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''Hunger, disease, the waste of lives that is extreme poverty are an affront to all of us.

We could be the first generation to outlaw the kind of extreme, stupid poverty that sees a child die of hunger in a world of plenty, or of a disease preventable by a twenty-cent inoculation. We are the first generation that can afford it.

History will be our judge, but what’s written is up to us. Who we are, who we've been, what we want to be remembered for. We can't say our generation didn’t know how to do it. We can’t say our generation couldn’t afford to do it. And we can’t say our generation didn’t have a reason to do it. It’s up to you.”

Bono’s Foreword in Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty

25,000 people die every day because they are poor. Billions more are caught in a poverty trap from which they cannot escape. Making poverty history requires sustainable investment in all sectors of society, including health, education, the environment, infrastructure, and food security.

In 2000, the international community adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an eight-point framework for alleviating poverty and addressing some of the most intractable development challenges by 2015. The Goals include:

  • Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieving universal primary education
  • Promoting gender equality and empowering women
  • Reducing child mortality
  • Improving maternal health
  • Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability
  • Developing a global partnership for development

The Goals are all related: access to primary education provides the foundation on which one can build a meaningful livelihood or career; hunger and malnutrition are the cause of millions of unnecessary deaths every year; better nutrition leads to stronger bodies and healthier minds, which in turn leads to a more productive workforce and rising incomes; the search for firewood for heating or cooking leads to environmental degradation; and so on and so on…

While the Millennium Development Goals have already galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest, much work remains. We have an opportunity today to tackle the socio-economic challenges of the poor in the developing world through effective aid, financial investments, technology transfer, and capacity building of local institutions.

Countless organizations and individuals are involved in this global effort — the United Nations, international financial institutions, governments, NGOs and grassroots organizations, social entrepreneurs and venture philanthropists, and business. The past decade has witnessed a convergence of interest among all these parties in carving out a more meaningful role for business in tackling poverty. Today, many of the companies that are pursuing business interests in emerging markets recognize that their future growth and profits are intertwined with the poverty issues that afflict their host countries.

Since the Industrial Revolution, business has made history through remarkable innovation, technical advancements, and other contributions toward modernizing society.

Now is the time to appeal to business to make history again by being an integral part of the global effort to alleviate poverty.
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