The G8 is a forum established by the 7 leading industrialised nations of the world, plus Russian Federation, that became part of it in 1997, due to its increasing military power and political / economic importance. It should therefore be properly called G7+1. The G7, formed in 1976, when Canada joined the Group of Six (France, Germany, Japan, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States), was never officially dissolved and it continues to hold regular meetings, albeit only as summit of Finance Ministers.
The idea of an annual forum of the main industrial democracies, was launched in 1973 to answer to the global recession caused by the oil crisis in that same year. The first “official” meeting of the Group of six was held on November 1975 in Rambouillet, France. The President of the Italian Council of Ministers was, at that time, Aldo Moro. On that occasion, the idea of organising an annual meeting involving the main industrial players to coordinate the political and economical strategies was introduced.
The G8 countries count for approximately 13% of the world population, with almost 60% of the global GDP (World Bank – World Development Report 2007). Seven out of the eight Member Countries are among the top ten countries in terms of nominal GDP (Russian Federation being the 11th ). Over the years, however, China has overtaken Canada, Italy, France and the United Kingdom (also Germany, according to the most recent statistics), while Spain and Brazil have bigger economies than Russian Federation.
Starting from the ‘90s, the liberalisation of the capital markets and the growth of the emerging economies together with the complex global challenges (i.e. the fight against poverty and the development policies), have impelled the G8 to promote the dialogue with the Developing Countries, especially with Africa.
At the 2007 summit in Germany, a dialogue was initiated with the leading emerging economies (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa) – the so-called Heiligendamm Dialogue Process – on: investments, energy, innovation and development.
The acknowledgment of the global extent of climate change and the need for immediate actions to be taken, made the G8 give a strong political impetus and pushed the active involvement of the emerging economies. In 2007, on a United States initiative, the Major Economies Meeting (MEM) was promoted. It is a structured dialogue with the aim of encouraging a positive outcome for the UN negotiations on the future post-2012 agreement on climate. There are 16 countries in the MEM: the G8 Countries, the five major emerging economies (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa), plus Australia, South Korea and Indonesia.
In 1999, following to a series of economic crisis, the Group of 20 (G20) was established to encourage international economic co-operation and planning, taking into account the new developing economies. It congregates the 19 most industrialised Countries, first of all the G8 countries with the European Union. The Countries are represented by their Finance Ministers and the Governors of their central banks.
The Italian Presidency
The Presidency of the G8 is assigned by a system of rotation. The European Union –through the European Commission – attends the G8, but neither chairs nor hosts the summit.
Italy holds the G8 Presidency in 2009. It is responsible for hosting and organising the necessary preparatory meetings for the summit, which will be held from the 8th to the 10th of July on the island of la Maddalena, Sardinia. On that occasion, as in all previous summits, Heads of State and Government will meet. During the year of its presidency, Italy is also responsible for speaking in the name of the G8 when dialoguing with other Countries, International Organisations and the civil society.
Within the G8, a fundamental role is played by the Sherpas – a term derived from the name of the guides who help climbers to reach the Himalayan peaks – who personally represent the corresponding Heads of State and Government for all the matters on the Summit’s agenda.
Ambassador Giampiero Massolo, Secretary General of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been appointed as Italian Sherpa.
Participants to the G8 Agriculture Ministers' Meeting
The Italian Presidency means to involve – in all the events – all the interested players, so, even if keeping the G8 format, Italy wants to listen to the opinions of the political representatives of those Countries whose political and economic role is becoming increasingly important. In the case of the agriculture summit, the main stakeholders of the future of the world’s agriculture and the top leaders of the main international bodies more directly involved in agriculture have also been invited.
Italy, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States of America, EU Commission, Czech Presidency in Office of the EU
Brasil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa
Argentina, Australia, Egypt
African Union, FAO, UN High Level Task Force on Food Security, IFAD, OECD, World Bank, WFP