Unrest looms in Asia-Pacific amid financial crisis

Asia and the Pacific face a "marked risk" of social unrest as the global financial crisis bites, but the region continues to lead international prospects for recovery, a UN survey said Thursday. The annual survey said that the region faces multiple layers of crisis ranging from financial breakdown, food and fuel price instability and climate change that could have wide-ranging effects throughout 2009. There was "fresh evidence mounting that the worst has yet to come," with a big slump in trade, the region's engine of growth, according to the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2009. "There is a marked risk that the financial crisis could converge on itself in a downward spiral of deepening recession, social unrest and political instability," said the survey. A key trigger for unrest was that millions of Asian migrants are returning to their rural homes in search of work after losing jobs in the crisis-hit export sector, UN Undersecretary General Noeleen Heyzer said. "Asia Pacific is under multiple threats and the gains that have been made in terms of development can be lost very easily," Heyzer told AFP in an interview ahead of the report's launch in Bangkok. Investment in job security and social safety nets for the poor must be sought urgently, she said. "If we do not address the growing disparities we are going to find it's going to create social unrest," she added. But the UN report said that reforms introduced in recent years, especially following the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, meant the region could be a future bright spot in the global situation. Its developing countries "would emerge as primary sources of any world economic growth that might take place in 2009, thus providing some global stability," the report said.

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