The meetings were held in central Italy in the historic town of L'Aquila, a show of support for the region after the devastating earthquake that struck there April 6. Nearly 300 people were killed, tens of thousands were left homeless and centuries-old buildings were damaged or destroyed.
The area is still experiencing aftershocks, including four just in the last week. Local officials have prepared emergency plans to evacuate G-8 leaders by helicopter to Rome in the event of another significant quake.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi decided to move the summit from La Maddalena, an island off the coast of Sardinia, to L'Aquila to help boost the local economy and raise awareness for the continuing challenges of the earthquake. (Berlusconi is experiencing his own personal and political earthquake, incidentally, with allegations of partying with prostitutes and young models consuming local tabloid headlines.)
Earlier today, Obama announced that the U.S. government will partner with the National Italian-American Foundation to provide funding for projects in the earthquake region, including money to rebuild facilities at the University of L'Aquila and fund scholarships and summer programs.
"Our hearts were broken by the death and destruction that took place after the earthquake," the president said upon arriving from Moscow. He said he was "very pleased that the United States, like many other countries, will be contributing to help the rebuilding process."
The economic crisis, food security and climate change are at the top of the official agenda of the three-day summit, but world leaders were also planning to focus on critical issues like Iran and North Korea.
The discussions on the global economic crisis continue from April's G20 summit in London, where leaders struggled to overcome disagreements on how to balance fiscal responsibility with the need for more economic stimulus. On Thursday, Obama will chair the Major Economies Forum on the topic.
On the table is a U.S. food security proposal in which wealthy nations would commit $15 billion over the next several years for agricultural development in poor nations.
White House Deputy National Security Advisor Mike Froman said today that the proposal includes several principles for development policy, including: supporting country-owned programs that cover all the parts of agricultural development, agricultural productivity and food security issues; coordinating aid among donor nations to meet the needs of recipient nations, rather than through "scattershot programs"; using multinational institutions, like the United Nations, when appropriate, and making a "significant and sustained" commitment of financial aid to financial commitment to the area.
Later in the week, the summit expands to include leaders from fast-growing nations India, China and Brazil and developing nations in Africa.
Obama will also hold side meetings with world leaders like South Africa's newly-elected president, polygamist Jacob Zuma. He was scheduled to sit down for a one-on-one meeting with Chinese President Hu, but it was cancelled after Hu returned home to deal with the rising ethnic tensions in western China.