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Chirac, Blair, Annan Lay Out Business Case for MDGs


PARIS (AP/GC) - The leaders of France and Britain, along with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, called on Tuesday for stronger momentum for development in Africa, and urged worldwide business to join the effort.

The three leaders spoke during a conference on the business contribution to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to which French President Jacques Chirac had invited executives of more than 140 companies participating in the UN Global Compact.

"We must urgently redouble our efforts," said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, adding that at the upcoming September summit on the MDGs "we cannot be satisfied ... with simply repeating promises made five years ago."

Tony Blair hailed the Saturday agreement by G-8 finance ministers to cancel US$40 billion in debts owed by the world's poorest countries. But he said aid to the developing world must be doubled, and trade barriers that bar "African countries access to the developed world's markets" must be removed.

President Jacques Chirac insisted that "significant guarantees" be joined to the accord, which will immediately wipe out all debts that 18 countries owe the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank.

"This accord must absolutely be financed by new resources and not by a simple reallocation ... so as not to affect the capacity of these institutions to finance projects in poor countries," Chirac said, calling the agreement a "first and relatively modest step."

Looking toward the September U.N. summit, the British prime minister said he believes there is a chance for "real progress" this year toward meeting millennium goals.

"I hope what the G-8 can do is give a strong and forceful movement toward a successful U.N. summit in September," he said.

Chirac said "courageous and concrete decisions" will be needed at the September summit, regarding development financing in particular.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed: “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”.

"I do hope there again there can be a strong partnership between business and government. We need your help," Tony Blair told business leaders.

During the afternoon session of the conference, five high-level working groups issued strong recommendations to governments to create incentives so that business can more fully contribute to the advancement of the MDGs. More specifically, the working groups proposed to

  • institute effective platforms for partnerships at the global and local level;
  • create government incentives so that responsible business practices are rewarded;
  • improve governance, so that entrepreneurship and business growth can play their full role in development;

The participants also made specific recommendations to promote development in Africa and addressed key areas, such as health and education.

A full report of the meeting will be available by the end of June.

Read UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s speech .

Download the meeting agenda.