Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy G7 Information Centre
Summits |  Meetings |  Publications |  Research |  Search |  Home |  About the G7 and G8 Research Group
Trinity College in the University of Toronto

A Summit of Sound Success:
Prospects for the G8 at L'Aquila 2009

John Kirton
Director, G8 Research Group
July 6, 2009


On 8-10 July 2009, the leaders of the world’s most powerful market democracies will assemble at the recently selected, earthquake-scarred site of L’Aquila in central Italy for their 35th annual summit of the Group of Eight (Kirton 2009; Kirton and Koch 2009). Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi will be at his seventh summit, as the only G8 leader to host the event for a third time. He will welcome U.S. president Barack Obama and Japanese prime minister Taro Aso to their first summit, British prime minister Gordon Brown and Russian president Dimitry Medvedev to their second, French president Nicolas Sarkozy to his third, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to their fourth and president of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso to his fifth.

For the fifth straight year G8 leaders will meet their colleagues from the Group of Five emerging powers of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. They will add, from democratic Asia, the leaders of Korea, Indonesia and Australia for the second summit meeting of the 17-member, newly renamed Major Economies Forum (MEF) on clean energy and climate change. Also coming are the leaders of Egypt, Libya, Angola and other African countries, Italy’s fellow Europeans from the Netherlands and Spain, and the heads of many multilateral organisations most relevant to the summit’s work.

Preparations for the summit have included a dense web of meetings of the G8 leaders’ personal representatives or sherpas and of G8 ministers: for finance on 13-14 February in Rome, 24 April in Washington DC and 12-13 June in Lecce; for labour on 29-31 March in Rome; for agriculture, for the first time, on 18-20 April in Treviso; for environment on 22-24 April in Siracusa; for energy on 24-25 May in Rome; for justice and home affairs on 29-30 May in Rome; for development on 11-12 June in Rome; and for foreign affairs on 25-27 June in Trieste. These ministerial meetings have involved an unusually large number of non-G8 countries and multilateral organizations as well.

Many G8-centred groups have also been working at the level of senior officials. The most notable is the Heiligendamm Process of structured dialogue between the G8 and G5 on investment, innovation, development and energy, which will deliver its report at L’Aquila.

At the civil society level there have also been extensive meetings in the lead-up, from the many segments that wish to contribute to the G8’s work. These have included a global gathering of faith leaders in Rome in mid June and of the high school–aged Junior Eight (J8), first assembled in 2005, in Rome on the summit’s eve. J8 added participants from the G5 countries this year.

This will be the first G8 summit since the G20 leaders of systemically significant countries first met in Washington on November 14-15, 2008, and then in London on April 1-2, 2009. They are due to meet in Pittsburgh on September 24-25, 2009, and may perhaps again, under the leadership of Korean president Lee Myung-bak as G20 chair in 2010. The advent of G20 summitry now requires the G8 and G20 to define what the relationship between these two central clubs for global governance will be.

[back to top]

The G8’s Global Challenges

At L’Aquila, the G8 leaders will confront unusually large and looming global challenges. The first is the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s and the deep recession, which still has all the G8 and much of the world in its grip. The leaders will be asked to address, more seriously than ever, the issues of macroeconomic management, financial regulation and reform, and trade. They will try to nurture the economic “green shoots” now appearing in G8 economies into a reliable recovery, without forgetting the rising ranks of the unemployed or letting loose unsustainable fiscal deficits, government debts, tax burdens or inflationary spirals they conquered at such cost during the 1980s, or, on the other side, the destructive deflation that gripped all of them in the 1930s and Japan again in the 1990s. They will also attack the trade, investment and financial protectionism now spreading into new forms and economy-wide programs and promote further liberalisation, notably by trying to conclude the badly overdue Doha Development Agenda negotiations that were launched soon after Italy hosted its last G8 summit in 2001.

