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At a glance: Japan

Fond memories and clear challenges for 2008 J8 Summit delegates

© UNICEF video
Thirty-nine young people gathered in Japan for the fourth ‘Junior 8’ Summit, aiming to make their voices heard and considered in high-level decision-making by G8 world leaders.

By Terra Weikel

CHITOSE, Japan, 28 July 2008 – For 39 young people who gathered in Chitose on the island of Hokkaido, Japan, earlier this month, the G8 meeting of world leaders was more than just a distant, high-level international event.

This diverse group had been chosen to represent their countries at the fourth ‘Junior 8’ Summit. For them, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to craft a message of urgency and hope to the G8 industrialized countries, as well as the rest of the world.

The opening ceremony for the J8 Summit took place at a lakeside resort. The young delegates were welcomed by representatives of the Japanese Government and UNICEF, as well as the Governor of Hokkaido, Harumi Takahashi, and Chitose City Mayor Kotaro Yamaguchi.

The ceremony featured a drumming performance, an appearance by Japanese football star Hidetoshi Nakata and a toast made to the J8 attendees with the region’s prized cow’s milk.

Turning ideas into actions

“You have the responsibility to represent the voices and experiences of many more children,” UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific Anupama Rao Singh told the assembled delegates.

Over the next three days, the children and young people broke into small groups in order to pen a document called the Chitose Declaration. Its stated goal: to turn young people’s ideas ‘into actions, not just words.’

“I like the small-group discussions. Everyone gets to contribute and that’s a good thing,” said Wilson Lau, delegate from Canada.

Translators and adult facilitators were available to help overcome any disagreements or challenging language barriers among the delegates, but the discussion and drafting of the declaration was led by the young people themselves.

“What I hope to achieve is action taken by the G8 leaders to help us youth where we can’t reach,” said Nondumiso Nkosi, delegate from South Africa.

A plan for the future

With the finalized Chitose Declaration written and in hand, the group called a press conference to formally present the document along with an action plan that they will follow in their home countries. The young people urged G8 leaders to take positive and identifiable steps following up on the promises they make to children this year.

At the climax of the J8 Summit, nine of the delegates – one from each G8 country, as well as a non-G8 representative – boarded a bus and went to meet directly with government leaders.

French delegate Camille Guillaume said she was impressed with the willingness of the other world leaders to talk with her and not just with their own young constituents.

Renewed commitment

Afterwards, the J8 delegates stayed on for a meeting with the G8 leaders’ spouses and locally sponsored events introducing them to the history and culture of Japan.

When the last buses pulled away toward the airport, there were tears and hugs as the delegates exchanged gifts and contact information. But there were also plans to keep working – including a regular newsletter, extensive online outreach via social networking sites and local fundraising activities.

A new generation of J8 Summit alumni has emerged from the 2008 meeting in Japan. With them comes a renewed commitment to including young people as regular participants at the highest levels of global decision-making about their future.




July 2008:
Watch a music video of the various events and participants at this year's J8 Summit in Japan. Produced by Rob McBride.
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