Saturday, January 27, 2007

Global forum in Davos tackles poverty

from The Taipei Times

FOCUS ON AFRICA: Tony Blair, Bono and Bill Gates were to lead a forum on pressing developed nations to honor their promises on aid to Africa


Davos moved into the development arena yesterday, as the annual gathering of global leaders turned its energies to the issue of poverty alleviation, with a special focus on Africa.

Pop icon Bono, a rare exception to the bar on celebrity delegates at this year's World Economic Forum, was to join British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Microsoft founder Bill Gates in pressing developed nations to honor their promises on aid to Africa.

South African President Thabo Mbeki will participate in the discussion, which also seeks to question whether African nations are doing enough to create the conditions for sustainable growth.

Gates, together with British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown was to hold a press conference earlier yesterday, outlining the progress made by the GAVI Alliance and its vaccination projects in developing countries.

Development was also top of the agenda for Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who arrived in Davos on Thursday.

"I'm coming to show that it is possible to achieve the [UN] Millennium Development Goals if there is a little understanding from rich countries," Lula told reporters. "Not for them to simply give money but to invest in projects that mean growth for poor countries."

Davos has been criticized in the past for being little more than an exclusive winter retreat for corporate bigwigs, who make fine public pronouncements about problems of poverty and social suffering which they are often accused of exacerbating.

On Thursday, the forum was dominated by Middle East politics, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insisting that the time had come for building a lasting peace with Israel.

"The time has come for us ... to make peace a reality," Abbas said during a discussion in which he and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni shared a stage with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

"I am fully convinced that despite all the difficulties, an atmosphere conducive to the resumption of the peace process exists," he added.

Speaking after the Palestinian president, Livni was more circumspect about the timetable for a possible resumption of the roadmap peace plan, even as she stressed the need for both sides to stick to the vision of two states living side by side.

"The Palestinian state is not an illusion, it's feasible, it's there, it's achievable," Livni said.

"The establishment of a Palestinian state and homeland for the Palestinians is the answer, the national answer to the Palestinians wherever they are," Livni said.

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