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UN Chief Says Financial Crisis Will Not Weaken Resolve to Fight Poverty, Disease

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the global financial crisis may have shaken world confidence, but not the international community's resolve to help the United Nations continue working to fight poverty and disease. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Mr. Ban said the international community's determination to help what he calls the world's "bottom billion" - those who live on less than $1 a day - has not weakened. During the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly that wrapped up last week in New York, member states pledged $16 billion to help the U.N. meet targets of cutting poverty and disease worldwide by 2015.

"Everyone has felt the earthquake on Wall Street," said the U.N. chief. "But it has not shaken our resolve. Banks may be failing, but the world's bottom billion can bank on us."

He said the generosity of these commitments is very encouraging, given the economic climate. "It means the world is not forgetting the needs of the world's poorest people, notwithstanding the prospect of harder times," said Mr. Ban.

In the first of a new monthly series of press conferences, Mr. Ban spoke about the many challenges facing the United Nations - among them, the deteriorating situation in Darfur, the precarious political and military situation in Afghanistan, piracy and instability in Somalia and the effects of climate change.

The U.N. chief said that amid these crises the world must not forget the plight of others and he urged world leaders to honor the monetary pledges they have made. "Grave as it may be, today's financial crisis will be overcome," he said. "We must underline the need for "crisis-proofing" of the important priorities of the United Nations from international financial turbulence."

Mr. Ban said that he held more than 100 bi-lateral meetings with world leaders in the margins of the U.N. General Assembly debate. He said the financial crisis was high on all their agendas. The secretary-general said he hopes leaders of industrialized nations will be able to contain the crisis and find medium and long term measures to resolve it.