G7 Governance
Free Search | Search by Year | Search by Country | Search by Issue (Subject) | G8 Centre


~ G7 Governance Homepage ~

The Documentation of the G7/G8 System


The two main types of G7/G8 summit documents are economic and political. From the outset of the G7, summits have always issued a single declaration (see the following discussion of the summit communiqué) covering a whole gamut of economic subjects and supported at times by an annex (as in London in 1977 and in Williamsburg in 1983) or a background document (as in Halifax in 1995.) The political documents (see discussion of the political declaration and chairman's statement below) have, by contrast, been much less consistent and uniform.

A. The Communiqué

The principal document of each summit is the communiqué (prior to Naples 1994, final communiqué), often called declaration or economic declaration. The subjects of the communiqué range from exchange rates, interest rates, inflation, unemployment and economic growth to North-South and East-West relations, the environment and sustainable development, Third World debt, international organizations, and any other issue on the agenda. Defarges comments that "[f]inal declarations resemble Jacques Prévert's inventories or Jorge Luis Borges' lists: they can include the whole world."2 Whyman, too, notes that "[t]he communiqué has grown into a long, unwieldy `Christmas tree' with each country adding its cherished special interest `ornament'."3 In earlier years, the text of the communiqué was often carried in full in The New York Times and other newspapers of record, but this practice was discontinued, partly because the communiqués had grown progressively longer, and partly because the media lost interest in transmitting the documents in extenso4. On the other hand, with the ever-expanding use of the Internet, a number of World Wide Web sites publish full texts of communiqués and other G7/G8 documents.

De Guttry, analysing summit communiqués from an international-law point of view, isolates the following types of formulations the communiqués contain: "international obligations for the participant states ..., [r]ecommendations to the G-7 member states ..., [s]imple invitations to international organizations ... [and] acts relative to international organizations." Instruments available to the G7 to achieve implementation include direct formulation of recommendations, invitations to member states, delegation of various tasks to other organizations, and the establishment of new international bodies5.

B. Preparing the Communiqué

The preparation of the communiqué is a long, involved process occurring during the lead-up to each summit. The sherpas play a crucial role in the production of this document. They meet several times during the year--beginning usually in January--preparing the agenda and developing the draft of the communiqué for the forthcoming summit. Prior to the 1994 Naples Summit, for example, the sherpas met five times (five sherpa meetings are the maximum; only three such meetings were held before the Halifax Summit), starting with a discussion of the priorities and political constraints of their leaders, and moving on to shape the structure and preliminary agenda of the summit, isolating specific issues for discussion at the summit, beginning the draft of the communiqué and, at their final pre-summit meeting, completing the "thematic paper" that closely resembles the final draft. In Hodges's words, the thematic paper "simply serves as a quarry for the preparation of the final communiqués."6

The actual final draft usually involves feverish last-minute preparations, well into the last night of the summit (beginning with 1994, the night before the release of the communiqué; in Naples, Halifax, and Lyon, the communiqué was released on the second day rather than at the end of the summit, in order to allow the last day to be devoted to P8 discussions with the Russians). This pattern changed with the 1997 Denver "Summit of the Eight" when the communiqué was again released at the end of the summit, this time reflecting the consensus of the Eight. In Naples, the sherpas stayed up until 5:30 AM to complete the final draft. The communiqué (which, according to a French viewpoint articulated by Defarges, "reflects a soft consensus," contrasted with Whyman's characterization of it as "a fully negotiated, binding statement"7) is presented by the leader of the host country with considerable ceremony. In a departure from the practice at earlier summits where the host leader had read out the full text, at Houston in 1990 President Bush simply summarized it (with the evident approval of the guest leaders assembled on the stage) while the full text was being distributed to the media. This simplified procedure seems to have taken hold following the 1993 Tokyo Summit where the leaders had signalled their intention to have more informal meetings and to produce shorter documents once again.

It is instructive to compare the summit communiqué with the communiqué issued by the OECD ministerial meeting usually held about a month before the summit. Owada remarks that "each year the communiqué of the OECD ministerial meeting offers a reference model for preparation of the summit's economic declaration."8 For example, the communiqué of the OECD ministerial meeting held on 26-27 May 1997 raised many of the economic and political concerns that figure prominently in the Denver communiqué9.

An interesting development occurred before the 1995 Halifax Summit when, on June 6, Canadian New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Nelson Riis released to the press a draft communiqué dated May 27, 199510. Comparing the missing sections and especially the square-bracketed passages in the leaked draft with the appropriate parts of the agreed communiqué throws additional light on the preparatory process and the role of the leaders in working out final agreement on the main document of the Summit. There had been earlier as well as subsequent instances of leaked draft communiqués but some of these attracted less attention than others11.

