Sunday, April 24, 2005

[Asia] Asia, Africa vow to better fight poverty

24 April 2005

JAKARTA — Asian and African leaders yesterday squared up to the task of fighting poverty and corruption at a summit to rekindle a 50-year alliance that has done little to help some of the world’s poorest countries.

Under heavy security, almost 50 heads of state representing two-thirds of the world’s population, and representatives of international organisations met in Jakarta to discuss new challenges at a summit marking the golden jubilee of the first conference between the two continents.

Tackling graft, poverty and the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS were high on the agenda alongside plans to forge billion-dollar trade links and close the gap between Asian and African countries and the developed world.

Opening the summit, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Asian and African countries, though freed from colonial rule since the first meeting which spawned the Non-Aligned Movement, were still sidelined by poverty and disease.

"In 2005, we have to sound a new battle cry ... now that Asia and Africa are free, we now must take on the next phase of the battle for human dignity," he said.

Yudhoyono said a strategic partnership envisaged by the summit’s organisers should prioritise efforts to stamp out corruption, which blights many of the nations represented – including Indonesia where graft is endemic.

The Indonesian president also stressed the need for unity, evoking the message of the original summit 50 years ago in the Indonesian city of Bandung, where leaders sought to challenge the bipolar world of the Cold War era.

Challenges ahead

Representing Viet Nam, President Tran Duc Luong said developing countries still share the challenges and threats of war, ethnic conflict, terrorism, the gap between rich and poor nations, unilateralism and power politics in international relations.

"Swift developments in globalisation and revolutions in science and technology have further widened the development gap, thus threatening to marginalise many of us in the development process, " Luong said.

He called on the leaders of both continents to develop a plan of action to support each other in the struggle for development.

He thanked Asian and African peoples for their assistance and support to Viet Nam in its past struggle for independence and in its current national construction.

On economic terms, Luong emphasised the success of tri-partite co-operation on the model "two plus one," between Viet Nam, one of several African countries, and a donor.

Viet Nam has worked with Senegal, Benin, Madagascar and Congo under this model on poverty and agricultural projects financed by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation.

Trade volume between Viet Nam and Africa last year soared 70 per cent compared to 2003.

The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan called on all the delegates attending the summit to celebrate 50 years since the Bandung conference, by reviving its spirit and make 2005 a true turning point for the developing world, as well as for the UN.

Annan said Bandung set forth a vision to overcome the divisions of the Cold War, based on peaceful co-existence and the principles of the UN Charter, and it gave the peoples of the developing world a voice on the international arena.

The UN chief said the vision eventually led to the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77. As each new nation found its freedom, and took its seat in the UN General Assembly, the "Spirit of Bandung" completely transformed the UN.

Also at the meeting yesterday, South African President Thabo Mbeki delivered a scathing attack on globalisation, saying poorer countries must now claim their share of the world’s wealth.

"We continue to face the daunting challenge of eradicating the poverty and underdevelopment that afflict millions of our peoples, which co-exist side-by-side with the availability of sufficient resources," he said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged that China would never abandon its status as a developing world country but would use its formidable economic success to support those less fortunate.

"In pursuit of world peace and common development, China will always stand by, and work through thick and thin, with developing countries."

As Asia’s second-largest economy, China is among several successful Asian countries keen to enhance ties with Africa.