Oct 16, Kuwait: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told the leaders of Asian and Middle Eastern nations today that Asia, although with some of the world's largest and fast growing economies has the least developed and with the rich and the poor living side by side poverty alleviation becomes an area of high priority for all.
Leaders of 32 Asian and Middle Eastern countries gathered today in Kuwait to participate in the first ever Asia Cooperation Dialogue Summit seeking economic cooperation.
The President addressing the opening session of the Summit chaired by the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said the with more than half of the world's population Asia has an abundance of much needed human resources.
He further pointed out that although Asia is one of the most promising markets in the world with rapidly growing economies and income levels, abundant natural sources and the potential to address the challenges of food and energy security, the people in Asia are faced with threats to traditional exports as the world economy shrinks due to the crises in other regions.
President Rajapaksa told the summit that the region is confronted with pressing challenges such as the menace of terrorism, piracy, climate change, natural disasters, environmental pollution and anti-social activities.
"These challenges are a call for greater cooperation as we now see in the ACD," the President stressed.
Rapidly fluctuating oil prices is another challenge that developing countries have to face, the President noted.
The summit, aimed at consolidating Asia's strength and fortifying its competitiveness in the region, looks into the challenges facing Asia, mainly, in the economic field, and proposed solutions to tackle them.
Sharing Sri Lanka's experience on the Development Framework of Mahinda Chintana Future Vision, the President said development of the rural economy and support for small and medium enterprises are the central pillars of Sri Lanka's policy where domestic enterprises can be supported while encouraging foreign investment.
Calling for the ACD members to follow up on the decisions made while identifying the areas of cooperation over the last decade, the President said the ACD must now move to implement the projects of cooperation to significantly transform Asia's vision into reality.
According to the Sri Lankan President the urgent areas of action include reducing the impact of climate change, protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable development.
"We must work hard to generate employment ensure food security while reducing poverty, expanding literacy and ensuring gender equality," the President emphasized.
"This Continent of Asia cannot be the playground of other forces, who seek our wealth, our assets of nature and human resources. Our progress must draw from the best of our own cultures and while learning from the best of others who come with genuine friendship," President Rajapaksa told the Asian leaders.
"We are seeing the dawn of the Age of Asia. We must together see it bring new light to a troubled world dominated by the grave errors of other Continents," he asserted.
The Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Petroleum Resources Minister Susil Premajayantha, parliamentarian Sajin Vaas Gunawardena, and Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga also attended the summit.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)