G8 Explained

The Group of Eight (G8, and formerly the (G6) or Group of Six) is a forum for governments of eight nations of the northern hemisphere: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; in addition, the European Union is represented within the G8, but cannot host or chair.[1] The G8 can refer to the member states or to the annual summit meeting of the G8 heads of government. The former term G6 is now frequently applied to the six most populous countries within the European Union (see G6 (EU)). G8 ministers also meet throughout the year, such as the G7/8 finance ministers (who meet four times a year), G8 foreign ministers or G8 environment ministers.

Each calendar year, the responsibility of hosting the G8 rotates through the member states in the following order: France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada. The holder of the presidency sets the agenda, hosts the summit for that year and determines which ministerial meetings will take place. Lately, both France and the United Kingdom have expressed a desire to expand the group and include five developing countries, referred to as the Outreach Five (O5) or the Plus Five: Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa. These countries have participated as guests in previous meetings, which are sometimes called G8+5. Recently, France, Germany and Italy are lobbying to include Egypt to the Outreach Five (O5) and expand the G8 to G14. [2]


The concept of a forum for the world's major industrialized democracies emerged following the 1973 oil crisis and subsequent global recession. In 1974 the United States created the Library Group, an informal gathering of senior financial officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, West Germany, Japan and France. In 1975, French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing invited the heads of government from West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States to a summit in Rambouillet. The six leaders agreed to an annual meeting organized under a rotating presidency, forming the Group of Six (G6). The following year, Canada joined the group at the behest of Germany's Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and U.S. President Gerald Ford[3] and the group became the 'Group of Seven' -or G7. The European Union is represented by the President of the European Commission and the leader of the country that holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The President of the European Commission has attended all meetings since it was first invited by the United Kingdom in 1977[4] and the Council President now also regularly attends.

Following 1994's G7 summit in Naples, Russian officials held separate meetings with leaders of the G7 after the group's summits. This informal arrangement was dubbed the Political 8 (P8) - or, colloquially, the 'G7+1'. At the invitation of United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President Bill Clinton[5], Russia formally joined the group in 1997, resulting in the 'Group of Eight' - the G8.

The international press features recurring news stories about the G8, which refers to a "group of eight" composed of nine members.[6] As the G6 evolved across the decades, something unforeseen happened in the way the group is conventionally perceived. The 2008 summit of world leaders in Hokkaido, Japan was universally identified as the "34th G8 summit;" however, this ordinal number implies a process of counting backwards through the years, conflating what might have been clear distinctions.[7]

Structure and activities

The G8 is intended to be an informal forum, and it therefore lacks an administrative structure like those for international organizations, such as the United Nations or the World Bank. The group does not have a permanent secretariat, or offices for its members. In 2008, the G8 summit might have been called the G9 because the president of the European Union Commission participated as an equal in all summit events.

The presidency of the group rotates annually among the member countries, with each new term beginning on 1 January of the year. The country holding the presidency is responsible for planning and hosting a series of ministerial-level meetings, leading up to a mid-year summit attended by the heads of government. Japan held the G8 presidency in 2008, Italy is the 2009 president, and Canada will be president in 2010.

The ministerial meetings bring together ministers responsible for various portfolios to discuss issues of mutual or global concern. The range of topics include health, law enforcement, labour, economic and social development, energy, environment, foreign affairs, justice and interior, terrorism and trade. There are also a separate set of meetings known as the "G8+5", created during the 2005 Gleneagles, Scotland summit, that is attended by finance and energy ministers from all eight member countries in addition to the five "Outreach Countries": Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

In June 2005, justice ministers and interior ministers from the G8 countries agreed to launch an international database on pedophiles.[8] The G8 officials also agreed to pool data on terrorism, subject to restrictions by privacy and security laws in individual countries.[9]

Global warming and energy

See main article: International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation and Climate Investment Funds.

