United Nations, 18 September 2006 – President Yayi Boni of Benin has called on the international community to redouble its efforts in creating an international environment more favourable to eradicating extreme poverty in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Speaking at a roundtable discussion ahead of the General Assembly’s high level meeting to assess the implementation of the plan to end poverty in the LDCs adopted five years ago, he said the Programme of Action for LDCs provides solid ground for national and international efforts to create an environment for the sustainable development of the world’s 50 most vulnerable countries.
President Boni, who is also the chairman of the LDC group, said that LDCs were taking the necessary steps to strengthen productive capacity and improve the climate for foreign investment.
The Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001 – 2010 is a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy adopted by LDCs and their development partners in Brussels in 2001 to improve the quality of life of the people in the LDCs. Its main goal is to halve the rate of poverty in the LDCs by 2015.
Speaking at the same event, the President of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, said that eradication of extreme poverty in the LDCs requires investment in human resources and improved market access. He urged special focus on enhancing the productive capacity of LDCs by strengthening people-centred policies and promoting the agricultural sector to uplift the rural population.
“The LDCs in Asia and the Pacific are unable to finance their investment requirements from domestic resources alone. Aid and debt relief from development partners, as well as foreign direct investment are needed to complement domestic efforts to reduce the funding gap,” he said.
The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Kim Hak-Su, noted that while some LDCs have made progress on socio-economic development with average growth rates of 6 percent per year, this economic growth has been uneven across LDCs and has not had a major impact on income per capita which remains below $400.
“All the glitter and hype surrounding the remarkable economic gains in parts of Asia-Pacific and other regions of the world have masked the fact that nearly 300 out of 750 million LDC still live in deprivation and hardship,” he said. He called on the international community to extend more timely and more adequate resources to help LDCs overcome supply-side constraints, diversify exportable commodities and reduce geographic and environmental vulnerability.
The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Abdoulie Janneh, identified three ways in which international development partners could assist LDC achieve their diversification objectives: a) More meaningful market access opportunities for LDCs; b) Increasing financial support for the development of infrastructure and; c) providing technical assistance in the area of trade and export development.
Nobel laureate Prof. Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University was critical of the market access provided to LDCs by the developed countries. He said that exceptions to duty-free, quota-free market access allow the rich countries to exclude the products in which LDCs are competitive, rendering such concessions meaningless.
He also noted that though official development aid to poor countries has increased to nearly $23 billion, this is offset by flow of resources from the poor countries to the rich countries amounting to nearly $20 billion.
The roundtable discussion was also addressed by the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Anwarul K. Chowdhury; the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf; the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, James T. Morris; the Director of the Development Division of the World Trade Organisation, Alberto Campeas and the Director of Investment, Technology and Enterprise Development of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Khalil Hamdani.