G7 owes huge $13 trillion debt to Global South

Publié: 17th mai 2023

Wealthy Group of Seven (G7) countries owe low- and middle-income countries $13.3 trillion in unpaid aid and funding for climate action, reveals new analysis from Oxfam ahead of the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan. 

Despite failing to pay what they owe, G7 countries and their rich bankers are demanding that Global South countries pay $232 million a day in debt repayments through 2028. This money could otherwise be spent on healthcare, education, gender equality and social protection, as well as addressing the impacts of climate change.

“Wealthy G7 countries like to cast themselves as saviors but what they are is operating a deadly double standard —they play by one set of rules while their former colonies are forced to play by another. It’s do as I say, not as I do,” said Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar.

“It’s the rich world that owes the Global South. The aid they promised decades ago but never gave. The huge costs from climate damage caused by their reckless burning of fossil fuels. The immense wealth built on colonialism and slavery.”

“Each and every day, the Global South pays hundreds of millions of dollars to the G7 and their rich bankers. This has to stop. It’s time to call the G7’s hypocrisy for what it is: an attempt to dodge responsibility and maintain the neo-colonial status quo,” said Behar.

The G7 leaders are meeting at a moment where billions of workers face real-term pay cuts and impossible rises in the prices of basics like food. Global hunger has risen for a fifth consecutive year, while extreme wealth and extreme poverty have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years.  

Despite a commitment last month from the G7 to phase-out fossil fuels faster, Germany is now pushing for G7 leaders to endorse public investment in gas. It has been estimated that the G7 owes low- and middle-income countries $8.7 trillion for the devastating losses and damages their excessive carbon emissions have caused, especially in the Global South. After 30 years of deadlock, rich countries agreed at COP26 to establish a loss and damage fund. But huge questions remain about how it will work. 

G7 governments are also collectively failing to meet a longstanding promise by rich countries to provide $100 billion per year from 2020 to 2025 to help poorer countries cope with climate change.

In 1970, rich countries agreed to provide 0.7 percent of their gross national income (GNI) in aid. Since then, G7 countries left unpaid a total of $4.49 trillion to the world’s poorest countries —more than half of what was promised. 

“This money could have been transformational,” said Behar. “It could have paid for children to go to school, hospitals and life-saving medicines, improving access to water, better roads, agriculture and food security, and so much more. The G7 must pay its due. This isn’t about benevolence or charity —it’s a moral obligation.”

258 million people across 58 countries are currently experiencing acute hunger, up 34 percent over the last year. In East Africa alone, drought and conflict have left a record 36 million people facing extreme hunger, nearly equivalent to the population of Canada. Oxfam estimates that up to two people are likely dying from hunger every minute in Ethiopia, Kenya Somalia and South Sudan.

The fortunes of the world’s 260 food billionaires have increased by $381 billion since 2020. Synthetic fertilizer corporations increased their profits by ten times on average in 2022. According to the IMF, the 48 countries most affected by the global food crisis face an additional $9 billion in import bills in 2022 and 2023. 

The G7 is home to 1,123 billionaires with a combined wealth of $6.5 trillion. Their wealth has grown in real terms by 45 percent over the past ten years. A wealth tax on the G7’s millionaires starting at just 2 percent, and 5 percent on billionaires, could generate $900 billion a year. This is money that could be used to help ordinary people in G7 countries and in the Global South who are facing rising prices and falling wages.

Oxfam is calling on G7 governments to immediately:

  • Cancel debts of low- and middle-income countries that need it.
  • Return to the 0.7 percent of GNI aid target, pay off aid arrears, and meet their commitment to provide $100 billion annually to help poorer countries cope with climate change.
  • Bring in new taxes on rich individuals and corporations. 
  • Expedite the reallocation of at least $100 billion of the existing Special Drawing Rights (SDR) issuance to low- and middle-income countries and commit to at least two new $650 billion issuances by 2030.

Notes aux rédactions

Download Oxfam’s methodology note

Oxfam calculates that at least an additional $27.4 trillion are needed between now and 2030 to fill financing gaps in health, education, social protection, and tackling climate change in low- and middle-income countries. That equates to an annual financing gap of $3.9 trillion. For more information, download Oxfam’s brief “False Economy: Financial wizardry won’t pay the bill for a fair and sustainable future”.

Oxfam’s satirical ‘big heads’ are back. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the other G7 leaders’ ‘big heads’ will be making an appearance in London’s Trafalgar Square on 17 May (8:30-10:00 BST) highlighting their lack of action to tackle the devastating East Africa hunger crisis, despite G7 leaders’ promise to end famine when they met in the UK two years ago. The ‘big heads’ will be ignoring the six-foot-tall letters spelling out “FAMINE” with a giant LED screen playing Oxfam’s F to Famine film.

Oxfam’s analysis found that top CEOs got a real-term 9 percent pay rise in 2022 while workers worldwide took a 3 percent pay cut.

Germany is pushing for the G7 to endorse public investment in the gas sector. In April, the G7 agreed to speed up phase-out of fossil fuels.  

In 2009, rich countries agreed to provide $100 billion per year by 2020 to help poorer countries cope with climate change. This deadline was then extended to 2025, with a view to setting a new global climate finance goal by 2025.

Although G7 Ministers recently reaffirmed their existing commitment to meet the climate finance target, Oxfam estimates that the G7 could have accumulated a shortfall of up to $72 billion on its ‘fair share’ of the $100 billion goal between 2020 and 2023. To make matters worse, most of the money was provided in the form of loans —often at market rates— adding to the debt crisis across low- and middle-income countries. 

According to the World Food Program’s Global Report on Food Crisis (GRFC), 258 million people in 58 countries and territories faced acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels (IPC/CH Phase 3-5) in 2022, up from 193 million people in 53 countries and territories in 2021.

Synthetic fertilizer corporations increased their profits by ten times on average in 2022.

According to the IMF, the 48 countries most affected by the global food crisis face an additional $9 billion in import bills in 2022 and 2023.


Annie Thériault in Hiroshima, Japan | annie.theriault@oxfam.org | +51 936 307 990
Matt Grainger in Oxford, UK | matt.grainger@oxfam.org | +44-07730680837

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