The Future G8 after St. Petersburg
№2 2007 April/June

On July 15-17,
2006, the Group of Eight’s (G8) 31st annual summit took place in
St. Petersburg. It was the first regular summit Russia hosted since
it joined the club as the eighth member country in 1998. As its
priority themes for the summit, Russia chose energy security,
infectious disease and education, the first time that these
subjects had been selected in advance as the substantive core of a
summit’s overall design. To the summit, Russia invited — for only
the second time as a self-contained set — the leaders of the
systemically significant countries of India, China, Brazil, Mexico
and South Africa. And to help prepare the summit and deliver its
results, Russia created an unprecedented Civil G8 mechanism that
brought Russia and international civil society leaders into the
summit process as never before.

Now that hosting
responsibilities have passed on to Germany, which is well on the
way to preparing the next summit in Heiligendamm on June 6-8, 2007,
it is an appropriate time to assess Russia’s contribution as a G8
host, in its own right and also as a foundation for its
German-hosted successor and for the G8 in future years. Thus far
the views on this subject have given rise to a great debate between
critics and supporters of the St. Petersburg Summit and the G8 as a

The critics,
including former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, European
Central Bank governor Jean-Claude Trichet and Bank of England
governor Mervyn King, explicitly and implicitly criticize the G8,
its St. Petersburg Summit and its Group of Seven (G7) finance
ministers forum for their economic failings. These failings include
not dealing with the mounting imbalances in the global economy, the
simultaneous tightening of interest rates by national central banks
and a looming financial crisis from asset inflation, general market
euphoria and proliferating derivatives trading. The critics further
see the G8 as obsolete in a world where economic power is rapidly
passing to India and China. They even suggest an end to the G7
finance ministers forum, in favour of global economic governance
through a reformed International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In sharp
contrast, a second school of supporters, including former German
chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and editorialists from around the
world, have a much higher opinion of the G8 and Russia as its 2006
host. Some see the 2006 summit as a defensive event, with Russia
using the unparalleled opportunity to showcase its economic revival
and deflect criticism of its policies at home and abroad. Others
more expansively conclude that Russia hosted the G8 as well as any
other country ever had, and began to serve as a representative of
developing countries in the club. Schroeder himself goes further,
judging Russia’s presidency to be efficient and successful, as
President Vladimir Putin develops Russia in a democratic direction.
And others even conclude that Russia will be a “hard act to follow”
as Putin used his G8 presidency to reassert Russia’s global role
and brought it to a level not seen since 1989.

A close look at
the available evidence suggests that the judgement of even the most
optimistic supporters may be too modest, and too definitive as
well. As a G8 host in 2006, Russia bore an extraordinary double
burden. It was asked to deliver a summit that would, as usual,
address and help solve pressing global problems. But it was also
expected, for the first time in summit history, to produce one that
would demonstrate, confirm and deepen the host’s credentials and
character as a democratic polity at home. On the whole Russia met
this double standard, and thus did much to shape G8 summitry in the
years to come. It delivered a summit that made important advances
and innovations on its three priority themes and on the burning
political issue of the Middle East conflict that erupted that year
in Lebanon. Russia’s responsibility of hosting, its acceptance of
summit conclusions that affirmed democratic principles throughout
and its responsiveness to civil society at home and abroad helped
to empower democratic constituencies within Russia at a difficult
and critical time. And for the future, Russia helped make the G8 a
global center of domestic governance, directly brought the
capabilities, needs, diversity and legitimacy of the “Plus Five”
powers of India, China, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa permanently
into the summit, and involved civil society, legislators, youth and
religious leaders to democratize the G8 itself. Yet, as the year
after St. Petersburg unfolds, there remain doubts about whether
Russia as host finally found the formula to ensure that the G8’s
often far-reaching and innovative principles are actually
implemented by its members and delivered to solve real problems in
the global community as a whole. It is here that action is needed
to make the G8 a genuinely accountable and effective center of
global governance for today’s 21st-century world.


