G8 is the short form for the Group of Eight, a group of the seven most industrialized nations and Russia that holds an annual summit of their leaders to discuss pressing world affairs. Although the group was intially conceived of to deal primarily with global economic issues, its agenda has since expanded to include a wide variety of social issues as well, such as terrorism, the international drug trade, transnational crime, disease prevention and control, and worldwide poverty and hunger.

G8 History

The G8 held its first meeting as the G6 in Rambouillet, France, in 1975. At the time, the member nations were (in order of economy size), the United States, Japan, West Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy. Canada joined in 1976, and the European Community (now the European Union) was granted observer status in 1977, and thus the group was known for many years as the G7. It became the G8 when Russia joined in 1997.

Whereas the original summits were fairly informal without strong agendas, recent summits have become increasingly active in their attempts to produce positive changes in the world. The 1999 Cologne Summit, for example, launched the Cologne Debt Initiative to address the increasingly severe debt problems of poorer nations, and has yielded approximately $40 billion in debt relief for poor nations to date. Similarly, the 2000 Okinawa Summit produced a plan to fund efforts to combat infectious diseases, and the 2002 Kananaskis Summit created the G8 Africa Action Plan, establishing partnerships between G8 nations and African nations to help with African economic development.

In recent years, G8 summits have become magnets for anti-globalization protestors. These protestors associate the G8 members with efforts by international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to promote free trade. These protestors are against free trade for a wide variety of reasons - some fear loss of their jobs or cultural miscegenation while others assert that free trade will lead to environmental degradation and increasing third world poverty. Thus, groups that may actually be on opposite ends of the political spectrum are united by their dislike of the G8. While most of these protesters are peaceful, a small element has unfortunately frequently resorted to violent activities against businesses and public property, such as looting stores, smashing windows, and tearing down road signs.

Past G8 Summits

The summit rotates between the member nations in the following order: France, USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada. Russia will host for the first time in 2006. The non-G8 member nations of the European Union rotate among themselves to decide which will send each year's EU delegation. Each year, 20 or so non-G8 nations are invited to send delegations as well.

Saint Petersburg, Russia            15-17 July 2006
Gleneagles, Scotland, UK            6-8 July 2005
Sea Island, Georgia, USA            8-10 June 2004
Evian, France                       1-3 June 2003
Kananaskis, Canada                  26-28 June 2002 
Genoa, Italy                        20-22 July 2001 
Okinawa, Japan                      21-23 July 2000 
Köln, Germany                       18-20 June 1999 
Birmingham, UK                      15-17 May 1998 
Denver, USA                         20-22 June 1997 
Lyon, France                        27-29 June 1996 
Halifax, Canada                     15-17 June 1995 
Naples, Italy                       8-10 July 1994 
Tokyo, Japan                        7-9 July 1993 
Munich, Germany                     6-8 July 1992 
London, UK                          15-17 July 1991 
Houston, USA                        9-11 July 1990 
Paris, France                       14-16 July 1989 
Toronto, Canada                     19-21 June 1988 
Venice, Italy                       8-10 June 1987 
Tokyo, Japan                        4-6 May 1986 
Bonn, West Germany                  2-4 May 1985 
London, UK                          7-9 June 1984 
Williamsburg, USA                   28-30 May 1983 
Versailles, France                  4-6 June 1982
Ottawa, Canada                      19-21 July 1981
Venice, Italy                       22-23 June 1980 
Tokyo, Japan                        28-29 June 1979 
Bonn, West Germany                  16-17 July 1978 
London, UK                          6-8 May 1977 
Puerto Rico, USA                    27-28 June 1976
Rambouillet, France                 15-17 November 1975