The Group of Eight G8 Industrialized Nations Council on Foreign Relations

Mexico hosted the first meeting of G20 foreign ministers in February 2012. While the informal meeting may set the stage for future security-related talks among the larger group, the United States is among the participants opposed to the G20 expanding its purview into diplomacy. Policy proposals are hammered out at ministerial meetings that precede the annual summit. Finance ministers and central bank governors continue to meet as the G7 to discuss matters of international economics; this group comprises all the G8 states except Russia. All G8 states, however, participate in the foreign ministers’ meetings.

«The G8—the governments themselves—have become increasingly aware of the cynicism that attends to G8 commitments and whether they’re actually delivered upon,» Patrick says, citing the importance of pressure from civil society. Cameron has made accountability a key part of this year’s agenda, particularly with respect to development assistance, and his office issued a report card in advance of the summit evaluating member states’ performance on prior commitments on international development. The European Union is represented at the G8 by the president of the European Commission and by the leader of the country that holds the EU presidency. G8 is a forum that brings together 8 global leaders to address international issues and tackle the most pressing global challenges. The G8 is a group of like-minded countries that share a belief in free enterprise as the best route to growth. As eight countries making up about half the world’s gross domestic product, the standards we set, the commitments we make, and the steps we take can help solve vital global issues, fire up economies and drive prosperity all over the world.

  1. He is among the critics who believe that, like the UN Security Council, the G8 reflects an outdated, Western-centric view of the global distribution of power.
  2. The EU has been part of the group since 1977, but does not hold a Presidency.
  3. By 2017, Russia announced its intention to permanently withdraw from the G-8, bringing the number of active members down to seven.
  4. On the second day of their summit the leaders gather for an informal retreat, where they can talk without being encumbered by officials or the media.
  5. At the end of this year, the UK will hand over the Presidency to Russia for 2014.

The G8’s positive stance on globalisation has provoked a vigorous response from opponents, and riots have sometimes overshadowed summit agendas, most notably in Italy in 2001. As the foremost economic and political power in the G8, the US is regarded as the dominant member of the group, although this position is not formally enshrined. In 1973, these challenges prompted the US to form the Library Group – an informal gathering of senior financial officials from Europe, Japan and the US.

Focus of G8

Neither Africa nor Latin America is represented in the body, and Brazilian president Lula da Silva said in 2009 that the G8 «doesn’t have any reason to exist.» «The opportunity for unscripted, unfiltered, unmediated conversation amongst the world leaders at summits is something that routinely is mentioned as absolutely essential for potential breakthroughs, true understanding, and meeting of minds,» Patrick says. Moscow faced renewed criticism in March 2014 on the heels of its invasion of neighboring Ukraine’s Crimea region, the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and many ethnic Russians, amid political transition in the capital of Kiev.

The presidency of the G8 rotates between the group’s member nations on an annual basis. G8 members can agree on policies and can set objectives, but compliance with these is voluntary. The G8 has clout in other world bodies because of the economic and political muscle of its members. The UK Presidency is an opportunity for the UK to influence the international debate on our global priorities, which include tax, trade and transparency. At the end of this year, the UK will hand over the Presidency to Russia for 2014. The Presidency will continue in its rotation to Germany in 2015, Japan in 2016, Italy in 2017, Canada in 2018, France in 2019, and the USA in 2020 before it returns to the UK.

The forum enables presidents and prime ministers, as well as their finance and foreign ministers, to candidly discuss pressing international issues. In 1973 the world experienced its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The finance ministers of the USA, UK, France and West Germany met informally to talk about how they could solve the economic problems linked with the oil price shock. In 1974 Japan was invited to the meetings and in 1975 the French President brought these informal discussions to the leaders.

Leaders from the G-8 nations, including presidents, prime ministers, cabinet members, and economic advisors, would assemble in this forum to exchange ideas, brainstorm solutions, and discuss innovative strategies that will benefit each individual nation, as well as the world as a whole. In 2005, British prime minister Tony Blair invited five leading emerging markets—Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa—to participate in the summit, but the «G8+5,» as it was called, was short-lived. «It began to be seen as patronizing and insulting that they weren’t actually there full-time,» Patrick says.

This lineup of eight countries remained active for 17 years until Russia was expelled in 2014. Russia formally joined the group in 1998, after steps toward democratization and years of gradual engagement with what was then the G7. With the Cold War over, several world leaders—particularly U.S. president Bill Clinton—encouraged Russia’s inclusion as a gesture toward Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

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Holed up behind fortress-like security, the delegates are accompanied by an army of officials. Elaborate preparations are made for their meetings, statements and photo-calls. A lot of complaints in the past have centered around the exclusion of representatives from emerging and developing nations. Critics point out these economies play an increasingly important role in the global marketplace yet continue to be shunned by the old guard. The forum is seen by many as an anachronism that, by failing to reflect the views of vast emerging economies such as India, Brazil, China, South Korea, and Mexico, some of which have surpassed G8 members in GDP, has rendered itself irrelevant.

The group meets every year to talk about economic policies and has taken on many initiatives throughout the years, including an initiative for the world’s heavily indebted poor countries in 1996 and a meeting to discuss the global financial crisis of the 2000s. The origins of the group date back to the early 1970s, when leaders of the U.S., U.K., France, West Germany, Italy, and Japan met informally in Paris to discuss the then recession and oil crisis. Over the years, new members joined, starting with Canada in 1976 and then Russia in 1997.

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While there are no formal criteria for membership, member states are expected to be democracies and have highly developed economies. The G8, unlike the United Nations, is not a formal institution, and there is no charter or secretariat. The presidency, a position responsible for planning ministerial meetings and the annual summit, rotates among the member states. The G8 summit (more accurately called the G7 since Russia’s removal), has no legal or political authority, but the topics it chooses to focus on can have an impact on world economies.

In recent years, some have questioned whether the G8 continues to be useful or relevant, especially since the formation of the G20. Despite the fact it has no actual authority, critics believe the powerful members of the G8 organization could do more to address global problems that affect third world countries. Since 2009, summit talks have focused on finding a common approach to stabilising the world economy and stimulating growth in the face currency and exchange rate real of continuing global financial upheaval. The G8’s roots lie in the oil crisis and global economic recession of the early 1970s. With no headquarters, budget or permanent staff, the Group of Eight is an informal but exclusive body whose members set out to tackle global challenges through discussion and action. Russia began to engage in separate meetings with G7 leaders in 1994 and formally joined the group in 1997 at the invitation of U.S.

The EU is a «nonenumerated» ninth member; represented by the presidents of the European Council and European Commission, the EU participates as an equal. The aggregate GDP of G8 states makes up some 50 percent of the global economy. Nevertheless, G8 leaders strive to keep at least some of their encounters free from bureaucracy and ceremony. On the second day of their summit the leaders gather for an informal retreat, where they can talk without being encumbered by officials or the media. The workings of the G8 are a far cry from the «fireside chats» of the Library Group in the 1970s.


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