At the Heiligendamm Summit in 2007, the G8 acknowledged a proposal from the EU for a worldwide initiative on energy efficiency. They agreed to explore, along with the International Energy Agency, the most effective means to promote energy efficiency internationally. A year later, on 8 June 2008, the G8 along with China, India, South Korea and the European Community established the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation, at the Energy Ministerial meeting hosted by Japan holding 2008 G8 Presidency, in Aomori. [10]

G8 Finance Ministers, whilst in preparation for the 34th Summit of the G8 Heads of State and Government in Toyako, Hokkaido, met on the 13 and 14 June 2008, in Osaka, Japan. They agreed to the “G8 Action Plan for Climate Change to Enhance the Engagement of Private and Public Financial Institutions.” In closing, Ministers supported the launch of new Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) by the World Bank, which will help existing efforts until a new framework under the UNFCCC is implemented after 2012. [11]

The Annual Summit

The annual G8 leaders summit is attended by eight of the world's most powerful heads of government. However, as noted by commentators the G-8 summit is not the place to flesh out the details of any difficult or controversial policy issue in the context of a three-day event. Rather, the meeting is to bring a range of complex and sometimes inter-related issues. The G8 summit brings leaders together not so they can dream up quick fixes, but to talk and think about them together.[12]

The G8 summit is an international event which is observed and reported by news media, but the G8's relevance is unclear.[13] The member country holding the G8 presidency is responsible for organising and hosting the year's summit, held for three days in mid-year; and for this reason, Tony Blair and the United Kingdom accumulated the lion's share of the credit for what went right (and wrong) at Gleneagles in 2005. Similarly, Yasuo Fukuda and Japan hope to garner the greater part of the credit for what went well (and what did not) at the Hokkaido Summit in 2008.

Each of the 34 G8 summit meetings could have been called a success if only the events had been re-framed as venues to generate additional momentum for solving problems at the other multilateral conferences that meet throughout the year. The G8 summit sets the stage for what needs to be done and establishes an idea of how to do it, even if that idea is, at best, rough and patchy.[12]

The summits have also been the site of numerous, large-scale anti-globalization protests.

