The G8/G20 meetings - what are they and why should I care?

Protesters face off against police at the 2007 G8 summit

Protesters face off against police at the 2007 G8 summit in Germany

What is the G8/G20?

The G8 is an economic and political organisation designed to bring about discussion and effect change among the world’s most powerful nations. The G8, which stands for Group of Eight, includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Although the leaders of these countries keep in touch to varying degrees anyway, they meet as the G8 once a year in order to discuss the state of world economics and politics, and global issues in general.

The G20 is effectively the ‘new G8′. Its a group that includes an additional 12 countries, and was created to acknowledge that the increasingly interconnected nature of the global economy meant that there were many more industrialized and developing states who needed to bring their perspectives on key issues in the global economy to the table.

What’s happening this year?

Both meetings are happening in Canada in June this year. The G8 meeting will happen first on June 26-27  in what is dubbed ‘the Muskoka Summit’ for about a day. Then the G20 will meet in downtown Toronto for another day and a half. The G8 has a broad agenda of issues they will cover such as maternal health, security, terrorism etc. The G20 will focus on finance and global economic recovery.

Why should we care?

G8 leaders meeting in Canada this week must face the fact that collectively their countries have failed to deliver on the promises made to the world’s poorest five years ago. Had the promised aid been delivered it would have had a dramatic effect on the lives of poor people. Where aid has increased it has made a massive difference. The number of people receiving HIV treatment, for example, has increased tenfold in recent years.

Now recent gains in reducing poverty are under attack from the economic crisis, climate change and food shortages. That is why the G8 club of rich nations must look beyond their own economic struggles and set out how they will fulfil the promises made in 2005.

The G20 must also step up to the plate. When considering how the financial sector should repay the costs of the economic crisis, they have an opportunity and a duty to help poor countries hit by a crisis they did nothing to cause.

How can I take action ?

  • Learn more:

Follow MY SUMMIT 2010, where youth delegates from the G20 countries will discuss, debate and negotiate the same themes that will be considered at the G-8 Leaders’ Summit.

Or do some more reading on the G8/G20 in general at these links:

Oxfam policy advisor Claire Godfrey’s blog

Oxfam Climate Change campaigner Frida Eklund’s blog

The G8 information centre

The G20 information centre

  • Follow the action:

  • Make your voice heard!

Oxfam have a particularly strong presence at the G8/G20 meetings this year, so you could lend your voice to their campaigns…

Help Oxfam stop catastrophic climate change: Join their petition to get a fair, ambitious and binding deal

Join Oxfam in demanding that world leaders keep their promises on aid: Join their Health & Education For All Pledge

A few other NGO’s with statements you can sign are:

  • Search the Internet!

There are many more NGOs running campaigns around the summits. Just google ‘g8 g20 take action’ and you’ll find a treasure trove!

  • Take direct action!

Even though we’re here in little old NZ, we can still put the issues surrounding the G8/G20 summits onto the radars of the NZ public! Why not organise an event, march, or protest in your area to raise awareness? Check out our Take Action Guides for tips on everything from organising campaigns to writing to politicians. And have heaps of useful tools for campaign organising as well, including downloadable world leaders that you can print out and stick to cardboard for your march!

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