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Economic integration can spur development in Western Asia – Secretary-General

Economic integration can spur development in Western Asia – Secretary-General

Closer economic integration can help the Western Asian region overcome recent conflicts and political tensions and also spur progress towards internationally agreed anti-poverty goals, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

“Growing political tensions and intense conflicts… [have] underscored the need for greater and improved regional cooperation and economic integration,” Mr. Ban said in a statement to the current session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), being held in the Yemeni capital Sana’a.

His statement was delivered by ESCWA’s Executive Secretary Bader Omar Al-Dafa.

The Secretary-General stressed that the world is now past the midpoint in the race to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets relating to poverty, education and health that are supposed to be achieved by 2015, and said that too many countries are lagging behind.

“ESCWA’s research and technical support can help regional governments focus their efforts and resources on key areas, and make up for lost time,” he added.

At the opening of today’s ESCWA session, Mr. Al-Dafa said there had been noticeable economic growth in the region in recent years, but cautioned that this growth, particularly in the Gulf States, is fragile because it is closely linked to the price of oil.

“We must therefore work together to make optimum use of this opportunity and diversify the economic base, develop the capacities of institutions and build effective partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society,” he said.

The two-day conference in Sana’a has brought together ministers from 13 countries in the region, as well as representatives of UN agencies, funding institutions and regional experts.