HEILIGENDAMM -- Under the theme of " Growth and Responsibility," the leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations will start their annual three-day summit in the German Baltic resort of Heiligendamm on Wednesday.
They will also have outreach sessions Friday with leaders from Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, and with African countries, including Algeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa.
Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, Alpha Oumar Konare, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will also attend the Africa outreach.
The following are some major facts about the summit.
The G8, which evolved from the Group of Seven, consists of the world's eight leading industrialized powers -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
In November 1975, leaders of Britain, France, Italy, Japan, the United States and the then West Germany gathered in France for their first economic summit to discuss the global economic situation and coordinate policies to reinvigorate their economies.
The group of the six developed countries welcomed its seventh member in June 1976 when Canada joined the group at the G7 Summit, or the so-called Seven Western Countries Summit Conference, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Since then, the G7 members have taken turns to host the economic summit each year.
Since 1977, the president of the European Commission (formerly the Commission of European Communities) has been invited to attend the annual gathering.
In July 1991, then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was invited to meet with the G7 leaders after their conference in London. And Moscow has since continued its participation in the annual "seven plus one" dialogue held following the summit. Russia was finally granted the right to join in discussions on political issues in 1994.
The G7 summit became a G8 event in Denver, the United States, in 1997, when then Russian President Boris Yeltsin was invited to fully participate in the summit, and the final communique was issued in the name of the eight leaders for the first time.
In May 1998, the G8 summit was held in Birmingham, Britain. Despite the name change, Russia's participation has been limited to political issues and the former G7 regime remains intact in terms of economic discussions.
The summit in Kananaskis, Canada, in June 2002 decided Russia holds the G8 rotating presidency in 2006, which is seen as a move testifying to the partners' recognition of Russia's growing role in the world.
During the 2002 summit, the G8 members reached agreements in the discussions on the global fight against poverty, the Middle East peace process, the state of the world's economy and Africa's problems.
Traditionally, the summits have been mainly focused on political and economic issues. In recent years, climate change and environmental protection have been put on the agenda.
In Heiligendamm, climate protection, African development, global economy and the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization are expected to dominate the agenda.
This is the fifth time that Germany hosts the annual summit of the world economic powers following 1978, 1985, 1992 and 1999.