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Civil society must work with government, business to solve world's problems - Annan

Civil society must work with government, business to solve world's problems - Annan

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, today encouraged a conference of civil society groups meeting in Brazil to work with, rather than to confront, governments and businesses in finding solutions to the world's problems.

"You in civil society must show that you are ready to work in partnership for change, rather than remain aloof through the politics of confrontation," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message to the World Social Forum, an annual conference that looks at ways to counteract the negative affects of globalization and which is held at the same time as the World Economic Forum.

"The way forward lies in finding constructive solutions together," said Mr. Annan, whose message was delivered on his behalf in Porto Alegre by Jose Antonio Ocampo, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The Secretary-General said that two upcoming UN meetings - the International Conference on Financing for Development in March and the World Summit for Sustainable Development in August - were opportunities in which civil society could engage government and business and contribute ideas for mobilizing desperately needed funding for development programmes, dealing with extreme poverty, making trade more balanced and ensuring that economies and societies were "on more durable footing" for the future.

"On all these challenges, the United Nations will depend increasingly on the constructive engagement of civil society," Mr. Annan said. "Our ability to improve the lives of the men and women of this planet will depend on the ability of all sectors of society to move beyond ideology, and work together in the search for pragmatic solutions."

The Secretary-General told the participants of the Porto Alegre conference that in his address today to the World Economic Forum in New York he intended to stress that the UN's one guiding motto in the 21st century "is to put people at the centre of everything we do."

Echoing some of these thoughts, Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in an appeal issued earlier in Porto Alegre that it was within the global community's power to ensure that globalization became a positive force for all the world's people and that an ethical globalization was its best hope for building bridges of respect and understanding between people of different cultures, traditions and walks of life.

"Globalization as an economic process must be subject to the moral and ethical imperatives to which the international human rights instruments give legal expression," Mrs. Robinson said. "Human rights are more than just good ideas or distant goals. Human rights provide a rigorous framework to empower people from around the world to harness the energies of the global movement and shape a new globalisation that benefits all people."