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Secretary-General urges US business leaders to help fight global poverty

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged members of the business community in the United States city of Atlanta to help the United Nations in its efforts to combat global poverty, arguing that this is good for the world and for the bottom line.

“Never has the global corporate community been so engaged as it is today,” he said. “Look at what the Gates Foundation is doing in health care. Look how Rotary International, supported by Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and some of your most forward-looking companies, is on the verge of eradicating polio.”

The world’s poorest need international help from a range of players, he said. “The United Nations cannot do it alone. We need you.”

He argued for an approach that promotes self-sufficiency. “Unless the world’s poor become better able to fend for themselves, they – and we – are lost,” he told the gathering at the headquarters of the Coca Cola company, which is a member of the UN’s voluntary corporate citizen initiative known as the Global Compact.

The Secretary-General said companies are introducing new technologies that are sparking local entrepreneurship and, in the process, creating growth and promoting new markets. “Vodaphone and Tata, to name but two, have discovered that cell phones are about far more than voice communication. Poor farmers in Africa and India use them to check market prices and get information about when and what to plant. This transforms their lives.”

Sales are “exploding,” he said, and “along the way, both companies find that they are contributing in a big way to solving the global food crisis – by advancing local development and helping to boost agricultural production.”

Some 5,000 companies, in 120 countries, belong to the UN’s Global Compact. Addressing those that have not joined the initiative, the Secretary-General said, “I urge you to sign up. After all, we are in this together.”

9 May 2008

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