U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has opened the U.N. Global Forum on Employment in Geneva, calling for greater cooperation to confront threats to the world economy following September's terrorist attacks. He expressed the greatest concern for young people and women.

Mr. Annan says the terrorist attacks have dealt a devastating blow to the world economy. He urged business and government leaders meeting at the International Labor Organization to do more to help create jobs and spur economic growth.

The U.N. secretary-general went on to say, "We may never be able to say exactly how much worse the global economic outlook has become because of the 11 September tragedy: How many more millions of people have lost or will lose their jobs as a result? How many fewer will be able to lift themselves and their families out of poverty?" he asked. "But we can say that the consequences of these events - in terms of falling commodity prices, political tension, lower oil prices, lower investment, loss of tourism revenues, escalating trade costs and movements of refugees - will take their toll on many of those who can least afford it."

Mr. Annan, citing ILO figures, noted that as many as 24 million people could lose their jobs by the end of next year because of slower economic growth. The U.N. labor agency argues that the biggest risk to global security is unemployment and poverty.

Mr. Annan urged the creation of new jobs for at least half a billion people living in developing countries who subsist on less than $1.00 [U.S.] a day. And he stressed the focus should be on the young and on women. "There are an estimated 66 million unemployed young people in the world today, an increase of nearly 10 million since 1995," said Mr. Annan. "They make up more than 40 percent of the world's total unemployed."

He concluded that employment will help break the vicious circle of despair, poverty and social instability, and help stop a waste of human potential.