The G-8 summit brings together the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The summit has evolved over the years into an annual meeting that addresses a wide range of issues in areas such as international development, health and peace and security.
The role of chairing the G-8 rotates each calendar year among the member countries in the following order: France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada. The European Union, though not part of this hosting rotation, also participates in the G-8 and is represented by the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.
The country holding the G-8 presidency is responsible for hosting and organizing the summit and a number of ministerial-level preparatory meetings in the lead-up to the main event. The chair also bears the responsibility of speaking on behalf of the G-8 and engaging non-member countries, non-governmental organizations and international organizations.
The host country organizes several preparatory meetings before the summit. G-8 leaders’ personal representatives, known as Sherpas, attend these meetings to discuss potential agenda items. The Sherpas, usually high-ranking government officials, communicate directly with each other throughout the year. In 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Sherpa for the Deauville Summit is Gérald Cossette, Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign and finance ministers have always played a key role in the G-7/G-8, both at the summit itself and in the lead-up to the event. Other ministers meet as required. Since 1998, foreign and finance ministers have developed their own agenda and followed up on their commitments. G-8 foreign ministers deal specifically with foreign and security policy issues and they support the efforts of the summit.
The 2010 Foreign Ministers Meeting was hosted by Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon. The meeting followed the streamlined approach of the Kananaskis Summit: a policy retreat with fewer officials and a short chair’s statement. For more information on past foreign ministers meetings and their outcomes, please see the Past Summits section of this website.
Finance ministers meet regularly during the year. At a G-7 finance ministers meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 2008, for example, the ministers drafted a five-point plan aimed at easing the global financial crisis. It included recommendations such as taking steps to support struggling financial institutions and unfreeze credit and money markets.