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. 
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 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 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, 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. 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.
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. The G8 officials also agreed to pool data on terrorism, subject to restrictions by privacy and security laws in individual countries.
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. 
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. 
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.
The G8 summit is an international event which is observed and reported by news media, but the G8's relevance is unclear. 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.
The summits have also been the site of numerous, large-scale anti-globalization protests.
|Date||Host country||Host leader||Location held||Website||Notes|
|1st||November 15–17, 1975||Valéry Giscard d'Estaing||Rambouillet||G6 Summit|
|2nd||June 27–28, 1976||Gerald R. Ford||San Juan, Puerto Rico||Canada joins the group, forming the G7|
|3rd||May 7–8, 1977||James Callaghan||London||President of the European Commission gains permission to join G-7 Summit annually|
|4th||July 16–17, 1978||Helmut Schmidt||Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|5th||June 28–29, 1979||Masayoshi Ōhira||Tokyo|
|6th||June 22–3, 1980||Francesco Cossiga||Venice|
|7th||July 20–21, 1981||Pierre E. Trudeau||Montebello, Quebec|
|8th||June 4–6, 1982||François Mitterrand||Versailles|
|9th||May 28–30, 1983||Ronald Reagan||Williamsburg, Virginia|
|10th||June 7–9, 1984||Margaret Thatcher||London|
|11th||May 2–4, 1985||Helmut Kohl||Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|12th||May 4–6, 1986||Yasuhiro Nakasone||Tokyo|
|13th||June 8–10, 1987||Amintore Fanfani||Venice|
|14th||June 19–21, 1988||Brian Mulroney||Toronto, Ontario|
|15th||July 14–16, 1989||François Mitterrand||Grande Arche, Paris|
|16th||July 9–11, 1990||George H. W. Bush||Houston, Texas|
|17th||July 15–17, 1991||John Major||London|
|18th||July 6–8, 1992||Helmut Kohl||Munich, Bavaria|
|19th||July 7–9, 1993||Kiichi Miyazawa||Tokyo|
|20th||July 8–10, 1994||Silvio Berlusconi||Naples|
|21st||June 15–17, 1995||Jean Chrétien||Halifax, Nova Scotia|
|22nd||June 27–29, 1996||Jacques Chirac||Lyon||International organizations' debut to G8 Summits periodically. The invited ones here were: United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.|
|23rd||June 20–22, 1997||Bill Clinton||Denver, Colorado||http://www.state.gov/www/issues/economic/summit/g8.html||Russia joins the group, forming G8|
|24th||May 15–17, 1998||Tony Blair||Birmingham, England||http://web.archive.org/web/19981212012854/http://birmingham.g8summit.gov.uk/|
|25th||June 18–20, 1999||Gerhard Schröder||Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia||http://www.sipri.org/contents/expcon/1999summit.html||First Summit of the G-20 major economies at Berlin|
|26th||July 21–23, 2000||Yoshiro Mori||Nago, Okinawa||http://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.|
|27th||July 20–22, 2001||Silvio Berlusconi||Genoa||http://www.g8italia.it/||Leaders from Bangladesh, Mali and El Salvador accepted their invitations here. Demonstrator Carlo Giuliani is shot and killed by police.|
|28th||June 26–27, 2002||Jean Chrétien||Kananaskis, Alberta||http://www.g8.utoronto.ca/summit/2002kananaskis/||Russia gains permission to officially host a G8 Summit.|
|29th||June 2–3, 2003||Jacques Chirac||Évian-les-Bains||http://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.|
|30th||June 8–10, 2004||George W. Bush||Sea Island, Georgia||http://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.|
|31st||July 6–8, 2005||Tony Blair||Gleneagles, Scotland||http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/uk/2005/g8_gleneagles/default.stm||The 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.|
|32nd||July 15–17, 2006||Vladimir Putin||Strelna, St. Petersburg||http://en.g8russia.ru/||First G8 Summit on Russian soil. Also, the International Atomic Energy Agency and UNESCO made their debut here.|
|33rd||June 6–8, 2007||Angela Merkel||Heiligendamm, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern||http://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.|
|34th||July 7–9, 2008||Yasuo Fukuda||Toyako (Lake Toya), Hokkaido||http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/summit/2008/index.html||Nations that accepted their G8 Summit invitations for the first time are: Australia, Indonesia and South Korea.|
|35th||July 8-10, 2009||Silvio Berlusconi||La Maddalena||http://www.g8italia2009.it||Official website is now on line.|
|36th||2010||Stephen Harper||Huntsville, Ontario||http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=2155|
7 of the 9 leading export countries are in the G8  (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. 5 of the 7 largest stock exchanges by market value are in G8 countries (US, Japan, UK, France, Canada).The G8 countries represent 7 of the 9 largest economies by nominal GDP  (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 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 .7 of the 9 largest nuclear energy producers are in the G8 (USA, France, Japan, Russia, Germany, Canada, UK).the 7 largest donators to the UN budget are in the G8 (US, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Canada).
Together, the G8 countries represent about 65% of the Gross World Product, the majority of global military power (seven are in the top 8 nations for military expenditure), and almost all of the world's active nuclear weapons.
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)
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. 
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. Furthermore, Russia was allowed into the group despite only being in 11th place in terms of nominal GDP.
See also: 34th G8 summit.