DateHost countryHost leaderLocation heldWebsiteNotes
1stNovember 15–17, 1975Valéry Giscard d'EstaingRambouilletG6 Summit
2ndJune 27–28, 1976Gerald R. FordSan Juan, Puerto RicoCanada joins the group, forming the G7
3rdMay 7–8, 1977James CallaghanLondonPresident of the European Commission gains permission to join G-7 Summit annually
4thJuly 16–17, 1978Helmut SchmidtBonn, North Rhine-Westphalia
5thJune 28–29, 1979Masayoshi ŌhiraTokyo
6thJune 22–3, 1980Francesco CossigaVenice
7thJuly 20–21, 1981Pierre E. TrudeauMontebello, Quebec
8thJune 4–6, 1982François MitterrandVersailles
9thMay 28–30, 1983Ronald ReaganWilliamsburg, Virginia
10thJune 7–9, 1984Margaret ThatcherLondon
11thMay 2–4, 1985Helmut KohlBonn, North Rhine-Westphalia
12thMay 4–6, 1986Yasuhiro NakasoneTokyo
13thJune 8–10, 1987Amintore FanfaniVenice
14thJune 19–21, 1988Brian MulroneyToronto, Ontario
15thJuly 14–16, 1989François MitterrandGrande Arche, Paris
16thJuly 9–11, 1990George H. W. BushHouston, Texas
17thJuly 15–17, 1991John MajorLondon
18thJuly 6–8, 1992Helmut KohlMunich, Bavaria
19thJuly 7–9, 1993Kiichi MiyazawaTokyo
20thJuly 8–10, 1994Silvio BerlusconiNaples
21stJune 15–17, 1995Jean ChrétienHalifax, Nova Scotia
22ndJune 27–29, 1996Jacques ChiracLyonInternational organizations' debut to G8 Summits periodically. The invited ones here were: United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.[14]
23rdJune 20–22, 1997Bill ClintonDenver, Coloradohttp://www.state.gov/www/issues/economic/summit/g8.htmlRussia joins the group, forming G8
24thMay 15–17, 1998Tony BlairBirmingham, Englandhttp://web.archive.org/web/19981212012854/http://birmingham.g8summit.gov.uk/
25thJune 18–20, 1999Gerhard SchröderCologne, North Rhine-Westphaliahttp://www.sipri.org/contents/expcon/1999summit.htmlFirst Summit of the G-20 major economies at Berlin
26thJuly 21–23, 2000Yoshiro MoriNago, Okinawahttp://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/summit/2000/Formation of the G8+5 starts, when South Africa was invited. Since then, it has been invited to the Summit annually without interruption. Also, with permission from a G8 leader, other nations were invited to the Summit on a periodical basis for the first time. Nigeria, Algeria and Senegal accepted their invitations here. The World Health Organization was also invited for the first time, too.[15]
27thJuly 20–22, 2001Silvio BerlusconiGenoahttp://www.g8italia.it/Leaders from Bangladesh, Mali and El Salvador accepted their invitations here. Demonstrator Carlo Giuliani is shot and killed by police.
28thJune 26–27, 2002Jean ChrétienKananaskis, Albertahttp://www.g8.utoronto.ca/summit/2002kananaskis/Russia gains permission to officially host a G8 Summit.
29thJune 2–3, 2003Jacques ChiracÉvian-les-Bainshttp://www.g8.fr/The G8+5 was unofficially made, when China, India, Brazil and Mexico were invited to this Summit for the first time. Other first-time nations that were invited by the French president included: Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Switzerland.
30thJune 8–10, 2004George W. BushSea Island, Georgiahttp://www.whitehouse.gov/g8/2004/A record number of leaders from 12 different nations accepted their invitations here. Amongst a couple of veteran nations, the others were: Ghana, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Yemen and Uganda.
31stJuly 6–8, 2005Tony BlairGleneagles, Scotlandhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/uk/2005/g8_gleneagles/default.stmThe G8+5 was officially formed. On the second day of the meeting, suicide bombers killed over 50 people on the London Underground and a bus. Nations that were invited for the first time were Ethiopia and Tanzania. The African Union and the International Energy Agency made their debut here.
32ndJuly 15–17, 2006Vladimir PutinStrelna, St. Petersburghttp://en.g8russia.ru/First G8 Summit on Russian soil. Also, the International Atomic Energy Agency and UNESCO made their debut here.
33rdJune 6–8, 2007Angela MerkelHeiligendamm, Mecklenburg-Vorpommernhttp://www.g-8.org/A record seven different international organizations accepted their invitations to this Summit. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Commonwealth of Independent States made their debut here.
34thJuly 7–9, 2008Yasuo FukudaToyako (Lake Toya), Hokkaidohttp://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/summit/2008/index.htmlNations that accepted their G8 Summit invitations for the first time are: Australia, Indonesia and South Korea.
35thJuly 8-10, 2009Silvio BerlusconiLa Maddalenahttp://www.g8italia2009.itOfficial website is now on line.
36th2010Stephen HarperHuntsville, Ontariohttp://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=2155
37th2011Nicolas SarkozyTBD
38th2012Barack ObamaTBD
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G8 member facts

7 of the 9 leading export countries are in the G8 [16] (Germany, US, Japan, France, Italy, UK, Canada).The UK, The USA, Canada, France, and Germany have nominal per capita GDP over US$40,000 dollars.[17] 5 of the 7 largest stock exchanges by market value are in G8 countries[18] (US, Japan, UK, France, Canada).The G8 countries represent 7 of the 9 largest economies by nominal GDP [19] (Russia isn't one of the 9 largest economies by nominal GDP but has the 7th largest real GDP, Canada was 8th in 2006 but in 2007 it lost 8th place to Spain like it did in 2003[19] prompting the previous government headed by José María Aznar to request Spain's entrance in the G8.)

The 2nd and 3rd largest oil producers (USA and Russia) and the country with the 2nd largest reserves (Canada) are in the G8[20] .7 of the 9 largest nuclear energy producers are in the G8[21] (USA, France, Japan, Russia, Germany, Canada, UK).the 7 largest donators to the UN budget are in the G8[22] (US, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Canada).

