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Who created the G8 and when?

In 1975, French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing invited the Leaders of Germany, Japan , the United Kingdom , the United States and Italy to a meeting at the château of Rambouillet near Paris . In the French President's view, it was a very small gathering. The idea was to discuss world issues of the day, dominated by the oil crisis, in an informal setting. The Leaders decided to make the event annual and invited Canada to join them to form the G7 in 1976. Russia formally joined the group, which then became the G8, at the 1998 Birmingham Summit.

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Which countries make up the G8? Why eight and not more or less?

The G8 member nations are Canada , France , Germany , Italy , Japan , Russia , the United Kingdom and the United States . The European Union also attends the Summit , represented by the Leader of the country holding the Presidency of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.

There are no plans to extend the G8 to other permanent members. However, since 1996, G8 members G8 members have stepped up their dialogue with countries, groups of countries and institutions outside their group and especially with the Southern, emerging and least developed countries. Other nations are regularly invited to take part in summit work. For example, the Kananaskis Summit invited the five African countries behind the NEPAD.

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What does the G8 do? What does it discuss? What important decisions has it made?

Although the G8 is sometimes seen as being omnipotent, it is also criticised for being useless because it does not have extensive decision-making capacities. Nevertheless, it plays a real and important role, because it has a huge co-operative and driving capacity and because a good understanding among G8 members is vital to the smooth running of the major international organisations.

Some of the initiatives recently taken by the G8 are:

-         The “heavily indebted poor countries” (HIPC) debt reduction initiative. The HIPC Initiative was launched at the G7 Summit in Lyon in 1996 to restore solvency to the beneficiary countries by cancelling part of their external debts including, for the first time, the debt held by the multilateral creditors. The HIPC Initiative was enhanced by the June 1999 Cologne Summit to provide faster relief to a larger number of countries with more generous debt forgiveness. The initiative is expected to reduce the debt-service payments of 38 heavily indebted poor countries by over 37 billion dollars.

  • The 2000 Okinawa Summit's adoption of a Charter on the Global Information Society, which defines the framework for the development of the information society and recognises the need for joint regulation by the public and private sectors, preservation of social cohesion and cultural diversity, and the fight against cybercrime. It also proposes measures to bridge the digital divide between North and South.
  • The creation of a Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, announced at the 2001 Genoa Summit with the United Nations Secretary-General, with initial funding of 1.3 billion dollars. This creation was driven by the impetus given at the 2000 Okinawa Summit.
  • The fight against terrorism and the formation of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction adopted by the Kananaskis Summit.
  • The adoption, also in Kananaskis, of the G8 Africa Action Plan in support of the New Partnership for Africa's Development. This plan launched by African Heads of State lays the foundations for African development based in particular on good governance, peer review, and a new partnership with the countries of the North.

The G8's scope has expanded from the original economic, monetary and financial issues to globalisation. For example, the last summit in Kananaskis addressed combating terrorism, development assistance (the Africa Action Plan in response to the NEPAD and the HIPC Initiative), economic growth and sustainable development and certain regional issues (situation in the Middle East, Afghanistan and relations between India and Pakistan).

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How does the G8 work?

The G8 is neither an institution nor an international organisation. It is not a legal entity. It has no permanent secretariat. It takes no binding measures. It therefore in no way competes with the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation or the international financial institutions. It is more like a club of leading industrialised countries, regularly meeting and consulting to enhance their friendship and synchronize their points of view as regards the major international economic and political issues. The statements published following the ministerial meetings and the annual summit of Heads of State and Government reflect this solidarity and may contain political and financial commitments made by G8 members.

The G8 is chaired by each of the member countries in turn for a full calendar year. The country holding the Chair proposes the summit location and agenda, and organises preparatory meetings.

Preparations for the annual summit of G8 Heads of State and Government take the form of a series of meetings among the personal representatives of the G8 Heads of State and Government, commonly known as “sherpas” (generally three meetings before the summit and one after). Meetings of foreign affairs and finance “sous-sherpas” (usually two or three meetings before the summit and one after) supplement and assist the sherpas' work. Ministry of Foreign Affairs political affairs directors also hold regular meetings.

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What is the G8's working language?

Strictly speaking, there is no official G8 language, since the G8 is a consultation procedure and not an international organisation.

The Heads of State and Government speak in their own languages at the annual G8 summit. The meetings of ministers are translated into various languages, but always into French and English and often into German. The summit communiqués are translated into French and English, with the preparatory working language being English.

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Who chairs the G8 and for how long? What does the Chair do?

The Chair of the G8 rotates among the member countries in a fixed order. After the Canadian Chair in 2002 and the French Chair in 2003, the chairs will be American (2004), British (2005), Russian (2006 – decision made at the Kananaskis Summit), German (2007), Japanese (2008), Italian (2009) and then Canadian again (2010).

The country holding the Chair – from 1 January to 31 December of a given year – proposes the summit location, agenda and organises the preparatory meetings. The Chair hosts the summit and acts as spokesperson for the G8 for the year. The Chair is also responsible for interacting with non-G8 countries, international institutions and organisations, and civil society (NGOs, unions and companies).

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What preparations is France making to chair the G8 in 2003?


France plans first and foremost to continue with and consolidate the work done in Kananaskis under the Canadian Chair, especially as regards Africa, fighting terrorism and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. In addition, following the Johannesburg conference, we would like to make access to drinking water and sustainable development an important focus of our work in 2003.

The President of the French Republic and the French government are currently consulting extensively with civil society and the business world regarding new issues that France would like to propose for consideration by its G8 partners.

The administrative preparations for the summit are the chief responsibility of the Diplomatic Adviser to the President of the French Republic and Sherpa. He is assisted by a Finance Sous-Sherpa, the Head of the European and International Affairs Department at the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry, and by a Foreign Affairs Sous-Sherpa, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Director of Economic and Financial Affairs. They are responsible for working with Ministry of Foreign Affairs political affairs directors to consolidate the work of the different administrations in preparation for the Evian Summit.

The implementation of the G8 action plan in response to the NEPAD (the New Partnership for Africa's Development), adopted at the Kananaskis Summit, is the particular responsibility of the President of the French Republic's Personal Representative for the G8 Africa Action Plan, Michel Camdessus, former IMF Managing Director.

More specialised groups of experts may also be formed. The summit's material and logistical organisation has been entrusted to a diplomat, Jean-Claude Poimboeuf, appointed Secretary-General of the Evian Summit.

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When did France last chair the G8?

The 2003 Summit in Evian will be the fifth summit to be held in France . The previous summits in France were held in Rambouillet (1975), Versailles (1982), Paris (Summit of the Arch, 1989) and Lyon (1996).

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What are France's goals and priorities for 2003?

The President of the French Republic presented these goals in his speech to the Diplomatic Corps on 7 January 2003 (link with the speech).

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Why Evian-les-Bains?

The first two summits hosted by France were both held in the Paris area, in Rambouillet in 1975 and in Versailles in 1982. The next two summits held in France in 1989 and 1996 took place in cities, in Lyon and Paris ( Summit of the Arch) respectively.

It seemed important to decentralise this event in the spirit of Kananaskis (2002 summit in the Canadian Rocky mountains) by choosing a beautiful natural site conducive to discussion and reflection and with substantial accommodation capacities. Evian fits the bill.

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What is a summit?

The summit is an annual meeting where the Leaders of the Eight (plus the President of the European Commission and the Leader of the country holding the Presidency of the European Union) meet to discuss important issues of the day. The summit is traditionally held over a weekend in June or July. This year, the summit will be held in Evian-les-Bains in the French Alps from 1 to 3 June 2003.

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What is a Sherpa? Who is the French Sherpa?

A summit demands meticulous preparation in the form of a series of meetings held over the year and attended by the G8 Leaders' personal representatives, called “Sherpas” (after the Himalayan porters who help climbers reach mountain summits). These Sherpas oversee the implementation of the commitments made at the Summit . The French Sherpa is the Diplomatic Adviser to the President of the French Republic , Maurice Gourdault-Montagne.

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Is there just one G8 or are there more?

The main meeting is the Summit of G8 Heads of State and Government. It is held every year in the summer, generally in June. The last summit was held in Kananaskis under the Canadian Chair on 26 and 27 June 2002. The next summit will be held in Evian-les-Bains, under the French Chair, from 1 to 3 June 2003. This will be followed by a summit extended to other countries.

Meetings of ministers are also held in the G8 format. Some of these meetings are held routinely. This is true of the meeting of foreign ministers and of the meeting of finance ministers in preparation for the Summit . Both meetings are held shortly before the Summit of Heads of State and Government. Moreover, G7 finance ministers and central bank governors hold meetings alongside each of the IMF and World Bank autumn and spring meetings in addition to their traditional meeting at the beginning of the year.

Regular and occasional meetings of ministers are also held on specific G8 subjects. In 2002, meetings were attended by the ministers from the ministries of Justice and Home Affairs, Co-operation, the Environment, Research and Employment.

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What is the difference between the G7 and the G8? Where does Russia stand?

Russia joined the G7 to form the G8 in 1997, but some meetings continued to be held in G7 format. This is why the summit of G8 Heads of State and Government issued two documents up until 2001: a communiqué released by the G8 on all issues save those of economic and financial interest, and a statement by the G7 solely on financial issues.

At the Kananaskis summit, it was agreed that Russia should chair the G8 and host the summit in 2006. This decision bears testimony to the economic and democratic changes made by Russia in recent years.

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Why are the Eight really nine, if not ten? Who represents the European Union and since when?

In 1978, the G8 Leaders decided to invite the European Economic Community to join the summit. Ever since, the European Union has taken part in the discussions. However, it cannot chair or host a summit. The EU is represented by the President of the European Commission and by the Leader of the country holding the Presidency of the European Union. This country will be Greece at the Evian Summit.

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What is the G7 Finance Ministers' Meeting?

The meetings of finance ministers in the 1970s to some extent gave rise to the summits of the Heads of State and Government of the leading industrialised countries. On 25 March 1973, George Shultz, US Treasury Secretary at the time, invited the British, French and German finance ministers to an informal discussion in Washington . The four men discussed the international monetary disorder created by the American decision to drop the gold standard. They subsequently decided to continue their discussions and invite their Japanese counterpart to join them. In the months that followed, the five held meeting after meeting. The press started using the expression the “group of five” or “G5”. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing took part in this first meeting as finance minister. When it became his turn to chair, he suggested that this type of meeting be held by the Heads of State and Government. This gave rise to the “G5 + 1” meeting in Rambouillet (to which Italy was also invited). The G5 expanded to become the G7 Finance Ministers' Meeting with the participation of Canada and Italy . Today, the finance ministers of the G7 countries, assisted by their central bank governors, generally meet three times a year, including twice alongside the IMF and World Bank spring and autumn meetings. They take stock of the development of the global economy and co-ordinate over current major financial problems. The Russian Federation is gradually being incorporated into these meetings.

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What are the other “G” groups? How do they tie in with the G8?

Today, there are many groups of countries. The main groups are as follow:

The G20 liaises closely with the G7 Finance Ministers' Meeting. It comprises the finance ministers and central bank governors of the G7 countries and representatives from 12 emerging countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey) as well as the country holding the Presidency of the European Union (if this country is not a member of the G7). The European Central Bank, the Managing Director of the IMF, the Chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee of the Board of Governors of the IMF, the President of the World Bank, and the Chairman of the Development Committee of the World Bank and the IMF also sit on the G20. Its creation was made official by the G7 Finance Ministers' Meeting in September 1999 and it met for the first time in Berlin in December 1999. Its mandate is to form a forum for co-operation and discussion on financial globalisation.

The G10 also works in close liaison with the G7, since all the members of the G7 are involved. It comprises the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors and their counterparts in Belgium , the Netherlands , Sweden and Switzerland (making a total of eleven nations even though the original title stands). It often meets alongside the IMF and World Bank six-monthly meetings. It addresses financial issues such as the procedures currently envisaged for the orderly and expeditious resolution of sovereign debt crises.

The Group of 77 is in no way linked to the G7 or the G8. It was established following the Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries issued at the end of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in 1964. It was set up to articulate and promote the common economic interests of its members and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues debated in the United Nations system. Today, the G77 is made up of 133 emerging and developing countries, but its original title stands due to its historical significance.

