The "Group of Eight" nations from Europe, North America and Asia, which meet annually to discuss the major events of the day and to manage the effects of globalization.
What countries are in the G8?
The United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, the United States, Japan, Italy and Canada.
Who represents the G8 countries?
The countries' presidents, who gather for their meetings in reclusive, "retreat" style locations in the nation of the current G8 presidency.
Who is hosting this year's summit? Where is it being held?
The United Kingdom holds the Presidency of this year's G8, and so will host the summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.
When did the G8 Summits begin?
In 1975, when French president Giscard d'Estaing invited the presidents of Japan, Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany to discuss current economic problems facing the world. The Summit later expanded to include Canada (in 1976) and Russia (in 1998). Another impetus for the group's creation was the 1973 oil crisis and subsequent global recession.
Is the G8 part of the United Nations?
The G8 is separate and complementary to the United Nations. They share key members with the U.N.'s Security Council and often work in conjunction with the group on specific projects.
What has the G8 accomplished?
Setting up the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; the G8 Africa Action Plan; the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction to increase the safety of Russia's nuclear facilities; and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative to cancel the debt of the world's poorest nations.
What issues are the focuses of this year's summit?
Africa and Climate Change. Regarding Africa, the Commission for Africa, formed by Tony Blair in 2004 to give a total assessment of African policies and create a plan for change, will report its findings to the G8 at this year's summit and lobby for complete implementation of the G8 Africa Action Plan. Regarding climate change, the G8 will follow up on previous initiatives for cleaner technologies and new innovations in environmentally friendly technology.
Why is the G8 criticized? What do the protesters want?
The protesters want the G8 to increase aid spending to poor nations to 0.7% of national income by 2015 and not link aid to contracts or economic conditions. They also call for the total cancellation of unpayable debts that compound poverty in third world countries and the reformation of global trade rules that they say favor the wealthy and subjugate the poor. Critics also charge the group with functioning as an unofficial "world government" that benefits corporations above people. They argue that aid bestowed by wealthy nations won't do as much to change the real structural problems and injustices facing impoverished nations as would a thorough overhaul of trade and globalization practices that perpetuate the cycle of poverty and corruption in developing nations.
Why has this year's summit gotten so much attention?
This year's summit has already garnered significant publicity due to the series of "Live 8" music concerts that preceded the meeting, in which musicians and activists called upon the G8 to "make poverty history" and live up to a series of anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals that were adopted by the U.N. in 2000 and which many say have failed due to the refusal of wealthy G8 nations to contribute adequate aid.