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Asian, Pacific Nations Commit to Plan of Action to Reduce Regional Poverty - 2002-12-17

Asian and Pacific countries have reaffirmed a plan of action aimed at reducing regional poverty over the next decade, but the agreement came only after the United States joined the consensus on the plan.

The delegates reaffirmed a plan of action after almost a week of heavy debate over the issues of reproductive health and adolescent sex. More than 40 countries attended the United Nations-sponsored Asian and Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok.

The United States delegation led the debate, arguing that sections of the plan promote abortion as a method of family planning and could encourage underage sex. Both are key concerns for the administration of President Bush.

The plan of action was adopted in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development, or ICPD, in Cairo.

The plan makes recommendations on poverty reduction, tackling issues such as sustainable development, migration, ageing, gender equality and the damage to communities from the AIDS epidemic.

The debate finally ended Tuesday when the United States called for an unprecedented vote on amendments it proposed. The United States lost the vote by an overwhelming margin.

Kim Hak-Su is the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). He said that while debate was heated at times, the vote decided the issue. "The majority of our member countries thought maybe, that the ICPD is not really promoting, neither abortion nor the adolescence sex," said Mr. Kim.

The executive director of the U.N. Family Planning Agency, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, welcomed the result. "Even though the United States was the only dissenting voice in the meeting, however, it did join the consensus at the end and we thank the U.S. for being part of the consensus," said Mr. Obaid.

The United Nations next will sponsor similar conferences in other regions, to reaffirm the plan of action.