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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

G8 SUMMIT 2008

Actor's new role: to remind G8 of their pledges


Staff writer

SAPPORO — The Group of Eight leaders need to "act now" and place eradicating poverty at the top of their agenda because 30,000 children are dying every day in the developing world, British actor Bill Nighy said.

Nighy, an established actor who has appeared in the films "Love Actually," "Notes on a Scandal" and "Pirates of the Caribbean," is also an ambassador for Oxfam International, a U.K.-based confederation of 13 organizations aiming to reduce poverty and injustice.

Nighy said he is in Hokkaido during the G8 summit to remind the leaders of "the magnificent promises they made in recent years to guarantee to raise aid to developing countries to $50 billion a year by 2010," referring to a pledge the G8 leaders made at the 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

In an interview with The Japan Times, Nighy urged the G8 leaders to "act now to bring long-term budget support to train teachers, health workers, to bring basic education and basic health care to the people of the developing countries."

People in developing countries "are still dying from things we stopped dying from a hundred years ago," he said.

Nighy expressed concern that if the G8 leaders continue to give aid to developing countries at the current rate, they will fall around $30 billion short of meeting their pledge of $50 billion.

The total amount required is the equivalent of one chocolate bar a year for each citizen of the G8 countries — and only one-tenth of what was spent to invade Iraq, Nighy stressed.

"We currently spend 11 times more money killing each other than we do trying to stop the innocent from dying," Nighy said. "Climate change and rising food prices hurt the poor first and foremost. They suffer for our pollution."

In May 2007, Nighy visited Tanzania with Oxfam staff to see with his own eyes the reality of the situation. What he found was shocking — there was only one hospital within 5,000 km.

"What poverty does apart from anything else is it robs people of dignity," Nighy said. "And it's an insidious thing."

But, he was also able to see many success stories on how money did make a difference in people's lives.

Nighy met women who were given money to start a jewelry business. They sold 60,000 "Make Poverty History" bracelets — a part of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty campaign that started in 2005.

With the money the women made, they were able to install corrugated roofs, feed their children and possibly send them to secondary school, Nighy said.

People in developing countries "need just the early money, they need the first money just like we did," Nighy said. "They need the money to start, and in a relatively short time, they could be self-supporting. They are clever and smart and prepared to work as much as we are."

An award-winning actor, Nighy played a starring role in "The Girl in the Cafe," a film about a civil servant attending a G8 summit, and was also cast in "The Constant Gardner," a movie about a corrupt pharmaceutical company that was "using Africa as a laboratory."

He became an Oxfam ambassador last August.

"My job is to be a benign nuisance — and to draw a little bit of attention," Nighy said.

Arriving in Sapporo on Saturday, Nighy spent several days talking to the media to raise awareness on poverty, because the situation is "an emergency," he said.

"My hope is simply that (the G8 leaders) keep to their promises," Nighy said. "We could be the generation that makes history. There is no reason, no need for the poor to be poor. We can do anything."



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The Japan Times

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