SHANGHAI - Key leaders and policymakers from developing countries joined forces to demand wealthy nations do more to help the poor, by reducing debt and ending trade protectionism.
Led by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the World Bank-backed Global Conference on Scaling Up Poverty Reduction urged the developed world to replace rhetoric with action.
Wen cited the "unfair and irrational international, political and economic order" for helping create widespread poverty that affects large chunks of the developing world.
"For various reasons progress in poverty reduction around the world has fallen short of our expectations," he said Wednesday.
Guests and audience members participate in an opening ceremony of the Global Conference on Scaling Up Poverty Reduction Wednesday May 26, 2004 in Shanghai, China. Leaders and officials from around the world share lessons learned from poverty reduction initiatives around the world during two days of analysis and knowledge sharing. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
"Hunger, disease and dire poverty continue to beset many developing countries, and fulfilling their targets of poverty reduction and global development remains an uphill battle."
He called on the developed world to better respect developing countries and offer whatever help they could to improve the lot of the poor, who number nearly half the world's total population of more than six billion.
"Given the developing countries' disadvantaged position in international globalisation, the developed countries should pay more attention to their difficulties, provide more Overseas Development Aid to them, further relieve their debt, accelerate technology transfer in their favour and roll back trade protectionism," Wen added.
With more than one billion people living at the absolute poverty level -- defined by the United Nations as less than one dollar a day -- the conference aims to find ways to alleviate poverty by empowering the poor through sustained growth.
Lula said the "world needs economic growth with social fairness", adding that "overcoming poverty demands much more than emergency measures and handouts," at the same time as ensuring the poor are in charge of strategies for greater access to education, roads, finance, markets and water.
Conference participants are looking to a hammer out an approach that would move away from the "Washington consensus" -- the idea that the market, centering on more open trade and privatisation, is the best solution to reducing poverty.
"The international agenda has focused excessively on security issues and we must rebalance this international agenda to pay more attention to social issues," said Lula, known as a champion of the poor and oppressed in Brazil.
"Hunger is actually the worst of all weapons of mass destruction.
"We must promote the expansion of markets for profit from developing countries who support free and balanced trade that can provide opportunities for wealth for all those who participate in it."
In a swipe at the European Union and the United States, he said progress depended on "putting an end to the scandalous subsidies that many developed countries provide for their own agricultural production and exports, thereby generating serious distortions and asymmetries in countries in the world economy".
During the two-day meeting, sponsored by the World Bank and the Chinese government, delegates will review 100 case studies from 11 countries on how to help the poor.
Topping the agenda will be the analysis of how some countries' successful policies that have helped lift people out of poverty can be adopted elsewhere.
"What we need to do in scaling up is engage the community of people to the poor, to the poor who are searching for a better life -- to engage them is the solution to their problems," said World Bank President James Wolfensohn.
Copyright © 2002 AFP