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Annan calls for global responsibility

No hecklers: Kofi Annan with the crossbow presented to him at the Swiss Economic Forum Keystone

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for countries to display greater cooperation and responsibility to meet growing global challenges.

This content was published on May 4, 2007 - 20:46

Delivering the keynote address at the Swiss Economic Forum, Annan said globalisation, in addition to creating opportunities, had created threats that could only be overcome if inequalities were eradicated.

Annan, who stepped down as head of the UN last year and now lives in Geneva, believes richer nations need to realise fully the consequences of their actions on deprived areas of the world.

"In the last decade as secretary-general, I sought to place the human being at the centre of everything the UN ever did," he said in Thun, central Switzerland, on Friday.

"It makes sense that we all come together to seek solutions that no one country, no matter how powerful, can hope to achieve alone. Global solidarity is both necessary and achievable."

He added: "Human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity. States must play by the rules with each other as well as with their own citizens."

Annan also addressed the issue of conflict. "Our world continues to be divided by economic difficulties, religion and culture. Human life is enriched by diversity. If communities are to live together in peace we must stress what unites us rather than what divides us."

Justifications

In a thinly veiled reference to the US invasion of Iraq without a mandate from the UN, Annan said powerful countries should justify acts of force to the rest of the world community.

"No nation can make itself secure by seeking domination over others. Each nation shares responsibility for each other's security," he said.

According to Annan, the main threats to prosperity and peace are war, genocide, diseases such as HIV and climate change.

He said the number of people in the world living on less than $2 (SFr2.40) a day has not changed in ten years, while the number of Africans living on less than $2 has doubled over the past 25 years.

Humanitarian foundation

Annan is planning to set up an international humanitarian foundation in his adopted home city of Geneva. Details have yet to be announced, but the Swiss foreign ministry is supporting the project.

Giving little away, Annan said the forum would gather leaders in humanitarian and development work once a year under his chairmanship.

"I want to set up a global humanitarian forum in Geneva that would bring together the major players to discuss major issues and how to pool our resources," he said.

Annan was presented with a special award for his "defence of the poor population and outstanding leadership" by former Swiss cabinet minister Adolf Ogi, now UN special advisor on sport for development and peace.

Annan was also given a crossbow, the weapon of choice of Swiss legend William Tell. Thun still hosts shooting matches for crossbow marksmen.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Thun

Key facts

The ninth Swiss Economic Forum was held in Thun, canton Bern, on May 3-4 with the motto "Shake up the Status Quo".

Some 1,200 representatives from Swiss small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) attended this year's forum.

SMEs are companies that employ up to 250 people – 87.9% of these firms in Switzerland have fewer than ten employees.

They account for 99.7% of the 307,000 companies in the Swiss private sector and provide jobs for 66.8% of the workforce.

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Swiss Economic Award 2007

An igloo hotel group, a confectionary chain and a software firm have each been honoured for their spirit of entrepreneurship at this year's Swiss Economic Forum.

The three SMEs each picked up a SFr25,000 ($20,600) Swiss Economic Award and plaudits in the categories of services, production and commerce.

Semiconductor manufacturing firm Tec-Sem stood out in the high-tech/biotech category of the awards. The company has developed a unique storage facility for silicon wafers used in the manufacture of semiconductors.

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