Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me at the outset to welcome the Honourable Ministers who are here with us today. Your presence and participation at today’s event will no doubt enrich our discussions on the areas to be considered.
I also want to recognize and welcome the Director-General of UNESCO for joining us today as well and we look forward to your contribution today as well.
This UN LDC IV pre-conference event will provide us an opportunity to focus in on the promotion of universal access to essential services in LDCs.
The greatest asset of any country, including LDCs, are its women, men and children – its citizens. If LDCs are to develop and sustain economic growth, the potential of their citizens as agents and beneficiaries of development must be realized.
In order to allow LDC citizens the opportunity to play the dual roles of agents as well as beneficiaries of development there is a need to develop policies that link economic and social considerations. This was recognized in 2008 Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus Doha.
The Brussels Programme of Action also recognised that efforts at development of human capacities in LDCs have been affected by such factors as low school enrolment and low health, nutrition and sanitation status and by the prevalence of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and malaria, as well as by natural and man-made disasters.
Coupled with the need to formulate long-term policies and strategies in health, education, employment and rural development, and sustainable development in general, the need to facilitate universal access to basic services by LDCs citizens was also recognised in the BPoA.
The challenge, as we approach Istanbul and its new Programme of Action, is how to better promote access to essential services in LDCs through concrete deliverables. The disparities that often occur between the urban and rural populations, each with their own sets of challenges and opportunities, will need to be considered as well in this context.
The numbers speak for themselves.
Beyond HIV/AIDS a high number of children in LDCs continue to die from preventable or treatable causes, with pneumonia and diarrhoea the two main killers. Clearly, access to health services could greatly contribute in reducing such preventable deaths.
Primary school enrolment increased in the LDCs from 60% to 79% during the last ten years. In spite of progress, an alarming, 25 million primary school-aged children are still not in school in the LDCs today.
In almost all LDCs more than 60 per cent of the urban population has access to improved drinking water whereas only half of the LDCs reach that coverage in the rural areas. Coverage is lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, where only three out of five people use improved drinking water sources.
Clean, efficient, affordable and reliable energy services are indispensable for global prosperity, including those of LDCs. They will need to expand access to reliable and modern energy services if they are to reduce poverty and increase productivity, enhancing competitiveness and promoting economic growth. There is a need to offer alternative sources of energy besides the national grid systems particularly in rural or remote communities as a national electricity grid can be prohibitively expensive.
In their efforts to respond LDCs public expenditures on health and education have increased considerably in the last decade, aided partly by increased donor funding. This, however, comes at great cost to LDCs governments.
Despite these noble efforts, the provision of many basic services remains inadequate and inequitable.
There is therefore a need to ensure that particularly in these times of global financial constraints, commensurate funding continue to be allocated to essential services. Indeed, there is a need to even scale-up efforts in this regard.
There is a need to increase investment and technical support in essential services that are delivered through approaches that are sustainable, that develop capacity and incentives underpinning effectiveness and efficiency, and that mobilize and optimize the contributions of governments, local communities, civil society and the private sector.
The acknowledgment that MDG achievement in LDCs critically depends on the delivery of basic services such as health, education, sanitation, water supplies and transport needs to be fully realized.
In our efforts to promote access to essential services in LDCs and further to the need to invest in infrastructure it is important to invest in capacity-building and skilled human resource base that will deliver and maintain quality of these essential services as well.
Last but not the least it should be borne in mind that in our efforts to confront the challenges faced by these the most vulnerable of countries in promoting universal access to essential services, special focus on needs of marginalized including, women, children, the disabled and vulnerable groups should remain paramount.
Our discussions today will focus on the services in: Education, Energy, Health and Water & Sanitation. These are all critical and important areas in their own right. Yet, the inter-linkages that exist between them is undeniable. Collectively, access to these and the services they provide are essential ingredients for the development and economic prosperity of LDCs.
Indeed, there is need to develop policies that link between economic and social considerations. To this end the calls for greater efforts are required for mobilizing more
resources, as appropriate, to provide universal access to basic economic and
social infrastructure and inclusive social services, as well as capacity-building,
taking special care of women, children, older persons and persons with
disabilities in order to enhance their social protection should be well noted.
I wish you every success as we continue to deliberate on this important issue and trust that the outcomes of our deliberations today can make a significant contribution in the preparations towards Istanbul and its new programme of action for the next decade.