G7 to G8 to G20: Evolution in Global Governance

May 25, 2011

Written by CIGI Distinguished Fellow Gordon Smith, this paper is the sixth installment in CIGI’s G20 Paper series. It provides a brief history of the evolution of the Group of Seven (G7) from its origins in the aftermath of the 1971 breakdown of the Bretton Woods system of exchange rates and the oil crisis in 1973, and discusses Russia’s participation at summits after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The paper gives a concise account of the formation of the Group of Twenty (G20) finance ministers and central bank governors in the late 1990s, in the wake of financial crises in Asia and Latin America, which was elevated to a leaders’ summit forum at the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008. Smith wraps up the paper with a discussion of the differences in the G8 and G20 models, concluding that the G20 process is still the best option for meeting the challenges of complex global governance issues.

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Part of Series

CIGI G20 Papers

Emanating from CIGI’s G20 work program, the “CIGI G20 Papers” seek to examine and understand options for the G20 on major transnational and institutional issues, such as the response to the economic crisis, financial regulation, and the G20’s place in the processes and “architecture” of international economic governance. The first four papers to be published were originally presented at CIGI’s conference on International Governance Innovation: Issues for the 2010 Summits (May 3-5, 2010). They address questions relating to the new Financial Stability Board; the process of summitry and the G20’s effectiveness and legitimacy; the G20 and the post-crisis economic order (and by extension, the G8); and the macroeconomic stabilization framework for sustained global growth and prosperity.

About the Author

A former Canadian deputy foreign minister, NATO ambassador and G7/G8 Sherpa, Gordon Smith is a leading expert on the evolution of the G20 and global summitry.