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Annan says public-private partnership key to securing better world for children

Annan says public-private partnership key to securing better world for children

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Collaboration among governments, corporations and civic groups can help create a better future for the world’s children, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

Collaboration among governments, corporations and civic groups can help create a better future for the world's children, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

"Public-private partnerships have the power to help children in many ways," Mr. Annan told a meeting held in conjunction with the General Assembly's special session on children, which opened in New York on Wednesday.

He told participants attending the meeting, billed as a "public-private partnership dialogue," that they could buttress the work of the three-day session "from improved nutrition to the prevention and treatment of AIDS, from the education of girls to safe drinking water and sanitation."

By lobbying for debt relief, increased development assistance, and open markets, these partnerships could help developing countries to "compete freely and trade their way out of poverty, rather than live on hand-outs," the Secretary-General observed.

"Through your commitment, influence and example, you will also open doors to yet more partnerships, more coalitions for common cause," he stressed, pointing out that such alliances "are the way of the future, and the way to invest in children."

The importance of private-public partnership in improving the fate of future generations was also a major theme in the statements made later in the day by former South African President Nelson Mandela and prominent US business leader and philanthropist Bill Gates who addressed a luncheon hosted by Mr. Annan in honour of heads of State and Government attending the session.

"We are at a crucial conjuncture in mobilizing the collective energies of humankind towards working together for a more humane, compassionate and just world, and a crucial measure of our compassion will be the manner in which we work for a better life, and sound and secure future for our children," said Mr. Mandela, hailing the fact that the special session had gone forward despite the postponement because of the 11 September terrorist attacks against the United States.

The former South African leader warned that success depended on resolute action. "We shall not survive as nations and communities - and our children will not have a future - unless we rise to meet those crucial challenges we face," he said, calling attention to the need to eradicate poverty, stop conflicts and wars, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and provide education for all.

For his part, Mr. Gates focused on the importance of action on behalf of the poor. "Market-based capitalism works well for the developed world, but our human values and compassion are needed to save these children; markets alone won't do this," he said.

At the same time, he underscored the economic value of fighting disease, noting that some 35 years ago, the UN had launched a campaign to eradicate smallpox, which had protected about 350 million people from contracting the disease. That effort cost only $300 million, or the same cost as a single year of small pox vaccination, quarantine and treatment. "In other words, we didn't spend more money, we just spent it more wisely, and now we're saving $300 million a year because of the eradication," he observed.

Mr. Gates called for increased visibility of "what is happening to our children," pointing out that people who experienced the worst health inequities didn't have the resources to defeat them, and those who had the funds were unaware of the problem. "I think if you took the world and randomly resorted it so that rich people lived next door to poor people…they would insist something be done, and they would be willing to pay for it," he said.