|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)
Economic Committee Is Told Industrial Countries Must Step Up Aid
to World’s Poorest, Suffering Most from Global Financial Crisis
Drop in Commodity Prices, Development Assistance, Migrant
Remittances Cited as Factors Devastating Least Developed Economies
The international community must bolster technical and financial aid to least developed countries to prevent the current global crises from erasing the benefits of their record economic growth rates in recent years, Under-Secretary-General Cheick Sidi Diarra said today, as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) began its general debate on groups of countries in special situations.
Introducing reports for the Committee’s consideration, Mr. Diarra, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said least developed countries were in the weakest position to respond to the collapse of world trade and had been hit hard by the drop in commodity prices, migrants’ remittances and official development assistance (ODA), which had pushed more and more people into poverty. Their average annual economic growth shrank to 6.4 per cent in 2008 -- falling for the first time in five years to below the 7 per cent target set by the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010.
Landlocked developing countries were faring even worse, he said. After registering a robust 7.7 per cent annual average growth and a near doubling of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita between 2003 and 2007, the recent drop in exports and commodity prices would sharply drive down growth this year in 27 of those 31 countries. That bleak scenario underscored the need for stronger collaboration with development partners to build the productive capacity of those countries, diversify their exports and help them adapt to climate change -- crucial tools for sustained growth and poverty reduction. The international community must also expand development aid and financing for national and regional trade, and for transport infrastructure development to ensure the connectivity of landlocked countries to sea ports.
Nepal’s representative, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, agreed. Stronger strategic partnerships were crucial to confront existing and emerging challenges ahead of the 2011 Fourth United Nations Conference of the Least Developed Countries. He noted that the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001 – 2010 gave a “mixed picture” of progress made. Furthermore, only eight donor countries had met their promise to commit 0.15 to 0.2 per cent of GDP for ODA to least developed countries, according to the 2009 Gap Task Force for the Millennium Development Goals. He called for more capacity-building assistance, as well as debt relief and duty-free access for their exports.
Similarly, Mali’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said those nations were the victims of climate change and the financial, food and fuel crises sweeping the globe. They expected more solidarity from the international community in investment, trade facilitation and support for their efforts to join the World Trade Organization. Despite progress in creating better and faster intraregional transport links, high transport costs and other non-tariff barriers still made it difficult for their exports to compete on world markets. They really needed special attention, particularly in terms of official development assistance and funding for infrastructure development. Countries must also help them by fully implementing the Almaty Programme of Action and the commitments made during its midterm review.
Echoing that call was Zambia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), who said funding constraints were the primary obstacle to implementing the Almaty Programme of Action in the region. Most least developed countries aspired to become middle-income countries. A framework must be installed to help them achieve that goal and to guide their smooth transition and full integration into the world economy.
Other speakers today were the representatives of Sweden (for the European Union), Sudan (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Indonesia (for the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Haiti (for the Caribbean Community), India, China, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Turkey, Mexico (for the Rio Group), Yemen, Bhutan, Togo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Benin, Botswana, Maldives, United States, Brazil, Uganda, Egypt, Paraguay, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) also spoke, as did a representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., on Wednesday, 21 October, totake up its agenda item on globalization and interdependence, including preventing and combating corrupt practices and transfer of assets of illicit origin and returning such assets, in particular to the countries of origin, consistent with the United Nations Convention against Corruption, as well as science and technology for development.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to consider its agenda item on groups of countries in special situations, including the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries; and the outcome of the International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries and Donor Countries, and International and Financial and Development Institutions on Transit Transport Cooperation.
Before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report entitled Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001 – 2010 (document A/64/80-E/2009/79), which analyses progress implementing the programme and reports on preparations for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.
The report notes that, although food prices have declined, hunger has become even more widespread and it urges the international community to ensure that sufficient resources are available to provide food to those most vulnerable. All development partners are encouraged to honour existing commitments to increase their official development assistance (ODA) while considering an increase of funding for projects that allow the least developed countries to adapt to climate change. Resources for this purpose should be made in addition to regular ODA flows, and could, the report suggests, be obtained through mandatory contributions based, for example, on a country’s level of carbon emissions.
For their part, the least developed countries should make efforts to diversify their economies by investing in infrastructure and production, the report states. With respect to population growth and development, the least developed countries should make reproductive health accessible to all individuals of appropriate ages no later than 2015.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report entitled Implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action: Addressing the Special Needs of Landlocked Developing Countries within a New Global Framework for Transit Transport Cooperation for Landlocked and Transit Developing countries (document A/64/268), which analyses the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action.
The report details how a lack of access to the sea, a long distance from international markets, cumbersome transit procedures and inadequate transport infrastructure make external trade transactions costly for landlocked developing countries. Any progress made on this issue is challenged by the consequences of the global economic crisis, food insecurity and climate change, which affect these countries disproportionately.
In conclusion, the report states that there is an urgent need for the international community to provide flexible financial assistance to landlocked developing countries, through grants and loans to ensure the completion, upgrade and maintenance of strategic sea corridors. Landlocked developing countries should be supported in obtaining World Trade Organization membership, and special consideration should be given to the countries’ particular needs and challenges. The provision of financial and technical resources is crucial to help landlocked developing countries build capacity and cope with the current challenges.
Introduction of Reports
CHEIK SIDI DIARRA, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, took the floor to introduce the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (document A/64/80-E/2009/79), and his report on implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action (document A/64/268).
