J8 Summit opens in Germany
By Gerrit Beger
WISMAR, Germany, 3 June 2007 – Young people from Group of 8 industrialized countries and the developing world, as well as German federal and state government officials, have gathered here for the official opening of the Junior 8 Summit – the international youth conference with an agenda that parallels the G8 Summit.
The opening ceremony was bustling with energy, as the J8 participants made a commitment to maximize the impact of the youth summit and urge that G8 leaders keep their promises on a range of key issues. The session was moderated by three young people from Russia, Germany and Japan.
The main speaker, German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said how impressed she was to see the youth participants from all parts of the world.
“We are all talking about globalization, but what we really need is a human globalization – the coming together of all human beings,” she said. “You are the ones that can help make this happen.”
Interaction with world leaders
The J8 Summit, a joint initiative sponsored and spearheaded by UNICEF and the Morgan-Stanley International Foundation, aims to amplify the voice of children and young people, enhancing their ability to influence decisions at the G8 meeting, which begins on Wednesday.
In addition to providing direct interaction with world leaders at the G8, the J8 empowers young people to discuss global issues affecting youth and advocate for urgent solutions and actions by G8 leaders.
“You can meet people from all over the world, you can connect, you can spend quality time, you could really come up with some powerful messages that would be listened to,” said Morgan-Stanley’s country head for Germany, Dagmar Kollmann. “Just think of it,” she continued. “Forty-five minutes with the most important people in the world. You will be heard.”
The young people in Wismar will spend the next week debating four issues: economic development in Africa; HIV/AIDS; climate change and energy efficiency; and new global challenges, including intellectual property rights and corporate social responsibility – the same issues on the G8 agenda.
Ms. Wieczorek-Zeul pledged that Germany would implement decisions emerging from the G8.
“The fight against AIDS is a major one,” she said. “[AIDS] is killing people and it is killing hope. We fulfil the German obligation by increasing our contribution to the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. It is so sad that already 15 million children have lost their parents to AIDS.”
On climate change, Ms. Wieczorek-Zeul said there is no time to lose. “According to the latest climate report, we have eight years to act. We must explore alternative energy resources. There have been wars on access to oil – there won't be wars on the access to the sun,” she asserted.
Spirit of cooperation
“We still see that about 20 million children don't have a possibility to have even primary education," added Ms. Wieczorek-Zeul. “And this is so important, because to have education means that you can go forward, that your children will go to school and that the country has better chances.”
To foster a spirit of cooperation, the J8 delegates are staying aboard an old sailing vessel in Wismar. But there’s a modern twist: Each child has been given use of a small laptop computer, on loan from the non-profit association One Laptop per Child, and each laptop is networked with all the others. It’s the same affordable computer that is being developed for children in the poorest regions of the world – a fitting detail for a group of dedicated young leaders who are intent on improving the lives of children everywhere.
The J8 participants are meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel tomorrow in Berlin and will present their conclusions and recommendations to G8 leaders on 7 June in Heiligendamm, the G8 meeting site.