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Switzerland signs up to global poverty action plan

The fight against global poverty came under the spotlight at the UN-sponsored conference in Brussels Keystone Archive

Switzerland, along with other leading industrialised nations, has signed up to a 10-year action programme designed to fight global poverty and cut the burden of debt in the world's poorest nations.

This content was published on May 20, 2001 - 18:33

The 78-page action plan was adopted on Sunday at the end of a week-long international conference held in Brussels under the auspices of the United Nations.

The plan calls on participating countries to tackle the issues of human rights, environmental protection and population growth.

"This plan is a start," announced Rubens Ricupero, secretary-general of the conference, "but we will need to make a great effort to achieve our aims over the next 10 years."

Switzerland, represented at the conference by a joint delegation from the Swiss Development Agency (SDA) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, took a leading role in attempting to persuade other developed nations to commit themselves to the search for a reduction in global poverty.

Some analysts doubt whether the conference, the third of its kind, will yield any concrete results, but Jean-François Giovannini, leader of the Swiss delegation in Brussels, was upbeat about what the multilateral talks had achieved.

"The two previous conferences were good in wording, but no action followed," Giovannini said in an interview with swissinfo.

"Our aim this time round was to produce not only a suitable plan but also to create a genuine alliance which would really mobilise the international community."

The choice of venue, suggested Giovannini, was crucial in encouraging other countries not just to sign up to the plan, but to adhere to it.

"The fact that the conference took place in Brussels was an important factor in encouraging the European Union to commit itself to the results of discussions."

The conference did not yield results in all the areas under discussion. The decade-long action plan makes no reference to the sensitive issue of debt relief, nor does it address the controversial plan to open up the markets of industrialised nations to more developing countries.

Some members of the G7 group of industrialised nations, said Giovannini, indicated a willingness to increase their share of the world's debt, but this was not enough to ensure unanimous support for the proposal among all 157 participating countries.

"Britain and France sent a clear signal to the conference they were prepared to tackle the problem of debt relief, but the United States gave no indication whatsoever they would be willing to increase their aid to least developed countries," he told swissinfo.

Giovannini was reluctant to judge the overall success or failure of decisions taken in Brussels, saying it would be for future generations to decide whether the aims of the conference had been realised.

"It will be several decades before we can judge whether the political will is real or fake. Adopting a programme of action is fine, but it's only implemented if the countries are willing to do what they have promised to do."

swissinfo with agencies

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