The G24 is a product of the G77. It was established in 1971 to co-ordinate the position of the developing countries on international monetary and finance system issues and to articulate their interests in international monetary talks. It meets twice a year, before the IMF and World Bank six-monthly meetings, to enable the developing countries to discuss the points on the agenda at these meetings. Member countries are as follows: Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Congo (Dem. Rep.), Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Iran, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

The G15 is the group that represents the G77 to the Bretton Woods institutions. It has been meeting as a Summit ever since a recommendation by the Non-Aligned Summit Conference in Belgrade in September 1989.

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Does the G8 threaten the role of the United Nations, the IMF or the World Bank?

The G8 is an informal club for discussion and co-operation by the leading industrialised countries. It is neither an organisation nor an international institution. It is not a legal entity and does not have a permanent secretariat. It takes no binding measures and does not claim to compete with or replace the international organisations. Far from being a threat to the United Nations, the WTO and the international financial institutions, the G8 highlights the co-ordination and driving-force responsibilities of the leading industrialised countries and hence contributes to the smooth running of the international community.

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Is the G8 indifferent to the poor countries?

Far from being interested only in the growth of its member countries and solving its own problems, the G8 has been addressing issues of direct concern to developing countries for many years now.

One of the issues of direct consequence to the developing countries is the HIPC (heavily indebted poor countries) Initiative, launched at the Lyon Summit in 1996, to cancel what was deemed the unsustainable proportion of the debt of some forty countries. At the Cologne Summit in 1999, this initiative was enhanced to provide faster relief to a larger number of countries with more generous debt forgiveness. The G7 countries set an example for other bilateral creditors by announcing the cancellation of all the eligible debt owed to them by these countries, in addition to the Initiative itself.

The Global Health Fund set up to combat the three major scourges affecting especially poor countries – AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis – was established by the 2001 Genoa Summit. Finally, Africa, a Kananaskis Summit priority, will remain the French Chair's priority. The Evian Summit will look at implementing the Africa Action Plan adopted at Kananaskis in response to the African NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) initiative, which comprises a whole range of undertakings to help Africa back on the road to prosperity and good governance.

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Does the G8 consult the developing countries? Is there a possibility of the G8 enlarging to take in the developing countries?

There are no plans to permanently open up the G8 to other countries to form a new G-n. However, the G8 members are increasingly aware of the need to step up their dialogue with countries, groups of countries and institutions outside their group, and primarily with the Southern countries. Over the last few years, for example, the President of the French Republic has written to the Heads of State of the Southern countries to consult with them on the priorities they would like to see addressed. He has subsequently written to them after each summit to inform them of the results obtained.

Following the Japanese Chair, which initiated informal consultations with Leaders of Southern countries alongside the Okinawa Summit, the 2001 Italian Chair sought to engage in a more formal dialogue with non-G8 representatives of the international community on poverty reduction, which was a major theme of this summit. Italy personally invited the presidents of South Africa , Mali and Nigeria , the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the President of the World Bank and the directors-general of WHO and the FAO. Likewise, four Heads of State from the countries that initiated the NEPAD attended Kananaskis: Algeria , Nigeria , Senegal and South Africa , along with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

A meeting “of a new nature”, which is expected to be attended by the Heads of State and Government of over a dozen developing, emerging and poor countries, is planned to take place together with the summit in Evian.

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Does the G8 consult civil society, business, the unions and the non-governmental organisations?

Civil society stakeholders often play a deciding role in the development of certain major international projects, since they can form real forces of proposal and influence. The Jubilee 2000 organisation made up of numerous NGOs campaigning for the cancellation of the poorest countries' debts played a hand in the 1999 Cologne Summit's decision to enhance the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative launched at the Lyon Summit in 1996. Lobbying and support by many NGOs went a long way towards the decision to announce the creation of a Global Health Fund at the 2001 Genoa Summit.

Modern diplomacy hence finds powerhouses of proposals and vital bridges in this associative action to help make progress with globalisation-related issues calling for suitable global responses. For example, the issues considered by the Heads of State and Government of the G8 countries are discussed in political and technical detail with civil society players, using the channels specific to each country. The French Chair intends to hold as open a dialogue as possible to allow for these players' opinions in its own priorities.

