting, inaccessible, behind antiquated systems and structures. Two invaluable sources of information: scientific research and digital data remain trapped in systems that incentivize personal gain and profit over global access and equality. Between the scientific research pathways, Big Tech monopolies, patent systems and data security regulations, access is determined by prestige, power and wealth instead of fair benefit. We propose a pathway to a more equitable future by way of generative governance models, digital data utilities, transparent digital rights management and fair benefit sharing models. Through these systems, science and data can be used as a force for global good and innovation where anyone anywhere can innovate, engage and participate.

Towards Economic and Social Prosperity Measurement Beyond GDP

To overcome the major challenges the world is facing today – from recovering from the pandemic to mitigating climate change – the global community will need concerted, transformative policy efforts, aligned with collective values and societal goals. Economic recovery must be equitable and not come at the cost of social cohesion. To achieve this, a new conception and goalpost indicators of prosperity are needed. Productivity growth and material gain, measured in terms of GDP, is insufficient as a key performance indicator and as a yardstick for social progress. It treats as a derivate the things we actually value, including not only economic wealth and the distribution of income, but also other dimensions of prosperity: social solidarity and participation, personal agency and opportunities, and environmental sustainability. In this Policy Brief, we propose ways to rethink and design new measures of economic and social prosperity for the G7 and beyond, encompassing not only material wealth and economic performance, but also the social and environmental dimensions of prosperity. We present concrete recommendations on necessary steps to achieve a policy-reorientation anchored in what we actually value – towards economic and social prosperity measurement beyond GDP.

 

The roles and relationships of vocational and higher education in supporting economic recovery and the just transition

This policy brief considers the interconnected themes of economic recovery and the Just Transition (JT) – achieving net-zero emissions through greater social justice, linked to Presidency Priority 2 – Economic stability and transformation: setting the course for economic recovery, financial stability and for a sustainable, social and just global economic system. This sits within the strategic purpose of the G7 to promote democracy and pluralism. There are several related challenges in achieving Net Zero as we seek to ‘build back better’ following the COVID era. These include the conceptual challenge of understanding the relationship between different types of crises; reducing class gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and making ecological sustainability a possibility for low-income groups and vulnerable populations that are most impacted by the climate emergency. The Policy Brief starts by describing the multi-layered crisis and locating the JT in relation to other sustainability initiatives. The JT is then conceptualised through a multi-level social ecosystem model that embraces different levels of society from the micro- to the macro-, with a particular emphasis on the middle scalars (meso and exo) that embrace communities, organisations, and local/regional economies and governance. These are underpinned by local democracy. The Brief explores different dimensions of the JT, with specific reference to technical and vocational education, including higher education (TVET) and the role of TVET institutions in relationship to local and regional JT systems. Proposals include recommendations that TVET institutions collaborate, in a pluralistic way, with each other, with wider civil society partners and climate campaigners to generate the skills in support of a comprehensive Just Transition Action Plan.

Policy and fiscal space for universal social protection

The authors suggest a simple, feasible, pragmatic and affordable global strategy to support the attainment of social protection for all as a central means to combat poverty, inequality, insecurity and ill health.[i] It consists of mainly two elements:

  • Strengthening the implementation of existing social protection standards and notably establishing a new international standard of universal social protection floors or universal social protection to extend the policy space for social protection on the national level.
    Such a new convention on social protection could act as a catalyst for the formation of national will and the consequential allocation of national resources to social protection.
  • pivotal, targeted financial support for the temporary extension of national fiscal space for social protection in the poorest countries through a Global Fund for Social Protection or a similar financing facility. A Global Fund or financing facility could provide supplementary but reliable and earmarked institutional and financial support for a small group of countries which cannot afford to finance their basic social protection systems alone.

[i] This brief for discussion is largely based on a number of recent briefing notes edited by the Global Coalition for Social Protections Floors (GCSPF, http://www.socialprotectionfloorscoalition.org/) and papers, such as Cichon and Lanz (2022).

Universal Protections

A renewed commitment maximising the productive potential of their citizens is the relevant and high-profile contribution the G7 can make to a global and socially just transformation.

Universal access to basic services has underpinned prosperity in the G7. Public services now need to be expanded for the 21st century, to include protections that enhance people’s capacities, capabilities, and opportunities for economic and social participation while also supporting the climate transition and leveraging the potential of digital democracy.

G7 countries should commit to providing universal access to transport and digital services as part of a comprehensive set of Universal Basic Services that, together, enhance productivity, increase social cohesion, and protect citizens through the global energy transition.

Universal Contributions

G7 countries will need to better align their tax systems with social protections to create the reciprocity necessary to support stronger social cohesion.

A combination of tax simplification and direct assignment of revenues from private taxes to universal protections creates a sustainable fiscal structure that enables stronger cohesion.

Prosperity Index

For far too long, economies have focused on established economic orthodoxies related to the aggregate figures of GDP, economic growth and job creation as measures of prosperity. However, G7 countries have the opportunity to adopt a bold, new and radical approach with the use of citizen-led prosperity indices that collectively reimagines the foundations of prosperity within G7 economies from a bottom-up perspective.

The IGP is calling for G7 countries to adopt new citizen-led indices that link local priorities to policy-making to create and measure placed-based prosperity reflecting the lived experiences of citizens and communities in the 21st century. Our research identified ‘secure livelihood’ as the most important factor that drives people’s prosperity and lays the foundations for people to lead fulfilling and flourishing lives. Creating the “open, inclusive and democratic societies” that the G7 values highly means enabling citizens to participate, actively shape place-based policy-making and social action and influence the everyday decisions that impact their lives.

Data Citizenship

G7 governments must lead in providing citizens with the same protections and facilities in the digital, online realm as are established in the physical, offline realm. To defend liberal democracy, social participation, freedom of science and of the press, tackle disinformation, and promote digital order and digital progress requires states to step up to their foundational responsibility to protect their citizens.

The G7 should create the standards and taxonomy to enable globally verifiable digital identity that allows every citizen to authenticate themselves, control their personal data, and participate in the development of public data goods.