C. The Political Declarations.

The political or other non-economic declaration was, through 1993, the primary document "[r]anking second in the hierarchy of summit scripture."12 The first such declaration was issued by the 1978 Bonn Summit, on the subject of the hijacking of aircraft. Prior to that time, because of initial French opposition to wider political and security discussions and Japanese reluctance to engage in those areas, "final declarations contained no political statements."13 Tokyo I (1979) also deplored air hijackings and issued a special statement on Indochinese refugees. Declarations, which have subsequently proliferated in number, have ranged in subject from refugees and terrorism through East-West security concerns to drug trafficking and human rights. "In order to preserve the [essentially] economic nature of the [final] communiqué, these political statements have been issued as separate documents."14 This changed with the Denver Summit of the Eight and with the Birmingham G8 Summit, as discussed later.

The non-economic concerns of Venice 1980, expressed in special statements, dealt with Afghanistan and with the occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran. In Ottawa 1981 there was a separate statement on terrorism. The main political statement of the 1982 Versailles Summit addressed the situation in Lebanon after the Israeli invasion. The 1983 "Williamsburg Declaration on Security", an important first summit initiative in this area, called for arms control and greater co-operation in that field between the Soviet Union and the G7; it also covered the stationing of U.S. missiles in Europe. In London 1984 there were declarations on democratic values, terrorism, and East-West security relations, as well as a statement on the Iran-Iraq conflict.

The 1985 Bonn Summit produced a political declaration commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the end of World War II. One of the political declarations at Tokyo in 1986 commented on the Chernobyl nuclear accident. "Venice II" (1987) brought forward statements on East-West relations, terrorism, the Iran-Iraq war, AIDS, and narcotic drugs. The Paris Summit also issued declarations on human rights (to commemorate the bicentennial of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen), on China (following the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989), on East-West relations (especially in connection with post-Cold War democratization in Eastern and Central Europe), and on terrorism. The 1991 Summit produced a "Political Declaration" subtitled "Strengthening the International Order," a separate "Declaration on Conventional Arms Transfers and NBC [nuclear, biological and chemical] Non-proliferation" and a "Chairman's Statement (As Prepared)" in which British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd commented on the first two documents.

In 1992 in Munich the political declaration bore the subtitle "Shaping the New Partnership" and dealt with specific economic, political and security areas of the new partnership with countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the new independent states of the former Soviet Union, nuclear non-proliferation, and the further strengthening of the UN. In addition, there was a separate declaration on the crisis in the former Yugoslavia, and a "Chairman's Statement" (from German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel) on problems and developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the Baltic States, the Middle East, Iraq, Korea, China, the Mediterranean, Africa and Latin America, as well as questions of drugs and terrorism. The 1993 Tokyo political declaration, issued as usual during the second day of the summit, was entitled "Striving for a More Secure and Humane World." The declaration condemns Serbia and Croatia for their aggression in Bosnia and affirms human rights and nuclear nonproliferation, among other points.

Writing in early 1994, Putnam pointed out that the formerly "largely autonomous process of preparation of the summit `political declarations' has been taken over by the `G-7 political directors' in foreign offices outside the purview of the sherpas themselves."15 Soon afterward, starting with Naples in 1994, the political declaration was replaced by:

The chairman's statement, a type of summit document issued for the first time by the host leader on behalf of the P8, indicating Russia's increased role in the political discussion and drafted with Russian participation. This statement was released in 1994, 1995 and 1996 at the end of the summit, a day after rather than a day before the summit communiqué as had been the previous practice. Presumably the chairman's statement did not need to be as completely a consensus document as the summit communiqué was.

The Naples "Chairman's Statement [Political]" dealt with a number of issues ranging from Bosnia and the Israeli-Palestinian agreement, through North Korea and Rwanda, to the role of the UN and of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. Following the pattern set at Naples, the Halifax Summit, at its conclusion and at the "Political 8" level issued a Chairman's Statement, reaffirming the commitment of the P8 to multilateral engagement, to arms control and disarmament, to new approaches in dealing with environmental and other global challenges, and to fighting terrorism and other international crime. It also reviewed European achievements (the advance of democracy and market economy) and problems (especially Bosnia); the situation in the Middle East and Africa; the Asia-Pacific region; and the Americas. The main feature of the Halifax Chairman's Statement, though, was a thematic, generic approach to conflict prevention and resolution, rather than a regional focus16.

