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The G8. But for children.

The G8 meeting opens today and the leaders are travelling to the earthquake-hit town of L’Aquila. Journalists and campaigners are staying instead in the “Mediterranean Village” in Chieti – 90 minutes away, half-built and just vacated by a sports meeting. I had a very refreshing cold shower this morning before setting off.

Amidst the chaos of a Summit that was moved at short notice to L’Aquila for bizarre reasons, Save the Children has to try to persuade the G8 leaders that the lives of 9.2 million children who die before their fifth birthday are worthy of their attention. To raise our issues, campaigners and activists must use any tools we can find. This means briefing papers and facts but also stunts and visual reminders.

In Rome on Monday we unveiled our poster — showing eight kids dressed up as the G8 leaders. As well as being really funny, it has a serious purpose: what do the deliberations of the eight leaders look like through the eyes of a child, especially one living in poverty and denied basic rights?

Do the G8 leaders have child’s rights in the forefront of their minds? Are they aware that, as the richest countries in the world, they have the power of life and death over that child? Are they able to rise above domestic political concerns and make sure their country fulfils its reponsibilities to end global poverty?

On any objective measures (such as commitment to aid levels, trade barriers against poor countries, food aid which destroys the local farming economy and healthcare access) the answer appears to be no. Save the Children has been asking the Italian government hosts to explain their additional cut to aid levels for 2010. They’re coming up with various excuses – the economy, a mistake and (most outrageously) that aid is an old-fashioned way to support poor countries. We have a tough job this week.

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