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A group of celebrities and dignitaries signed an open letter in Britain’s Daily Telegraph yesterday, urging the G8 to give all people – rich and poor in all countries – the support they need to live decent and dignified lives when they meet for the summit taking place in Italy.

Annie Lennox, Colin Firth, Scarlett Johansson, Angélique Kidjo, Bill Nighy and many others put their names to the letter, which will also appear in the UK’s Financial Times.

“You have a unique opportunity in Italy this year to ensure that all people, in rich countries and poor, are given the support they need to live decent and dignified lives,” they wrote. "You have taken important steps to this end at previous G8 Summits. In 2001 you acknowledged that industrialized nations had a responsibility to tackle global inequality through deeper debt relief and more aid, and you agreed to establish a Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. In 2005, you promised to increase annual aid levels to $50bn.

“We ask you now to build on these significant commitments next month at the L’Aquila Summit. Do not retreat from them. We hope one day to read in the history books: “The 2009 G8 Summit in Italy was a turning point in the fight against poverty. World leaders stood strong in the face of an economic crisis. They kept their promises to give more development assistance to poor countries and to fight climate change, and they urged other leaders to do the same.”

“Today, poor people are being forced to shoulder multiple burdens that are not of their making. The economic crisis is hitting their remittances and investment and trade flows. Climate change is harming their harvests, livelihoods, health and safety. High food and commodity prices are worsening a chronic poverty crisis which continues to claim thousands of lives every day.

“You can make health care and education a reality for millions of people if you keep your promise to pay $50 billion in foreign aid. You can improve the lives of millions of people by brokering a safe and fair climate deal to keep global warming below 2°C, by reducing your nations’ emissions and committing at least $150 billion to help developing countries adapt and pursue their own low- carbon futures.

“The money required is small when compared to recent spending on rescuing banks – but the benefits will make the future a better place for all people. Strike a decisive blow against global poverty next month.”

The full letter can be read here.

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