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The Documentation of the G7/G8 System:

3. Documentation of Ministerial Conferences, Task Forces, Working Groups, and Expert Groups

A. Ministerial Documentation

Documentation of G7/G8 ministerial meetings varies greatly. Finance ministers usually issue a chairman's summary or other statement at the end of their meetings, but in recent years there have been meetings without public statements and, conversely, statements without formal meetings. Hodges remarks that "the G-7 finance ministers did not issue a communiqué after their 1993 Washington meeting, and indicated to the heads at Tokyo that they too were striving to make their meetings more substantive and informal ... "28. A good source in which to find published statements of the G7 finance ministers is the IMF's IMF Survey29. For an example of a recent communiqué issued at the conclusion of a meeting, see Statement of G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, 21 February 1998; for an example of a statement issued by the finance ministers without a meeting, see G7 [Finance Ministers' and Central Bank Governors'] Statement on [the] Korean Situation, 24 December 199730.

The Trade Ministers Quadrilateral rarely released public communiqués in the past, but more recently has tended to issue them; for example, a chair's statement was released after its 30 April-2 May 1997 meeting in Toronto, Canada31. G7/G8 environment ministers tend to release documents; for example, the "Environment Leaders' Summit of the Eight" meeting in Miami, Florida, on 5-6 May 1997 issued a "chair's summary" as well as a declaration on children's environmental health32. All the G7/G8 employment ministerial conferences have issued public documents. The latest one, the G8 Conference on Growth, Employability and Inclusion, held in London on 21-22 February 1998, released "Chairman's Conclusions".

The October 1994 Winnipeg conference on assistance to Ukraine--an ad hoc ministerial meeting--issued a chairman's summary33. The P8 ministerial meeting on terrorism resulted in the "Ottawa Ministerial Declaration on Countering Terrorism" of December 12, 1995, the 30 July 1996 Paris Ministerial Meeting on Terrorism released its agreement on 25 measures to fight terrorism, and the French President's office released a G7/P8 communiqué on 28 December 1996 on the Peruvian hostage incident. Certain task forces and working groups produce public releases and reports, in addition to confidential documents; the deliberations of others remain secret. An example of available documents is the 40-point "Recommendations" released by the P8 Group of Senior Experts on Transnational Organized Crime on 12 April 1996. On a related topic, the G8 justice and interior ministers' meeting on crime, held in Washington, D.C. on 10 December 1997, reviewed the work of the Senior Experts' Group on Transnational Organized Crime. The results of this ministerial meeting are summarized in a statement by U.S. Attorney-General Janet Reno34.

The February 1995 Brussels "information society" conference resulted in a fair amount of documentation, including "chair's conclusions," a thematic paper, and other releases. Access to this material is provided on the Internet by the EU Information Society Project Office35. The first annual meeting of the G7 Conference on Global Marketplace for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises met in Bonn, Germany, on 7-9 April 1997, producing several documents36.

G7 foreign ministers do not issue public statements on their September annual meetings, but one can trace indirectly certain of their other reports; for example, their Report on Aid to Africa was submitted to the 1986 Tokyo Summit which called for implementation of the recommended measures37. Other documents, however, are available from meetings attended--sometimes with holders of other portfolios--by foreign ministers; for example, the G7 foreign and finance ministers meeting in Tokyo on 15 April 1993 in preparation for the 1993 Tokyo Summit (with partial Russian participation), issued a G-7 Chairman's Statement on Support for Russian Reform; and the October 1994 Winnipeg G8 foreign ministers' Conference on Partnership for Economic Transformation in Ukraine released a Chairman's Summary, as noted above38.

