G8 — The Group of Eight
G8 discussions at Camp David in the United States
Who are the G8?
The Group of Eight (G8) comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America; the European Union is also represented. The Presidency rotates annually among the members of the group, with the United States assuming the post in January 2012.
The most visible part of the G8 process is the annual Summit, to which the heads of state and government are invited by the country holding the Presidency usually around halfway through the year. The Summits give the heads of state and government an opportunity to exchange views face-to-face. They also serve as the launchpad for joint G8 initiatives.
The 2012 Summit at Camp David
The most recent Summit was held in the United States, at Camp David on 18-19 May 2012. Discussions among the heads of state and government centred primarily on the debt crisis in the eurozone. The G8 agreed to boost productivity, growth and demand in their national economies while at the same time pursuing policies of fiscal consolidation. They also discussed the violence in Syria, continuation of the Deauville Partnership to support processes of reform in North Africa, economic reconstruction in Afghanistan, measures to boost sustainable growth in the global economy, climate and energy policy, and food security.
The Deauville Partnership
Last year’s Summit was hosted by France and took place in Deauville on 26-27 May 2011. It saw the creation of what has become known as the Deauville Partnership, drafted in response to the changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
The G8 countries are supporting the states of that region as they consolidate democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, undertake economic and social reforms, and foster civil society.
G8 meetings at ministerial level too
The G8 foreign ministers also meet on a regular basis to discuss foreign policy issues. Other ministers, such as those responsible for the environment or development, also meet in the G8 format. The G8 foreign ministers met for talks in Washington, DC, on 11-12 April 2012. The meeting focused on the fragile situation in Syria and international efforts to stop the violence there. Other topics included the Iranian nuclear programme, the Middle East peace process, Afghanistan, North Korea and developments in Africa.
How does the G8 process work?
The G8 process is more than just a series of summit meetings. Over the years a fully-fledged programme of political coordination has grown up around this annual event. The topics for the Summit and the ministerial meetings are prepared by high-level staff of the heads of state and government and the ministers, known in G8 jargon as “sherpas” and “sous-sherpas”. They meet several times a year.
The G8 themes: Africa, non-proliferation, and the fight against terrorism and organized crime
The implementation of the G8 Africa Action Plan, drafted with considerable input from the Federal Foreign Office, is the responsibility of the Chancellor’s G8 Personal Representative for Africa, who is from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The G8 mandates groups of experts on an ad-hoc basis to research individual topics, such as the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or the international fight against organized crime and terrorism. The recommendations produced are discussed at the G8 Summits by the heads of state and government and are included in the Summit conclusions.
Although the G8 continues to be an informal forum for coordinating policy, the decisions made by the Group have a binding effect politically and are presented to other multilateral bodies jointly by the G8.
Last updated 22.05.2012