As a regular
host, Russia’s first accomplishment was to set an agenda, and
deliver agreements on it, that combined innovation and iteration in
the delicate blend that breeds summit success. While previous
summits had dealt with energy security, infectious disease and
education as important topics, never before had these been
identified so far in advance as part of only three central themes
that constituted the core of the summit’s overall design. As the
first two priorities came directly from President Putin, Russia had
no difficulty in getting its summit colleagues to accept and stick
to this agenda. The trilogy built iteratively on the work of the G8
summits in Gleneagles in 2005 and before. Energy security flowed
from Gleneagles emphasis on climate change. Infectious disease and
education were critical components of Gleneagles’s concern with
African development. And on all three priorities, Russia
innovatively expanded and reframed the agenda. Energy security
included, for the first time as an important component, physical
energy security and energy poverty as link to African and global
development. Infectious disease placed a new emphasis on the spread
of HIV/AIDS into Eurasia. And education included the important
dimension of the need for openness, migration and

This agenda
proved to be timely and well tailored in addressing the present and
prospective needs of the G8 members and global community as a
whole. Energy security was front and center in 2006, as world oil
prices rose above US$77 a barrel, a level in inflation-adjusted
terms not seen since the last oil big shock in 1979. And in a world
where global terrorism and renewed nuclear proliferation had
arrived, the concern with physical energy security was a global
priority that the G8 summit, unlike the fragmented and incomplete
United Nations system could and did treat as an integrated,
coherent whole. The concern with the Eurasian face of AIDS arose at
a time when Russia was the G8 member suffering most at home from
the disease, and when India was replacing South Africa as the
country with the largest estimated absolute number of citizens
living with HIV. And the education agenda well matched the needs of
a world in an age where human capital and innovation and aging
populations were central concerns.

As a summit host,
Russia proved willing, able and adept at accepting and adjusting to
its partners’ priorities and core interests, and getting them to
adjust to Russia’s in return. Faced at the start with a
domestically driven German veto of any G8 mention of nuclear power
as a legitimate part of a secure energy supply mix, Russia
persisted with its supportive partners to get this changed. Hosting
its first regular summit on the 20th anniversary of the 1986
Chernobyl nuclear explosion and the 10th anniversary of the Moscow
Nuclear Safety Summit, Russia finally got the Germans to relent. As
a result, the G8 affirmed the value of safe and secure civilian
nuclear power at home and was thus able to speak with greater
credibility to an Iran that was considering whether to accept a G8
offer to help create such nuclear power, if that country would give
up its program leading to homegrown nuclear arms.

On infectious
disease, Russia added and blended the concerns of those focused on
the well-known dangers of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria with
those concerned about the new danger of a rapidly globalizing avian
flu, and included the need to address such new diseases with
immediate, intrusive measures within the sovereign jurisdiction of
the originating state. On education, Russia accepted the arguments
of the United States and Canada — both federal systems where
classically defined education was the jealously guarded
constitutional prerogative of sub-federal states and provinces —
that the subject and summit action were better reframed as human
capital and innovation, as a globally oriented, forward-looking
approach that would avoid domestic political difficulties for the
North American members at home.

As a result of
such flexible adjustment and accommodation, the St. Petersburg
Summit delivered some strong results. These came across most of the
summit’s six functions of domestic political management,
deliberation, direction setting, collective decision making,
delivering its decisions and the development of global governance
as a whole. Within Russia as the host country, the summit had a
large imprint. It was selected by its citizens as the third most
important and newsworthy international event of the year and
generally received favorable acclaim in public opinion polls and
the major daily newspapers. The summit set new normative
directions, most notably in reframing energy security to put
environmental protection and open markets in first place, and
emphasizing the need for transparency, openness and the rule of law
across all the three priority themes. The summit produced 317
clear, concrete, future-oriented collective decisions, the highest
number in the 31-year history of the G7/8 summit. It embedded those
decisions to a considerable degree with the catalysts known to
produce compliance on the part of the members during the following
year. And it did much to develop G8-centered global governance,
most notably by hosting many subject-specific ministerial meetings
to prepare and follow up on the summit, including the third energy
ministers gathering in history and the first-ever meeting of G8
ministers of health. Russia thus proved it was a fully accomplished
host of a regular G8 summit, producing one with a performance well
above average in most respects.

St. Petersburg
also proved successful in the task of immediate crisis response in
the field of political security. With a new conflict in the Middle
East erupting on the eve of the summit, the Russians accepted a
draft document prepared at Canadian initiative, with American
support, that set forth an appropriate and novel response for
coping with the immediate conflict and for laying a foundation for
breaking the recurrent cycle of violence and moving toward
permanent peace in the years ahead. The G8 leaders ruled on the
three contentious issues given to them in square brackets by their
officials, and did so in the way that President Putin as host
preferred. The final document was endorsed by the UN Secretary
General and by China — one of the United Nations Security Council
Permanent Five (UNSC P5) veto powers — and the rest of the Plus
Five countries at their meeting with the G8 the next day. This new
G8 roadmap was then legally approved by the UN back in New York. It
was subsequently adopted in its essence by other relevant
plurilateral summit institutions such as la

