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IN THE NEWS - February 9, 2002: World Economic Forum - 2002-02-08

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.

The World Economic Forum meeting ended this week in New York City. About two-thousand-seven-hundred heads of government, business leaders and members of non-governmental organizations met for five days. They announced programs meant to improve living conditions in Africa. They also discussed security and economic issues after the terrorist attacks on the United States.

The Forum is a private, independent group of business and political leaders. Its aim is to improve economic growth and social progress throughout the world. For the past thirty-one years, it met in Davos, Switzerland. The conference was held in New York this year to show support for the city after the terrorist attacks.

New York officials provided heavy security for the event. At one point, as many as seven-thousand demonstrators gathered. Many of them protested the opening of world markets for increased trade. They say easing trade restrictions harms workers. None of the demonstrations was as violent as at similar, past events in other cities.

During the meeting, the Group of Seven industrial countries and Russia announced a five-hundred-million-dollar new project to help Africa. This project would aid African countries that create programs to improve trade and investments.

American businessman Bill Gates and his wife Melinda head a private-assistance organization. Mister Gates told the Forum that the organization is giving fifty-million dollars to prevent H-I-V virus and AIDS disease in Africa. However, he said private gifts alone would not solve poor health and living conditions. Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and activist musician Bono also discussed ways to improve health and living conditions.

Many delegates at the World Economic Forum were concerned about the slow world economy after the terrorist attacks in September. Some worried about the effects of the failure of the American energy company, Enron. They said the problems of the company could worsen the worldwide economy.

Most speakers praised the United States led campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan. However, some diplomats expressed concern that America might extend military action without seeking approval from other nations.

In Porto Alegre, Brazil, forty-thousand people held a very different conference. The World Social Forum ended Tuesday. Delegates denounced United States military action and defense spending. They discussed ways to stop a Free Trade Area of the Americas. It was organized by the United States to provide a united trade area from Alaska to Argentina by Two-Thousand-Five. World Social Forum delegates said free trade agreements increase differences between rich and poor in the area.

This VOA Special English program In the News was written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Steve Ember.