Annan urges World Social Forum to keep focus on plight of world's poor

Annan urges World Social Forum to keep focus on plight of world's poor

Even with international attention galvanized by high-stakes security issues - from Iraq to the Korean peninsula - social activists must make sure that the plight of the world's poorest people and weakest countries is not abandoned, United Nations Secretary-General said in a message to the World Social Forum, under way in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

"You meet against a backdrop of great anxiety - about the possibility of war in Iraq, about nuclear proliferation on the Korean peninsula, about escalating violence in the Middle East, and about the possibility of new terror attacks," Mr. Annan said in his message delivered on his behalf by Nitin Desai, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

The Forum is an annual conference of civil society groups that looks at ways to counteract the negative affects of globalization and is held at the same time as the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In his message, the Secretary-General said he shared their worries that a number of other issues, from the merciless spread of AIDS to the negative effects of globalization, will be neglected when so much else may be happening in the weeks and months ahead.

"These phenomena and threats have an equal claim on the world's conscience," Mr. Annan said, warning that neglecting such threats would be a tragedy, "not least because today we are better positioned than ever before to tackle these problems." He said the international community now had more than pledges, promises and lengthy plans of action, noting the common framework the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) offer for governments to push forward on key questions of economic and social development.

While stressing that governments must act to push the MDGs forward and that the UN system would do all it could, the Secretary-General said neither could succeed without the involvement of the "dynamic forces" arrayed in Porto Alegre. He urged the participants not only to hold their governments to their promises, but also to work in partnerships with them and to forge alliances with each other, UN agencies and the private sector.

Mr Annan also said the non-governmental organizations and the business community could enrich the debate on the direction of the international system. "Our goal must be to make globalization an inclusive, equitable process," he said, "and your advocacy will continue to play a vital part in the effort to shape it so that it offers opportunities not just for a fortunate few, but for all people, especially the poor and vulnerable."