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Annan urges business leaders to show more leadership in fight against AIDS

Annan urges business leaders to show more leadership in fight against AIDS

Richard Holbrooke, President of Global Business Council
Meeting with representatives of a major business association involved in the fight against AIDS, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today praised their efforts while urging corporations to become more active in the global campaign to defeat the pandemic.

During his discussions with leaders of the Global Business Council at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Mr. Annan said more enterprises should join the worldwide fight against AIDS. "I need not convince you that AIDS is your business, but many companies still need convincing," he said, adding that businesses should contribute to the effort by exercising leadership, putting in place relevant workplace practices, and building on their commercial strengths.

The President of the Global Business Council, former United States Permanent Representative to the UN Richard Holbrooke, expressed full support for this call. "Let's be frank - businesses have done a fraction of what they should have done so far," Mr. Holbrooke told a press conference which followed his meeting with the Secretary-General. "Whatever's been done so far is grossly inadequate - and that is not to denigrate the people who've done things, but to draw attention to those who have done nothing."

Underscoring the unique strengths of corporations in the fight against AIDS, Mr. Holbrooke said, "in most cases, businesses are more efficient in reaching both their own workers and consumers than governments, particularly in war-torn areas." Companies could cut through the political constraints which impeded the work of States, he added.

"If we fight wars, if we engage in UN peacekeeping operations, we should also engage in this fight," Mr. Holbrooke said, calling AIDS the "most serious problem" facing the world today. "Not only is it the worst health crisis in 700 years, but it is also a direct attack on the social, political and economic structure of nations all over the world."

Bill Roedy, the President of MTV Networks International and a member of the Global Business Council, joined the call for enterprises to do more. "In the aggregate, given the capability of business around the world, and given the magnitude of the problem, we still have not done enough," he said. "The AIDS fight needs exactly what business can offer: everything from leadership and influence to marketing and sales, to media and communications skills, supply chains, distribution, organization and infrastructure, and most importantly, people."

"I think business, in the end, will be a terrific leader in this fight," he said, "but it is important to realize that the fight is still ahead of us."