27 April 2004
Development Financing, Environmental Sustainability, HIV/AIDS Urgent Challenges for Asia and Pacific, Says Secretary-General in Message to Shanghai Meeting
NEW YORK, 26 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annans message to the Ministerial Segment of the Commemorative Sixtieth Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), delivered by Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary, ESCAP, in Shanghai, 26 April:
It is gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to this meeting, which marks the sixtieth session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
For more than half a century, ESCAP has provided a variety of important services to its member States, including sound analysis and effective technical assistance. It has promoted dialogue and cooperation. It has produced high-quality reports on the state of the regions economic and social development, and devoted great attention to the Millennium Development Goals. The signing, later today, of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network, culminates a process carried out under ESCAPs auspices and brings to fruition one of the regions long-held visions. ESCAP has also not hesitated to reform itself to keep pace with technological advances and changes in the global landscape. For these and other reasons, I would like to congratulate ESCAP, and especially its staff, for its contributions to the well-being of people throughout the Asia and Pacific region.
With two thirds of the worlds population, and with ever-growing trade, investment, production, markets and links with the region and the wider world, your region is likely to become an even greater engine of the world economy in the years ahead. The region has also shown resilience and inclusiveness in responding to its challenges, most notably the financial crisis of the late 1990s, from which so many of your people suffered. These qualities, as well as the regions tremendous diversity, should help in your efforts to overcome the poverty that keeps more than 1 billion people struggling on less than a dollar per day. I see three challenges in particular that warrant your urgent attention.
First, implementation of the Monterrey Consensus. That consensus sets out a firm basis for national and regional efforts to promote financing for development. Your region enjoys the highest rate of savings and reserves in the world. Steps should be taken to use these resources to reduce economic disparity and promote development that improves the lives of all the regions people.
Second, environmental sustainability. The strain of becoming an economic powerhouse is evident in the regions shrinking forests, loss of biodiversity, persistent haze, desertification, local and transboundary air pollution and increase in human-induced disasters. These indicators show that the production and consumption of natural resources fuelling the regions development are unsustainable. The region must give greater priority to environmental stewardship.
Third, the fight against HIV/AIDS. More than 8 million people in your region are now living with HIV/AIDS, and the number is rising fast. Left unchecked, the disease will not only devastate millions of lives, it will also impose huge burdens on the regions health systems, and soak up resources that are badly needed for social and economic development. We know, from experience elsewhere, that the spread can be turned back when -- but only when -- there is a coordinated response, from all sectors of society and every branch of government.
Yours is a tremendously dynamic region. In recent decades more people have escaped from poverty in Asia and the Pacific than in any other part of the world, and more than in any previous time. As you gather in Shanghai, where ESCAP itself was born, let us build on those accomplishments. And let us bring into the circle of development and peace the many millions of people in Asia and the Pacific who have gone too long without, to the detriment of us all.
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