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Conference to mobilise action on poverty

ICE news

ENGINEERS LOVE solving problems, so how about taking on the challenge of reducing poverty in developing countries?

It might sound like a tall order, but Engineers Against Poverty (EAP) is facing the problem head on.

Next month EAP will be hosting a conference in London, 'Corporate social responsibility as a strategy for poverty reduction: fact or fiction'.

EAP was set up by the ICE and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, in 1998 in response to the government's 1997 White Paper Eliminating world poverty: a challenge for the 21st century. Its aim is to 'mobilise the huge resources of engineers and engineering companies to reduce global poverty'.

It is now funded by the Department for International Development (DfID). ICE President Douglas Oakervee is the current chairman.

The organisation was initially involved in small projects in Africa and Asia but has refocussed its strategy in the past two years to concentrate on corporate and social responsibility in multinational engineering companies.

'We are already working in partnership with Amec and Balfour Beatty to improve the poverty-reducing impact of their core business activities, ' said EAP director Petter Matthews.

He pointed out that EAP differs from environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth, which campaigns to expose companies associated with engineering projects making a detrimental environmental or social impact. EAP, by contrast, works with engineers ahead of a project being built to improve relations with locals.

'In the past, CSR has not made a major impact on poverty reduction because it has been about charity work and not part of core business activities, ' said Matthews. 'With Balfour Beatty, we have looked at its management tools to ensure social risk is measured alongside environmental or health and safety risk.'

The conference also coincides with the United Nations' International day for the eradication of poverty.

Speakers include Petter Matthews, DfID under secretary of state Gareth Thomas, chairman of mining company Anglo American, Sir Mark Moody Stewart, and Oxfam senior policy officer Martin Kalungu-Banda.

Oakervee will be chairing the free event, which takes place on 13 October, from 1pm-4pm at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, One Birdcage Walk, London SW1. To reserve a place contact Carol Sital-Singh on (020) 7304 6871 or c_sitalsingh@imeche. org. uk.

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