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G8 Group

Specifics of the functioning of the G8 as an international structure


Issues of organisation of G8 presidency (Framework and programmes for G8 summits, determination of priorities, key initiatives and activities).

The country hosting the yearly summit (rotated every year between member states) assumes G8 presidency for the entire calendar year. At the end of the year, the presidency is passed on to the next country in a defined order. The rotation cycle begins with France, followed by the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada. At the Kananaskis summit in 2002, a resolution was adopted on Russian presidency of the G8 in 2006 (after the United Kingdom), with the 2006 summit being held in our country.

The president country organises events at all levels of the 'club' (scientific conferences, meetings of parliament members, experts, political directors, Sous Sherpas, Sherpas and ministers, and the summit itself). On average, 60 to 80 such events are held per year. The president nation compiles the timetable for these events, coordinates work done, and, by agreement with other members, defines key working directions for the G8 during the year. The most important topics are considered priorities for the president country (the recent tendency is toward shorter agendas for the summits, with the partners favouring more effective implementation of resolutions).

Around a year before assuming the presidency, countries begin work on production of a concept plan. Concept plans for G8 presidency are multifaceted documents, containing key proposals of the president country with regard to potential priorities. All branches and agencies of the state participate in development of this document, making proposals with regard to areas within their remit.

Determination of priorities is one of the most important tasks for the president nation.:

- Priority topics must be within the sphere of interests of each participant, and most importantly, relevant for the entire global community.

- Issues considered priority must allow for development of multifaceted documents (statements, initiatives, action plans, discussion plans).

- It is also important that the solutions identified in these documents be realisable within deadlines agreed upon between the parties.

The role of Sherpas as chief coordinators as national groups.

Sherpas (personal representatives of the leaders) lead and coordinate preparation and realisation of G8 summits, drafting of concluding documents, implementation of adopted resolutions, and other ongoing G8 activities. Sherpas usually meet 4 or 5 times per year, and, at the summits, only Sherpas are permitted access to the discussions of heads of state, the contents of which are not usually made public.

Sherpas lead 'national teams' consisting of political directors, foreign-policy and financial Sous Sherpas, and representatives of other ministries and departments, who report to the Sherpas on the progress of realisation of G8 resolutions. Consultations and constant confidential exchange of information on all G8 issues also take place through the Sherpas. Exchange of opinions and agreement on positions at Sherpa level takes place through telephone and fax communication. E-mail is also actively used (constant correspondence through Sherpas' assistants), as well as a secure internet portal.

Working mechanisms of the G8

Interaction within the G8 takes place through a flexible multi-level mechanism. At a working level, sittings and tele- and video conferences are held, and constant exchange of information takes place through fax and the internet (open and secure portals). Realisation of summit resolutions (including implementation of projects laid out in summarising documents) is led and coordinated by Sherpas. Sherpas are entrusted with managing the 'national teams' (consisting of political directors, foreign-policy Sous Sherpas, financial Sous Sherpas, and other representatives of the national administration).

Political directors are responsible for resolution of foreign-policy issues and development of relevant documents in the fields of disarmament, nuclear weapons non-proliferation, international terrorism, conflict prevention, regional and other issues, as well as preparation for foreign ministers' meetings. International problems of a socioeconomic and humanitarian nature are overseen by foreign-policy Sous Sherpas, and financial and economic issues (including preparation for finance ministers' meetings and preparation of the relevant documents) is the responsibility of the financial Sous Sherpas.

As part of summit preparation and development of the relevant summary documents, meetings of ministers (of foreign affairs, finance, the environment, energy, labour and social development, health, education, internal affairs and justice, etc) take place.

Since 1995 (after the Halifax summit), working bodies have also been in place. These consist of experts and are subdivided into special-purpose groups (G8 special-purpose group for South Asia, G8 special-purpose group for digital-technology issues, G8 special-purpose group for renewable energy sources in developing countries), working groups (G8 working group for Kosovo, working group for global partnership against proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction, G8 working group for biometrics, working group for development and realisation of the Secure and Facilitated International Travel Initiative (SAFTI), etc), and expert groups (expert group for non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, counter-terrorist action group (CTAG), Roma and Lyon G8 expert group for fighting terrorism and organised crime, expert group for conflict prevention (reoriented since 2002 toward concentration on Afghanistan)). There are also high-level groups (HLGs) for issues of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, as well as senior responsible persons for labour and social issues, etc.