The second challenge is climate change and clean energy. The latest scientific evidence shows that this problem — of potentially existential dimensions for some countries and conceivably even human life on the planet itself — is more ominous and urgent than the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted. With the United Nations 1997 Kyoto protocol now a clear failure in controlling countries’ carbon emissions, and with the UN system still deadlocked as its December Copenhagen conference to devise a successor climate control agreement draws nigh, the G8 and its MEF partners at L’Aquila will identify the key principles upon which a new, effective regime can be based. They will build on the emerging consensus at last year’s summit in Toyako, Japan, that all established and emerging countries must control their carbon and that bottom-up, sectoral approaches can help.

The third challenge is development, where the current economic crisis is now harming the poorest the most. They and the developed countries are also afflicted by shortages of affordable, accessible, safe energy, food and water, even as natural disasters and health pandemics such as H1N1 swine influenza add to the heavy burden all face. The G8 will be hard pressed to meet its many past commitments to give access to treatment to all HIV/AIDS sufferers, to cut tuberculosis and malaria in half, to eliminate polio and to double official development assistance (ODA) all by 2010. The global community will be equally hard pressed to deliver its Millennium Development Goals by 2015, unless G8 leaders and their powerful partners at L’Aquila ambitiously take the lead. Greater G8 accountability is thus a challenge that L’Aquila will address.

The fourth, overarching, challenge is creating effective global governance for a world that increasingly shares a single fate. The G8 needs to help the UN grapple with nuclear proliferation in North Korea, Iran and elsewhere and with regional conflicts and high seas piracy. It needs to lead in promoting democracy and combating repression and terrorism, above all in Iran after the flawed elections on June 12th, and in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other afflicted states. The G8 will also again be needed to lead the G20 system and summit in developing and delivering its many bold promises on financial stability, economic growth, trade, investment, development, international financial system reform and climate change. The G8 will thus be asked to reform itself to mobilise better the power and potential of the world’s rapidly rising G5 powers, as both groups get to work in L’Aquila, look forward to their Canadian-hosted summit on 25-27 June 2010 in Huntsville, Ontario, and prepare to launch a new round of G8-plus summitry in France in 2011.

In confronting these challenges, the G8 will be boosted by its respectable record of compliance with its key commitments from last year’s summit, where finance and climate led the list of promises kept (G8 Research Group 2009).

[back to top]

The Summit Schedule

The L’Aquila Summit will open on Wednesday, July 8, at 13:00, when the leaders of the G8 (including the European Union) will meet alone. At a working lunch, they will first deal with the world economy. They will then have a working session on global issues focused on climate and energy. That evening at a working dinner, still alone, they are scheduled with political-security subjects, which will now importantly include the incipient democratic revolution in Iran. A G8 statement will likely be issued at the end of the day, with perhaps a separate one earlier in the day.

On day two, Thursday, July 9, the leaders of the G8 will gather with those of the G5 and Egypt starting at 10:00 to discuss global issues and development policies, as well as the Heiligendamm Process. They will be joined by the heads of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a working lunch to discuss “future sources of growth.” After lunch the G8 plus G5 plus Egypt will be joined by Australia, Indonesia, Korea and Denmark for the session, co-chaired by Italian host Silvio Berlusconi and U.S. president Barack Obama, of the MEF on climate change and energy. Separate statements are expected to be issued at the end of each of these sessions, from the constituent groups. Berlusconi will host a large number of guests for dinner, including the 17 MEF members, along with leaders of the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal, the Commission for the African Union (AU), and the heads of the IEA, the ILO, the IMF, the OECD, the UN, the World Bank, the WTO, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

On the last day, Friday, July 10, the G8 will meet for a working breakfast with the African heads of states, the AU commission, and the heads of the IEA, the ILO, the IMF, the OECD, the UN, the World Bank and the WTO to discuss the impact of the economic and financial crisis on Africa. At 10:30, all of the participants from the previous evening’s dinner will discuss food security. There will be at least one statement issued at the end of the session, with others possibly released earlier. The final press conference is scheduled to take place at 13:00, when Berlusconi will deliver the chair’s summary.

