Marrakech, Kingdom of Morocco, 16 December 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Allow me to begin by thanking wholeheartedly the Government and people of Morocco for organizing this important conference and for the warm and gracious hospitality extended to us in this beautiful and historic city of Marrakech. I am confident that with the exemplary leadership and guidance being provided by Morocco in its capacity as Chairman of the Group of 77 and China, this high-level conference will meet with great success. I would take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to the wise and committed leadership of Ambassador Mohamed Bennouna, Chairman of the Group of 77 in New York during 2003.
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). After Havana, the present High-level Conference in Marrakech is the most significant South-South gathering. I am confident that, as always, the Group of 77 will give the maximum impetus to the interests and concerns of these three most vulnerable groups of countries - most of whom are members of the Group of 77 and together they represent sixty per cent of the Group's membership.
I stand before you to advocate strongly that the bigger family of the developing countries - the Group of 77 & China - should give special attention to the opportunities and potentials for South-South cooperation that benefit their fellow vulnerable members. This conference in Marrakech will attain greater success and credibility if its outcomes reflect effectively the full commitment of the Group to support its least developed, landlocked and small islands members through concrete actions, like the one taken last year by Morocco, our Chairman and our host to cancel the debts of the African LDCs and to give them free market access for their products.
The Heads of State and Government attending the first South Summit held in Havana in 2000 recognized "the social and economic conditions of the least developed countries have been deteriorating." They called for urgent measures to address the needs of the large majorities of the population, in particular women and children, who were forced to live in extreme poverty, many of whom are in LLDCs and SIDS. They concluded that if this were not done, globalisation would provide "no lasting solutions to the essential problems of the developing countries."
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 Millennium Declaration of the United Nations General Assembly and the South Summit both reiterated the need for special attention to these developing countries. It has been also widely acknowledged that supportive and specially focused international policies could play a crucial role in reducing poverty in these countries. The Brussels Programme of 2001 for the LDCs, the recently-adopted Almaty Programme for LLDCs and the 1994 Barbados Programme for SIDS - all emphasize the need for enhanced South-South cooperation to promote the implementation of these Programmes.
In this backdrop, South-South cooperation has the potential of playing a significant role in promoting sustained growth and sustainable development for these vulnerable countries. Based on their real developmental needs, South-South cooperation should be built as an integral part of the international community's support to these countries in special need.
Let me elucidate this dimension a bit more. The Brussels Programme of Action adopted in May 2001 by the international community affirmed the role that South-South cooperation could play to draw on the expertise and resources existing in other developing countries for the benefit of the LDCs. The BPoA identified some important areas of cooperation that include building human and productive capacity, technical assistance and exchange of best practices particularly in areas related to health, education, trade, investment, environment, training, transit transport cooperation and technology. The Brussels Programme also emphasized that South-South cooperation is not a substitute for North-South cooperation but a complement and encouraged the use of triangular mechanisms, which could ensure success of South-South cooperation through financing by donor countries.
Information collected by UNDP's Special Unit for Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) has indicated that these countries had cooperation and assistance programmes with many other developing countries covering a wide range of activities. For example, in the case of Bhutan, it indicated that South-South cooperation was focused on the development of infrastructure and education; for Burkina Faso, it was in health and medicine; and for Senegal the areas were agriculture and information services.
Let me elaborate by referring to the case of LDCs bearing in mind that there are 28 of the 50 LDCs are also landlocked and small islands. Overall South-South cooperation from other developing countries to LDCs ranged from health, capacity building, trade and agriculture to economic infrastructure, debt cancellation and sharing of technology. Some successful examples of South-South cooperation that LDCs benefited from in recent years are worth-noting.
A good number of developing countries extended to LDCs low-interest funds, establishing joint ventures and contributing to human resource development. In 2000, China decided over two-year period to reduce or cancel the debt worth over $1.2 billion owed mostly by African LDCs. Also, last year, as I said earlier, Morocco decided to cancel the debt of the African LDCs.
· In recent years, other developing countries had increased access to their markets for LDC products. According to UNCTAD, the exports of LDCs to other developing countries were 29.8 per cent of their total exports in 2000, against 62.5 per cent to developed countries. However, the share of their imports from developing countries increased and was 48.6 per cent compared to 42.1 per cent from developed countries. I already said that Morocco provided free market access to African LDCs exports.
· Since 1995, some developing countries (e.g. India, Malaysia, South Africa) became important sources of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for LDCs. Perceptions of risk concerning FDI in LDCs are different among OECD investors from those of investors from developing countries. In general, FDI flows across developing countries appear to have been increasing in parallel with increases in South-South trade.
· Reduction of transportation costs and trade facilitation are offered by other developing and LDCs transit countries to the LDCs and other developing countries that are landlocked. Most transit neighbours of landlocked countries are developing countries and they have numerous agreements related to transit transport cooperation (e.g. Djibouti-Ethiopia, China-Mongolia, India-Nepal corridors).
· Malaysia provided training and consultative services during 2001 and 2002 to Cambodia, Lao P.D.R, Myanmar and Malawi, in project planning and management, agriculture, poverty eradication and diplomacy. India has run programmes on farming in Namibia and Senegal.
· LDCs received benefit from three-way cooperation in the area of human-resource development, such as Bhutan with Singapore and Thailand, and Burkina Faso with Cuba and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
· With a global estimate of 42 million (2002) people living with HIV, LDCs are among the worst affected and domestic resources are woefully inadequate to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis simultaneously. Through South-South cooperation, activists from LDCs came forward to share experiences and established networks with activists from other developing countries on management of HIV/AIDS programmes, with special attention to lowering the price of related drugs. Papua New Guinea is leading a regional collaboration effort for HIV/AIDS for the countries of the South Pacific region.
