The G8 is an informal group made up of the world's top industrialized nations. The leaders of each of the countries involved in the G8 meet once a year to discuss economic, trade and political issues. This annual meeting is known as the G8 summit and is held in a different member country each year.
The first summit was held in 1975 at the request of the French government. At the time, there were only six nations involved: Germany, Italy, UK, Japan, France and the US. In 1976, Canada joined, and the group was then known as the G7. Russia was the last to join in 1998.
The G8 has no permanent headquarters or staff. It also does not have its own budget. When the face to face summit is held each year, the presiding country is responsible for all the arrangements, including security. When the summit takes place, media attention on the presiding country is fierce, and security is one of the highest priorities.
The summits have recently caused a lot of controversy. They are usually shrouded in secrecy for security reasons. Protests and riots have occurred outside many G8 summit locations. In Italy in 2001, a major riot took place due to the G8 member’s strong support of globalization.
The basic aims of the G8 are to resolve conflicts and promote peace between member countries. They also intend to reinforce the global economy and promote cooperation between countries on issues such as finance and trade. Although the countries can come to an agreement on policies, the decision to act on these agreements is strictly voluntary.
There have been many critics of the G8 since its formation. Critics claim that the G8 is an elitist group of superpowers and that their interests are purely self serving. Many countries, including China and India, are not included in the G8. Many critics also query the validity of Russia as a member country. It has by far the smallest economy of any of the countries, and its democratic development is questionable.
Issues discussed at the last G8 summit agenda included the energy crisis, terrorist activity and the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq has caused some major disagreements between the member countries. Unofficially, the US is considered the dominant member of the G8 group due to its political and economic power.