About the G8 Summit

G8 Image

© Abaca Press - Presidency of the French Republic

Created at the initiative of France in 1975 to address the first oil crisis, the G8 is an informal group of advanced economies, which meets once a year at a Summit of Heads of State and Government. It has essentially a role of guidance and political impetus.


G8 members are France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada. Composed of six members at its creation in 1975, and seven with Canada in 1976, the group became the G8 with the inclusion of Russia in 1998. The European Union (then EEC) has been associated since 1977. G8 members represent 15% of world population, 65% of GDP, two thirds of international trade.

Canada Profile


Canada, a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, is located in the northern part of North America. The capital city is Ottawa and its political system is based on a constitutional monarchy and a bicameral Parliament where Queen Elizabeth is the symbolic head of state. Though the Governor General of Canada is empowered to perform the sovereign's constitutional duties on her behalf, he or she only symbolically exercises his or her power whereas the Prime Minister exercises the real political power as the head of government. Since 90 percent of the population is closely distributed along the U.S. border, Canada's economy is closely linked to the U.S. The country hosted the G20 Summit in June 2010.

  • Population: 33,143,610 (as of 2008)
  • Area: 9,984,670 ㎢
  • Official language: English and French
  • Local currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)
  • Official government website: www.gc.ca
Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Biography

Canada's Stephen Harper was first elected prime minister of Canada in January 2006, assuming office from Paul Martin in February and leading a minority government. He later ran for re-election in October 2008 and returned to the House of Commons with a stronger minority. Before running for politics he served as a policy advisor for the Reform Party. Harper first ran for a seat in the House of Commons in 1988, but was not successfully elected until 1993. He served as leader of the opposition for a number of years before becoming prime minister. He was born in Toronto, Ontario, on April 30, 1959. He did studied economics at the University of Toronto and the University of Calgary, later returning to the University of Calgary to earn his master's degree in economics in 1991. He and his wife, Laureen Harper, have two children. (Source: www.g20.utoronto.ca)

France Profile


France, officially known as the French Republic, is located in Western Europe between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The capital city is Paris, well-known as the center of arts and culture. The government is based on the unitary semi-presidential system with two executive leaders; the President is the head of state and the Prime Minister carries out his role following the tradition of the Third and Fourth Republics. France is also known for various cultural attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumphe, and the Palace of Versailles. President Nicolas Sarkozy's speech at the UN in 2008, which underlined the needs to establish a new international financial system that includes emerging economies, became the cornerstone of the G20 Summit.

  • Population: 62.6 million (as of 2009)
  • Area: 551,695 ㎢
  • Official language: French
  • Local currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Official government website: www.service-public.fr
Nicolas Sarkozy

Head of State Biography

France's Nicolas Sarkozy became president of France on May 16, 2007, taking over from Jacques Chirac, who had held the position since 1995. He worked as a lawyer while he pursued politics. From 1983 to 2002, he was mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine. He has been president of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, France's major right-wing party, since 2004. During his time in parliament he has held a number of cabinet portfolios including minister of state of economy, finance and industry, minister of the budget and minister of the interior. He was born in Paris on January 28, 1955. In 1978, he received his law degree from the Université de Paris. He is married to Carla Bruni and has three children from his two previous marriages. (Source: www.g20.utoronto.ca)

Germany Profile


Germany, officially known as the Fedeeral Republic of Germany, is located in central Europe. The capital city is Berlin. The country was reunited in 1990 after being divided into two countries, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1949. Germany became the world's leading exporting powerhouse through the "German Economic Miracle" after World War II, and is one of the leading countries in the renewable energy sector such as solar power and wind power, as well as in other related technologies. The country has a federal system and the administrative divisions consist of sixteen states. Under the country's parliamentary system, the Chancellor serves as the head of government.

  • Population: 82.13 million (as of 2009)
  • Area: 357,021 ㎢
  • Official language: German
  • Local currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Official government website: www.deutschland.de
Angela Merkel

Chancellor Biography

Germany's Angela Merkel became the first female chancellor of Germany on November 22, 2005, replacing Gerhard Schröder who had been in power since 1998. Before entering into politics Merkel worked as a researcher and physicist. She was first elected to the Bundestag in 1990 and has held the cabinet portfolios of women and youth, environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety. She was born in Hamburg on July 17, 1956. In 1978, she received her doctorate in physics from the University of Leipzig. She is married to Joachim Sauer and has no children. (Source: www.g20.utoronto.ca)

Italy Profile


Italy, officially known as the Italian Republic, is located in Southern Europe. The capital city is Rome and the country's government is based on a parliamentary system. The president is elected by deputies, senators, and representatives of the country's twenty states in a joint session through a secret ballot. Once voted, the president has the right to 1) promulgate laws, 2) dissolve the parliament, 3) appoint and dismiss the prime ministers, and 4) declare war. In addition to its long history, Italy is also known for its various cultural heritage sites and famous cities including Milan, a world-renowned fashion city, and Torino and Genova, the economic centers of Italy.

