Upcoming Conference on Least Developed Countries must Find Ways to Improve Life for Millions, Its Secretary-General Tells Preparatory Meeting
12 January 2011
Istanbul Will Determine Development Paradigm for Years,
He Says of Poor Nations' Need to 'Graduate' from 'Least Developed' Status
The upcoming Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, which would determine the development paradigm for years to come, must come up with concrete ways to achieve sustainable economic prosperity in those 48 nations and improve the lot of their millions of poor people, the Secretary-General of the Conference said at the opening session of its Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting.
Cheick Sidi Diarra told the Meeting: "The key objectives for the next 10 years must include some ambitious targets, such as reducing by half the number of people suffering from poverty and hunger, and ensuring up to half of all least developed countries will be in a position to graduate from this category in the next 10 years, compared with only three graduations in the last three decades." Under-Secretary-General Diarra is the Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
He said the programme of action expected to emerge from the Conference, scheduled for 9 to 13 May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey, would focus on key priorities in least developed countries, such as building productive capacities, improving access to technology, promoting an agricultural revolution to erase hunger and ensure food security, as well as ensuring universal access to basic services, a genuine green deal to mitigate climate change and good developmental governance. In preparation for the Conference, 34 of the 48 least developed countries had already submitted national progress reports on implementation of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action, he added.
Mr. Diarra emphasized that despite some progress by those nations towards achieving economic growth and sustainable development - as called for in the Brussels document - the structural transformation needed to overcome their vulnerability to external shocks had not occurred. Nearly 80 per cent of their populations lived on less than $2 per day, and many people had little or no access to safe drinking water. Infant and maternal mortality were high, while jobs and decent work for rapidly expanding populations were inadequate.
The global economic, food and energy crises, as well as climate change, posed serious threats to their development, he continued, going on to cite also the failure by development partners to fulfil pledges to earmark 0.15 to 0.2 per cent of gross domestic product to official development assistance (ODA), and to grant duty- and quota-free market access to goods and products from least developed countries. He called on the international community to create a global architecture and external environment conducive to enabling least developed countries to erase such ills not only through a partnership against poverty, but also through a "compact of prospects".
Jarmo Viinanen (Finland), Chair of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee, echoed that call, stressing: "We have to find things that unite us." The Conference - which would appraise implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, identify relevant policies and reaffirm global commitments made at major United Nations conferences and summits to address the special needs of least developed countries - would provide a historic opportunity to improve the quality of life in those nations and forge stronger links between them and their development partners.
In a similar vein, Turkey's representative, speaking as representative of the host country, said the Conference outcome document should put forward a new vision by strongly reflecting the parameters of the international development agenda and the development priorities of the world's poorest nations. Delegates should devise a short political declaration, sending a strong message on the importance of multilateralism, as well as a detailed action programme outlining a renewed framework for development cooperation.
He went on to underline that the text must be balanced, taking into account the priorities and concerns of least developed countries and their development partners, with particular emphasis on productive capacities; predictable financial flows, including ODA; agriculture and rural development; access to essential services, like education and health; South-South cooperation; gender equality; and climate change. The outcome document must also set out a systematic monitoring and review mechanism, he said.
Discussing parliamentary preparations for the Conference, the Permanent Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) said it had encouraged parliamentarians to participate in regional preparatory meetings around Africa and Asia, as well as other Conference-related meetings, and to provide input on governance issues in pre-conference events. She attributed poor implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action partly to weak parliamentary oversight of Government policies, stressing that success for the Istanbul Programme of Action would depend on enhanced national ownership and stronger cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of Government.
The International Coordinator of LDC Watch, speaking about civil society's role, said the programme of action must not focus on past prescriptions for development. It should genuinely recognize and respect human rights, particularly those of traditionally ignored and marginalized groups such as women, children and indigenous peoples, while including specific ways for the immediate redress of injustices against them. It must create a predictable development mechanism in terms of taxes, finances and ways to manage climate change, he said, emphasizing the crucial importance of transparency.