Cumulative influence of member nations

Together, the G8 countries represent about 65% of the Gross World Product[23], the majority of global military power (seven are in the top 8 nations for military expenditure[24]), and almost all of the world's active nuclear weapons.[25]

The eight countries making up the G8 represent about 14% of the world population, but they account for 65% of the world's economic output measured by gross domestic product, all 8 within the top 12 countries according to the CIA World Factbook. (see the CIA World Factbook column in List of countries by GDP (nominal))

In 2007, the combined G8 military spending was US$850 billion. This was 72% of the world's total military expenditures. (see List of countries and federations by military expenditures) Four of the G8 members United Kingdom, United States of America, France and Russia together account for 96-99% of the world's nuclear weapons. (see List of states with nuclear weapons)

Criticism and demonstrations

As the annual summits are extremely high profile, they are subject to extensive lobbying by advocacy groups and street demonstrations by activists.

The most well-known criticisms centre on the assertion that members of G8 are responsible for global issues such as poverty in Africa and developing countries due to debt and trading policy, global warming due to carbon dioxide emission, the AIDS problem due to strict medicine patent policy and other issues related to globalization. During the 31st G8 summit in Scotland, 225,000 people took to the streets of Edinburgh as part of the Make Poverty History campaign calling for Trade Justice, Debt Relief and Better Aid. Numerous other demonstrations also took place challenging the legitimacy of the G8. [26]

Of the anti-globalization movement protests, one of the largest and most violent occurred for the 27th G8 summit http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7506609.stm. Since that G8 Summit and the subsequent September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States occurred months apart in the same year, the G8 have gathered at some forms of remote locations every year since then. The 7 July 2005 London bombings were timed to coincide with the 31st G8 summit in Scotland.

The group has also been criticized for its membership, which critics argue has now become unrepresentative of the world's most powerful economies since Canada was overtaken by China, India, Brazil, Spain, Mexico and South Korea by PPP adjusted GDP.[27] Furthermore, Russia was allowed into the group despite only being in 11th place in terms of nominal GDP.

See also

Notes, links, and references

External links

See also: 34th G8 summit.

Official G8 sites of member states (not summit specific)


Notes and References

  1. The EU has the privileges and obligations of membership but does not host/chair summits. It is represented by the Commission and Council Presidents. 967. Web site: EU and the G8. 2007-09-25. European Commission.
  2. http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=22988
  3. http://www.canadianencyclopedia.ca/PrinterFriendly.cfm?Params=A1ARTFET_E10 G8: The Most Exclusive Club in the World, Thomas S. Axworthy, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Foundation of Canada, Toronto, Undated
  4. Web site: EU and the G8. 2006-07-17. European Union.
  5. http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=5151 Russia — Odd Man Out in the G-8, Mark Medish, The Globalist, 02-24-2006
  6. http://www.deljpn.ec.europa.eu/home_en.php European Union
  7. [Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan)|Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs]
  8. http://society.guardian.co.uk/children/story/0,,1509107,00.html G8 to launch international pedophile database
  9. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1509218,00.html G8 to pool data on terrorism
  10. http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/08/380&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=e The International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC).
  11. http://www.climate-l.org/2008/06/g8-finance-mini.html CLIMATE-L.ORG: G8 Finance Ministers Support Climate Investment Funds
  12. Feldman, Adam. "What's Wrong With The G-8," Forbes (New York). July 7, 2008.
  13. Lee, Don. "On eve of summit, G-8's relevance is unclear," Los Angeles Times. July 6, 2008
  14. Kirton, John. "A Summit of Substantial Success:The Performance of the 2008 G8"; page 88 and 89 G8 Information Centre - University of Toronto July 17, 2008.
  15. see above on page 88 and 89
  16. Web site: [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2078rank.html exports]. cia factbook.
  17. Web site: nominal GDP per capita. cia factbook.
  18. Web site: stock exchange. securities exchange commission.
  19. Web site: nominal gdp. imf, world bank, cia factbook.
  20. Web site: oil reserves. US energy information administration.
  21. Web site: nuclear power. world nuclear power reactors 2007-08 and uranium requirements.
  22. Web site: united nations. report of the committe on contributions.
  23. http://www.undp.org United Nations Development Programme
  24. Web site: World Wide Military Expenditures. 2007-12-10. GlobalSecurity.org.
  25. Web site: The G8 and the Nuclear Industry. 2007-11-28. 2002. June. The Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout.
  26. David Miller 'Spinning the G8, Zednet May 13th 2005 http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/6279
  27. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DATASTATISTICS/Resources/GDP_PPP.pdf