  • Population: 59.9 million (as of 2009)
  • Area: 301,336㎢
  • Official language: Italian
  • Local currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Official government website: www.quirinale.it
Silvio Berlusconi

Prime Minister Biography

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi became prime minister of Italy for the fourth time after winning the April 2008 election. Before entering politics, he started his career as a building contractor. In 1980, he established Canale 5, the first private national television network in Italy. He also became a leading Italian publisher with Mondadori. In 1994 he resigned from all his posts at Gruppo Fininvest in order to establish the political movement Forza Italia and, in the same year, he became president of the Council of Ministers for the first time. In June 2001 Berlusconi became premier again, an office he held until 2006. In 2009, for the third time, he chairs the presidency of the G8. Born in Milan on September 29, 1936, he received his law degree from the University of Milan. He is married to Veronica Lario and has five children. (Source: www.g20.utoronto.ca)

Japan Profile


Japan is an archipelago which comprises four big islands, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. The capital city is Tokyo and the government is based on a consitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system. While the emperor serves as the symbolic head of the state, the Prime Minister directs and supervises the administrative ministries within the nation. Japan, the second largest economy in the world, will serve as the host country of APEC 2010 which will be held soon after the G20 Summit.

  • Population: 127,288,419
  • Area: 377,835㎢
  • Official language: Japanese
  • Local currency: Yen (JPY)
  • Official government website: www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/index-e.html
Naoto Kan

Prime Minister Biography

Japan's Naoto Kan became prime minister of Japan in June 2010, replacing Yukio Hatoyama, who had held the position since September 2009. Kan was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1980. He served as minister of health and welfare, minister of state for science and technology, deputy prime minister and minister of finance during his time in politics. Kan was born in Ube City, Yamaguichi Prefecture on October 10, 1946. He graduated from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1970 and opened a patent office in 1974. Kan is married and has two children. (Source: www.g20.utoronto.ca)

Russia Profile


Russia, officially known as the Russian Federation, is the largest country in the world which includes nine time zones. capital city is Moscow and the country has abundant natural resources, including the largest natural gas reserves and the seventh largest oil reserves in the world. The country is also one of the leading nations in aerospace technology, and is well known for its first satellite Sputnik, which was launched in 1957, as well as for the world's first astronaut Yuri Gagarin. The country is also known for the Bolshoi Ballet and its Swan Lake performance, and for the masterpieces of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Korea and Russia, various ceremonies and cultural events have been held since the beginning of 2010.

  • Population: 140,702,094 (as of 2008)
  • Area: 17,075,200 ㎢
  • Official language: Russian
  • Local currency: Ruble (RUB)
  • Official government website: www.russia.rin.ru
Dmitry Medvedev

President Biography

Russia's Dmitry Medvedev became president of Russia on May 7, 2008, after winning the presidential election in March, replacing Vladmir Putin, whose term in office had expired. Before entering politics, Medvedev worked as a legal expert and lawyer. He was officially endorsed as a presidential candidate on December 17, 2007, by Russia's largest political party, United Russia, as well as by Putin. Medvedev served as deputy prime minister from 2005 to 2008. He was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) on September 14, 1965. He earned a degree in law in 1987 and a doctorate in private law in 1990 from Leningrad State University. He is married to Svetlana Medvedeva and they have one child. (Source: www.g20.utoronto.ca)

United Kingdom Profile

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom, officially known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is an island country in Northwestern Europe. The capital city is London and the political system is based on the constitutional monarchy. While Queen Elizabeth II is the symbolic head of the fifty-four independent states of the Commonwealth of Nations, the country is governed by a parliamentary cabinet system where the Prime Minister serves as the head of government. The country is highly competitive in service industries, including finance and law. It is the second largest destination of foreign direct investment after the U.S. and London is the world's second largest financial market after New York. The country hosted the London Summit in April 2009.