The Deputy Director of the United Nations Global Compact Office, briefing on the private sector track, said the Conference would provide an historic opportunity to raise the voice of responsible, sustainable business and private-sector development in a way that had not yet been seen. Trade winds were favourable, with a greater consensus around the private sector's role in development, and more Governments embracing foreign direct investment (FDI) as a complement to development aid. Rising numbers of firms from least developed countries were looking to be connected to the global economy, he noted, adding that other companies were examining the next wave of emerging markets, many of which were in least developed countries.
Earlier in the Meeting, Mr. Viinanen announced that Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou ( Benin) had been appointed Rapporteur of the Meeting. He also drew attention to a "non-paper" on "Compilation of contributions for the outcome of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries".
Also speaking today were representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Nepal (on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries), Hungary (on behalf of the European Union), Australia (on behalf of the CANZ Group), Bangladesh, Brazil, Sudan, Lesotho, Republic of Korea, India, Ethiopia, Egypt, Slovenia, Japan, Belgium, United States, Zambia, France, China, Indonesia, Norway, Cuba, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Dominican Republic, Finland and South Africa.
Officials spoke on behalf of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, International Organization for Migration, International Labour Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Development Programme.
Representatives of the Common Fund for Commodities, the Enhanced Integrated Framework and the World Intellectual Property Organization also delivered statements.
The Meeting will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 January, to conclude its general debate.
The Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, to be held from 9 to 13 May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey, met this morning to open its first session and begin its general debate.
Before the Meeting were the review of the preparatory process for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/CONF.219/IPC/2), which covers the state of preparations as of October 2010; the report of the regional preparatory review meeting for Africa and Haiti (document A/CONF.219/IPC/3), held on 8 and 9 March 2010 in Addis Ababa; and the report of the regional-level preparatory review meeting for Asia-Pacific and Yemen (document A/CONF.219/IPC/4), held in Dhaka from 18 to 20 January 2010.
JARMO VIINANEN ( Finland), Chair of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee, launched the meeting by emphasizing that the task ahead was crucial and time limited. Expressing confidence that delegates had the will to work together in laying a firm foundation for the success of the Fourth United Nations Conference, he stressed: "There is no human dignity when hundreds of millions of children go hungry day in and day out." While the world had changed dramatically in the 10 years since the 2001 adoption of the Brussels Programme of Action, and common development efforts had brought tangible results, that progress was far from sufficient.
With more than half the population in least developed countries living in extreme poverty, the forthcoming Conference would be an historic opportunity to improve the quality of their lives, he continued. Least developed countries were the best experts on their own development, he pointed out, adding that a genuine global partnership would entail a joint formulation of the Istanbul Conference outcome by developing and developed countries. "We have to find things that unite us", he emphasized.
He went on to say that the Conference's mandate was to appraise implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action; identify international and domestic policies in light of that appraisal; reaffirm global commitments made at major United Nations conferences and summits to address the special needs of the least developed countries; and to formulate and adopt a renewed partnership between least developed countries and their development partners. Constructive engagement by all stakeholders was needed to achieve an outcome that would address the structural constraints of least developed countries, he said, calling for a spirit of cooperation and compromise in beginning work on the Istanbul Conference outcome.
CHEICK SIDI DIARRA, Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, addressed the meeting in his capacity as Secretary-General of the Istanbul Conference. He said it would be the biggest and most comprehensive development conference of the new decade, and its programme of action would determine the development paradigm for years to come. "The key objectives for the next 10 years must include some ambitious targets, such as reducing by half the number of people suffering from poverty and hunger, and ensuring up to half of all least developed countries will be in a position to graduate from this category in the next 10 years, compared with only three graduations in the last three decades." He called on the meeting to devise commensurate means to implement that vision.
Despite some progress by the least developed countries in achieving economic growth and sustainable development, structural transformation had not taken place, which left them still vulnerable to external shocks, he said. Poverty remained high and some 78 per cent of their populations lived on less than $2 per day. Challenges remained in the areas of access to safe drinking water, infant and maternal mortality, and the development of infrastructure and productive capacity. A high population growth rate at 2.3 per cent annually, almost twice that in the rest of the developing world, posed a major threat, he noted, adding that least developed countries had not been able to create enough jobs and decent work for the growing number of people entering the labour force.
