The G8 Summit is an annual meeting of the eight largest industrial nations. The leaders of these nations meet to discuss major economic and political issues of global importance. In June 2004 the G8 Summit was hosted by the United States on Sea Island.
In 1975 France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and West Germany met for the first time. They were joined by Canada in 1976. Their yearly meetings became known as the Group of Seven Nations (G7) Summit, which was changed to the G8 Summit after Russia officially became a member in 1998. The president of the European Union also attends the G8 Summit but does not fully participate in all negotiations.
Although the original purpose of the G7 Summit was to discuss economic issues, in recent years discussions have taken a larger perspective. Unemployment, relations with non-G8 nations, public health concerns, political discussions, human rights issues, and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons are often on the agenda.
The G8 Summit is unique in that it gathers together the leaders of the most powerful nations, and consequently the meeting has attracted a great deal of attention and requires careful planning. Security is a primary concern at these talks, and international media cover the events of the G8 Summit. Protesters from all over the world often converge at the summit site to bring attention to important issues. During previous summits, protests have erupted into violence, resulting in property damage and the loss of life.
Since there are no permanent staff members employed by the G8 itself, managing the summit falls completely to the hosting nation. The hosting nation must incur all of the costs of the summit, but there are great economic benefits to the community in which the summit is held.
The 2004 G8 Summit
Hosting of the G8 Summit rotates among the membership. The decision to meet on Sea Island, off the Georgia coast, was announced in July 2003. Sea Island was considered to be an excellent choice for the summit for many reasons. From a security standpoint, it is close to three major military bases and a federal law-enforcement training center, and it is easy to isolate because of its small size. From a hospitality standpoint, the island offered an excellent venue for the summit, a luxury oceanfront resort, where most of the participants were housed. They were also entertained by the Georgia Sea Island Singers, a local musical and storytelling group. In addition, U.S. president George W. Bush had a sentimental attachment to the island because his parents had honeymooned there.
State officials were pleased with the choice of Sea Island, and planning for the summit began almost as soon as the announcement was made. Officials at the local, state, and federal levels worked together to coordinate security arrangements. Logistically the G8 Summit on Sea Island was very successful. Protesters were not able to significantly disrupt the meeting, although many were arrested and detained for several weeks following the summit.
From an economic and political perspective the results of the G8 Summit were mixed. Economic discussions took up most of the agenda on the second day of meetings, and G8 leaders heard from the representatives of several African nations on the states of their national economies. The G8 nations adopted policies to deal with such issues as famine, peacekeeping, and reduction of national indebtedness, which are central to economic policy on the African continent.
In addition, leaders from the G8 nations reached agreement on agenda items relating to polio eradication and HIV vaccinations. They also endorsed a general plan to end famine, approved a nonproliferation plan, and decided on the wording for a travel safety initiative. Although these initiatives were agreed upon, the implementation plans for many of them are vague. These initiatives also deviate greatly from the stated central purpose of the summit, which is economic policy.
Results of the G8 Summit to the State
Most observers of government concluded that the G8 Summit was successful. According to state officials, the economic impact was in the range of $200 million. Security concerns were handled in a quiet manner, the Sea Island region received an economic boost, and Georgia was able to showcase one of its most attractive tourist destinations.