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Corporate responsibility rather than profit was set to take centre stage in Davos on Friday, as the annual get-together of business chiefs turns its attention to issues of health, aid and development.
Rock star activist Bono, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates (pictured above) and United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon were to steer the conversation away from the global economy and geopolitics, towards issues such as malaria eradication, poverty alleviation and climate change.
The Davos event has long prided itself on showing the caring side of capitalism, although participants have often been criticised for trumpeting big ideas on big issues in public, while actually expending most of their energy on corridor schmoozing and backroom deals.
Gates was scheduled to update delegates on the agricultural projects funded by the charitable foundation he founded with his wife Melinda, before joining Bono, Ban and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for a debate on progress – or the lack thereof – in reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals.
A perennial participant at Davos, Gates on Thursday pitched a new form of capitalism to forum delegates that would better serve the neglected poor.
"The challenge here is to design a system including profit and recognition to do more for the poor," he said, calling for a new form of "creative capitalism."
"Creative capitalism is an approach where governments, businesses and NGOs (non-government organisations) work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit or gain recognition doing work that eases the world's inequalities," he said.
"I'd like to ask everyone here ... to take on a project of creative capitalism and see where you can stretch the reach of market forces," he added.
This year's Davos event has drawn nearly 30 heads of state or government, more than 110 cabinet ministers and several hundred corporate titans.
The first day was taken up with talk of a looming US recession – a subject that was to be revisited on Friday with a round-table discussion on the theme of "Global Economic Shocks: Perfect Storm Ahead?" (AFP)
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