The “triple threat” posed by the economic, food and climate crises have underscored the need for international cooperation to prevent the slide of an additional 60 million people in Asia and the Pacific into poverty this year, the top United Nations official in the region said today.
“Never has there been a time where collective action is more needed,” Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said at its 65th session in Bangkok.
Strides made in development in the region are in jeopardy, and “the economic crisis has exposed imbalances and disparities that need to be addressed if Asia-Pacific is to realize its full potential,” she said.
ESCAP’s 2009 Economic and Social Survey predicts that developing nations in the region will see their growth drop from 5.8 per cent last year to 3 per cent this year, with as many as 23 million people – particularly women in the manufacturing sector – potentially losing their jobs.
For its part, the Asian Development Bank estimates that the number of poor people in the Asia-Pacific could climb by 60 million in 2009 and approach 100 million by 2010, thwarting the region’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight internally-agreed anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.
“There is every reason to believe that last year’s fuel food security issues will return again once the economic crisis has abated,” Ms. Heyzer said in her address, which focused on food security and sustainable agriculture. “Climate change threatens to disrupt weather patterns and will further disrupt agriculture and water security across our region.”
In his message to the gathering, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that the steps taken in the Asia-Pacific region to address food security “will determine the fate of two-thirds of humanity.
“The challenge is monumental, but we must rise to it,” he said.