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Asia-Pacific UN Body Opens 60th Session

Facing the tough goal of cutting the number of impoverished people in half by 2015 in order to achieve sustainable development, senior officials from across the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Shanghai Thursday.

They are meeting to explore ways of working together to tackle those challenges.

Kim Hak-su, executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), pointed out that although proud of its tremendous accomplishments, the region is still home to 70 percent of the world's poorest people. Many earn less than US$1 per day.

"The challenges (to halving the number of people who live in abject poverty by 2015) are to the marginalized developing countries," said Kim during a press conference held before the opening ceremony of the Senior Officials Segment of the UNESCAP 60th Commission Session.

"Their economic growth is not as high (as China's), the financing they put into development is limited and they are struggling more with social issues."

Citing lack of water and desertification, Kim also focused on the need to reach higher economic growth while protecting nature.

He was echoed by China's Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang, who said that despite economic development and the improvement in living conditions, the Asia-Pacific region also faces a number of challenges such as terrorism, cross-border crime and HIV/AIDS. It still has a long way to go to realize the UN Millennium Development Goals.

"The United Nations should pay more attention to the issue of development while stressing peace and security," said Shen. He added that China plans to achieve sustainable development of the economy and society while participating in regional cooperation in the future.

The UNESCAP 60th Commission Session attracted delegates from all 62 members and associate members, related international organizations and non-governmental organizations. The session's theme is, "meeting challenges in an era of globalization by strengthening regional development cooperation."

The three-day senior officials segment will be followed by a ministerial-level discussion next Monday through Wednesday. Also held on the sidelines of the meeting will be forums on sustainable development, least developed countries, statistics, knowledge economy development and the Asia-Pacific Business Forum.

There are already a number of regional and sub-regional cooperation mechanisms across Asia and the Pacific, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Describing the meeting as "future-oriented," Kim expressed confidence that UNESCAP will become an important platform of cooperation and play a greater role in promoting it in the Asia-Pacific region.

(China Daily April 23, 2004)

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