The London joint meeting of G7/G8 finance and foreign ministers on 8-9 May 1998 was an important innovation, resulting in a complex set of meetings and documents:

  • On 8 May G7 finance ministers had an afternoon working session, followed by a working dinner with IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus and World Bank President James Wolfensohn. This was followed on 9 May by another session, at the end of which a document, entitled Conclusions of G7 Finance Ministers, was released. It deals with the world economy in general; the strengthening of the global financial system; supervision of global financial institutions; financial crime; the Financial Action Task Force; tax competition; customs procedures; and aging. This document is the basis of the G7 finance ministers' report to the G7 leaders for their Birmingham meeting, entitled Strengthening the Architecture of the Global Financial System.
  • Two other G7 finance-related documents were distributed at the 8-9 May conference in London: Financial Stability: Supervision of Global Financial Institutions; A Report by G7 Finance Ministers, dated May 1998; and Promoting Financial Stability: Recent Initiatives of the Basle Committee on Banking Supervision; Submission for the G-7 Heads of Government at the 1998 Birmingham Summit, dated Basle, March 1998.
  • Later in the morning of 9 May, after the release of the Conclusions of G7 Finance Ministers, there was a brief meeting of the G8 finance ministers. The eight ministers decided to publish eight separate national employability action plans.

  • Parallel with the 8 May meetings of the G7 finance ministers, the G8 foreign ministers met for a working session in the afternoon, followed by a working dinner. In the morning of 9 May the G8 foreign ministers had another working session, at the end of which they issued a document, Conclusions of G8 Foreign Ministers. In it, the ministers deal with the following global issues: the environment, nuclear safety, United Nations matters, nonproliferation/arms control/disarmament, antipersonnel land mines, democracy and human rights, terrorism, infectious diseases, and intellectual property related crime. They also discussed a whole laundry list of regional issues: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Albania, Cyprus, the Middle East peace process, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Korean peninsula, the African Great Lakes region, Nigeria, Angola, and Somalia.

  • The G8 foreign ministers also launched on 9 May a G8 Action Programme on Forests.

  • In late morning, 9 May, the G8 foreign ministers and G8 finance ministers met for a plenary meeting, followed by a working lunch of these ministers with the IMF Managing Director, the World Bank President, and Renato Ruggiero, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization to discuss the Asian financial crisis and its implications.

  • The short document, Conclusions of the Joint Meeting of G8 Foreign and Finance Ministers, was released mid-morning, 9 May. It deals with two main issues: development, and electronic commerce.

Thus, the relatively meagre documentation of the Birmingham G8 Summit was more than offset by the proliferating output of the joint meeting of G7/G8 finance and foreign ministers in London on 8-9 May 1998. This is an interesting downward shift of the workload and documentation from the leaders to their ministers, perhaps indicative of a welcome new trend. It is, moreover, a reflection of greater transparency in the work of the G7/G8.

B. Other Official-Level Documentation

Sherpas never release public information on their invariably confidential meetings. There are, however, some writings that throw an interesting light on the summit preparatory process; for example, former French sherpa Jacques Attali's memoirs entitled Verbatim, and the following two short writings: François Camé's "Comment les sherpas avaient ficelé le sommet" and Estelle Ardouin's Sherpas et sommets des 739.

De Guttry observes that "work groups, study groups and task forces ... prepare background documents to facilitate discussion among the Seven ... , they also present specific reports to the G-7 leaders or their personal representatives ...40 . One version of the report of the work group on technology, growth and employment, established by the 1982 Versailles Summit, has appeared as a British government publication41. The Financial Action Task Force, set up by the 1989 Summit of the Arch to coordinate efforts to fight drug-related money laundering, has since become a broader-than-G7 entity and has been publishing annual reports42.

The existence of otherwise not publicly available reports of task forces and working groups may be inferred through references in summit documents. For example, studies prepared by the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation Group, created by the 1977 London Summit, are acknowledged in the Declaration of the 1980 Venice Summit. The same Venice Declaration also supports the recommendations of the International Energy Technology Group which was initiated at the 1979 Tokyo Summit. The 1985 Bonn Summit Declaration refers to its creation of an expert group on aid to Sub-Saharan Africa which was to report to the G7 foreign ministers by September of that year43. A task force on chemical precursors for the manufacture of illicit drugs was mandated by the 1990 Houston Summit and asked to report within a year; the appropriate report of this Chemical Action Task Force was duly welcomed and endorsed by the 1991 London Summit44. The Halifax Summit has charged the Terrorism Expert Group to report to a ministerial-level meeting on counterterrorism measures and instructed that the appropriate meetings take place prior to the 1996 summit45. The two ministerial-level meetings that have taken place so far are cited above; and another counterterrorism Experts' meeting was held on 14-15 April 1997, in Washington, D.C.

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Updated: June 25, 1998

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