Malaysia: African, Asian and Caribbean leaders have pledged to provide millions of people with wider access to education, land and loans in some of the world’s poorest nations.
Government and corporate leaders from about 20 countries agreed to undertake policies to encourage development “with the ultimate aim of eradicating poverty,” according to a plan of action issued at the end of the three-day Langkawi International Dialogue in northern Malaysia.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Langkawi plan of action was not binding on any government, but he voiced confidence that the leaders would work for their people’s welfare.
“This dialogue has been a bazaar of ideas,” said Abdullah, whose country transformed itself from a rubber-producing backwater into one of Southeast Asia’s most industrialized economies. “It has not been a waste of time.”
According to the plan, delegates endorsed wide-ranging measures such as promoting training for youth, encouraging girls to attend school, designing micro-credit financing programmes for small businesses and increasing openings to land and other resources to boost job opportunities.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir highlighted how improving food security measures might spare populations from hunger during droughts, while Swaziland’s King Mswati III, whose agricultural nation is often battered by crop failures, raised the need to attract foreign investment to modernize their economies.
“It is important that governments should develop active programmes and set targets,” Mswati told the conference.
Delegates included President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, which is facing a financial meltdown. The International Monetary Fund forecasts inflation in Zimbabwe could rise to 100,000% by the end of the year, while the World Food Programme has pleaded for funds to help more than 3.3 million Zimbabweans lacking food supplies.
Other leaders at the three-day conference come from countries with high unemployment, including Namibia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Some are afflicted by soaring AIDS infection rates, like Lesotho and Zambia.