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University of Reading to host major names in the battle against poverty

Release Date 09 November 2006

Mary Robinson, the first female Irish President and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, will address a conference at the University of Reading this weekend. Ms Robinson will speak at the Development Studies Association's annual conference, to be held here at the University on Saturday (November 11 2006). It is being hosted by the Business School and School of Agriculture, Policy and Development. Heated debate and a thorough exploration of how the private sector can help in the battle against world poverty are expected. She will be joined by Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary for the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and Tony Venables, Chief Economist, Department for International Development, who will discuss the private sector and its role in poverty reduction and international development. University Vice Chancellor Gordon Marshall said: "We are delighted to be hosting this event. It is wonderful to be able to have so many high profile speakers here, debating such a hugely important subject. It is important these matters are in the public arena and receive attention. "The private sector already plays an important part in fighting poverty worldwide and this is being recognised more and more. But we need to strive constantly to improve trade links, and also identify new ways in which the private sector can help agriculture and rural development." The conference will have several themes, including business, finance and poverty reduction, trade links to the private sector and poverty reduction, and the private sector and agricultural and rural development. Dr Christine Phillips, lecturer at the University's business school, said: "The theme of the conference is in many ways an attempt to look at innovative ways to overcome social exclusion and ways of making sure that the benefits of economic growth are widely shared. "The University of Reading has a long history of development and innovation across the spectrum of social sciences, and is proud to be hosting this truly international conference. "We pride ourselves on our innovative approach and the development of new agendas within this field of development. I am sure that the conference sessions will lead to new understanding of the role of the private sector in development and fresh ideas for dialogue and engagement between the various stakeholders represented here." Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland, serving from 1990 to 1997, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1997 to 2002. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister, campaigner and member of the Irish senate (1969 - 1989). She defeated Fianna Fáil's Brian Lenihan in the 1990 presidential election becoming, as an Independent candidate nominated by the Labour Party, the Workers' Party of Ireland and independent senators, the first elected president in the office's history not to have the support of Fianna Fáil[1]. Abdoulie Janneh has been Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) at the level of Under-Secretary-General since September 2005. He has served in the UN since June 2000 as Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Africa. In that capacity, he managed United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) largest Regional Bureau, covering 45 countries in sub-Saharan Africa with a complement of over 1,500 staff. Prior to that, he held a number of senior positions in UNDP and its affiliated funds, including Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative in Ghana (1996-1999) and Niger (1993-1996), as well as Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Capital Development Fund (1990-1993). Tony Venables is Chief Economist at the UK Department for International Development, and Professor of International Economics at the London School of Economics, where he also directs the international trade research programme of the Centre for Economic Performance. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Econometric Society. Previous experience includes work as research manager of the trade research group in the World Bank and as advisor to the UK Treasury. The Development Studies Association of the UK and Ireland is a membership organisation that provides a space where people can meet, exchange information, resources and make contacts that will forge a greater understanding of the underlying causes of poverty and how best to address them. The DSA wants to see high quality research, teaching and practice used to make the world a better place, and decisions affecting the world's poor underpinned by good analysis. It does this through an Annual Conference, High Level Policy Fora and 27 Study Groups meeting around the country. The conference will be held on Saturday, in the Palmer Building and will start at 9.45am with an opening welcome address from Professor Marshall, followed immediately by Abdoulie Janneh, and then Mary Robinson. Ends Note to media: Those wanting interviews with Mary Robinson or Abdoulie Janneh should contact Dr Philips at Those wanting interviews with Tony Venables should contact the Development Studies Association at or by calling 07971 25 2009. Anyone wanting interviews with University of Reading staff should contact Lucy Ferguson, senior press officer, on 0118 378 7388 or email Media are welcome to attend the conference, but should log onto visit the Devlopment Studies Association homepage for more information and to book a place, or contact More information: Mary Robinson: Mary Robinson is credited by many as having revitalised and liberalised a previously conservative political office. She resigned the presidency four months ahead of the end of her term of office to take up her post in the United Nations. Robinson has been Honorary President of Oxfam International since 2002, she is Chair of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and is also a founding member and Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders. Robinson is also one of the European members of the controversial Trilateral Commission. She serves on many boards including the GAVI Fund. Robinson's newest project is Realizing Rights: the Ethical Globalization Initiative, which promotes equitable trade and development, more humane migration policies and better responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa. The organization also promotes women's leadership and supports capacity building and good governance in developing countries. Since 2004, she has also been Professor of Practice in International Affairs at Columbia University, where she teaches international human rights. Robinson also visits other colleges and universities where she lectures on her views of human rights. Abdoulie Janneh : Mr. Janneh has played an instrumental role in strategy and policy-setting in UNDP and championed institutional change and development in the organization, having led in 1999 the Transition Team of the former UNDP Administrator, Mark Malloch Brown. As a senior UN and UNDP manager, Mr. Janneh has been a strong advocate for development efforts that respond effectively to Africa's national and regional priorities. Under his leadership, the UNDP Bureau for Africa has made significant contributions to the promotion of good governance, economic reform, the fight against HIV/AIDS, fair trade, crisis prevention and poverty eradication. Mr. Janneh remains particularly interested in the institutional transformation of the African Union and the successful implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), including the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), as critical

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