Celebrities such as Sharon Stone and Bono have also acted to rally for more help from developed countries.

“I now sense in 2005 that hundreds, then thousands, then millions in every continent are coming together with such a set of insistent demands, that no government, no politician, no world leader can afford to ignore them,” Britain’s finance minister Gordon Brown said at the forum.

Mr Brown’s intervention came a day after about 1,000 non-governmental organizations at the alternative World Social Forum (WSF) in Brazil launched an ambitious appeal for worldwide mobilization against poverty, pledging to maintain the pressure through the year.

After Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac, German leader Chancellor Schroeder joined the momentum in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos by firmly backing the 50-billion-dollar-a-year International Finance Facility (IFF) first launched by Britain two years ago.

“I think that the proposals of the British government are good proposals,” Mr Schroeder told the global business and political leaders, advocating action by industralized countries on aid, trade and debt relief.

But Mr Schroeder cautioned that the proposal needed a way of being refinanced, proposing a tax on “speculative” financial transactions.

The IFF, which aims to leverage additional money for aid on international capital markets, was launched in 2003 but has been packaged more recently as part of a concerted “Marshall Plan” for Africa.

Despite the different approaches advocated by an array of high-powered officials — a “kaleidoscope” that Mr Schroeder warned could stifle concrete action — anti-poverty campaigner Bono hailed the surge of commitments.

“I felt the game change in Davos today when Chancellor Schroeder committed to Gordon’s international finance facility.”

“It’s the first time coming out of government we’ve had something where the scale of the response matches the scale of the emergency,” he told journalists.

The former UN human rights chief Mary Robinson, who now presides the aid group Oxfam International, warned that anti-poverty policies had been pledged by world leaders for many years but rarely followed through.

“What has been lacking is global political will,” she said, warning world leaders that three events in 2005 will test their promises.

They are the meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized countries (including Russia) in July, a UN General Assembly that will review poverty cutting targets for 2015, and the World Trade Organisation’s ministerial meeting in Hong Kong on efforts to unlock markets to trade from poor countries in December.

Mr Schroeder said he hoped some of the financial proposals could be implemented during the G8 summit.

Britain holds the G8 presidency this year and Mr Brown said finance ministers would already be discussing the cocktail of debt relief, trade and development aid at a meeting on February 5.

Three years of stuttering global trade talks, that have often pitted rich countries against poor ones, also re-emerged as a key building block in the drive against poverty.

WTO chief Supachai Panitchpakdi is to press ministers to speed up global trade talks at an informal meeting this weekend in Davos, with a view to reaching an agreement in 2006.

Those talks centre on agricultural trade, an area where developing countries are thought to have greater opportunity of competing on world markets provided barriers are removed in rich nations.

“I believe that to build on that new common sense that I see in every corner of the world, we must now make 2005 not just a year when we move discussion forward, but where action actually happens,” Mr Brown said.

Meanwhile, actress Sharon Stone raised $A1.3 million in five minutes from business tycoons at the Davos World Economic Forum to fund bed nets to protect African children from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Responding to an appeal from Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa for immediate help, the movie star jumped up from the audience at a session on debt relief and challenged the assembled political and business leaders to pledge donations.

A man next to her rose and pledged $US50,000, prompting a stream of participants to stand and offer donations amid rising applause.

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