Top corporate leaders from around the world gathered in New York Monday to unveil new strategies to fight worldwide piracy and counterfeiting. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau reports the business leaders say an epidemic of intellectual property theft undermines creativity, jeopardizes investments and creates consumer health risks.

In 2004, the International Chamber of Commerce launched BASCAP, Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy, to stem the surge in intellectual property theft. BASCAP's leadership group of top corporate executives issued a set of recommendations for a global anti-counterfeiting treaty being negotiated by major trading nations. They also called on the G-8 industrialized nations to lead the way in enforcing laws already on the books.

The corporate executives announced plans for an international campaign to educate consumers to the high cost of piracy. Guy Sebban, the head of the International Chamber of Commerce, says the education campaign represents an evolution in the group's thinking.

"We have recognized that we cannot limit our actions only on the supply side," said Guy Sebban. "We have to take into account also the demand side. We are launching different actions to convince the consumers of the importance of this problem, especially at the forefront the question linked with health and safety."

The group says health and safety issues are an important part of the anti-counterfeiting message. In northern Africa, for example, the executives say 90 percent of spare parts for automobiles are fake, leading to a large number of car accidents.

Alan Drewsen, head of the International Trademark Association, says counterfeit drugs often send their own message.

"When you are dealing with people who are buying counterfeit baby food and counterfeit food products and counterfeit drugs, I am not expert on who to get the message out, but I can tell you that that message is fairly persuasive," said Alan Drewsen. "The statistics on the number of people in Africa who are dying from counterfeit anti-malarial drugs is very, very shocking. So I think that is the message that has to be gotten across."

BASCAP says public awareness campaigns to call attention to the risks of piracy must be created on a country-by-country basis taking into account cultural differences. One of the best ways to get the message across, according to the group, is to work with creative people in local communities who are victims of piracy themselves.