[back to top]

Prospective Summit Success

As the summit week starts, the prospects are that L’Aquila will be a substantial sound success, skewed toward significant advances on climate, substantial results on democracy, security and food and smaller but still meaningful moves forward on development, G8 architecture and accountability and even trade. It is likely to do little on most finance and economic issues, health, terrorism outside piracy, and non-proliferation, beyond the clear and present dangers of North Korea and Iran. Nowhere will it make global governance or global conditions worse.

[back to top]


On climate, all the G8 clearly and all the MEF more vaguely will accept that they all, as the major carbon-producing and -removing powers on the planet, must meaningfully control their carbon in the beyond-Kyoto regime. Led by the G8, they will likely all accept that warming must be limited to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, and that emissions by 2050 should be reduced by 50% globally and 80% in the developed world. As anyone can do the arithmetic, this alone means that the G5 and MEF members will accept that they should contribute by controlling their carbon by the remaining amount. Due to continuing resistance from India, they might not say so directly or with numerical targets or timetables. But they will be promised the financing, technology, trade, investment and flexibility to make and meet their necessary contribution. This will be enough to provide the fundamental “all in” principle to provide the normative architecture for a beyond Kyoto deal at Copenhagen that could be appropriate and adequate for controlling the compelling climate challenge the global community as a whole now confronts.

[back to top]


On democracy, where Iran has provided a challenge tailor made for the G8, substantial success was plausibly evident even before the start. Faced with Berlusconi’s estimate that the G8 summit might endorse or impose sanctions, the prospect of the EU members withdrawing their ambassadors from Tehran, condemnations from the UN and UNESCO and Merkel’s equation of Iran’s leaders with communist east Germany’s Stasi, the Iran government released all the local employees of the British embassy it had arrested a few days before the summit’s start. The next G8 steps and Iranian responses remain to be seen. More broadly, the statement issued by the chair of the G8 foreign ministers meeting on June 27 offered a long and detailed list of places where G8 leaders could act to further democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The subsequent military coup in Honduras lengthened the list.

[back to top]


Security should also see substantial results, led by piracy off the coasts of Somalia, corruption in Guinea Bissau and elsewhere in Africa and North Korea’s recent self-declared nuclear test and subsequent volley of short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan.

On regional security all G8 members will pledge more to help win the war in Afghanistan, applaud America’s new troop surge and endorse the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy adopted by Obama. They will also welcome Russia’s recent willingness to grant the U.S. far more overflights to militarily resupply its troops in Afghanistan who are fighting terrorists on Russia’s vulnerable southern flank.

The Middle East will again be discussed. But even with events in Iran at the northern end, it is highly unlikely that Egypt’s presence and Obama’s new attitude will lead to any breakthroughs or even significant steps forward here. Little is likely to come on terrorism more generally too.

[back to top]


On food, the G8 is due to deliver many useful advances across a broad front. They should be enough to fulfil Italy’s plan to have food security produce the great high-profile deliverable that will serve as the climax of the summit on the final day. With Obama taking the lead by offering substantial amounts of new money for food, his G8 partners will likely follow so a financing package can be assembled to give credibility about the actual delivery of the other promises made on food. Japan’s initiative to draw up G8 and global rules for ethical foreign direct investment in agricultural lands in developing countries will likely be endorsed, perhaps also allowing the Italians to claim this as a component of their push for ethical finance. The G8 will likely pledge to restore the agricultural component of their members’ ODA back toward the 5% share of the early 1980s from the 1% to which it has now fallen. Other measures would aim at igniting a new green revolution, to grow food that can survive the droughts and other extreme weather events that climate change will bring. It is unclear if any food and agriculture achievements will help pave the way for advances on trade, where agriculture and especially special safeguard measures remained the critical obstacle to getting the badly overdue Doha negotiations finally done.

