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 Group of Seven/Group of Eight (G7/G8), launched in 1975, has become a central institution of the 1990s, bringing together seven major industrial democracies (France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada) and now Russia, as well as the European Union as a less-than-full participant. Unlike more structured international organizations (for example, the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) that are based on intergovernmental agreements and have permanent secretariats, the G8 has remained a group that is relatively informal and relatively unencumbered by bureaucracy. This arrangement has enabled the leaders of these countries to get well-acquainted with one another and to understand one another's domestic political and economic constraints. It has also provided them with a forum and venue for policy coordination. Despite a proliferating agenda and lack of representativeness, the G7/G8 has achieved respectable results on many economic, political and other global issues.

Over the years, an elaborate system has evolved around, and in addition to, the annual G7/G8 summits which still forms the basis of the institution. Related meetings take place several times during the year to discuss and make decisions on summit-related issues. The leaders' summits are at the apex of the G7/G8 system; the second layer consists of the progressively intensifying and increasingly widespread meetings of ministers; for example, .the finance and foreign ministers of the G7/G8. A number of these ministerial meetings take place on a regular basis, while others are ad hoc affairs. In addition, the G7/G8 system has a third component consisting of the leaders' personal representatives or sherpas, who meet several times a year as part of their function to prepare for each summit. As well, an intricate network of task forces, working groups and expert groups has been established by the G7/G8 leaders.

This complex institution has generated a great deal of varied and often significant documents in the course of its work. Because this documentation is the principal primary source of information about the G7/G8 and its activities, and because of the absence of a G8 secretariat to pull together, disseminate and analyse the document output, there is a great need for careful, systematic assessment of this source material. This need has been recognized for some time. For example, John Kirton, writing in 1989, describes the production of summit documents and analyses their importance1. It is the purpose of this article to survey the types, characteristics, subject matter, production and dissemination of the documents, not only of the summits but also of other parts of the G8 system, and to discuss the evolution and importance of the documentation.

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.