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Asia-Pacific faces staggering infrastructure needs

Asia-Pacific region faces staggering infrastructure needs, UN meeting is told

In spite of some gains in transport, notably the Trans-Asian Railway Network and the Asian Highway Network, a staggering $600 billion a year is needed for infrastructure development in Asia-Pacific region as a whole, a major United Nations regional meeting was told today.

“We must have a process to review the options and we must do this quickly,” the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Kim Hak-Su, declared in his policy speech to Ministers and high-level officials from over 50 members meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Governments in the region must intervene with radical measures to address rising inequality, high levels of youth unemployment, and work quickly to rescue the 130 million children working instead of schooling.

In a statement read out for him by Mr. Kim, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged delegates to ESCAP’s 62nd Commission Session to use the meeting to sustain the momentum generated by last September’s World Summit in New York.

“While world leaders did not achieve everything we might have hoped for, they did agree on progress on a broad front,” he said, stressing the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission, a Human Rights Council, a much-improved emergency fund, and a new Democracy Fund, as well as a pledge for collective action against genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

An energy strategy with emphasis on energy efficiency, outstanding trade issues arising out of the Doha Development Agenda, exploitation and cross-border trafficking of women, and the AIDS epidemic are high on the agenda of the meeting which will seek ways to energize the region’s economies amidst the threats of natural disasters.

In his inaugural statement, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said infrastructure development must be in line with the principle of “infrastructures for all” in order to be meaningful. “It should ensure widespread social benefits and improve the quality of life of all our people, including the poor, especially those in remote rural areas,” he added.

Monday’s focus was on the Pacific countries in the first Pacific Leaders ESCAP Special Session (PLUS), with the leaders voicing their concerns and discussing how Asia could be of help in strengthening Pacific-Asia partnerships.

Speaking on behalf of the Pacific island countries, Marshall Islands President Kessai Note said there was a critical need for balanced development that would ensure win-win outcomes for all. “There is a particular concern over the environment in the Pacific, addressing the impact of climate change and rising sea levels,” he added.

“The sustainable use of natural Pacific resources, whether for tourism promotion or trade, has been strongly emphasized. The message is loud and clear. New and extended partnerships with Pacific island developing countries are necessary for the sustainable development of the region.”

Headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, ESCAP is the largest of the UN’s five Regional Commissions in terms of population served and area covered. The only inter-governmental forum covering the entire Asia-Pacific region, it aims to promote economic activity and social progress in developing countries throughout the area.

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