Annan calls on business to end Africa poverty

14th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 14 (AFP) - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged globe-girdling corporations Tuesday to play a bigger role in lifting Africa out of poverty, at a seminar to promote corporate responsibility in the developing world.

PARIS, June 14 (AFP) - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged globe-girdling corporations Tuesday to play a bigger role in lifting Africa out of poverty, at a seminar to promote corporate responsibility in the developing world.  

Speaking in Paris alongside French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Annan said governments still bear the "main responsibility" for meeting the UN's Millennium Development Goals.  

"But business has a central role to play," he added.   "Business generates employment and wealth ... It is the absence of broad-based business activity, not its presence, that condemns much of humanity to suffering."  

"Indeed, what is utopian is the notion that poverty can be overcome without the active engagement of business."  

The UN Millennium Development Goals call for 500 million people to be "lifted out of extreme poverty" by 2015, 115 million children put in school, and a halt of the spread of AIDS.  

They dovetail with Blair's determination to put Africa, as well as climate change, at the heart of the summit of leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations at Gleneagles, Scotland next month.  

"Business is of vital importance to the goals," Annan said, hailing the participation of 2,000 companies from 80-plus countries in the UN Global Compact that he launched six years ago.  

The initiative calls for corporations to assume more responsibility in the developing world by rejecting corruption, embracing ethical management, spreading AIDS awareness and providing help to local entrepreneurs.  

Speaking before Annan, Blair said he was determined to see G8 adopt a full set of measures to fight poverty in Africa.  

But he stressed: "None of this will work unless there is a sense of responsibility on the part of African nations themselves."  

"There are people, good people, who are prevented (from doing good work) by undemocratic regimes, by the presence of corruption and by poor governance," he said. "These are things that we must tackle as well."  

G8 finance ministers agreed last Saturday a key part of his African initiative - the immediate cancellation of the multilateral debt owed by 18 mostly African nations.  

But other important measures remain to be embraced, including an effective doubling of development aid and freer trade, including a drawdown of trade-distorting subsidies in rich nations.  

Blair told his overwhelmingly non-African audience that "it is essential to give an added plus and a new impulsion" to efforts to step up development in Africa and other poor parts of the world.  

He said the United Nations' millennium development goals - which set a 2015 target for bringing Third World poverty to heel - posed "very ambitious challenges".  

"But we have to be clear as an international community. If we continue as we are ... it is going to be many decades before we meet them."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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