[back to top]


Development more generally is likely to see a clear commitment that all G8 members will indeed keep their Gleneagles 2005 promise to double ODA by 2010. While this is a move not to fall behind rather than move ahead, it will bind France and Italy, the great laggards in ODA compliance, and spur them to return to the right course. The G8 will also usefully move to a “whole of country” approach, by emphasizing the need for all financial instruments to operate comprehensively and coherently, be based on firm political, institutional and security foundations and, above all focusing not on how much money is sent from the north but how much real development actually is taking place on the ground in the south.

[back to top]

G8 Architecture and Accountability

Another set of useful advances will come on G8 architecture and accountability. In pure process terms L’Aquila will show that a summit can work well enough with an unprecedented 39 leaders involved, with a wide-ranging joint G8-G5 session, with the MEF summit on the second day and with the first ever joint document issued as equals by the G8 and G5. These moves toward growing G5 inclusion will be enriched by the extension of the Heiligendamm Process, probably for another two years, with the focus of its four pillars broadened from specific topics to wider issue areas, providing the flexibility for new issues to be dealt with inside. Led by Britain and Canada and supported by Obama’s America, it will also enhance G8 accountability by being clear about the content of and compliance with its many commitments. To do so it will put in place a process that can be built on in the coming years, and used to generate at least quasi-public reports.

[back to top]


Trade is the one economic area where the summit could make the most important advance. Led by Merkel the G8 will promise to get Doha done, perhaps even specifically within the year. Success here will depend on Obama’s willingness to take on his Congress, and the acquiescent adjustment of India and Brazil. The G8 will also issue yet another strong admonition against protectionism, now at the critical moment when China is joining America in the economy-wide “buy national” game. Proactively, the G8 is due to promise targeted liberalization to reduce barriers on environmentally friendly goods and services, to boost trade, build a new economy and facilitate an innovative consensus on climate change.

[back to top]

Finance and Economics

In sharp contrast, little of large value will likely come elsewhere on the world economy. G8 leaders will discuss fiscal and monetary stimulus, and when, how much and how a so-called and well co-ordinated exit strategy should start to take such stimulus off. Here Americans are being pushed toward a stronger emphasis on sustained and strengthened stimulus, while Germany’s Merkel is even more convinced that long-term sustainability and an exit soon from the exceptional crisis-induced stimulus should be emphasis number one. Nice things will be said about host Berlusconi’s cherished code or rule of law for moral finance and Merkel’s desired sustainable economic charter. But little new ground will be broken here. Exchange rates and reserve currencies will be discussed at G5, perhaps at G8 and even possibly at G13 (that is, the G8 plus the G5). However, they are unlikely beyond approval for recent moves on special drawing rights and disapproval to be set down in any G8 or even G13 communiqué.

[back to top]


Health enthusiasts will be happy that their subject has finally been added to the agenda. But they should not expect much else. Britain and Canada will succeed in shifting the G8 emphasis to maternal and child mortality, with the latter looking ahead to the agenda it has set for the G8 summit it hosts in 2010 (Harper 2009). The G8 will again promise to work toward its goals on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. But no needed connections of real value between health and climate, and health and food are likely to be made.

[back to top]

Causes of L’Aquila’s Prospective Performance

The sound success, skewed toward advances on climate, democracy, G8 architecture, development and food is driven by the dynamics that the concert equality model of G8 governance highlights.

[back to top]

Shock-Activated Vulnerability

The first cause is the shock-activated vulnerability that creates a demand for ambitious collective action, especially among the most capable countries that are now also most vulnerable and badly affected members and participating states. The global financial crisis coming from the new vulnerability has hit hardest and first in the most powerful country, number-one America, but less so in number-two Japan and number-seven Canada or China, India and Brazil within the G5. However, its explosion, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, came well before the L’Aquila Summit, and has called forth two G20 summits to respond, through measures that, on the eve of L’Aquila, seem to have stopped the global slide. While trade is still shrinking dramatically, no banks, financial firms, sub-federal states such as California, or consequential countries have declared bankruptcy as the summit approached. G8 economic governance is thus likely to be modest, outside a potential step forward on trade, where China’s recent “buy national” policy awakens nightmares of spiralling, systemic, protectionist retaliation, 1930s style.