  • Population: 61.8 million (as of 2009)
  • Area: 244,820㎢
  • Official language: English
  • Local currency: Pound (GBP)
  • Official government website: www.direct.gov.uk
David Cameron

Prime Minister Biography

The United Kingdom's David Cameron became prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in May 2010. He was first elected to parliament in 2001 as representative for Witney. Before becoming a politician Cameron worked for the Conservative Research Department and served as a political strategist and advisor to the Conservative Party. He has served as party leader since December 2005. Born in London, England, on October 9, 1966, Cameron received a bachelor's degree in philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford. He is married to Samantha Sheffield and had three children, one who passed away in 2009. (Source: www.g20.utoronto.ca))

United States Profile

United States

The United States of America is a federal republic consisting of fifty states. The capital city is Washington, D.C. and the government is composed of the legislative branch (the bicameral Congress composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives), the executive branch, and the judicial branch. The U.S. has hosted two G20 Summits, and has led the global efforts to tackle the global financial crisis. It is a multicultural nation, home to peoples of diverse ethnic and cultural heritages. The country's cultural diversity makes it highly competitive in cultural industries including entertainment and arts. The Korea-U.S. alliance, which is based on mutual trust and the common values of democracy and market economy, will develop further as a form of strategic alliance in the twenty-first century.

  • Population: 307.21 million (as of 2009)
  • Area: 9,826,630㎢
  • Official language: English
  • Local currency: United States dollar (USD)
  • Official government website: www.usa.gov
Barack Obama

President Biography

The United States of America's Barack Obama became president-elect on November 4, 2008, and was inaugurated January 20, 2009, replacing George W. Bush. In 2005 Obama was elected to the Senate, having previously worked as a community organizer, a civil rights lawyer and a state legislator for Illinois. The first black president of the United States, he was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a Kenyan father and American mother. He received his bachelor's degree from Columbia University in 1983 and a law degree from Harvard University in 1991. He is married to Michelle Obama and they have two children. (Source: www.g20.utoronto.ca)

European Union Profile

European Union

The European Union consists of twenty-seven member states. After World War II, six countries created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in August 1952 to help the reconstruction of the European economy and to prevent the recurrence of war. The European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) were established in March 1957. In 1967 the ECSC, EEC and EURATOM were integrated into the European Community (EC), which currently has twelve member states. The EC developed into the European Union (EU) in accordance with the terms of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. The EU's current population is about 500 million, and it accounts for 20 percent of the world's total GDP. It is currently in the process of political integration since the Lisbon Treaty came into force in December 2009.

  • Established: 1993
  • Purpose: Political and economic integration of European countries
  • Member Countries: 27 (as of 2010)
  • Currency: Euro (used by 16 member countries as of 2010) (EUR)
  • Official government website: www.europa.eu
Herman Van Rompuy

President of the European Council

The European Union's Herman Van Rompuy was elected the first full-time president of the European Council on November 19, 2010. Previously he was prime minister of Belgium from 2008 to 2009. Before entering politics Rompuy was a lecturer. Born in Etterbeek, Belgium, on October 31, 1947, he holds a bachelor of philosophy and a master's degree in applied economics from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. He is married to Geertrui Windels and has four children.

José Manuel Barroso

President of the European Commission

The European Union's José Manuel Barroso became president of the European Commission on November 23, 2004. He was re-elected to the position on September 16, 2009. Previously he was prime minister of Portugal from 2002 to 2004. Before entering politics Barroso was an academic. Born in Lisbon, Portugal on March 23, 1956, he studied law at the University of Lisbon, holds a master's degree in economics and social sciences from the University of Geneva and received his doctorate from Georgetown University in 1998. He is married to Maria Margarida Pinto Ribeiro de Sousa Uva and has three children. (Source: www.g20.utoronto.ca)


The members of the G8 seek to identify measures to take together, where they can make a difference, with respect to major matters concerning the political issues of security and globalization. Lacking a legal personality or permanent secretariat, the G8 is not an international institution and does not take binding measures.

Over the past 30 years, the G8 has been the main international forum providing guidance and impetus on a growing number of issues: economy right from the beginning, as well as development, peace and security, the environment and climate change. It made it possible to set up a collective framework for regulating globalization.

Since the Pittsburgh Summit in September 2009, which marked a major step in the reform of global governance, making the G20 the "main international economic forum", to reflect the new world balance and the growing role of emerging countries, the G8 has been redefining its role.

The "new G8" is refocusing on geopolitical and security issues, the partnership with Africa, in its dual political and economic dimensions, and on the subjects of common interest to the G8 countries, facing specific challenges.

Its added value lies in its efficacy, based on its direct and informal character, the tradition of joint projects and a desire shared by its members to shoulder their responsibilities.


