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Schmid opens WEF with call for solidarity

Schmid wants to see global action against poverty Keystone

Swiss President Samuel Schmid has opened the World Economic Forum summit with an appeal for bridges to be built between rich and poor.

Schmid invited the 2,250 participants in Davos to work together for the promotion of economic development, peace and justice.

He urged the annual meeting in the alpine resort to be more open in future to “the voices of the underprivileged, the poor and the victims of cruelty”.

Schmid’s speech was in keeping with the intention of organisers to put the accent on a multilateral approach to improve the economic situation of the world’s population.

“The strength of a community can be measured by the well-being of the weakest of its members,” he told leaders from the worlds of politics, religion, culture, economy and science.

Schmid encouraged them to do all they could to build a strong economy and healthy businesses.

Global solidarity

His remarks supported the WEF’s call last week for “global solidarity” after the devastating tsunami in southeast Asia exactly a month ago.

Schmid spoke of building bridges so that the Geneva-based WEF could “reinforce its standing as a pluralist platform for the exchange of opinions”.

He reminded the Davos audience that one person in four in the world, or 1.5 billion people, had to live on less than $1 (SFr1.20) a day.

This poverty was happening in an ever-worsening global environment, with an increasing scarcity of water and energy, he said.

Democracy and justice

Schmid, who is Switzerland’s defence minister, also insisted on the virtues of democracy and justice.

He said he hoped participants would help to lay the foundations for a better world, reminding them of this year’s central theme: “Taking Responsibility for Tough Choices”.

Forum founder Klaus Schwab echoed Schmid’s speech, noting that the 2005 meeting was one of renewal.

In particular he cited hopes for peace in the Middle East and a successful transition in Ukraine under its new president, Viktor Yushchenko.

Both the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and Yushchenko are expected in Davos.

Blair warning

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who also addressed the WEF meeting on Wednesday, urged the United States to do more to address the concerns of the rest of the world, citing global warming as a prime example.

“If America wants the rest of the world to be part of the agenda it has set, it must be part of their agenda, too,” he said.

Blair and French President Jacques Chirac – who spoke via video link – both urged the world’s richest nations to provide billions of dollars to help developing countries combat Aids, poverty and natural disasters.

Blair and Chirac said large-scale, sustained assistance for the poor could only make the world a more stable place.

swissinfo with agencies

This is the 35th World Economic Forum meeting.
It runs from January 26-30.
More than 2,200 participants from around 100 countries are due to attend.
This year’s theme is “Taking Responsibility for Tough Choices”.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR