by Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury
Nations Under-Secetary-General and High Representative for
the Least Developed Countries,
Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing
Ministerial Meeting of the Least Developed Countries
the eve of UNCTAD XI
13 June 2004
Chairman, Distinguished Minister of the Sudan
Distinguished Ambassador of Benin
Dear colleague Secretary-General of UNCTAD // Director-General
like to start by thanking wholeheartedly the Group of the
Least Developed Countries for organizing this important
ministerial meeting on the eve of the Eleventh Session of
the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Let me take this opportunity to convey my deepest appreciation
to the Foreign Minister of Benin, Mr. Rogatien Biaou, for
his personal commitment and leadership as the global coordinator
of the LDCs.
I also warmly greet Mr. Rubens Ricupero, UNCTAD Secretary-General,
and would like to express my particular appreciation to
him for the important contribution the UNCTAD LDCs Report
for 2004 has made to the better understanding of how international
trade can become a more effective mechanism for poverty
reduction in the LDCs. Since I assumed my new responsibilities
in 2002, Mr. Ricupero and I have been working in a mutually
reinforcing way in our support for the cause of the LDCs.
I also would like to commend the WTO Director-General, Dr.
Supachai, for the extensive support that his organization
provides to the LDCs.
It is an honour and pleasure for me to participate at this
gathering in my capacity as the High Representative of the
United Nations working for the three most vulnerable groups
of countries of the world - the Least Developed Countries
(LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small
Island Developing States (SIDS).
The UNCTAD conference that will start tomorrow is convened
at a highly crucial time and the whole international community
looks at its outcome with much anticipation. In its 40 years
of existence, UNCTAD structure and programme of work has
been exposed to continuous challenges due to the evolving
and ever more complex international trade environment.
UNCTAD XI is a milestone, not only for UNCTAD, but for the
Group of 77 as well, as we also celebrate the 40th anniversary
of the creation of the Group of 77, which now embraces 132
members, including 50 LDCs.
Over the years, the G77 has never failed to support the
cause of the LDCs in various negotiating fora, and in particular,
it has provided the LDCs with the umbrella support of the
bigger group in their struggle to get the much-needed attention
and commitment by the international community at the three
UN Conferences dedicated to the LDCs.
The overriding aim of the Third LDC Conference in Brussels
in 2001 was to rivet the world attention on the enormous
development challenges facing the LDCs. Today, the population
of LDCs stands at 736 million people, more than 11 per cent
of the world population. By 2015, it is projected to reach
942 million people. This means that between now and 2015,
when the Millennium Development Goals are expected to be
met, there will be 206 million people more living in the
LDCs and this makes our challenge even more daunting.
Recognizing that the previous two programmes for the LDCs
had not produced the expected results, the 2001 Brussels
Programme of Action for the LDCs called for an innovative
approach to development, based on mutual commitments by
both the LDCs and their development partners.
However, despite professed attention of the international
community during the past years, the most vulnerable countries
continue to be marginalized in the global development process.
The agreed development assistance target, which is 0.20
per cent of the industrial countries GNP as ODA to LDCs,
has not yet been reached for most of the donors. And while
international trade can have a powerful role in poverty
reduction in the LDCs, their capacity to benefit from it
remains very weak.
The share of LDCs in world trade at present barely accounts
for 0.4 percent of world trade. For most LDCs, the primary
sector dominates the economy and in commodity-dependent
LDCs, particularly in Africa, the ability of international
trade to act as an engine of growth and poverty reduction
is especially being short-circuited by falling and unstable
world commodity prices. It is therefore urgently needed
that we address the very damaging problems faced by the
many commodity dependent LDCs and their producers. Thus,
the LDCs' efforts towards the establishment of a fairer
playing field for international trade in agricultural products
are of the utmost importance.
I believe it is no exaggeration to say that Cancún
provoked a rethinking on the agenda for a development round
of trade negotiations. How can the Doha Development Agenda
be described as such if, indeed, special and differential
treatment is not a priority issue? Can we say we have a
development agenda if the longstanding challenge to implement
measures that promote trade opportunities and provide safeguards
is not appropriately addressed?
In Cancún, the LDCs and the African agenda had the
removal of huge subsidies that distort production and export
at its core. The "Cotton Initiative" was a milestone
effort on the part of four very active members of your group.
That agenda was reiterated and refined in your Dakar Declaration
adopted last month, while asking the WTO Members to exercise
restraint in applying technical barriers to trade and sanitary
and phytosanitary measures to LDC exports.