These St.
Petersburg agenda priorities and achievements are the foundation
for the German approach in 2007. To be sure, the Germans are
exercising their prerogative as host to set their own priorities,
giving pride of place to the many financial, economic, trade and
investment issues that St. Petersburg, with its full agenda, did
not adequately address. But the Germans’ first priority, economic
growth, includes resource use as one of its five components
sustainable. This component focuses on energy efficiency, climate
change and the Kyoto Protocol, in which President Putin played the
critical role in bringing into force as ratified international law.
Germany’s second priority of African development starts with the
health systems and HIV/AIDS that Russia highlighted through its
priority on infectious disease. Germany’s priority of African
development ends with peace and security, where progress can help
the peace process in the Broader Middle East and North Africa as a
critical region for energy security, regional security,
counterterrorism and the control of weapons of mass


The even more
impressive and long-lasting success of St. Petersburg comes in the
realm of process, above all in democratizing the G8 at home and on
a global scale.

Russia’s first
advance here was to invite to the summit the leaders of the
systemically significant countries of India, China, Brazil, Mexico
and South Africa. These Plus Five powers were critical to helping
the G8 effectively address the priority of energy security, as the
five were the great new demand powers straining a finite global
supply. They were also key on the critical new front in the global
war against infectious disease. Moreover, China’s presence as a
UNSC P5 member was important in the easy acceptance at St.
Petersburg of the G8’s new approach to peace in the Middle East,
and its subsequent legal endorsement at the UNSC. The presence of
these five rapidly rising powers as important summit participants
showed the world that the G8 Plus Five had the predominant power to
govern the global community effectively, the open inclusiveness to
incorporate rising powers in a way the UNSC P5 could not, and the
diversity in geography, language, religion and level of development
needed to enhance its sensitivity, representativeness and
legitimacy as a center of global governance as a whole.
Furthermore, as all of the Plus Five but China are democratic
polities, this particular set of participants deepened the
democratic character of the G8. In addition, an ever-expanding,
all-democratic European Union reinforced the power, democratic
devotion, diversity and inclusiveness of the G8 itself.

St. Petersburg
was only the second time that these Plus Five powers had been
invited to participate in the summit as a self-contained set,
having been invited to the Gleneagles Summit in 2005. They had been
part of a much larger group invited to the Evian G8 Summit in 2003.
Russia’s invitation, issued at the urging of its G8 partners, thus
set a precedent that meant that the old G8 would likely become the
new G8+5 on a regular basis in future years. Thus Germany has
invited from the start to its Heiligendamm Summit the same five
powers, relabelled the “Outreach Five,” or O5. Germany has further
suggested to its G8 partners that these five would routinely
participate in the G8 in all future years. As the partners look
with favor upon this suggestion, it is clear that at St.
Petersburg, as an iterative confirmation of the Gleneagles
innovation, a new G8 had been born.

St. Petersburg’s
second democratizing innovation was the unprecedented openness of
the summit process. It came in part through a new Experts Council
that Russia created at home to help prepare analytic papers to
advance the priority agenda. In support of the regular sherpa
preparatory process, the Expert Council allowed more knowledgeable
individuals from inside and outside governments in Russia and the
G8 to be involved in a meaningful and influential way.

To help prepare
its summit and deliver its results, Russia also mounted an
unprecedented Civil Eight mechanism that brought Russia and
international civil society leaders into the summit process as
never before. Through Civil 8, civil society was there from the
start. It had direct face-to-face contact with all the sherpas (the
leaders’ personal representatives) together at several times
throughout the year, which had never happened before. Civil 8
successfully synthesized a large and diverse set of inputs and
advice into an intelligent, coherent and helpful set of
recommendations that were effectively communicated to G8 governors,
including at the highest level, in the Civil 8-sponsored dialogue
with President Putin two weeks before the summit’s start. That
hard-won direct dialogue, for the first time, brought the G8 host
leader together with 700 global civil society leaders in an open,
freewheeling, two-hour public exchange. Through the free world
media in attendance, that dialogue was available for all citizens
of the global community to see, hear and read. President Putin not
only listened politely and thanked civil society for its
contribution but also endorsed some of its recommendations,
promised to raise them with his G8 colleagues, frankly noted
sources of resistance and identified civil society as allies in his
effort to convince his G8 colleagues to do the right thing. Through
him as host, Civil 8 had become a de facto ninth member of the
summit itself. The depth and durability of the civil society
connection were driven to new levels, including through the
post-summit Civil 8 meeting with the African Partnership Forum, and
through the Civil 8 meeting with the representatives of Russia’s
and Germany’s sherpas as 2006 drew to a close.

