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What has the G8 ever done for us?

Here’s a list of all the topics that have been discussed in the last 38 summits. Has it been worth it?

The leaders of the US, UK, Russia, Germany, European Council, European Commission, China, Italy, Canada and France at last year's G8 in Camp David.
The leaders of the US, UK, Russia, Germany, European Council, European Commission, China, Italy, Canada and France at last year's G8 in Camp David.
Image: The White House via Flickr

AS YOU WILL now probably have realised, the 39th annual G8 summit is taking place in Northern Ireland over the coming days.

The G8 is a divisive body – acknowledged by some as a casual forum for the world’s leaders to discuss matters of mutual concern, while derided by others for being ineffective and for excluding important nations (China, for example) in their affairs.

One of the most pressing questions about the G8, however, is its relevance – with many arguing that there are now so fewer international superpowers, that any power remaining in the hands of ‘powerful’ nations is diluted to the point of irrelevance.

To help readers decide whether the G8 still has any clout any more, here is a reasonably (though not fully) comprehensive list of the topics that the various summits of the G8 (or G7, or G6) leaders have discussed.

The countries listed beside each year are the host nations, which are responsible for setting each year’s agenda.

1975 – France (G6 summit)

  • Discussion on the world economy
  • Political responsibility of democracies
  • Inflation and monetary stability
  • Energy crises
  • Economic relationships with the Soviet nations

1976 – US (Canada joins, becomes the G7)

From 1976 onward, the European Community was represented by the President of the European Commission. In later years the President of the European Council has also attended.

  • No fixed agenda; intended as a forum for resolving differences between members and to show mutual solidarity in face of individual challenges. East-West relations were a regular theme.

1977 – UK

  • International trade and job creation
  • Political leadership
  • Financial nurturing of developing countries, including the development of the IMF

1978 – West Germany

  • Unemployment and inflation
  • Energy policy and reliance on imported oil
  • Trade with developing nations

1979 – Japan

  • Restricting oil consumption and increased use of coal
  • Economic flexibility

1980 – Italy

  • Soviet military occupation of Afghanistan
  • Inflation
  • Breaking the link between economic growth and oil consumption (before 1990)
  • Developing safe use of uranium energy
  • Further development of IMF’s role in currency stability

1981 – Canada

(1981 marked the first time that the President of the European Commission became a formal attendee; in previous years they had merely been invited.)
  • Revitalising the economies of industrial democracies and reducing public debts
  • Constructive engagement with emerging countries, and the USSR’s failure to do so
  • Multilateral trade

A ‘family photo’ of the attendees at the 1981 summit: Gaston Thorn (European Commission), Zenko Suzuki (Japan), Helmut Schmidt (Germany), Ronald Reagan (USA), Pierre Trudeau (Canada), François Mitterrand (France), Margaret Thatcher (UK), Giovanni Spadolini (Italy).

1982 – France

  • Global economic crisis

1983 – USA

  • Global economic crisis
  • Monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policy

1984 – UK

  • Democratic values
  • International terrorism
  • East-West relations and arms control
  • Conflict in Iraq-Iran

1985 – West Germany

  • Continuing global peace and international security
  • Environment policies
  • Global trade
  • Science and technology co-operation

1986 – Japan

  • International terrorism
  • East-West relations
  • Drug abuse

1987 – Italy

  • East-West relations
  • Iran-Iraq war
  • Terrorism
  • AIDS
  • Drug abuse

1988 – Canada

  • East-West relations
  • International terrorism
  • Drugs and narcotics trade
  • Political situations in Cambodia, South Africa and the Middle East
  • Co-ordination of economic policy
  • International trade, particularly with newly-industrialising economies
  • Environment

1989 – France

  • International economy, trade and monetary issues
  • The situation in impoverished countries
  • Assisting heavily-indebted countries
  • Environment
  • Drugs trade
  • AIDS

1990 – USA

  • International economy, trade and monetary issues
  • Export credits
  • The situation in the Soviet Union
  • Developing nations and Third World debt
  • Environment (specifically deforestation)
  • Drugs trade

1991 – UK

(USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev attended this year’s event, leading it to be gubbed ‘G-Eight-and-a-half’ because of the presence of USSR and EC representatives.)

  • Economic policy and international trade
  • Energy and the environment
  • The political situations in the Soviet Union, Eastern and Central Europe; also the Middle East
  • Drug trade
  • International migration

1992 – Germany

  • Global economy
  • The UN’s role in environmental protection
  • Developing countries
  • Political situation in Central and Eastern Europe, and the independence of former Soviet republics
  • Safety of nuclear power plans in former Soviet republics

1993 – Japan

  • Global economy and trade
  • The environment
  • The transition of Russia and other former Soviet territories
  • International co-operation

1994 – Naples

  • Global economy, trade and jobs
  • The status of developing and transitioning countries, particularly Russia and the Ukraine
  • Nuclear safety
  • International co-operation against money laundering and crime

A working dinner for the 1994 event was held here, at Castelo do Ovo outside Naples.

