Davos, Switzerland, 27 January 2010
- On the eve of 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
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
"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.
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.)
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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
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).
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).
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
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