Indonesian President calls for Tolerance, Good Governance at UNESCAP

Indonesia's president is calling for Asia-Pacific nations to combat ethnic and religious violence. The 62nd U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific is being held in Jakarta.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told 600 delegates from more than 60 countries at the U.N. conference that Asia-Pacific nations must focus on solving emerging issues of ethnic and religious violence.

"Development in the 21st century is also about tolerance building," he said. "UNESCAP can help communities in this region achieve the kind of social progress that make them a bastion of resilience and tolerance, where diversity is celebrated as a source of strength and dynamism."

Indonesia, a secular nation with the world's largest Muslims population, has been rocked by ethnic and religious violence during the past several years. Muslims and Christians have battled in Sulawesi, and Muslim terrorists have set off bombs on the predominately Hindu island of Bali.

There has also been inter-ethnic violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Southern Thailand during the past two years, and on-going unrest among the Philippines' Muslim minority.

Mr. Yudhoyono also said countries in the region must focus on good governance as a way to promote development and eradicate poverty.

"There is one critical lesson that stands out from the past decades: the key to progress lies in good governance," he said. "I would even venture to say that this is a universal lesson that applies to any society, regardless of ideology, political system, economic size, history, and culture."

The UNESCAP meeting is expected to focus on regional cooperation in dealing with natural disasters, eradicating poverty, and globalization.

Delegates will also discuss trade liberalization and the threat of a bird flu pandemic.