Geneva: 20 July 2006: Despite better economic performance over the past year, many of the world’s poorest nations continue to slide deeper into poverty, according to top UN official, Anwarul. K. Chowdhury.
Introducing the fourth annual progress report of the UN Secretary-General on the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Geneva on Thursday, Mr. Chowdhury highlighted that since 2001, annual GDP growth in the group of LDCs averaged 5.5 percent, much faster than during the period 1996-2000.
“However this growth, largely driven by the high demand for extractive commodities, has not resulted in meaningful reduction of extreme poverty in LDCs. The report suggests that extreme poverty has been decreasing in few LDCs and increasing in many,” the High Representative for Least Developed Countries said.
He noted that the proportion of population suffering from hunger had been extremely high in countries emerging from conflict such as Eritrea (73 per cent), Democratic Republic of Congo (72 per cent) and Burundi (67 per cent).
Also of concern was the triple threat of civil conflict, inadequate nutrition and HIV/AIDS which has seriously impacted on life expectancy in one-third of LDCs. Especially dramatic has been the decrease by 21 years of life expectancy in Lesotho. In Haiti, the only LDC in the Western hemisphere life expectancy has declined by 18 years in the last three years.
But despite these bleak statistics, some social indicators have improved owing to the determined efforts by the LDCs with direct support from the international community, Mr. Chowdhury said.
“Most LDCs are making good progress on universal enrollment and gender equality in primary education. HIV/AIDS incidence rates in most affected LDCs have begun to decline, as a result of effective policy and programme interventions, but TB infection cases have increased due to the weakened human immune system caused by HIV infection. Significant investments in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes are needed to consolidate this emerging trend,” the UN Under–Secretary pointed out.
On the issue of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and untying aid to LDCs, Mr. Chowdhury said the announcements by the European Union and other donors of their time-bound schedules for ODA increase would enhance the achievement of the Brussels Programme of Action ODA targets for LDCs. “The agreement reached in 2005 in Paris on ownership, harmonization, alignment, results and mutual accountability holds promises to further improve aid effectiveness. Redeeming these promises on ODA, debt relief and market access is crucial for achieving in a significant way the objectives of the Brussels Programme,” said the UN High Representative.
Additionally, considerable attention has been given to new and innovative efforts for mobilization of resources for LDCs.
Mr. Chowdhury noted that the LDCs Ministerial Conference in Cotonou on the development impact of remittances underscored the positive dimensions of migrants’ remittances that constitute a significant share of GDP in a good number of LDCs, on poverty reduction at the household, community and national levels. Furthermore, the initiative on instituting airline surchages in some countries, supported by a number of LDCs, has already started bearing results.
Keeping in mind the needs of LDCs and given the steep rise in oil revenues, Mr. Chowdhury proposed a contribution ten cents per barrel produced worldwide for infrastructure development in LDCs for the next ten years.
The Secretary-General’s report identifies obstacles, constraints and emerging challenges to the implementation of the Programme. It emphasizes that effective implementation of the Brussels Programme requires strengthening country ownership, genuine partnership, an integrated approach, market consideration and results-orientation. It concludes by emphasizing that effective implementation of the Brussels Programme is not possible without addressing the gender issues in poverty reduction and national development strategies of the LDCs.