1995 – Canada

  • Economic growth and unemployment
  • Sustainable developing
  • Addressing poverty
  • Environment
  • Nuclear safety

The 1995 summit was the first to have its own dedicated website.

1996 – France

A ‘pre-summit’ was held in Moscow to deal solely with nuclear safety concerns. Boris Yeltzin’s prime minister Victor Chernomyrdin was invited to the G7 proper, along with the heads of the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.

  • Economic and monetary co-operation
  • International trade, investment and job creation
  • Development of poorer nations
  • Successful integration of emerging nations within global economy
  • Transnational organised crime and terrorism

1997 – USA (Russia joins, becoming the G8)

  • Economic opportunities
  • The world’s ageing populations
  • Africa
  • Encouraging small and medium enterprises
  • Environment, forests, climate change and desertification
  • The spread of HIV and AIDS
  • Nuclear safety
  • Energy issues
  • International crime and terrorism
  • An international space station
  • Human cloning
  • The political situations in Hong Kong, the Middle East, Cyprus and Albania

1998 – UK

  • Sustainable economic growth
  • Northern Ireland and the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement
  • International crime, particularly cybercrime, and drug trading
  • International trade
  • Building “democracy and good governance” in emerging nations
  • Debt forgiveness
  • Global warming and adherence to the Kyoto targets
  • The Millennium Bug

1999 – Germany

  • Sustainable economic growth
  • International trade
  • Job creation
  • Education and upskilling
  • Social safeguards, particularly in emerging nations
  • Development and eradication of poverty
  • Environmental protection
  • Nuclear proliferation
  • Organised crime and terrorism
  • The Millennium Bug

2000 – Japan

  • Reform of the UN
  • Global economy
  • Global information society
  • Global development and debt forgiveness
  • Health, including the spread of HIV and AIDS, and combating tuberculosis and malaria
  • Education
  • Trade
  • Encouraging cultural diversity
  • Threats from crime and drugs
  • Food safety
  • Environment
  • Terrorism

2001 – Italy

  • Poverty
  • Debt forgiveness for poorer nations
  • Emerging ‘digital divide’
  • Environment
  • Food security
  • Regional issues
  • Abuse of the global financial system

2002 – Canada

  • Counter-terrorism
  • Debt reduction
  • The role of Russoa
  • The situation in Afghanistan
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Education

2003 – France

  • Terrorism
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Food stability in Africa
  • Corruption and transparency
  • Clean water

2004 – USA

  • Poverty
  • Food security
  • Sudan
  • Middle East
  • Corruption and transparency
  • Eradication of polio
  • Debt sustainability
  • Relationships with emerging Latin American and Eastern European nations

2005 – UK

  • Ending world hunger and poverty
  • Debt forgiveness
  • Climate change
  • Terrorism (The July 7 attacks took place during the summit)
  • Intellectual property and piracy
  • Iraq and the Middle East

Tony Blair addresses reporters at the conclusion of the 2005 summit at Gleneagles.

2006 – Russia

  • Infectious diseases
  • Energy security
  • Africa
  • Corruption
  • The Middle East
  • Terrorism

2007 – Germany

  • Situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Growth and responsibility in the global economy
  • Sudan/Darfur
  • Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  • Counter-terrorism

2008 – Japan

  • Nuclear safety and security
  • Energy stability
  • Climate investment
  • Situations in Afghanistan and Zimbabwe
  • Global development

2009 – Italy

  • Non-proliferation
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Energy
  • Climate change
  • Development of Africa and its role in global affairs
  • Farm and food sustainability

2010 – Canada

  • Non-proliferation
  • Afghanistan
  • Countering terrorism
  • Balanced economic growth
  • Financial sector reform
  • International financial institutions
  • Protectionism and trade

2011 – France

  • The Arab Spring
  • Sudan
  • Economic growth
  • International peace and security
  • Solidarity with Japan following tsunami
  • Green growth and climate change
  • Nuclear safety

2012 – USA

  • European sovereign debt crisis
  • Political vacuum in Greece
  • Situation in Syria
  • Nuclear programmes in Iran and North Korea
  • Food safety and nutrition
  • Reducing dependency on oil
  • Disarmament and non-proliferation

In full: Our coverage of the G8 summit >

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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