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Last Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008, 13:17 GMT
Top companies join poverty fight
By Tim Weber
Business editor, BBC News website, in Davos

Global leaders issue a call to action on the Millennium Development Goals
A Queen, a president, a prime minister, a business leader, a rockstar unite
Some of the world largest firms will join a "public-private partnership" to help the United Nations achieve its Millennium Development Goals.

They called on all companies to help the "bottom one billion people" living on less than one dollar a day.

Companies can pledge their specific contribution at a London summit in May, said UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

However, campaigner and rockstar Bono warned that pledges would not be enough and that a binding contract was needed.

"Then the world can get a good lawyer and haul us to court if we fail," he said.

Bono at the World Economic Forum
Bono says society has to push governments and business to act

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Brown said "we need to tell the truth, there is a development emergency". On current trends, the UN's health goals would not be hit in 2015, but in 2050, and the education goals in 2115.

"We can't tell the world's children that they have to wait another century for our action," Mr Brown said.

Delivering on benchmarks

The forum's founder, Professor Klaus Schwab, said that so far the world had committed only 30% of the effort required to meet the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals.

One of the drivers of the initiative, outgoing Microsoft boss Bill Gates, said it was important to get business on board, because companies knew about benchmarks and how to deliver them.

Cisco chief executive John Chambers said that unlike previous initiatives, this time business would "make a difference, because through collaboration firms can achieve what we can not accomplish ourselves".

Mr Brown and Mr Gates explained that the May summit would allow companies to say in detail, how they and their expertise could help specific Millennium goals, for example food firms helping to fight global hunger.

They would then be matched up with UN agencies and non-government organisations. One or two firms would take the lead in each sector, and would then present an action plan at a UN summit in September..

Mr Brown said the EU summit in June and the G8 summit in July would also discuss how they could contribute to make this initiative a success.

'Preening rockstar'

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Bono as a "force of nature", but the poverty campaigner said it would take more than a "preening rockstar" to make a difference in the world.

Praising the UK for its contribution to achieving the UN development goals, he said that this had been possible because of a "social movement" that had forced development issues high up on the political agenda.

He said he put his faith into social movements achieving the same in other countries.

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