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Save the Children or Save the Monuments?

Media Centre at G8 Summit
Media Centre at G8 Summit

Yesterday, Day 1 of the G8 summit, saw the arrival of leaders at the airports in Rome, transfers by helicopter, visits to the earthquake ruins and many, many photo opportunities. Of course, journalists, policy advisors and campaigners here in the Media Centre do not see any of this. We just watch it on the televisions like everyone else. Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi showed each leader images of Renaissance monuments that need to be saved, trying to get them all the sponsor a monument for restoration. Everyone at the G8 has been given a book called “The Monuments to Be Saved”. Now, I care about preserving historic buildings. But it is tasteless to highlight monuments when the G8 are failing in their commitments to the poorest children in the world. It’s not a choice between Save the Children or Save the Monuments but they should not be accorded equal status.

After a nice late lunch, the leaders finally sat down for some talking. Suddenly there were rumours that the Development and Africa parts of the Communiqué would be finalised and published in the evening. Far from having a few days to try to influence the outcome, we had a few hours. We spoke to people in the government delegations and also to the journalists, trying to follow what was happening and send through messages about the priorities. Of course most of the text was finalised between government representatives weeks ago and only a few sticky points remained for leaders to agree. But the fact that they spent such a short time discussing what should be the most important subject, confirms that this G8 has not seen their responsibilities to the developing world as the top of their agenda.

The text is disappointing generally. The high-profile commitment to reducing child mortality that we needed is not there, let alone a commitment to ensure funding for maternal, newborn and child health. There is support for a global consensus on this topic, but it lacks any clear action. The G8 reaffirms many of its aid commitments but the language is getting tired. And did Italy use the opportunity to reverse its aid cuts? No it did not. There are still important declarations to come on agriculture, water and sanitation and still time for Berlusconi to tell us if he cares more about deaths of children than damage to monuments.

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