This process of
civil society participation also made a difference at St.
Petersburg itself. The leading independent publication at the
summit, G8 Summit 2006: Issues and Instruments, started with a
statement by the host leader, as it had in the 2005 edition, but
then followed, for the first time, with a statement by and about
Civil 8. The chair of Civil 8, the exceptionally committed and
talented Ella Pamfilova, gave briefings and interviews at the
summit in a way equal to senior figures of the Russian government
itself. And perhaps encouraged by his earlier public Civil 8
encounter, President Putin ended every day at the summit by
appearing before the world’s media in a lengthy, open session to
discuss what had gone on behind closed doors.

Moreover, some of
Civil 8’s many recommendations appeared in the summit communiqu?s.
Civil society as a relevant and valuable actor was recognized in
the chair’s summary far more than ever before and also throughout
most of the individual communiqu?s. On the priority issue of energy
security, when the Russian presidency had first circulated to its
G8 partners its five-page concept paper in November 2005, the
relevance of environmental values was almost invisible. At the
first Civil 8 workshop a few months later, the energy group was
dominated by environmentalists. They kept up the pressure — on
paper, in speeches and in guerilla theater T-shirts at the July
civil society forum — right through to Civil 8’s encounter with
President Putin himself. Two weeks later at St. Petersburg, the G8
communiqu? on energy security started with the importance of
environmental security and spoke of it throughout. And on the road
to St. Petersburg, President Putin made the expensive decision to
reroute his pipeline providing energy security to the east to
protect Lake Baikal, the largest body of freshwater in the

In all, Civil 8
participants conducted a transparent, inclusive process that
brought in a large and diverse group of civil society from many
issue-focused communities, G8 countries and regions around the
world. No one who wanted to contribute was turned away. Russia as
G8 host was able, through the Civil 8, to show the world the
strength of Russian civil society, and the Russian government’s
respect for and responsiveness to it. Civil 8 demonstrated that a
G8 that had long had a legitimacy deficit had now become more
democratic by proving that there was a meaningful place for civil
society’s voice inside the process, as well as from the rooms, the
rock concerts and the thrown rocks and shouted slogans on streets

Civil 8 and its
G8 connection in 2006 thus set an unprecedentedly high standard
that has inspired the G8 for the years ahead. Even before her year
as host started, German chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that she
planned a dialogue with leaders of non-governmental organizations
similar to that held by President Putin. The German sherpa team
declared that the G8 dialogue with civil society pioneered by the
Russians would continue on a permanent basis in their year and in
those to come.


Despite these
multidimensional accomplishments, there remains much to be done to
build on St. Petersburg success and thus strengthen the G8 Plus
Five as an effective center of global governance in the years

The first
is to bring Russia and the European Union in as full
members of all parts of the G8 system. In the case of Russia, this
includes the G7 finance ministers forum. Here Russia’s energetic
hosting in the first half of 2006 of two G8 finance ministers
summit preparatory meetings proved Russia’s reliability and the
worth of a G8 finance ministerial. It did so most notably in
affirming as early as February 2006 the need for the
market-oriented approach to energy security that the G8 summit
leaders ultimately endorsed. With Russia now the world’s
first-ranked, full-strength energy superpower and one of only two
G8 members with a regular fiscal surplus, with its vast foreign
exchange reserves, and as an emerging contributor to development
assistance, there is little on the G7 finance agenda that warrants
Russia’s exclusion. Russia should also be admitted to a revived
trade ministers’ quadrilateral, formed in 1981 by the United
States, the European Union, Japan and Canada — especially now that
even the U.S. has agreed that Russia should join the World Trade
Organization (WTO).

second step
is to develop a full set of regular G8
ministerial meetings that would cover most of the ministries that
G8 governments have, whose agendas have now migrated outside their
domestic polity in today’s rapidly globalizing age. This includes
turning into annual events the intermittent G8 meetings for
ministers of energy, development and health. Indeed, the case of
health is especially important if Russia remains outside the Global
Health Security Initiative, which was created in 2001 and includes
only the G7 members and Mexico. There is also an argument for
creating a G8 defense ministers forum to deal with issues such as
peace and security in Africa and, above all, the G8 perennial issue
of Afghanistan.