There is indeed good potential for expansion of South-South cooperation in terms of promotion of investment, trade and technical cooperation in LDCs to achieve poverty reduction and sustainable development. Increased regional cooperation and greater market opportunities among developing countries in general, and with LDCs in particular, appear to be key factors for the expansion of South-South trade. This will also enhance the LDCs production processes and marketing skills and further equip them to tackle the more demanding markets of the North. It is now increasingly realized by LDCs that to participate more effectively in multilateral processes, and to survive in the increasingly competitive world market, they and other developing countries need to build the requisite capacities, and share experiences and complement one another's expertise. These problems get further complicated because of geographic constraints faced by LLDCs and SIDS.
Effective utilization of preferential arrangements is an even more serious problem for the LDCs because of the weaknesses of their supply capacities. LDCs have difficulties in increasing the rate of utilization of already available preferences accorded by developed countries. This has, however, opened opportunity for another area of South-South cooperation. LDCs existing market access has attracted interest, particularly from investors from other developing countries in raising sales to the US and EU markets. For example, in Uganda, Sri Lanka's largest manufacturer and garment exporter is seeking Uganda's export access to the US and EU markets and is negotiating to invest $1.5 million in a garments factory there. Also, Mauritius is investing in exportable sugar production capacity in Mozambique and Malawi for European markets.
Further preferences for LDCs by other developing countries need to be considered, and it is a joint challenge to increase the rate of utilization of already available preferences. Other developing countries also need to make their import regimes more liberal and allow more exports from the LDCs, taking into consideration the real needs of those countries.
Recent experience tells us that the areas of cooperation among developing countries - on many occasions supported by the developed countries through triangular cooperation - range from health, trade, agriculture to capacity and infrastructure building to human resource development, debt cancellation and sharing of technology. Such cooperation with LDCs covered significant areas as low-interest funds, establishment of joint ventures, increased market access, foreign direct investment, reduction in transport cost and trade facilitation and training in project planning and management. Potential in these areas for South-South cooperation would apply equally effectively for the other two vulnerable groups as well. Also in recent years, an increasing intensification in South-South cooperation in the social development areas has brought tremendous benefit to the most vulnerable countries.
Health, education, women's empowerment and population-related areas have shown significant results.
A very significant area for the development of South-South cooperation exists in the field of international trade. During the last 25 years trade among countries of the South has come to represent 40% of the total trade of developing countries. However, we need to bear in mind that there is a significant divergence in the performance of various developing regions and in the most vulnerable groups. For example, in 2001 the least developed accounted for a mere 0.6% of world exports.
While the processes for increasing development assistance, trade and investment from the traditional donor community continue to be difficult, potential for South-south cooperation in these and other areas need to be explored with vigour and determination. The role of better-endowed developing countries like Brazil, China, India and South Africa will continue to be a major determinant in this direction.
The High-Level Meeting of Pivotal Partners for South-South and Triangular Cooperation held last month in Hangzhou, China, emphasized the special needs and problems of LDCs and discussed several initiatives to assist LDCs to benefit from the increased capacity of the South in the fields of trade, investment and capacity development. A major endeavour for South-South cooperation is being advanced through the Africa-China meeting which began yesterday in Addis Ababa. Such an initiative has great potential for the African countries, 34 of which are LDCs.
The substantive as well as substantial contributions made by the regional and sub-regional organization in promoting South-South cooperation have benefited the least developed, landlocked and small island countries in many areas. The work of ECOWAS, COMESA, SADC, ASEAN, SAARC, Pacific Islands Forum and CARICOM are particularly relevant for these countries. The south-south monetary and financial cooperation, as elaborated in a recent report of the UN Secretary-General, has shown how the vulnerable countries have been able to face together through cooperation with other developing countries the increasing challenge of the globalization process.
Here, I would like to mention that it is not very easy to gauge the extent of South-South cooperation as governments seem to maintain few records or statistics relating to the support being given in the area of economic and technical cooperation among developing countries. I would like to urge governments to create national databases of their support to such cooperation with countries in the region as well as with other developing countries. I also request them to disseminate information on the nature and scope of cooperation they would like to promote, so that other developing countries particularly the most vulnerable ones are aware of what is available and possible. It would be worthwhile if the Special Unit for TCDC of the UNDP could create a database for the most vulnerable countries to benefit from the offers of cooperation and support from fellow developing countries.
The key role in promoting South-South cooperation should be and has been played by the UN system. South-South approaches should be given a major policy thrust by the entities of the UN system. So much can be done and achieved for the sustainable development of the most vulnerable countries if the UN system makes such an approach central in their fields of activities.
Non-governmental and civil society organizations have been true promoters of South-South cooperation in their field-level activities in various parts of the world. In many cases, they have brought to the forefront the potential benefit of such cooperation, thereby encouraging the involvement of the governments and other stakeholders. The emerging area for enhancing the South-South cooperation is the involvement of the private sector. The private sector can play a meaningful role in promoting cooperation in the areas of information and communication technology, transit transport cooperation, development of marine resources and environmental preservation thereby benefiting the most vulnerable countries.
The triangularity brought in by the donors, NGOs and private sector in the South-South cooperation increases manifold the potential for such cooperation. This will open up the opportunities for the most vulnerable countries that are getting marginalized in the process of rapid globalization and would open the door for their integration in the global economy. It is, therefore, important to bear in mind that we need to look at the South-South cooperation as a strategic opportunity for the full and effective implementation of the Brussels, Almaty and Barbados Programmes of Action.
Let me conclude by welcoming the recent decision of the UN General Assembly to declare 19 December as the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, and by joining other delegations in welcoming very warmly Qatar as the in-coming Chairman of the Group of 77 and China for the year 2004.
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