A strong shock comes from energy and the now fused spheres of climate change and food. World oil prices had crashed at the time of the 2008 Toyako-Hokkaido Summit from a historic peak of US$147 down to the mid US$30s, as the economic crisis destroyed demand. But then they doubled to the range of US$70 in the month or so before the L’Aquila Summit. The resulting shift from more expensive oil to cheap abundant coal in America, China, India and South Africa raised concerns about climate. For the epistemic connection was now accepted enough to cause action, even in the absence of a direct dramatic new climate or ecological shock. It also prompted Sarkozy just before the summit to suggest controlling oil prices, leading oil-rich Canada to reply that reliance on more transparent open markets was the better way. Forecasts of a coming drought due to El Niño similarly helped prompt action on food security, even if the global food riots of last summer had long since disappeared.

Terrorist shocks were also in abeyance within the G8, even as their eruption in India and nearby Pakistan helped generate solidarity between the G8 and G5 on counter-terrorism and related issues such as nuclear non-proliferation. The arrest by the hard line Iranian regime of locally engaged employees of the British embassy did awaken vivid memories of the old shock from the old and new vulnerability of the 1979 Iranian fundamentalist attack on America and its diplomats taken as hostages then. A new North Korean nuclear “explosion” and missile tests on the eve of the summit added a security shock to spur action on non-proliferation.

More broadly, the outbreak of HINI swine influenza in Mexico and its rapid spread through all North America and then the G8 helped put health onto the G8 summit agenda and keep it there. In all, shock-activated vulnerability thus suggested significant advances on climate, some on Iranian democracy, but little on economy outside trade.

[back to top]

Multilateral Organizational Failure

The second cause of sound but skewed performance is the failure of the long established, hard law, heavily organized multilateral organizations from the 1940s to cope with these new 21st-century shocks and the new vulnerabilities behind. Neither the IMF and the World Bank and its regional development banks nor the WTO forecasted the coming financial, economic, trade and associated development shocks. Nor have they been effective in responding to them without the help of the new G20 system — created, catalyzed and controlled by the G7/8 — whose long called-for summit was finally brought to life by the crisis. The lighter OECD with its smaller membership and the G7-dominated FSB (formerly the Financial Stability Forum) did better, in their specialized areas of strengthening codes and charters for global, firm-level rule of law and prompting financial stability through regulatory sharing and reform.

The greatest failure of the multilateral organizations has come again on climate and energy, where still no strong, central, comprehensible world environmental organization or world energy organization exists to prevent or react to these new shocks. On energy, on the G7-dominated IEA, still missing oil-rich Russia, was able to help (Tanaka 2009). The UN’s environment entourage — led by the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with its conferences of the parties and the Kyodo protocol’s meetings of the parties made only glacial progress, as they remain locked into reproducing the principles of the past regime that have failed, as the basis for its replacement by their fast approaching deadline of December 2009. Advances and innovation have come entirely from the now bipartisan MEF (chaired by George Bush as the Major Economies Meeting at the Hokkaido Summit), operating at the leaders level as part of the G8 summits in 2008 and 2009. They were controlled by the G8 members and their G5 partners, even more numerically than the G20, focused on finance, economics, trade, development and now climate was.

On Iran, democratization, non-proliferation, terrorism and most political security subjects, the Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council remain largely frozen by the organization’s charter written in 1945. The old functional organizations such as the International Maritime Organization have proven unable on their own to solve the very old and now new problem of piracy off Africa and elsewhere. Food security suffers from too many competing organizations — the FAO, the IFAD and the WFP, all based in Rome. As in 2001, the FAO’s Jacques Diouf called a World Food Summit for the year Italy hosted the G8, and once again few world leaders of consequence seemed likely to come. They thus looked to the G8 to act (Diouf 2009; Nwanze 2009). Only in health, with the World Health Organization (WHO) dealing with influenza pandemics, do the old multilateral organizations seem to work. In economics, climate/energy, political security and even food, it has been left to the G8 to lead.

