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Youth summits challenge G8

Pupils took the chance to petition Tony Blair at the opening of the Gleneagles conference, reports Su Clark

Six Scottish pupils were allowed through the barricades at Gleneagles this week on the first day of the G8 summit to meet Tony Blair to urge action over Africa and climate change.

Along with representatives from England, Japan, USA and Italy, the pupils handed over a communique thrashed out over three days by 95 young people from the G8 countries, brought together in Edinburgh for their own junior summit, the J8.

Speaking on behalf of all delegates at the J8, one pupil said: "The problems of climate change and Africa concern all humanity. In this respect, we have a real responsibility to make things evolve for the better. We hope the G8 leaders will do what they say and uphold their responsibilities."

The Scottish delegates were from the Wallace High in Stirling, where the First Minister once taught, and Waid Academy in Anstruther, Fife. They were among 10 UK schools that won a competition launched last year by the Department for Education and Skills and investment bank Morgan Stanley.

Along with pupils from France, Germany, Italy, Japan and America, the young people held their summit at the Scottish Parliament. The event closed with a ceremony attended by Jack McConnell, who was presented with the communique to take to the G8 leaders at Gleneagles.

Simultaneously, a summit organised by Unicef, the C8, provided a platform for eight young people from developing countries to meet other representatives from Scotland, England, Italy, France, Germany and Russia.

Held in Dunblane over three days, the C8 debated issues that affected all children, including education. Mr McConnell spent the afternoon there before attending the J8 in the evening, and was given a copy of the manifesto to take to G8 leaders. Paying tribute to the young people, aged between 11 and 18, he said: "C8 will ensure young people from Scotland and across the world have a chance to make their voice heard in the crucial debate on G8 issues.

"If we are to tackle global pov-erty, everyone must be involved in finding solutions, regardless of age or where they come from. That's why the C8 is such a valuable and worthwhile exercise."

The message from both pupil summits was that world leaders are not doing enough, quickly enough to transform the lives of children. As he presented Mr McConnell with the J8 communique, Olsin Kearney, from St Colman's High in County Down, Northern Ireland, told him: "We recognise the progress that is beginning to happen in the areas of climate change and Africa.

"But we think that more needs to happen, more quickly. Now we are telling you what we want our leaders to do to ensure that we have a future to believe in, a society to be proud of, and a global community that respects and recognises the values of us all."

The 95 participants, aged between 14 and 16, at the J8 focused on Africa and the climate, the main issues under scrutiny at Gleneagles. They called for an integrated climate economy; government-backed awareness building in all countries of how individual actions affect the environment; an internationally-registered symbol for energy efficiency; renewable energy microgeneration technology in every new building; a focus on the basics of primary education, maternal mortality and HIVAids; training for the trainers in Africa; a stronger relationship between G8 and the African Union; and microfinance programmes to fund African businesses.

In Dunblane, the C8 delegates used a few more exclamation marks, telling the world leaders: "We put our faith in you - recalling that you too were once a child - and hope that being a member of the human race will influence your decisions".

Their manifesto called for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in all countries; for G8 leaders to implement children's rights to participate effectively; to fulfil promises made in 2002 at the UN Special Session on Children, A World Fit For Us; that the government and civil society of every country should eliminate corruption and make poverty history; and give debt relief to all developing countries and promote fair trade and create a young people's advisory group to work in partnership with G8.

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