14 May 2001


NEW YORK, 10 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the twenty-first session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), delivered today in Beirut by ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy:

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to the twenty-first session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. The ESCWA plays a critical role in bringing global issues to the attention of the region and, at the same time, conveying regional concerns and aspirations to a worldwide audience.

Your agenda bears witness to a keen awareness of the dynamic interplay between local and global issues. I am particularly pleased to see that you will discuss, with a view to its adoption, an Agreement on International Roads in Arab Mashrek. The importance of transport for cross-border cooperation and commerce cannot be stressed too highly, as the experiences of Europe and other regions have amply illustrated. Your adoption of this Agreement, the first legally binding statute negotiated in the framework of ESCWA, will be a landmark in the life of the Commission.

I am also glad that your agenda includes the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The ESCWA region is fortunate to have a low incidence of the disease, but your willingness to think now about how to combat this global menace is a good example of preventive action.

Like other United Nations bodies, the Commission's work continues to be carried out under significant budgetary constraints. One way to overcome these limits, complementing ongoing reforms, is to mobilize extra-budgetary resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those countries that have already made generous donations to the Commission, including Kuwait, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in particular. I hope these States and others, including from outside the region, will continue to support the Commission's work and provide the additional resources needed for it to carry out its many mandates.

I regret that conflict continues to plague the region's development efforts. The United Nations, through diplomacy, peacekeeping operations, development agencies and humanitarian assistance, will continue to do its utmost in the search for peace. You can count on my support as, together, we work to implement the Millennium Declaration and fulfil the long-held aspirations of all countries in the region for an era of stability, prosperity and peace. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful and productive session.

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