South-South cooperation was a new source of economic vitality that must be fully harnessed in trade, development aid, foreign direct investment (FDI) as well as technical and technological cooperation, he said. The recent multiple crises, as well as climate change, posed serious threats to the development efforts of least developed countries. Despite commendable efforts in the areas of debt relief, trade, official development assistance (ODA) and FDI, development partners were yet to fulfil their promises to earmark 0.15 to 0.2 per cent of gross domestic product to ODA and to grant duty- and quota-free market access to their goods and products.
He said the Programme of Action would focus on key priorities, such as building a critical mass of viable and diversified productive capacities, improving access to technology, promoting an agricultural revolution to eliminate hunger and ensure food security, ensuring universal access to basic services and progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, managing climate change and ensuring a genuine green deal, and ensuring good developmental governance.
In preparing for the Conference, 34 of the 48 least developed countries had submitted national reports that evaluated and assessed progress in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action, he said. Forward-looking outcomes had emerged from two regional review meetings, and the Office of the High Representative was working closely with United Nations agencies and other global institutions on key thematic areas, as well as with the Inter-Parliamentary Union to mobilize the involvement of parliamentarians.
The private sector steering committee launched in 2010 would introduce the Global Business Partnership Forum for LDC Development, he said, recalling also that in August, the Secretary-General had appointed a Group of Eminent Persons to examine obstacles to the economic progress of least developed countries that would recommend a new paradigm for their structural transformation. For least developed countries to prosper and realize long-term development aspirations, bold and systematic international support measures and a more conductive external environment were imperative, he said, calling on the international community to create a global architecture towards that end. "[Least developed countries] should not be treated as an object of solidarity, rather a subject of global prosperity," he said, calling not only for a partnership against poverty, but also a "compact of prospects".
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey), speaking in his capacity as representative of the host country, said Turkey was privileged to host the Conference. "We will be charting a new development path for the least developed countries in the next decade," he noted, emphasizing that the task would not be easy. The outcome document should put forward a new vision by strongly reflecting the parameters of the international development agenda and the development priorities of the world's poorest nations. Rather than produce a "generic policy document", delegates should devise a short political declaration and a detailed action programme, he stressed, adding that the former should send a strong message about the importance of multilateralism, and the latter must outline the modalities of a renewed framework for development cooperation.
To ensure ownership of the outcome document at the national and global levels, the text must be balanced, he continued, stressing that it must take into account the priorities and concerns of least developed countries and their development partners. Among areas deserving special attention were establishing productive capacities; predictable financial flows, including official development assistance; agriculture and rural development; access to essential services, like education and health; South-South cooperation; gender equality; and climate change. Importantly, the outcome document must also set out a systematic monitoring and review mechanism, he said.
In addition to the substantive work ahead of the Fourth Conference, an intensive campaign to sensitize the international community to the challenges faced by least developed countries should continue to be conducted, he said. It was crucial that the Conference and the Istanbul Programme of Action were owned by the international community as a whole. The participation of least developed countries must be complemented by matching attendance by all development partners, both from the North and the South. Since the Istanbul Conference would be the only such major event on development issues in 2011, it would provide an exceptional opportunity to bring fresh impetus to development cooperation, he noted, adding that his country was ready to work with all stakeholders to make it a success.
ANDA FILIP, Permanent Observer, Inter-Parliamentary Union, said the organization was proud to help organize the Conference's parliamentary track as parliaments had neither been involved in the preparations for the Brussels Programme of Action nor mentioned in the 2001 outcome. Indeed, the Programme of Action had not recognized the specific role of parliament as a key institution of good governance, which was - or should be - responsible for overseeing implementation of its commitments through the budgetary process. Most parliaments today, including in developed nations, were insufficiently aware of the Brussels Programme of Action, she pointed out.
