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UN Report Shows Progress in Fighting Poverty, Disease in Asia-Pacific Region - 2003-06-04

The first U.N. regional report on eliminating poverty and disease shows progress in Asia-Pacific countries, with huge challenges still ahead. World leaders agreed on millennium goals in September 2000 that set targets for health, poverty, education, gender equality, and the environment. The date for meeting those targets is 2015.

Calling poverty reduction in the region "one of the largest decreases in mass poverty in human history," the report still painted a mixed picture of success and missed opportunities.

It says China's buoyant economy has moved 150 million people out of poverty.

The report also pointed to challenges ahead. It says nearly 15 percent of the world's population suffers from chronic hunger, 42 million people are now infected with HIV and AIDS, and half a million women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year.

The report says the main obstacles for achieving the millennium goals are a decline in development assistance, unfavorable social conditions, and uneven distribution of income.

Robert England, a U.N. representative, said regional economic growth properly managed is essential for achieving the millennium goals.

"There is an over-riding importance on economic growth and employment creation," he said. "It is rather how one manages that process that can have a real impact."

The report says growth should foster equality by combining market incentives with "pro-poor" measures to help the poor take advantage of new opportunities.

Mr. England says good governance is essential.

"Creating the democratic and political environment that ensures that governments give priority and adequate resources to efforts to reduce poverty, improve access to social services, fight disease, improve gender equality, protect the environment," he said.

The report calls declining economic assistance to the region and to the least developed countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development "unacceptable and unconscionable."

It says that while very few countries in the Asia Pacific region will meet their goals by 2015, much will change during the next 10 years, with the primary responsibility lying within the individual countries, the private sector, and civil society.