Hokkaido Toyako Summit
FAQ on the G8 Summit
G8 Summit Overview
History of the G8 Summit
Q: What is the G8 Summit?
- The Group of Eight (G8) Summit is an annual meeting attended by the leaders of the eight countries, namely, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, and the President of the European Commission.
"Summit meeting" in its strict sense means a leaders meeting, but it usually refers to a series of meetings which include those of foreign ministers and finance ministers that are held prior to the leaders' meeting.
Q: What does the term "G8" stand for?
- Although there is no formal definition, in general it means the "Group of Eight," due to the fact that the leaders of eight nations take part.
Q: What makes the G8 Summit different from other international meetings?
- At the Summit, leaders freely and vigorously exchange opinions on a variety of issues facing the global community centering on economic and social problems. They work to reach a consensus to make top-down decisions. The results are then compiled into a declaration. As countries become increasingly interdependent in a globalized world, events unfold with drastic speed and the impact of events becomes more significant beyond national borders. Flexible, resolute, and well-balanced decisions as well as effective measures are needed in order to deal with such situation. Unlike other international fora, the G8 Summit does not have a secretariat, but can make appropriate decisions and swiftly implement measures as the leaders -- who are in a position to comprehensively oversee the various fields in their countries -- will act decisively in the meeting.
Q: What preparations are made for the G8 Summit?
- Preparations for the G8 Summit consist of close liaison among the personal representatives of the G8 leaders, who are known as "Sherpas." The Sherpas receive orders from their leader and coordinate with their Sherpa colleagues. (The name "Sherpa" comes from the sherpa tribe in East Nepal, who would provide guidance to mountain climbers, enabling them to reach the top of the mountain, namely the summit.)
Q: What is the term of the presidency and what roles does the country holding the presidency fulfill?
- The host country of the Summit holds the G8 presidency for the entire calendar year. The presidency carries out preparatory meetings and prepares for the Summit meeting, foreign ministers' meeting and finance ministers' meeting. Furthermore, the presidency may calls for emergency meetings as necessary in light of the international situation at a given time.
In the past, Japan has assumed the G8 presidency for four times, namely, in 1979, 1986, 1993, and 2000.
Q: How did the G8 Summit start?
- In the early 1970s, developed countries, faced with problems such as the Nixon Shock (devaluation of the dollar) and the first oil crisis, began to recognize the need for a top-level forum to discuss, in a comprehensive manner, policy coordination for global economic issues such as macro economy, currencies, trade, and energy.
Against this backdrop, the first summit meeting was held as proposed by Mr. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, then-President of France among the six countries, namely France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States at the Chateau de Rambouillet in the suburbs of Paris in November 1975.
Q: What changes have there been to G8 Summit membership?
- At the first Summit in Rambouillet, France, in 1975, the leaders from six countries -- France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- attended the meeting, and from the time of the Puerto Rico Summit in 1976 Canada has also attended. In addition, since the London Summit in 1977 the president of the European Community (EC) (Now the European Union (EU)) has attended.
Subsequently, in response to the international situation following the end of the Cold War, starting from the 1991 London Summit, following the conclusion of the G7 Summit the president of the Russian Federation was invited after G7 Summit to hold a meeting with G7 leaders, but outside of the G7 framework. From the Naples Summit in 1994 onward the Russian president started to take part in political dialogue and starting from the Denver Summit in 1997 Russia began to participate in basically all scheduled meetings of the Summit process, with the exception of certain sessions such as on "global economy" and "finance." Starting from the Birmingham Summit in 1998, the name of the Summit was changed from the G7 to G8, reflecting the inclusion of Russia. Furthermore, since the Evian Summit in 2003, Russia has participated fully in every scheduled meeting, including those on "global economy."
Q: How has the G8 Summit become an annual event?
- As the result of the Rambouillet Summit of 1975 was recognized the importance of a forum of the leaders of developed countries to discuss policy coordination to address global economic issues. Since then, the leaders have had an annual meeting with the rotating presidency among the countries.
Later, in addition to global economic issues, political issues appeared on the agenda, which included East-West confrontation arising from the Cold War, international issues following the end of the Cold War, North-South issues, along with world affairs of the times. Furthermore, global issues, such as environment, drugs, terrorism, AIDS and other infectious diseases, were added to the agenda. In this manner, the importance of Summit is becoming greater and greater as a forum for policy coordination among the major developed countries.
Q: What have been the agendas and results of previous G8 Summits?
- See "Past Summit Meetings" for further information.