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Could there be said to be a G8 ideology?

The G8 has no set doctrine. It is not steered by an “ideology”. Although the member countries of the G8 stand together on certain issues, they have a far from identical view of all subjects. Although they are united by certain universal values – democracy, human rights, and the free-market economy – their economic and social models and their political sympathies can often vary. Yet what unites them is their belief in the need for international co-operation and their awareness of their responsibilities.

The G8's attention is turning increasingly to the rest of the world. Developing countries are frequently consulted and even invited to G8 summits. Narrowing the gap between the poorest countries and the richest countries has moreover become a major G8 concern. It was, for example, at the heart of the most recent summits in Genoa and Kananaskis, and it will be at the heart of the coming Evian Summit, which will be enhanced by a summit enlarged to poor and emerging countries.

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Is the G8 the world's management board?

The G8 is sometimes seen as the world's “management board”. Yet this often-debated notion is far from the truth. The G8 is an informal body that has no binding authority. It can only commit its own members. It exists primarily to avoid political and economic discord that would be detrimental to both the G8 and the rest of the world. Its strengths as a driving and co-operative force are unparalleled by those of the sovereign States and international organisations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the European Union and the international financial institutions.

In addition, the G8 is just one club for discussion and co-operation among many others – in particular, there is the G10, the G15, the G20, the G24 and the G77. The G8's powers and uniqueness should not be overestimated. Last but not least, in terms of economic matters, the central banks and international markets have become highly independent and the G8 cannot pretend to rule over them any more than any other informal bodies.

Given that the G8 is not and has no intention of being the world's management board, it does not seek to impose its will on the rest of the world, especially the poor countries, but it is aware of its responsibilities. The Chair in office consults the developing countries prior to the G8 meetings, if not invites them to the annual summit itself. For example, the architects of the NEPAD were invited to the Kananaskis Summit and the French Chair will also organise a summit enlarged to certain developing and emerging countries. Civil society is naturally consulted throughout the summit preparation process. Finally, the G8 is run internally like an informal club where discussions are extremely free and open.

As regards globalisation, the G8 has set itself the goal of providing the essential open co-ordination needed between countries whose economic and political weight makes them inevitable players in global governance. Drawing on a positive experience, as shown by the many poverty reduction and development initiatives taken, the G8's purpose is to be a decisive driving force whose credibility and dynamics are rooted in the member countries' political ability to make strong commitments. Since it deliberately has no administrative structure, the G8 puts its initiatives forward as part of the standard, legitimate mechanisms used by the international institutions in charge of these issues (UN, WTO and the international financial institutions) and within which it cannot make any decision alone.

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Why is the G8 criticised? Does it pay attention to the criticisms made of it?

The G8 is sometimes fiercely criticised, as tragically shown by the violent demonstrations at the 2001 Genoa Summit. Behind these criticisms is the underlying question of the regulation of globalisation. The G8 is at the heart of this issue, since it is one of the bodies aspiring to contribute to this regulation. Yet numerous voices have spoken out against the suitability of this formation. Some loudly voice fears that the richest countries have set themselves up as a management board, without any universal institution such as the UN giving the meeting a mandate or even encouraging it to set up.

The G8 could never replace international institutions. However, experience has shown that it can be a useful co-operative and driving force. The weight of the G8 countries in the world economy (nearly 60% of global GDP) alone places a particular responsibility on them when it comes to regulating globalisation. In addition, the Heads of State and Government elected by democratic elections have every right to meet when they see fit and express their views.

The G8 is currently thinking about changing the way it is run. A certain penchant is appearing for a return to “the spirit of Rambouillet”, i.e. for smaller meetings with smaller delegations and agendas. The Canadian government organised just such a summit. The choice of Kananaskis compelled participants to reduce their delegations to fit in with the available hotel accommodation. This intimate format consideration will also be a core element of preparations for the Evian Summit.

Likewise, G8 members are increasingly aware of the need to step up their dialogue with countries, groups of countries and institutions outside their group, and primarily with the Southern, emerging and least developed countries. This is why the representatives of these countries are now regularly invited to the summits.

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Can I contact the G8? How?

While France is holding the Chair, you can contact the G8 by email at the following address: redaction@g8.fr


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