The third cause of substantial but skewed performance is the still predominant and strongly equalizing capabilities of the G8 summit members (representing 57% of global gross domestic product [GDP] by World Bank calculations) and especially its participating partners in the G5 (representing 12%) and the MEF.[1] On the core capability drivers of GDP growth and currency value changes, America was hit first and hard, especially as the crisis inspired “flight to safety or survival” dissipated as the U.S. dollar dropped as the summit approached. Japan’s export-oriented GDP was also hit hard, but the value of the yen has remained strong. Export-dependent Canada has a similar configuration, especially as its dollar benefits along with Russia’s ruble, rising along with energy and commodity prices on the eve of the L’Aquila Summit. In Europe, on both Britain and especially in continental Europe, GDP plunged as currency values have begun to return. Just days before the L’Aquila Summit opened, the May jobless figures have brought more bad news from America, just as its largest state, California, is unable to pay its bills on time.

Along with the rising G5 powers outside Russia and Mexico in North America and South Africa on the African continent, currency values, GDP growth and domestic financial systems remained very strong and sound. In carbon-producing capabilities, China has soared to number one in the world, with coal-dependent India and deforesting Brazil not far behind, and South Africa with its significant coal comsumption looking like an OECD member.

These changes in relative capability have produced sufficient incentive for a strongly declining America to adjust to its G8 partners and, above all, for a declining G8 to accommodate to a still rising G5 club. The results have been the major move to have the G5 participate in a full day, the second day of the three-day meeting, and to issue a joint document for the first time, as well as the prospective extension of the Heiligendamm Process and the advances on climate, development, food and possibly even trade. The decline in the U.S. dollar has not likely been sufficiently precipitous to lead the G8 and G5 to pronounce on a new global reserve currency regime or even exchange rates.

[back to top]

Common Democratic Principles

The fourth cause is the common principles shared by the members and participants, as they match the demands for G8 governance that shock-activated vulnerability bred. In response to the calls for four elections, press freedoms and human rights carbon, transparency and the rule of law in finance, an accountability in G8 governance, the core G8 members deepened their commitment to the club’s core foundational purpose of globally promoting the values of open democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. While Russia still received a lower score than the rest of the G8, under Medvedev the tide slowly turned toward the rule of law. In early July its Duma’s lower house passed by a 383 to 57 vote, a liberalizing amendment to a law passed three year’s ago under Putin that restricted NGO’s dealings with those abroad at the same time the challenge of G8 expansion and G20 competition causes some G8 leaders to highlight more forcefully the essential democratic character of their club, led by last years host in Japan (Aso 2009) and next years host in Canada (Harper 2009).

Within the G8’s expanded circle, there were small democratic setbacks that pointed to lower performance there. The addition of Egypt to the G5 for the second and third days shifted the balance against the democracies of India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa to 2 to 1, with China and now India on the other side. Yet China cancelled its latest move toward more computer/internet censorship, and India and South Africa’s recent elections reinforced the democratic traditions there. The MEM-17 saw on significant change from last year. The final days gathering of the AU, its also included the heads of multilateral organizations such as the UN (if not UNESCO) that had spoken out against the anti-democratic moved by the governments of Iran. All together the common principle and practise of democracy was marginally stronger than last year, thanks to the small moves toward political openness and the rule of law on Russia.

