Pressures to reform the Group of Eight (G8) have come from a variety of sources and perspectives, including academic analysts, practitioners, civil society, leaders of non-G8 countries, and even some of the G8 leaders themselves. Over its 32-year history, this elite forum of democratic industrialized countries has shown its ability to accommodate change, but it is rooted in an earlier era, and the growing power shift in global relations toward emerging market countries has not been reflected in either its scope or its membership. In recent years there has been a plethora of proposals to reform the club, from narrowing its brief to having it to coexist with a new and more representative body, and from membership expansion to complete abolition. To appreciate the full extent of this set of debates, this paper looks back at the origins of the summit and its intended architecture. It then reviews and analyses actual and proposed reforms over the summit's history, from early pressures to modify the original G5 through current attempts to move beyond the G8 to a Leaders' 20 (L20) or perhaps a group of 14.

  • Peter I. Hajnal is Research Fellow, Munk Centre for International Studies, and retired Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto.