Saturday, 26 January 2008

Davos 2008: The business of tackling poverty

The latest World Economic Forum in Davos has added further momentum to the UK Prime Minister's Call to Action on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - the set of 8 goals to be met by 2015, adopted by world leaders in 2000 to drive action on poverty, health, education and the environment.

In his original speech last July, Gordon Brown called for a new global partnership to deal with what he sees as a development emergency: the shortfall in progress in meeting the MDGs, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The Prime Minister stressed that business has a key role to play in meeting the MDGs.

The 21 business leaders who originally signed a statement in support of this “Call to Action”, have now been joined by other stars of the business and development world, including Bono, Bill Gates and Queen Rania of Jordan. In a joint statement , they have commited to "work to make 2008 a turning point in the fight against work together to help the world get back on track to meet the MDGs".

This reflects an important trend: the recognition by progressive donors (including the UK's Department for International Development), businesses and non-government organisations that business has a central role to play in meeting the MDGs. In fact, unless the private sector is put right at the heart of the approach of making poverty history, we will never make the lasting progress at the scale and speed that is needed.

In May, the British Government will host an event in London that will bring together government and business leaders to highlight a number of business initiatives that are both transformational and contribute to growth. The agenda will be picked up in September, at broader meeting at the UN of governments, businesses, civil society organisations, NGOs and faith groups to mark the halfway point to the MDGs and to accelerate action.

These events in Davos, London and New York are great news - raising the profile of the MDGs and strategies needed to meet them. But ultimately the test will come when we are able to track real progress on the ground.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Afrika! Afrika!

Apart from being one of the most spectacular shows I have ever seen, Afrika! Afrika! is also hugely important. With over 100 outstandingly talended performers from 17 countries, this André Heller show presents Africa in all its vibrancy - a welcome antidote to the overly-pessimistic nature of much of the reporting on the continent. Businesses - including those in Business Action for Africa - know that Africa is a continent of enormous diversity and opportunity, and the recent positive data backs up this view. Currently at the O2 in London, Afrika! Afrika! is a remarkable showcase of a great continent, and I recommend you join the 1.5 million people who have already seen it as soon as you can.