[back to top]

Political Control, Capital and Commitment

The fifth cause of substantial but skewed success is the political control, capital and commitment of the G8 leaders themselves and their government institutions, legislatures and publics at home. Several leaders have clear control of their legislatures: host Silvio Berlusconi, Barack Obama from America, Angela Merkel (with her coalition partner) in Germany and Gordon Brown in Britain, Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Dmitry Medvedev (along with his prime minister Vladimir Putin) in Russia. Only Taro Aso in Japan and Stephen Harper in Canada face legislature defeat at any time. Berlusconi, Obama, Merkel, Sarkozy and Medvedev are currently popular with their publics and voters. Only a popular Merkel and unpopular Aso face elections in September, as does unpopular Brown within the year and a somewhat popular Harper at any time (although he has just recently taken the lead in the polls). In the eyes of their G8 colleagues — all consummate political calculators — Aso and perhaps Brown are the only ones possibly to be judged by rational calculations to receive support at the summit to likely to return next year. Among the only leaders with high control, high capital and high confidence of not being forced to fight an election soon, Berlusconi must extract consensus from everyone to make his summit a success, while Obama, still on his national global honeymoon, could follow his personal commitment (and one G20 summit experience) to lead, adjust and help the summit deliver on climate-energy and other things he cared about.

[back to top]

Constricted, Controlled Participation

The sixth and final cause of L’Aquila’s prospective sound but skewed success is its constricted and controlled participation. With 39 heads of countries or multilateral organizations — the largest number in G8 history, exceeding even Evian in 2003 — the summit will start with a substantial disadvantage, especially as it remains unclear how some of the newcomers such as Spain and the Netherlands will add enough value to overwhelm or offset the added transaction costs they bring. However, many of the leaders and especially the institutions they represent regularly have come to all the G8 summits in the recent past, and even more to the G20 and MEM/MEF meetings in the last year. Some leaders of multilateral organizations such as the World Banks’ Robert Zoellick have been to G8 summits as members of national delegations (in his case, the United States), although none of the G8 country leaders has any direct experience in a multilateral organization. Nonetheless the Italians have carefully constricted the cadence of the summit so it opens with the G8 members on day one to deal with the economy, climate, democracy and security; then to expand on day two to G8 and G5 and Egypt for discussions on the economy and architecture, and then to the MEF on climate; and then, on day three, to include all 39 participants on development, food and anything else. The pairing of members and participants and subjects for each session roughly correspond to the relative capability ratios of the countries relevant to creating the consensus and predominance to solve the particular problem. It also gives the G8, then G13/14, then G17, then the entire group of 39 the ability to take decisions by and for themselves, and set the directions for the progressively growing group. There is thus some chance that this particular formula, untried and proven in world history, could work, if all arrive prepared to make the necessary adjustments in the very limited time available at the summit itself.

[back to top]


[1] In climate change, China ranked first, America only second, Russia third and India fourth. In energy supply, Canada and Russia along with Saudi Arabia took tops spots. In all other cases save for trade exports (where Germany was top), America led.

[back to top]


Diouf, Jacques (2009). “A Roadmap for Global Food Security,” in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G8 2009: From La Maddalena to L'Aquila. London: Newsdesk Communications.

Harper, Stephen (2009). “The 2010 Muskoka Summit,” in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G8 2009: From La Maddalena to L'Aquila. London: Newsdesk Communications.

Nwanze, Kanayo (2009). “The Green Revolution,” in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G8 2009: From La Maddalena to L'Aquila. London: Newsdesk Communications.

Kirton, John (2009). “Prospects for the 2009 L’Aquila Summit,” in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds.,G8 2009: From La Maddalena to L'Aquila. London: Newsdesk Communications.

Kirton, John and Madeline Koch, eds. (2009). G8 2009: From La Maddalena to L'Aquila. London: Newsdesk Communications.

Tanaka, Nabuo (2009). “The Energy Challenge,” in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G8 2009: From La Maddalena to L'Aquila. London: Newsdesk Communications.

G7 Information Centre

Top of Page
This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Library and the G7 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to:
This page was last updated June 27, 2018.

All contents copyright © 2019. University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.