Students from over 25 universities across the country converged at Yale this past weekend for a Student Campaign for Child Survival leadership conference, kicking off a national movement for global child survival.

The SCCS — a campaign run under the nonprofit umbrella group Global Justice — advocates child survival programs and lobbies the U.S. government to provide more funding for the cause. Yale students founded SCCS a year ago, and leaders said they are expecting the number of national chapters to double in the next year.

At the conference, over 75 students elected a national leadership — which included five Yalies — and crafted a platform to advance the campaign’s agenda on child survival issues. SCCS leaders said the aim of the conference was to provide the attendees with fundamental skills in grass-roots organizing, student advocacy and public relations.

“This conference aimed to help fill a critical void in this country: the lack of an organized movement for global justice concerns,” said Michael Bernstein ’04, the newly-elected SCCS co-coordinator.

A $25,000 grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, which the Global Justice group won earlier this year, partially funded the weekend conference.

“Yale funding was critical to expanding the Yale leadership and national money was critical to expanding the national leadership,” conference organizer Jessica Gottlieb ’03 said.

Speakers at the conference included representatives from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, the United States Agency for International Development and Global Justice.

In a support letter for SCCS, Charles Lyons, president of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, said student involvement is critical in this effort for global child survival.

“Students are the missing ingredient in the global child survival effort,” Lyons said. “The talent, intelligence and energy of students now is mobilized to generate the political will needed to make children a priority in international assistance and development.”

President and Chief Executive Officer of Global Health Council Nils Daulaire said in another letter that the international community needs to take action and make children’s problems a major priority.

“We have the tools, the resources and the knowledge right now to address the world’s most important child survival problems. What is needed is action,” Daulaire said. “The global community must renew its commitment to the health of our children, and take steps to invest in the well being of future generations.”

The United States lags behind other developed nations in committing foreign aid to tackle child survival issues, SCCS leaders said.

“The U.S. is dead last, giving only 0.1 percent of the [gross national product],” SCCS media chairwoman Janet Kim ’03 said.

Gottlieb said this is interesting because the American public seems to support allocating a greater percentage of the GNP to foreign aid.

“If we have success with this coordination, we hope it will set a precedent for future issue-based campaigns,” she said.

Since SCCS’s inception a year ago, the Yale chapter has seen the campaign grow from a Dwight Hall organization to a national movement — something Gottlieb said she is proud of.

“It was fulfilling watching the students enter the registration booth on Friday afternoon as new members who weren’t sure what to expect and seeing the transformation of these students into national leaders who feel personal ownership of the campaign,” Gottlieb said.