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World Economic Forum Press Release

Helmut Limnander, Associate Director, Tel.: +44 (0) 79 4073 9950 – helmut.limnander@we-forum.org, twitter

World Leaders Pledge Strategy To End Poverty Now

  • Selected pre-interview policy statements from notable WEF guests to the 40th anniversary of the Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, drawing leaders from business, government and civil society
  • Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, announces key goals and strategies
  • Key world leaders adopt cogent and actionable set of initiatives to eliminate poverty in the near term: http://www.we-forum.org/initiatives
  • For complete statements click here: http://www.we-forum.org/annualmeeting

Davos, Switzerland, 27 January 2010 – In preparation for the 40th anniversary annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, several key world leaders have pledged to develop, by the end of this year's meeting, a cogent and actionable plan to end global poverty.

Schwab Speech"In light of the recent tragedy in Haiti, which was already on the brink due to free-market policies, it is clear that taking a new tack to end poverty is morally necessary," said Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab. (See video here.).

In a series of pre-recorded policy statements, which can be viewed on the Davos Annual Meeting 2010 website, President Sarkozy of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, CEO Patricia Woertz of Archer Daniels Midland, and several other political and business leaders note the failures of a system that has been more intent on using poor countries as supply-houses for raw materials than in bringing them out of poverty.

"Today, we are at a moment of societal crisis when dramatic change is inevitable," said Chancellor Merkel. "The only question is: will we help to usher in that change, or will we be its victims?" (See video here.)

The leaders support a refreshingly simple plan that will end poverty, protect the environment, and allow developing countries to choose their own futures, unchained from onerous debt obligations and unbalanced trade policies.

Merkel WEF Speech

Harper WEF Speech

Woertz WEF Speech

"Our government is committed to helping end old colonial patterns that continue today, and that have only worsened under neoliberalism," said Queen Elizabeth II, during a pre-taped message issued from Parliament that focused on the similarities between European powers' colonial policies and modern trade policies. "Now is the time to rebuild." (See video here.)

"Nobody wants a catastrophe," said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "Canadians don't want that reputation." (See video here.)

Above all, the new policy statements are indicative of significant change of direction by some of the most powerful people in the world. The testimonials augur a watershed week during which the leading powers of Davos will be striking at the heart of policies and structures that, while contributing to economic growth for businesses, have created the conditions for poverty and have threatened the very survival of humankind.

The Forum's bold change of direction comes after an exhaustive internal survey by the Forum's Leadership Council, as well as extensive consultation with anti-poverty leaders and campaigners in the developing world. Among the statistics presented:
  • In 1820, the gap between the richest and poorest country was 3 to 1. In 1950, it was 35 to 1. Today, it is nearly 80 to 1 (source).
  • In 1970, 434 million people were suffering from malnutrition. Today, that number is approaching 900 million (source).
  • Since 1960, Third World countries have suffered a 70% drop in the price of agricultural exports compared to manufactured imports (source).
  • The developing world spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants (source).
  • It is estimated that USD$11.5 trillion of untaxed "black money" is being held in global "tax havens" (source), with as much as USD$1 trillion in unmarked Swiss bank accounts (source). The United Nations has estimated the cost of ending world hunger at about USD$30 billion a year (source).
  • The World Bank reports that spreading global economic crisis is set to trap up to 53 million more people in poverty in developing countries, bringing the total of those living on less than $2 a day to over 1.5 billion (source).
"We have to look at this year's meeting in the context of what's happening in the world," said Professor Schwab. "We just killed the Copenhagen Summit, we crashed many economies in 2009. Clearly the present system of rampant capitalism is not worthy of salvaging. This is the reason why our Annual Meeting this year is tailored around the need to end poverty once and for all." (See video here.)

Professor Schwab noted that the need to end poverty is felt especially strongly this year, with an earthquake-ravaged Haiti foremost on people's minds. A series of protracted pre-conference discussions were held by Forum members in response to the recent gaffe by the International Monetary Fund, in which the Fund's loan to Haiti, bearing a number of onerous conditions, became the target of popular uproar, forcing the Fund to commit the monies in the form of a grant instead.

In a refreshing taste of things to come, Forum members resolved to supplement the IMF grant with a much larger, multi-billion dollar unconditional grant to Haiti, to be excised from the more than USD$60 billion that New York's financial sector awarded themselves in bonuses this year.

"It is by now universally understood that many of our institutions were directly responsible for the collapse of housing value, not to mention massive unemployment and misery, in the United States and much of the rich world," said Lloyd Blanfein, Chair of the New York Financial Caucus, and current Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs.

"But it is equally true that we in the financial sector bear much responsibility for Haiti's poverty, which has made it impossible for them to even begin to deal with the current tragedy," added Blanfein. "The least we can do to repay our moral debt is to immediately lift up the collapsed Haitian economy, and not by making usurious loans through the IMF, either."

Notes to Editors

The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Incorporated as a foundation in 1971, and based in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum is impartial and not-for-profit; it is tied to no political, partisan or national interests. (http://www.we-forum.org)

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