Responsibility to shape the futureThe Group of Seven / Group of Eight (G7/G8)

G7 family picture:  Donald Tusk (Council of the EU), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Stephen Harper (Canada), Barack Obama (USA), Angela Merkel (Germany), François Hollande (France), David Cameron (United Kingdom), Matteo Renzi (Italy) and Jean-Claude Juncker (EU Commission)

G7 family picture:  Donald Tusk (Council of the EU), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Stephen Harper (Canada), Barack Obama (USA), Angela Merkel (Germany), François Hollande (France), David Cameron (United Kingdom), Matteo Renzi (Italy) and Jean-Claude Juncker (EU Commission)

© Bundesregierung/Gottschalk

The Group of Seven (G7) or Group of Eight (G8) – like the G20 – is not actually an international organisation; it is an informal forum where heads of state and government meet. Once a year they come together for a summit convened by the country holding the presidency that year. At the summit they discuss key global political issues, exchange views and try to develop constructive solutions. The presidency of the Group rotates each year among the members.

In the past these summit meetings have been the launch pad for a range of G7 (or G8) development policy initiatives – for example initiatives relating to debt relief, food security, health, raw materials and partnership with Africa.

The members of what was the "Group of Eight” (G8) were until recently Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Canada, Russia and the United States of America; the European Union is also represented.

In January 2014 the Russian Federation assumed the presidency of the G8 under the rotation principle. Following the violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, the heads of state and government of the other seven members decided not to participate in the G8 summit that the Russian presidency had planned to hold in Sochi. The members will meet under the G7 format without Russia until further notice.

Further information on this topic can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office here.

The G7 presidency

Castle Elmau in Bavaria

Castle Elmau in Bavaria

© Horemu - Eigenes Werk. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 über Wikimedia Commons

Traditionally, the country currently holding the presidency organises the summit and determines the agenda. Germany assumed the presidency of the G7 early, after the G7 summit in Brussels – normally Germany would not have been due to take over the presidency until 2015. On 7 and 8 June 2015, Germany hosted the meeting of the heads of state and government at Elmau Palace. Further information on the current G7 presidency can be found on the official G7 website of the Federal Government here.

Over the years a comprehensive process of close political coordination between the governments of the member countries has developed around the summit meetings. The topics for the summit and the ministerial meetings are prepared by high-ranking members of staff known as "sherpas” and "sous-sherpas”; there are also working groups that discuss certain topics.

The BMZ elaborates contributions relating to the development policy issues that the G7/G8 are currently discussing. This is done in cooperation with the Federal Chancellery, the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Finance. The BMZ is the lead ministry for the working group on accountability. It prepares reports about how the G7/G8 has fulfilled the commitments made in earlier years. The BMZ is also responsible for the working group on food security and nutrition, and for the MENA Transition Fund of the Deauville Partnership, which was founded in order to support economic and political development in North Africa and the Middle East.

How the G7/G8 operate

Decisions within the G7 or G8 are made on the basis of consensus. Although the outcomes and commitments from the summits are not legally binding, their global impact should not be underestimated. They are implemented by means of bilateral measures carried out by the individual member countries and by means of the enormous influence that these countries have in many multilateral organisations.

The presidency engages in outreach activities, keeping close contact with various interest groups and non-G7/G8 countries. The German government, too, involves civil society very closely in the preparations for the G7/G8 and G20 summits. In the run-up to each summit, an exchange takes place with non-governmental organisations, business associations and trade unions, and with representatives of parliament and foreign embassies. The BMZ issues regular invitations to pertinent discussion forums.

The G7 countries make up 10.5 per cent of the global population and generate about 44 per cent of global gross national income. They are among the biggest contributors to the funding for international organisations and provide the finance for close to 70 per cent of all official development assistance (ODA).