The G8 is chaired on a rotational basis, from January 1st to December 31st of a given year, by each of its members in the following order: France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada. The European Union participates in the G8 as an observer; the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission represent it at the Summit.

The country that has the presidency organizes and hosts the Summit, and prepares it by convening meetings of ministers, senior civil servants and experts. The presidency is also responsible for communication on behalf of the G8 and relations with countries that are not members of the G8, international organizations, NGOs and civil society in general.

France is chairing the G8 in 2011 for the sixth time. In the past, it has hosted Summits in Rambouillet in 1975, Versailles in 1982, Paris in 1989, Lyon in 1996 and Evian in 2003.


The Summit provides the opportunity for a direct, informal discussion among leaders on key issues on the international agenda. It results in the adoption of a political statement, possibly accompanied by additional statements, sectorial action plans and other documents.

For a decade, the G8 has taken the habit to organize a meeting with African leaders during the Summit. Traditionally, the founding countries of the New Partnership with Africa (NEPAD) are invited - South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal - as well as the country chairing the African Union (AU) and the country chairing NEPAD. On certain occasions, leaders from other countries have also been invited.

Preparatory Meetings

"Sherpas" prepare the Summit, the name given to the personal representatives of the heads of State and government. They meet several times before the Summit to discuss the agenda and negotiate texts. In France, the Sherpa is the French President’s diplomatic advisor, Mr. Jean-David Lévitte.

The Sherpas are assisted by the Foreign Affairs and Finance "Sous-Sherpas", as well as by the political Directors of the Foreign affairs ministries and the personal representatives for Africa of the heads of state and government.

Ministerial Meetings

The presidency also organizes ministerial meetings, which prepare the Summit but which also have their own agendas and are the subject of public statements.

The Foreign affairs ministers meet once prior to the Summit and a second time in September in New York on the occasion of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to discuss foreign policy and security issues. Political Directors prepare these meetings.

Other ministerial meetings may also be organized. In 2011, a ministerial meeting will be held on transatlantic drug trafficking and the crime that goes along with it, bringing together the countries of the G8 as well as other Latin American and African countries that are affected first and foremost by this problem.

Personal Representatives for Africa/Forum for the Partnership with Africa

In 2002, a network of personal representatives for Africa of the heads of State of government of the G8 was set up to enter into a dialogue with the New Partnership with Africa (NEPAD). In 2003, France drew on this network to prepare the G8 Evian Action Plan for Africa; it expanded the scope of this group by creating the Forum for the Partnership with Africa, which is open to the leading bilateral and multilateral lenders, European lenders in particular.

The personal representatives for Africa meet several times prior to the Summit with the personal representatives of the leaders of African countries who are invited to the Summit to prepare this meeting.

The Forum for the Partnership with Africa meets at least twice a year. It is co-chaired alternately by two African countries and two development partner countries (the country chairing the G8 and an OECD country that is not a member of the G8). Since 2005, it has been tasked with monitoring commitments made in support of development by African States and their development partners, in the context of an exercise of mutual liability.


There is no official language of the G8, because the G8 is a consultative process and not an international organization. The heads of state and government express themselves in their own languages at the Summit. Consultations prior to the Summit process are conducted in English.

Previous Summits

  • 1975 France Rambouillet
  • 1976 United States San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • 1977 United Kingdom London
  • 1978 Germany Bonn
  • 1979 Japan Tokyo
  • 1980 Italy Venice
  • 1981 Canada Montréal, Québec
  • 1982 France Versailles
  • 1983 United States Williamsburg, Virginia
  • 1984 United Kingdom London
  • 1985 Germany Bonn
  • 1986 Japan Tokyo
  • 1987 Italy Venice
  • 1988 Canada Toronto, Ontario
  • 1989 France Paris, Grande Arche
  • 1990 United States Houston, Texas
  • 1991 United Kingdom London
  • 1992 Germany Munich, Bavaria
  • 1993 Japan Tokyo
  • 1994 Italy Naples
  • 1995 Canada Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • 1996 France Lyon
  • 1997 United States Denver, Colorado
  • 1998 United Kingdom Birmingham
  • 1999 Germany Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia
  • 2000 Japan Okinawa
  • 2001 Italy Genoa
  • 2002 Canada Kananaskis, Alberta
  • 2003 France Evian
  • 2004 United States Sea Island, Georgia
  • 2005 United Kingdom Glenaegles, Scotland
  • 2006 Russia Saint-Petersburg
  • 2007 Germany Heiligendamm
  • 2008 Japan Toyako, Hokkaido
  • 2009 Italy L’Aquila
  • 2010 Canada Muskoka, Ontario