With that in mind, she said the main objectives of the parliamentary track were to facilitate the contribution of parliaments to substantive consultations; encourage the participation of parliamentarians in the Conference and promote the outcome document among parliamentarians, helping to raise awareness of new commitments. At the national level of the preparatory process, parliamentary involvement in the Conference aimed to help parliaments engage in the review. The approach was to mobilize existing parliamentary focal points and encourage parliaments that did not yet have focal points to establish them without delay.
At the regional level, the input of parliaments had been less extensive than at the national level, but they had ensured participation by an adequate number of parliamentarians in regional meetings held in Africa and Asia, she said. At the global level, the parliamentary track was proceeding through three main steps: a parliamentary briefing held last October; input to pre-conference events, notably on governance; and a parliamentary forum, slated to take place during the Istanbul Conference. The main messages of the parliamentary community included the idea that the success of the next Programme of Action would depend on enhanced national ownership and stronger cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of Government.
Noting that the slow progress of the Brussels Programme of Action could be ascribed, in part, to poor implementation related to weak parliamentary oversight of government policies, she said broad-based national ownership involved citizen participation in policymaking, which in turn required stronger parliaments that were more representative of all constituencies. Indeed, parliaments remained weak in part because they lacked capacities to function properly. "Parliaments are looking to you, the Member States of the United Nations, for guidance and support," she stressed, urging the same spirit of partnership that had nurtured that growing relationship over the last decade.
ARJUN KARKI, International Coordinator, LDC Watch, said the Conference must address the challenges facing the world's most marginalized people. The least developed countries were bearing the brunt of new and emerging crises, including those concerning climate change, finance, food insecurity and the scant supply of fresh water, without having caused them.
Calling for a bold new agenda to halve poverty in least developed countries by the end of the decade, he emphasized that it must not be based on past prescriptions. It must spell out in detail the global community's goals and how to achieve them, place people and the planet above profits, and involve all countries and sectors of society. The Istanbul Conference's Programme of Action must genuinely recognize and respect human rights, particularly those of traditionally ignored and marginalized groups such as women, children and indigenous peoples, and include specific ways to redress injustices against them immediately.
The goals and targets set out in the Brussels Programme of Action 10 years ago were still valid today, he said. However, despite action to achieve them in the past decade, the socio-economic situation in least developed countries was unsustainable. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative had not provided the necessary relief. Public spending cuts and the impact of trade liberalization had negatively impacted least developed countries. Despite commitments by developed countries to provide duty- and quota-free access for the goods and products of least developed countries, textiles still attracted high tariffs and only marginal access was granted for their other exports, he said, adding that such policies merely destroyed the lives of the poorest people.
The Conference must create a predictable development mechanism in terms of taxes, finances and ways to manage climate change, he continued, emphasizing the crucial importance of transparency. Developed nations must live up to their responsibilities, of which realizing the Millennium Development Goals in least developed countries was a global responsibility. For that to happen, structural changes were needed, he said, calling for predictable sources of financing for least developed countries, possibly to be raised through taxes on greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries. The Programme of Action must focus on ensuring universal access to essential services, as well as gender equity and justice in trade and climate areas. Civil society played a crucial role in building public support and partnership, he noted, adding that civil society organizations were ready to do their part during the Conference and beyond.
GAVIN POWER, Deputy Director, United Nations Global Compact Office, briefing on Istanbul's private sector track, said it was not the presence but the absence of the business community that had helped condemn people to poverty. The Conference would be a turning point with respect to the private sector's role in least developed countries. Indeed, a historic opportunity was shaping up to elevate the voice of responsible, sustainable business, with the potential to raise awareness of sustainable private-sector development in a way that had not yet been seen. There was also the possibility of increasing widespread Government and business interest in least developed countries, and to connect Governments and businesses with least developed country enterprises, he said, adding that the overarching opportunity was to spur long-term economic and business development.