The 1996 Lyon Summit's "Chairman's Statement" covered a broad range of global and regional issues of the type discussed earlier under "The Role and Agenda of the Summit." It also included a long supplementary section reviewing UN reforms since the Halifax Summit, with a catalog of achievements and a commitment by the Eight to "continue and reinforce our efforts to improve the functioning of the UN in the economic and social fields and its impact on development ... [and to] continue to work in partnership with other members to complete processes underway ... and initiate further processes as required."17

In addition to the communiqué and the chairman's statement, the Lyon Summit issued the following documents:

  • a declaration on terrorism, produced on the first evening of the Summit (June 27, 1996), in response to the terrorist attack against a U.S. military base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which occurred just before the summit;

  • "Decisions Concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina," a P8 document issued on 29 June 1966 that dealt with elections and institutions; the International War Crimes Tribunal; a plan for civilian consolidation; reconstruction; refugees and the rule of law; and regional and security issues;

  • "A New Partnership for Development," a document issued on 29 June 1996 jointly by the P8 and the four invited heads of international organizations; and

  • a report by the G7 finance ministers to the heads of delegations, dated 28 June 1996, on international monetary stability.

D. Other Types of Leaders' Documents.

The chairman's summary of earlier summits, not to be confused with the chairman's statement discussed above, had, for a number of years, been another important document in which the host leader summed up his or her views or impressions of the achievements of the summit. It was in the form of an oral statement, a prepared written document, or an agreed collective statement read by the host leader. It was not issued at every summit. An example is the 1981 Ottawa Summit where the host leader, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, presented a summary of political issues. Toronto 1988 issued a chairman's summary on the Middle East, South Africa, and Cambodia.

An example of yet another type of summit document is the communiqué de la Présidence (sometimes called in English statement from the Chair) issued during the 1989 Paris Summit by President Mitterrand, in his capacity as summit chairman, on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Southern Africa, Central America, Panama, Cambodia, and Lebanon. Other examples include host leader Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani's statements on AIDS and narcotic drugs at the 1987 Venice Summit. The 1995 Halifax Summit saw Canadian host Prime Minister Jean Chrétien deliver a statement on Bosnia--unusual in that it was done in the first evening of the summit before Russian President Boris Yeltsin's arrival. This indicated that the Halifax Summit was indeed a "leaders' summit" of the seven, contrasted with many previous summits at which the initial working dinner of the heads had largely confined its agenda to previously prepared economic issues. The 1998 G8 Birmingham Summit produced another document in this category, entitled Response By the Presidency on Behalf of the G8 to the Jubilee 2000 Petition.

Transcripts of press conferences constitute another type of document that should be distinguished from the agreed public documents of the summits discussed earlier. Many press conferences and briefings are held throughout the summits. Each summit country, as well as the EU, goes to great lengths to present its own initiatives and positions on various summit issues to the world news media so as to reflect itself in the best possible light internationally as well as back home. Hodges notes that "the press does not know what really goes on in the summit meetings and relies heavily on briefings from the press secretaries of the various heads. Each of these briefings gives a different idea of who succeeded."18 On the other hand, news conferences allow media representatives to ask probing questions of major officials and other spokesmen. The press conference given at the conclusion of each summit by the leader of the host country is a particularly important event.

Although not summit documents in the strict sense, outside communications to the summit are important related documents. Especially significant are Gorbachev's 14 July 1989 letter to President Mitterrand expressing the Soviet Union's wish to be associated with the summits; and President Gorbachev's letter to President Bush, received a few days before the 1990 Houston Summit19. Gorbachev's letter was discussed and commented on by the leaders and reflected in Summit documents, although the texts were not released to the public. Gorbachev's 23-page message (together with a 31-page annex) to the leaders at the 1991 London Summit, delivered by Yevgeni Primakov on 12 July, caused a flurry of journalistic speculation and comment even though its text had not been officially released. The message--a synthesis of the Yavlinski reform plan and the Soviet government's plan for economic reform--was discussed intensively by the G7, although the personal dialogue, made possible by the Gorbachev visit to London, eclipsed the written communication.

Another example of outside communications to the summit is a press release issued just before the 1989 Paris Summit by four Third World leaders: President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India, Abdou Diouf of Senegal, and Carlos Andrés Pérez of Venezuela. The four, in the name of the fifteen major developing countries meeting in Paris, wished to initiate regular consultations with the developed world at the summit level. The fifteen later formed their own "G-15", alluded to earlier. One might mention in the same category the co-ordinated but separate letters addressed to the 1991 London Summit by the President of Poland, the Prime Minister of Hungary, and the President of Czechoslovakia. These letters (whose text has not been released) expressed concern about the collapse of those countries' trade with the Soviet Union, and about their access to Western markets20. Yet another example of this type of communication is an address to the seven heads of summit delegations, dated 26 June 1992, from the Council of the Baltic States, dealing with the continued presence of Russian forces in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

[Previous] [Document
Contents] [Next]


This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Library and the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to: g8@utoronto.ca
Updated: June 25, 1998

All contents copyright © 1998, G8 Research Group. All rights reserved.