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UN Convenes Economic Summit

The United Nations General Assembly opened a three-day conference Wednesday on the global financial crisis. More than 140 countries have sent representatives to the meeting, which hopes to decide on emergency and long-term responses to help ease the impact of the crisis, especially on the world's poorest countries.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world is still struggling to overcome the worst global financial and economic crisis since the United Nations was founded more than 60 years ago.

"It has touched every part of the world," he said.

Mr. Ban says he believes it is the responsibility of the developed world to help poorer countries weather the current economic storm.

In April, at the G-20 summit in London, he asked leaders for more than a trillion dollars in financial support for those countries. As the U.N. summit got underway, Mr. Ban said he would press the leaders of the eight leading industrialized nations to honor those commitments when they meet next month in Italy.

"That is why I have just sent a letter to G-8 leaders urging concrete commitments and specific action to renew our resolve," he said.

He said his letter stressed the need for resources to help developing countries adapt to climate change and called on leaders to honor pledges of aid to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and disease by 2015.

There are 192 member states in the United Nations. One hundred forty two sent representatives to the conference. Among them is the Vice President of Honduras, Aristides Mejia Carranza, who explained the economic impact of the financial crisis on his country.

"For this year, the decline in remittances, a decline in exports and in tourism have meant a reduction of economic growth to a mere two percent," he said.

He said while that is better than the global average, it would be insignificant for the Honduran economy and could threaten gains made in reducing poverty during the past few years.

Analysts say the effect of the global downturn on Honduras' economy has been almost identical to that in many other developing nations, especially those in Africa - a point highlighted by Zimbabwe's Vice President, Joyce Mujuru.

"At lower levels of development, we are more vulnerable to fluctuations in the world markets," said Mujuru. "Coming on the heels of the food and energy crises, the global financial crisis seriously threatens sustainable economic growth and sustainable development on the [African] continent, and could reverse progress so far attained toward the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals."

During the next three days, the U.N. General Assembly will hear from individual delegations, as well as hold interactive roundtable discussions on mitigating the effects of the world economic crisis on development.

Developing urged the United Nations to convene a high-level meeting during a financing and development conference in Doha, Qatar in December, saying they wanted a forum for their voices to be heard. But the planning process leading up to this week's meeting was fraught with difficulties, including attracting high-level participation and negotiating the conference's outcome document.