Trade winds were favourable, with a greater consensus around the private sector's role in development and more Governments embracing FDI as a complement to development aid, he said. Moreover, rising numbers of firms from least developed countries were looking to be connected to the global economy. Other companies were examining the next wave of emerging markets, many of which were in least developed countries. Such trends were reflected in the Global Compact for Development, a framework that outlined strategies for driving social advancement, encompassing everything from core businesses to philanthropy. That framework had not existed 10 years ago, he pointed out.
Turning to the three pillars of the Conference's private sector track, he said the "keystone" pillar would be an investment and partnership summit, where Heads of State and Government, alongside chief executive officers from companies in least developed and other countries, would aim to stimulate action-oriented measures and recommendations. The half-day event would involve plenary and round-table discussions. The second pillar would be a global business partnership forum, involving Governments, businesses and civil society in promoting partnerships for least-developed-country development. It would last at least two days and be based on themes and interactive round tables. The third pillar would be an expo and trade fair to showcase commercial opportunities in least developed countries, he said.
ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said the overarching goal of the Programme of Action should be to increase and sustain high economic growth, promote sustainable development and address the impacts of the multiple crises and challenges faced by least developed countries through structural transformation. That would eventually enable those countries to eradicate poverty and graduate from the least developed category. The success of the Programme of Action was also highly dependent on least developed countries taking the lead in effectively implementing relevant policies, and on predictable support from development partners. Global development-oriented programmes and policies should complement the national efforts of least developed countries, he stressed.
The lack of productive capacities, full employment and decent job opportunities was a key challenge to the sustained growth and development of least developed countries, he said. They needed to build competitive, diversified productive capacities in order to achieve the structural transformation of their economies, sustain development gains, create jobs, compete in the global economy, increase resilience to shocks, and eventually graduate from least developed status. Deeply concerned that least developed economies were deteriorating in the wake of the multiple global crises, reversing their modest development gains, he said most of them lagged behind in the race to realize the Millennium Goals. With annual population growth rates of 2.3 per cent, most of them would continue to grapple with poverty for years unless concrete steps were taken to address poverty's root causes.
Citing the 2010 report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on least developed countries, he said the number of people living in extreme poverty had doubled between 1980 and 2007. The lack of adequate official aid and FDI had thwarted the ability of action programmes for the least developed countries to bring about socio-economic transformation in the last 30 years, he said, calling for scaled up and predictable financial support for the future. The international community must devise a concrete, practical programme of action with clear, measurable targets and implementation timeframes, taking into account the Brussels Programme of Action and redressing the shortcomings that undermined its full implementation, he said.
CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating with the Group of 77, said least developed countries were trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, due to the combined effects of structural constraints and extreme vulnerabilities. No other group faced such a severe challenge. While least developed countries had made progress over the years in the crucial areas of democratic governance, health, education and gender empowerment, progress remained "uneven, minimal or unsustainable". More than 50 per cent of their people lived below the poverty line and had the least resilience to shocks, he said, warning that without a holistic approach and a proper mix of policy coherence, institution-building and resources, such problems could hardly be overcome.
Successive action programmes had brought no structural transformation in the socio-economic sectors over the last three decades, he said, emphasizing that the Istanbul Programme of Action should undertake a broader vision. It should aim to enable half the least developed countries to graduate from their present status through structural transformation, high and sustained growth and poverty eradication. Key priorities for the Conference must include building competitive and diversified productive capacities across the board to help them sustain development gains and generate employment, he stressed, adding that the agriculture sector, though pivotal in ensuring food security, faced huge challenges due to a lack of investment, while infrastructure bottlenecks had constrained supply-side capacities.
Integrating least developed nations into the global trading system through market access measures and capacity-building was another challenge, he said, pointing out that poverty would remain a burden unless its root causes were tackled. New and emerging challenges such as climate change had only compounded already difficult burdens. A new "international support architecture" should be put in place with more resources to bolster collective efforts. The Group of Least Developed Countries looked forward to more ODA, beneficial trade, debt relief and FDI, among other things, he said, cautioning that a new Programme of Action should avoid past pitfalls of weak implementation. National, regional and global level monitoring mechanisms should be mutually complementary and reinforcing.
Source: MMD Newswire
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