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At a glance: Japan

Young delegates’ hopes are high as ‘Junior 8’ Summit opens in Japan

© UNICEF Japan/2008/Sato
The Shikotsu International Taiko and Junior 8 participants play Japanese drums at the opening ceremony of the J8 Summit at Lake Shikotsu in Hokkaido, Japan.

HOKKAIDO, Japan, 3 July 2008 – The Junior 8 Summit opened yesterday with thunderous performance by young local drummers at a traditional ceremony in Hokkaido, Japan. The meeting brings together a group of children and young people who promise to make an even bigger noise on the world stage.

Hosted by the Government of Japan and supported by UNICEF, this year’s J8 Summit will closely follow the agenda and scope of the G8 meeting of world leaders, but will concentrate specifically on issues affecting young people around the globe. It is designed to build relationships among a group of young people not only from the industrialized G8 nations, but also from the developing world.

At the end of their deliberations, the 39 delegates to the J8 will formulate a declaration that they will present in a meeting with the G8 leaders, who are gathering here for their summit on 7-9 July.

Climate change, health and poverty
“When you become adults, it is you who will have the responsibility to deal with these problems, and to find the solutions needed,” UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific Anupama Rao Singh told the J8 delegates. “It is therefore important that you begin now, to contribute your share in addressing these challenges and finding the necessary solutions.”

Ishkhan Buyklianov from the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the young delegates from non-G8 countries. “I want to discuss what is happening in my country – about the poverty in my country, about climate change in my country,” Ishkhan said.

In the coming few days, he will have that opportunity. Three main topics will be discussed at the J8: climate change, global health, and poverty and economic development.

© UNICEF Japan/2008/Sato
J8 participants hold their first meeting in the J8 Summit at Lake Shikotsu.

Getting the message across
Carefully chosen through an exhaustive international selection process, the J8 delegates have already been developing positions on their specialized topics in an online workspace. After they have left Japan, this workspace will allow them to showcase their achievements, network with other participants and pass on their experiences to future J8 generations.

“The young people seem to have certainly got their messages across,” said one of the UK delegates, Hannah Coakley, referring to past J8 Summits.

This is the fourth in the series of J8 meetings launched by UNICEF and its partners. The previous summits took in Gleneagles, Scotland; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Wismar, Germany.

Recommendations for G8 leaders
Will the G8 leaders listen to the J8 delegates when they meet next week? Hannah is confident that their recommendations will make an impact.

“Perhaps the G8 will use them in the future, or take them back to their own countries and include young people on a more day-to-day basis, which is what we are looking for, really,” she said.

Now embarked on a packed schedule of group sessions as they formulate and then draft their proposals, the delegates are hard at work. But it is not all work and no play. The J8 itinerary includes a number of cultural events intended to build friendships that will last long after this summit has finished. For a group of high-achievers with the potential of becoming tomorrow’s world leaders, the value of such an outcome is immeasurable.

A delegate from Russia, Alina Podboronova, considered the long-term benefits of the summit. “I think the most important thing I can get from the J8,” she said, “is experience and friends from all over the world.”




2 July 2008: UNICEF correspondent Rob McBride reports on the opening of the J8 summit in Japan.
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