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Basic information about the G8

July 1, 2005

By Ecumenical News International

What is the G8?

The Group of Eight refers to Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Russia. It was known as the G7 before Russia officially joined in June 2002. The G8 is the most influential group of developed countries in terms of its role in setting policy in the international financial system, and it includes the two largest economies in the world. The G8 nations meet once a year to discuss mainly political, global trade, investment, and other financial topics. The summit of the heads of state and government of the G8 nations is the main event, although there are numerous subsidiary meetings and policy research gatherings leading up to it.

What is the history of the G8?

The summits had their roots in the oil crisis of 1973 and the recession it sparked. The first summit, then the G6, took place in 1975, when President Valery Giscard d’Estaing of France invited the leaders of Japan, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy to Rambouillet, near Paris, to discuss the economic problems of the day. The group expanded to include Canada in 1976 and later Russia.

Where is the G8 based?

Unlike many other international bodies, the G8 does not have a fixed structure or a permanent administration. It is up to the country that has the presidency to set the agenda and organize the annual G8 Summit.

What happens at the G8 Summit?

At the summit, the leaders of the eight member countries discuss major issues of the day. They seek to reach informal agreements on measures that they can take individually, but in a cooperative manner, to achieve their goals more effectively. There are follow-up meetings throughout the year to make sure commitments are being honored. The official UK government Web site on the G8 says: “G8 Summits are hugely important if we are to manage the effects of globalization, a task more relevant today than ever before.” The annual summits often are the focus of anti-globalization movement protests, such as those that occurred at the 27th G8 summit in Genoa (Italy) in 2001 and the 29th summit in Evian-le-Bains (France) in 2003, which triggered rowdy anti-globalization street protests in the nearby Swiss city of Geneva.

What are the main themes for the G8?

“The main themes for the G8 in 2005 are Africa and climate change,” the British G8 Web site says. “Both are pressing issues for the world. Africa demands particular attention as the world’s poorest continent. Climate change is happening and should be of concern for all. Holding the G8 presidency gives the UK the chance to focus international attention on tackling these issues.”

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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