Asian economies will be able to weather 2008 uncertainties UN predicts

“Key Economic Developments and Prospects in the Asia-Pacific Region 2008” – published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) – states that the region’s resilience will be underpinned by strong growth in China and India and high commodity prices. “Asia Pacific economies are well prepared to manage continued uncertainty in the external environment over the coming months,” Chief ESCAP economist Ravi Ratnayake said today at the launch of the report in Bangkok. “The region’s main strength lies in healthy macroeconomic fundamentals – countries have the room to adopt supportive fiscal and monetary policies if faced with significantly declining export growth, financial market volatility or inflationary pressures,” he added. Developing economies in Asia posted an economic growth rate of 8.2 per cent in 2007 and is expected to grow at a “slightly lower but still robust” rate of 7.8 per cent this year. Despite the upbeat forecast, the report warns that an unravelling of the United States sub-prime mortgage problem and a slowing of the US economy could pose risks for Asian economies. “There is a need to tread carefully given the signs of financial market volatility over the year ahead,” the study cautions. Japan is forecast to grow at a lower rate in 2008, with its export sector and export-related investments suffering from a slowing US. China too faces a small decrease in growth in 2008, owing to a slowdown in export markets and the “continued efforts by the Government to cool the economy.” At the same time, the report predicts India will continue to witness dynamic growth in 2008, driven by investment in the manufacturing and service sectors, and will be “largely insulated from weakness in the global economy.” The report also calls on governments to address environmental problems to sustain long-term growth, citing the example of China, with 2007 figures published showing that air pollution, particularly in big cities, is leading to higher rates of lung disease including cancer and respiratory problems. 9 January 2008The Asia-Pacific region is likely to continue to see strong economic growth this year, despite uncertainties posed by a slowing United States economy, according to a new United Nations report. read more

UN officials outraged at accounts of Sri Lanka war crimes stress need

The comments by the Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and on the Responsibility to Protect, Jennifer Welsh, follow the release yesterday of a report by the UN human rights office (OHCHR) that identified patterns of grave violations, including indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, harrowing accounts of torture and sexual violence, and recruitment of children. Welcoming the report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hoped that its recommendations will help support the efforts of the people and the Government of Sri Lanka “to carve a durable path towards long-lasting peace and stability and respect for human rights, through a genuine and credible process of accountability and reconciliation that meets international standards.“The victims of all communities, their families and the Sri Lankan nation itself demand no less than a full and proper reckoning,” he added in a statement issued by his spokesperson.Indeed, the report recommended the establishment of a hybrid special court to ensure that justice is served.“Sri Lanka has gone through a very dark period of its history during the years of the conflict, which has caused immense suffering for all communities,” the Secretary-General’s Special Advisers stated. “Accountability is not just a matter of justice; it is also a matter of reconciliation, peace and non-recurrence,” they continued. “The wounds of the past need to be properly treated and healed in order to write a new peaceful page in Sri Lankan history.”The Special Advisers called for the establishment of accountability and reconciliation mechanisms that would meet international human rights law standards.“This is a process that will be painful and difficult, but indispensable for long-lasting peace and stability in the country,” they added.Ms. Welsh stressed that the Sri Lankan Government has the primary responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. “This responsibility entails bringing to account those responsible for crimes committed but also taking concrete steps to prevent their recurrence.”For his part, Mr. Dieng cautioned that outstanding grievances among Sinhalese and Tamil communities could pave the way to further violence. The Special Advisers highlighted that respect for diversity and intercultural dialogue and non-discrimination must be incorporated into national level policies. They also recommended that the Government ensure greater representation of all ethnic and religious communities.“The voices of the minorities need to be heard because they too are Sri Lankan,” they stressed. read more