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J8 Summit widens the horizons of participants, including a 16-year-old US delegate

© Courtesy of Avani Jariwala
US delegate to the J8 Summit Avani Jariwala (second from right), 16, with Japanese students after touring a local village near the meeting site.

NEW YORK, USA, 18 July 2008 – The 2008 Junior 8 Summit concluded in Japan last week with a standing ovation from all 39 delegates.

After a week of negotiations over climate change, global health, and poverty and development, the delegates – who represented young people from 15 countries around the world – signed the ‘Chitose Declaration’, a list of policy recommendations for their counterparts at the G8 Summit of world leaders. At the same time, they agreed on an action plan on the main themes of the Junior 8, which they will implement back in their home countries.

The Junior 8 Summit, or J8, is an annual forum where young people meet to share their concerns and recommendations on how to address the global issues that concern them. This year’s conference – held from 1-10 July in Chitose City, Hokkaido, Japan – widened the horizons of its participants, including a young woman from California.

California J8 team returns home

Avani Jariwala, a 16-year-old sophomore at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, California, was one of the delegates representing the United States at the conference.

“My trip was amazing,” she said, a few days after returning home. “I learned so much from all these different people from around the world.”

Avani was one of a four-person team called Volens et Potens (Latin for ‘willing and able’) that won a nationwide contest to become the US delegates to the J8. Each member of her team took a particular topic to research and negotiate; Avani chose disease control, with a focus on HIV and AIDS.

Avani said it was particularly eye-opening to talk to young people from non-G8 countries. “Their experiences with these matters – it was just fascinating to learn about them,” she recalled. “We’re all different but when we came together I realised we all have the same goals, which are to help address these issues.”

Spreading the knowledge

Now that she’s home, Avani said, she and her team hope to start an organization at their high school to engage their classmates in the same issues they discussed at the J8.

“A main part of the Chitose Declaration was that there needs to be more awareness in communities so that people know what could be done to address these matters,” she noted.

Avani added that she hopes to present what she and her teammates learned to her schoolmates – “and we can learn from other students about their ideas, and start collaborating and working together to find some solutions.”

“After high school, I want to graduate with a degree in research because I want to find cures for diseases such as HIV and AIDS, and cancer,” she said. “I want to change the way disease affects children around the world.”

Eye-opening discussions

At the annual J8 Summit, a team of young people represents each of the G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States). An additional delegation represents other countries, with one young person from each world region.

Participants in the summit share their own ideas, but also serve as representatives of their peers worldwide.

 

 

 

 

Audio

17 July 2008:
Avani Jariwala, 16, a sophomore at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, California, talks to UNICEF Radio about being a US delegate to the J8 Summit.
 AUDIO listen


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