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The Group of Eight (G8, and formerly the G6 or Group of Six and also the G7 or Group of Seven) is a forum, created by France in 1975, for governments of the six richest countries in the world: France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1976, Canada joined the group (thus creating the G7). In becoming the G8, the group added Russia in 1997. In addition, the European Union is represented within the G8, but cannot host or chair.
[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. ] "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 to 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.
With the G-20 growing in stature since the 2008 Washington summit, world leaders from the group announced at their Pittsburgh summit on September 25, 2009, that the group will replace the G8 as the main economic council of wealthy nations.
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 U.S. President Bill Clinton, Russia formally joined the group in 1997, resulting in the Group of Eight, or G8.
Structure and activities
Leaders of the G8 on 7 June 2007, in Heiligendamm, Germany
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 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, labor, 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.
[[http://society.guardian.co.uk/children/story/0,,1509107,00.html G8 to launch international pedophile database] David Batty June 18, 2005 The Guardian ] The G8 officials also agreed to pool data on terrorism, subject to restrictions by privacy and security laws in individual countries. [[http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1509218,00.html G8 to pool data on terrorism] Martin Wainwright June 18, 2005 The Guardian]
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.
[[http://www.climate-l.org/2008/06/g8-finance-mini.html CLIMATE-L.ORG: G8 Finance Ministers Support Climate Investment Funds]]
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.
[Feldman, Adam. [http://www.forbes.com/opinions/2008/07/05/problems-unity-progress-oped-cx_af_summit08_0707feldman.html "What's Wrong With The G-8,"] ''Forbes'' (New York). July 7, 2008.]
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 35 G8 summit meetings could have been called a success if 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.
G8 member facts
All eight of the ten (10) top-ranked leading export countries are in the G8.
The UK, the USA, Canada, France, and Germany have nominal per capita GDP over US$40,000 dollars.
Some of the world's twenty (20) largest stock exchanges by market value are in G8 countries (U.S., Japan, UK, France, Canada, Germany).
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, as it did in 2003, prompting the previous government headed by José María Aznar to request Spain's entrance in the G8). As a matter of fact, Spain is not even a member of the G20.
The 2nd and 3rd largest oil producers (USA and Russia) and the country with the 2nd largest reserves (Canada) are in the G8.
Seven of the nine largest nuclear energy producers are in the G8 (USA, France, Japan, Russia, Germany, Canada, UK).
The 7 largest donors to the UN budget for the 2009 annual fiscal year are in the G8 (U.S., Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Canada). Of course, the G8 and the G8+5 make up some of the 14-nation "trillion dollar club of nations."
Cumulative influence of member nations
Stephen Harper and Nicolas Sarkozy, the 36th and 37th chairs of the G8 Summit
Together the eight countries making up the G8 represent about 14% of the world population, but they represent about 60% of the Gross World Product as measured by gross domestic product, all 8 nations being within the top 12 countries according to the CIA World Factbook. (see the CIA World Factbook column in List of countries by GDP (nominal)), 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.
. In 2007, the combined G8 military spending was US$850 billion. This is 72% of the world's total military expenditures. (see List of countries and federations by military expenditures) Four of the G8 members, the 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 best-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. In particular, China has recently surpassed every economy except the United States and Japan. Canada has been in recent years overtaken by Brazil and Spain by nominal GDP. Russia now has a nominal GDP in the top eight (8) in the world by the International Monetary Fund and the CIA World Factbook for 2008 [Ninth (9th), according to the World Bank].