As I underscored at the Dakar Ministerial Meeting, LDCs
should not lose sight of the fact that the 30-year old Multi-Fibre
Arrangement (MFA) is expected to be phased-out as of early
next year. This development could have profound implications.
The removal of MFA quotas will certainly imply changes in
the location of the industry, with more direct competition
to supply the world markets, and concentration of the industry
in a smaller number of low cost locations. The relative
competitiveness of countries will of course depend on many
These factors, combined with the continued preferential
market access enjoyed by the LDCs from the QUAD and other
countries, will determine the extent to which LDCs are prepared
to take advantage of the removal of MFA next year. Of course,
there is no doubt that LDCs will face fierce competition
from other developing countries. Much will therefore depend
on actions by LDCs themselves, such as the integration of
trade in their development strategies, the development of
physical and economic infrastructure, the nurturing of business-friendly
environment and development of entrepreneurship skills.
Here again, increased financial and technical support will
also be required from their development partners.
Finally, the removal of MFA may also provide opportunities
for a shift of textile and garment industries not only from
the North to the South, but also from the South to South,
from one developing country to another. Some LDCs are positioned
to benefit from this movement. I would therefore strongly
urge policy-makers in LDCs to anticipate these changes linked
to the MFA phase-out and design appropriate strategies to
attract investments in the textile and garment industries,
including through expanded South-South cooperation arrangements
with special attention to LDCs.
As highlighted during the Marrakesh High-Level Conference
in December last year, South-South cooperation has the potential
of playing a significant role in promoting sustained growth
and sustainable development for LDCs. After all, only 42
per cent of LDC exports enter industrial country markets,
while nearly 50 per cent is directed to other developing
countries. The LDCs should also ask other better-off developing
countries for expansion of their non-reciprocal preferential
system for imports from LDCs.
Let me conclude my statement with some remarks on the role
and activities of my Office.
Since its establishment in April 2002, the Office of the
High Representative has built a global advocacy role to
ensure that the issues of the Least Developed Countries
remain high on the international political agenda. The Office
undertakes responsibilities related to the mobilization,
coordination, monitoring and review of the international
support as well as advocating and promoting of global awareness
for the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action.
In order to ensure smooth coordination with the Member States,
my Office has established a practice of monthly briefing
and consultation meetings with the LDC Group in New York.
At the global level, 19 UN system entities and other
multilateral organizations mainstreamed the Brussels Programme
in their respective programmes of work. In addition, the
office undertakes close consultations with the World Bank,
IMF and relevant regional and multilateral organisations
for their recognition of LDCs as a special category in their
At the national level, the Office of the High Representative,
in close collaboration with LDC delegations in New York,
encouraged the establishment of national mechanisms and
National Focal Points in LDCs in order to enhance their
ownership and capacity for the country level implementation
of the Brussels Programme. It is gratifying to note that
the number of National Focal Points has increased from 9
to 45 and the number of National Forums has increased from
9 to 18, as compared to last year.
In response to the request of the LDC Group, my Office organized
a "Workshop on the implementation of the Brussels Programme
of Action for the Least Developed Countries" last month
in New York, in collaboration with other UN partners, including
UNCTAD. The workshop has provided the unique opportunity
to obtain first hand information on the country level implementation
and follow-up and to identify concrete measures for implementation
of the Brussels Programme by the LDCs and their development
partners. As such, it has also made an invaluable impetus
to the 2004 substantive session of ECOSOC that will be focusing
on the special needs of the LDCs in three of its five segments.
It is indeed a particularly remarkable achievement for the
LDCs group to have the 2004 High Level Segment of ECOSOC
later this month focus on their own Programme of Action.
The report on the theme of that segment, "Resources
Mobilization and Enabling Environment for Poverty Eradication
in the Context of the Implementation of the Programme of
Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade
2001-2010", will be presented by Secretary-General
Kofi Annan with the participation of the group's leader
President Kerekou of Benin. I would like to congratulate
the LDC Bureau in New York for its wonderful work in this
I am fully convinced that the UNCTAD eleventh session will
provide a major forum to voice the crucial concerns of the
LDCs, based on a strongly supported common platform, and
a strategic opportunity to capitalize on recent renewal
of commitments by the industrial countries to the resumption
of the WTO negotiations and to put the Doha Development
Agenda back on track.
As you face this important challenge, let me assure you
of my fullest support to the LDCs group. I believe strongly
that your Ministerial Declaration will be a major input
into the Conference opening tomorrow. I wish you all success
in your deliberations.
Copyright © United Nations,2002-2004. OHRLLS, Room UH-900,
New York, NY 10017, U.S.A.
Telephones: (212) 963-7778 or (212) 963-5051 Fax: (917) 367-3415