Practice in organisation of G8 work. Preparation and holding of summits, ministers' meetings, working group sessions, and Sous Sherpas' work.

The G8 has an established working procedure. Summits (organised by the president nation) take place every year in the member nations based on a rotation system. President nations also organise ministers', experts', and working meetings.

Preparation and holding of a summit is the culmination of the G8's yearly work.

At a working level, several sittings are held with regard to summit preparation, as well as the preceding meetings of foreign and finance ministers. Preparatory activities are concluded by a joint plenary session of participants, at which agenda issues for the summit and draft summary documents are refined, and organisational issues and other practical aspects of hosting the summit are examined.

As part of summit preparation, meetings of ministers in specific fields also take place by prior agreement: ministers of the environment, energy, labour and social development, health, education, internal affairs and justice, science and technology (the latter meet as part of the Carnegie Group non-official forum of the G8, founded in 1998), etc.

Foreign-policy Sous Sherpas, as a rule, meet 5 or 6 times a year (4 times to prepare documents ahead of the summit and 1 or 2 times after it to resolve issues of realisation of the resolutions adopted by the G8). They deal with international issues (usually of a socio-economic and humanitarian nature) that do not fall within the remit of the political directors, and, in practice, assist the Sherpas in agreeing on positions and developing these topics within the G8. Foreign-policy Sous Sherpas report on their activities to the Sherpas and political directors.

Financial Sous Sherpas meet 4 or 5 times a year to prepare summit documents. They are in charge of financial and economic issues, and also assist the Sherpas in their work in this field. They are responsible for preparation for finance ministers' meetings and drafting summary documents for these meetings, as well as summit documents in this field.

Practice in preparation of G8 summit documents

Draft documents are developed by the appropriate bodies of the president country. The drafts are then agreed upon between interested bodies through correspondence, and are reviewed by Sherpas, Sous Sherpas and political directors. Approved drafts are then provided to G8 partners for further agreement.

All relevant bodies of the G8 participate in the process of summit document preparation. Experts develop draft documents, which, after approval at various levels, are discussed at joint meetings of Sherpas and Sous Sherpas. The preparatory work is concluded by a plenary sitting of the Sherpas (and sometimes Sous Sherpas and other experts), at which the agenda for the summit is confirmed and joint documents are refined.

Practice for agreement of documents between G8 participants

Approval of documents takes place in two stages:

- Preliminary agreement takes place through written, telephone and fax communications at various levels and in working and expert groups. The G8 has recently been actively utilising teleconferencing (many partners, the United Kingdom for example, have initiated attempts to organise video conferencing, although without success as yet owing to a range of technical difficulties).

- Final agreement of draft documents takes place at a plenary sitting of Sherpas (usually 2-3 weeks before the summit), after which they are passed to the heads of state for examination, and are approved during the summit.

As a rule, joint documents are adopted following summits or meetings at ministerial level, and are then passed to the media for dissemination (after the summit or ministers' meeting). In response to special international events, there is also a practice of approving special G8 leaders' or ministers' statements without holding personal meetings. These statements are agreed upon through the usual channels. The role of coordinator, responsible for making all amendments proposed by the partners, falls to the current G8 president nation.

Expert opinion

Halter Marek

02.12.06

Halter Marek
Le College de France
Olivier Giscard dEstaing

02.12.06

Olivier Giscard dEstaing
COPAM, France
Mika Ohbayashi

02.12.06

Mika Ohbayashi
Institute for Sustainable Energy Poliy
Bill Pace

02.12.06

Bill Pace
World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy
Peter I. Hajnal

01.12.06

Peter I. Hajnal
Toronto University, G8 Research Group