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Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Q&A: G8 Summit explained
The G8 summit in Canada from on 26-27 June brings together world leaders of the major developed countries to discuss economic and political issues. But will it bridge the gap between rich and poor?

What are the G7 and G8?

The G7, or group of seven, is made up of the world's seven richest industrial countries - the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, and Canada - whose leaders have been meeting regularly since 1975 in an annual summit to discuss problems in the world economy.

The summits began when the world was facing an oil crisis which had pushed the world into recession, and this year there will again be talk of managing the global recovery and driving forward a free-trade agenda.

However, the annual summit has evolved over the years to include other topics such as the environment, money laundering, and global health issues.

In 1991, Russia was informally admitted to take part in the non-economic discussions, and in 1994 this was made permanent, turning the G7 summit into the G8 summit.

The leaders who will met this year include President George W Bush of the United States, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Jacques Chirac of France, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

It will be hosted by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, the leader who has been in office the longest of the seven.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was host to the 2001 G8 Summit in Genoa, which was marred by violent anti-globalisation demonstrations.

The meeting rotates between the G7 countries, and next year it will take place in France.

What does the summit hope to accomplish?

The summit had a broad agenda including the prospects for world economic growth, the need to combat terrorism, and help for the world's poor, especially in Africa.

Much attention will be focused on sub-Saharan Africa, where the G8 countries agreed last year to establish a New Partnership with Africa to boost development. Key African leaders will attend part of the summit.

There are also further areas for discussion, for example, increasing funds for global health care and efforts to bridge the digital divide.

And the United States will want to renew the commitment to fight terrorism, strengthening coordination in money laundering and intelligence operations.

Critics say the summits are just talking shops and photo opportunities.

But others say that in troubled times it is important that the world's leaders keep talking.

Why is the summit in Kananaskis?

This year the summit is being held in a small resort of Kananaskis high in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

This means that only a small team of officials and very few journalists will actually attend the meeting.

Most journalists and many other observers will be segregated in the nearest large city, Calgary, about 100km away.

The official reason for the locale is to ensure that the summit is a "working meeting" and to avoid extraneous ceremonial events.

For this reason, the length of the summit has also been shortened, from 2 1/2 days to 1 1/2 days.

However, plans for this summit were drawn up shortly after the violence in Genoa, and no doubt the ability to limit and contain any protest was an important factor in the decision.

What have G8 summits accomplished?

The first summits were largely concerned with economic policy, especially the collapse of the system of fixed exchange rates in the 1970s and their replacement by the floating exchange rates that we have now.

In the 1980s, the G7 summits - and the associated meetings of the finance ministers from the G7 countries - led to the Plaza and Louvre Accords. They helped stabilise the value of the dollar, which had become too high for the good of the world economy.

More recently, G8 summits have addressed issues like international terrorism, aid to Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, and debt relief for poor countries - which was agreed in Cologne in 1999 after mass demonstrations by the advocacy group Jubilee 2000.

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