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UN private sector forum seeks long-term response to global food crisis and poverty

Summary

In a high-level afternoon programme opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, animated by former United States President Bill Clinton and activist musician Bob Geldof, and closed by World Bank President Robert Zoellick, the first ever United Nations Private Sector Forum brought business, civic and Government leaders together to work with the world body on a long-term response to the global food crisis and endemic poverty.

The Forum also launched the “Business Call to Action”, aimed at engaging private enterprise in achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, as well as the “Framework for Business Engagement with the United Nations”, developed to more effectively mobilise private sector efforts in that regard. Finally, the Forum included a series of round tables which analysed the various challenges of sustainable development.

“The talent and reach in this room is enormous,” the Secretary-General said as he outlined the strategies and challenges involved in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. “If you use it to help people who are suffering, we will all live in a more prosperous and stable world.” To do that, “we need to bring in knowledge, resources and innovation in a way that links sustainability with opportunities for growth”, he said, calling for stepped up investment in agriculture and citing such examples as the company EcoProfit, which was helping to produce compost for organic farming.

Mr. Clinton said he was so excited about a change in the World Bank’s strategy that he had immediately called Mr. Zoellick and pledged his support. However, out of necessity, the world would have to turn much more to local agriculture for its needs. In developing countries, though, outside investment and know-how were needed to overcome problems of growing, storing and distributing food in addition to credit difficulties. There had been decades of “system neglect”, which Governments could not overcome on their own. Private-sector investment was crucial.