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At a glance: Italy

Young people open Junior 8 Summit in Rome

© AP Photo/Cito
At a kick-off event in Rome, youth delegates to the Junior 8 Summit line up in front of a giant paper-mâché ear symbolizing their right to get the attention of world leaders at the G8 meeting in L'Aquila, Italy.

By Thomas Nybo

ROME, Italy, 7 July 2009 – Bright young minds from around the world have gathered for the Junior 8 Summit, a week-long conference for young people to exchange and debate ideas about how to best improve global conditions for children. 

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On 9 July, a select group of delegates from the Junior 8, or 'J8', will personally present their recommendations to the world leaders at the Group of 8 Summit, which is also taking place in Italy. 

Listening to the young

The youth summit officially opened with a press conference chaired by a former J8 participant from Italy, Lorenzo Casullo. The panel included a number of top officials from the Italian Government, as well as representatives of UNICEF and four young Italians.

© UNICEF Video
Teams of young people aged 14 to 17 arrived in Rome to participate in the J8 Summit, where their discussions are to focus on climate change, the global economic crisis, African development and quality education.

But it was another former J8 participant, Fernanda Winter of Brazil, who had the last word. "We hope that the policy makers and world leaders will assume effectively the commitment of listening to us and insuring that important participation space, such as the J8, keeps going on," she said.

The J8 Summit runs parallel to the G8. This year, 54 young people are on hand to represent the G8 countries – Italy, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – as well as non-G8 nations Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico and South Africa.

Advice for world leaders

The young leaders began their activities this past weekend in front of Rome's ancient Colosseum, standing before a giant paper-mâché ear they had made to encourage G8 leaders to listen and act. As tourists passed by, the young people methodically wrote down words of advice to the world leaders they will soon meet. They formed a line and, one by one, deposited their slips of paper into the giant ear.

Later that night the J8 delegates, aged 14 to 17, sat down for a meal prepared by one of Italy's top chefs, Gualtiero Marchesi. He surprised them by not offering a typical Italian meal of pasta and meat. Instead, he presented nine small courses, each from a different part of the world.

The next morning, it was down to business. The young people quickly jumped into passionate discussions about what needs to be done to improve living conditions around the world.

'We are equal'

"By stating our rights, we all as the J8 community – with different nationalities – we have to realize that we all have the same rights and we are equal," said Richmond Mahlubandile Sajini, 15, from South Africa.

The J8 participants are spending most of their time ahead of the meeting with world leaders working on policy recommendations about climate change, development in Africa, the global economic crisis and quality education.

With millions of children under the age of five dying each year from largely preventable causes, the stakes are high. And as they move forward, the youth delegates are thinking big.

"If humanity was able to put a man on the moon, it should be able to solve the humanitarian problems it faces," said Daniel Morales, 15, of the United States.




6 July 2009: UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on the priorities for the J8 Summit in Rome.
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