The G8, or Group of Eight, is comprised of the eight leading market-economies in the world. Its member states – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – account for 65 percent of the global economy, represent seven of the top eight countries worldwide in terms of overall military expenditure, hold four of the five permanent United Nations Security Council seats, and boast majority shareholder control of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Since 1975 the leaders of G8 member-states have met at an annual summit that has become renowned as the most powerful and intimate gathering of its kind anywhere in the world. While originally conceived as an economic gathering, the G8 Summit has now become the major arena for international action on HIV/AIDS, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), debt relief, energy, terrorism, and global trade.
Lacking many of the formal institutions that typify international diplomacy at this level, the G8 relies on a rotating presidency in which the member-state that hosts the annual G8 Summit sets the agenda and priorities for discussion. Despite the formidable role that the G8 plays in global governance, however, its structure makes the G8 an elusive and historically underexamined area of study. The G8 Research Group was established to address this shortfall in academic inquiry. The G8 Research Group was founded in 1987 at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs by Professor Janice Stein, director of the Munk School, the Honourable Bill Graham, then-Member of Parliament, and Professor John Kirton, a leading international expert on the G8 and global governance.
Students at the University of Toronto, drawn to the G8 Research Group by their concern about the notable absence of attention the G8 was receiving in international public discourse, organized an independent student division of the G8 Research Group. Their intent was to provide research and analysis on the activities of the G8 and its member states, particularly with respect to monitoring whether or not member-states comply with the commitments they make at the G8 Summit.
The reports produced by the student division of the G8 Research Group have gained international recognition for being among the most comprehensive and analytically rigorous reports of their kind. They are among only a handful of studies in the world that compare the performance of all eight G8 members and the European Union across such a broad array of issues. Many of the student-authored research reports are considered to be authoritative in their respective domains.
Now in its fourteenth year, the research program instituted by the student division of the G8 Research Group has garnered worldwide attention from governments, academics, policy institutes, advocacy groups, both international and non-governmental organizations, and the media.
In addition to facilitating consultations with government officials and civil society actors, the G8 Research Group has been featured prominently in both domestic and international news media, including the BBC, the Financial Times, Dow Jones, the Washington Post, The Guardian, Voice of America, Xihnua, the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen, the Montreal Gazette, CNN, CBC, CTV and CityTV.
The student division of the G8 Research Group has also been recognized for its role in promoting student engagement in international affairs during an era often characterized by student apathy and youth disenfranchisement.