United Nations tackle Y2K

Some 120 United Nations member countries were scheduled to meet yesterday for the organisation's first international conference on the year 2000 problem.

On the agenda were discussions of how the UN countries can work together on issues of compliance, monitoring, contingency planning and crisis management, according to UN officials.

"The consequences of unpreparedness in any one country can rapidly spill over to other parts of the world, " said Ambassador Ahmad Kamal of Pakistan. Kamal organised the meeting and is the chairman of the UN Economic and Social Council's working group on informatics.

"Many countries have barely begun to consider national responses, and there is as yet no reliable overview of worldwide preparedness," Kamal said, speaking at a meeting of countries organising the conference.

The purpose of the meeting was mainly to organise a way of sharing information on the year 2000 efforts of UN member countries. Crisis management -- what to do if major disruptions of critical international services occur -- was likely to be a hot topic, officials acknowledged.

Some of the working groups were expected to address the possibility of creating an emergency response system, according to officials here.

"The free market system may not be the best way to allocate resources in an emergency," said John Koskinen, President Bill Clinton's year 2000 czar.

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