The third
is to strengthen the legislative, judicial and civil
society institutions among the G8, so that this democratically
devoted center of global governance goes beyond governing only
through and with its executive branch. Here Russia took several
small but useful steps forward in 2006. But a major leap could help
with the German priorities of encouraging good governance and
respect for the rule of law globally, including within Russia and
other G8 members themselves. One concrete step, building on St.
Petersburg’s advance in education, would be to create a G8
scholarship exchange program so that promising postsecondary
students from the G8 Plus Five powers could study in partner
countries and thus learn at first hand about how things work

fourth step
is, on an ad hoc basis as dictated by the
agenda, to add other countries, beyond the Plus Five, at the summit
itself and to the ministerial and official-level groups that
constitute the invisible, submerged body of the summit iceberg
below. The Germans have made a good start here, by promising once
again to bring committed African leaders to their summit in 2007.
But the entire system should be assessed to see how such expanded
participation could both encourage more effective problem solving
and also reinforce democratic principles and practices. This thrust
could well include holding a meeting of the finance ministers G20
at the leaders level on a one-time basis, both to see if this
architecture works as well as has proven to at the finance
ministers level and to help solve pressing global issues — such as
energy, health, trade and the reform of the international financial
institutions — where all the systemically significant countries are
integrally involved.

The fifth
is to move toward incorporating deeply democratic,
domestically diverse, globally relevant India as the ninth country
member of the G8, in a way somewhat similar to the long process
through which Russia was incorporated from 1992 to 2006. The
success of St. Petersburg proved that the historic decisions first
in 1998, to admit Russia as a regular G8 member, and then in 2002,
to have it host a regular summit, were the right ones to take, even
if there were doubts about the present global power and domestic
democratic performance of Russia at the time. By this “Russian
standard” that has now proven its worth, India stands out as the
one country on the Plus Five candidate list that in the definable
future will deserve a greater place in the inner G8


These steps are
needed not only to help with global problem solving and democracy
promotion in today’s rapidly globalizing world. They are also badly
needed to help with the G8’s greatest outstanding defect —
effectively delivering its many, often pioneering promises to its
many citizens, stakeholders and the desperate people in the world
as a whole. The G8 was deliberately created by its founders as a
flexible, informal, “soft law” institution directed and delivered
by democratically and popularly elected leaders, unconstrained by
any rigidified, legally constrained, resource-short international
bureaucracy that claimed to speak on its behalf. This core
“constitutional” characteristic of the G8, recurrently reaffirmed
by successive generations of G8 leaders, remains fundamental to the
G8’s success. There is thus no need for any permanent international
G8 secretariat, either newly created by the G8 itself or
volunteered by well-meaning existing bodies such as an Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to which Russia
still does not belong.

To be sure, the
established multilateral organizations play an important role in
implementing and otherwise contributing to G8 governance. In 2006
Russia made important advances in involving those organizations in
the summit’s preparations and production from the start. Based on
this initiative and its solid results, it would be wise for the
WTO, the OECD and the International Energy Agency (IEA) to admit
Russia as a full member, as a long overdue step.

But on the whole,
other ways must be found to solve the G8’s great
“commitment-compliance gap.” While members’ compliance with their
priority G8 commitments has been growing in recent years, it is
still well short of what its citizens and their global colleagues
expect and need. Moreover, the initial indications from the G8
Research Group’s assessment of compliance with the St. Petersburg
Summit’s priority commitments six months after the summit suggest
that compliance is well below the level of summits in recent years.
Clearly the strong commitment of Russia and the G8 in 2006 to do a
better job of ensuring compliance with their commitments, and
monitoring their compliance performance, is not sufficient to meet
the objectives they as G8 governors themselves have set.

There are now
several exercises underway globally to assess by various methods
compliance with the G8’s promises and their implementation. But
these exercises remain fragile and fragmented and, in the case of
intra-governmental G8 efforts, very opaque. The time has come to
combine these efforts, in a multi-stakeholder global “G8 compliance
consortium,” so that G8 governors can join with their own
legislators, judiciaries, auditors general and civil society to
know how well their promises at the summit are subsequently being
transformed into practice on the ground. The democratically and
popularly elected leaders of the G8 should be the ones who most
want to know reliably whether their collective will is being
converted by those below and beyond into the results they want. And
because that which is measured is treasured, a more effective
collective monitoring process should help convert G8 promises made
into G8 promises kept.