He said the first report discussed the situation of least developed countries in the context of the ongoing global financial and economic crisis, and how the crisis was directly and indirectly affecting them. Least developed countries were experiencing currency depreciation, but their limited integration into global financial markets and improved macroeconomic management had relatively insulated them from the first round of effects of the crisis. They had suffered considerably, however, from the second-round effects of the crisis, due to reduced investment, declining remittances and falling tourism receipts and exports.
The report stated that the impact of the collapse of world trade had been more pronounced in the least developed countries than elsewhere, due to their high level of openness and their reliance on primary commodities and low value-added labour-intensive manufacturing, he said. The drop in commodity prices, coupled with the decline in demand for exports, had caused output, and subsequently employment and Government revenue, to shrink. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in least developed countries had shrunk to 6.4 per cent in 2008 -- down from 7.8 per cent in 2007 -- marking the first time in five years that growth fell below the 7 per cent target set by the Programme of Action. Per capita income growth had also fallen, to 2 per cent in 2008. That would push a large number of people into poverty. The decline in migrants’ remittances, an important source of income, compounded that situation. The drop in ODA could further exacerbate things.
Least developed countries were not likely to meet most of the targets of the Decade’s Programme of Action, he said. A key constraint was weak productive capacity, coupled with limited diversification. Strengthening those areas was crucial for sustained growth and poverty reduction. Least developed countries also lacked the resources to adapt to climate change. That called for a renewed and strengthened partnership between the least developed countries and their development partners, which should be a priority for the Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in 2011.
Introducing the report on the Almaty Programme of Action, he said landlocked developing countries continued to be marginalized in the global economy; their share of world trade stood at 0.7 per cent in 2007, up from 0.5 per cent in 2003. That consistently dismal performance underscored their continued difficulty in achieving development due to their lack of access to the sea, distance from world markets, lack of export diversification, reliance on a few commodities, prohibitive trade transaction costs, dependence on official aid and inadequate foreign reserve levels. The drop in commodity prices, acute reductions in foreign direct investment and trade finance difficulties had deepened their economic woes.
Between 2003 and 2007, the GDP of landlocked developing countries had grown 7.7 per cent on average annually, and average GDP per capita had almost doubled, he said. But, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that the drop in exports and commodity prices would sharply drive down growth in 2009, in 27 of the 31 landlocked developing countries. He urgently called on the international community to give additional and predictable development assistance in the form of flexible, concessional and quickly disbursed financial resources to assist landlocked countries facing major financial gaps. The international community should also support crucial national and regional trade and transport infrastructure development, to ensure landlocked countries’ connectivity to sea ports.
He pointed to infrastructure development and upgrade projects that were under way and had been supported by donors, such as the Trans-Asian Railway. The Asian Highway Network had achieved its goal of connecting all landlocked developing countries in the region. The African Union and the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) had created the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa. Those projects had been fruitful. In the past three years, the average time for a landlocked country to export products had been reduced by a week, and the time for importing products had dropped by six days. That would reduce transport costs and boost efficiency, but the underlying figures were still too high for many landlocked developing countries, especially in Central Asia and West Africa.
SOPHIE BELFRAGE BECKER (Sweden), speaking on behalf on the European Union, said that the food, fuel and financial crises and the effects of climate change had exacerbated the already unstable situation in the least developed countries, where more than half the people still lived on less than $1.25 a day, and she reaffirmed the European Union’s commitment to fulfilling the Brussels Programme of Action, which had come out of the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries. Given that the European Unionhad hosted the 2001 Conference in Brussels, the organization had a special interest in its outcome.
With respect to development, she said that good governance and local ownership were indispensable components of the process, but said that the organization had created the “1 billion Euro Food Facility” to alleviate hardship and food insecurity and support agricultural development in the coming three years. The Union had increased its collective ODA last year to reach more than €49 billion, 0.4 per cent of the gross national income, but she reaffirmed a commitment to double the aid to over €66 billion in 2010. Regarding trade, she said that the Union also invested greatly in Aid for Trade, with commitments that amounted to more than €7 billion in 2007.
On the subject of climate change, she said that it undermined development and any gains on poverty and hunger reduction, especially in vulnerable small island developing States and countries in Africa affected by drought, desertification and floods. The Union was willing to take its fair share of financing to mitigate and adapt to climate change, she said and added that the organization estimated that between €5 billion and €7 billion were needed in assistance for the period between 2010 and 2012.
AMAR A.I. DAOUD (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that, although the economic and financial crisis appeared to be over in some parts of the world, the poorest and the most vulnerable countries still felt its effects, and any progress made in terms of poverty and hunger reduction were being wiped out. He urged the least developed countries and their developing partners to forge real partnerships and work together to overcome those challenges.
With regard to trade, it was crucial and urgent that the stalled World Trade Organization Doha negotiations be concluded, and he called for the least developed countries to be given access to duty-free and quota-free markets. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals required more support from developing partners, as many of the least developed countries were dependent on official development assistance -– funds which had allowed poor countries to invest in health, education and social safety nets. Diminishing flows of funds, despite promises to the contrary, jeopardized progress, and the fulfilment of existing commitments was crucial for development.
Structural vulnerabilities were still apparent in some areas of trade, and he called for the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action. He also renewed a call to provide additional and predictable assistance to the landlocked least developed countries, so that they would be able to reach the Millennium targets. Given the seriousness of the current situation, he expressed hope that development partners would maintain their commitments to assist the most vulnerable and poor.
HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and aligning ASEAN with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the deepening of the global financial and economic crisis, combined with the ongoing energy and food crisis and severe threats of climate change, had given rise to a set of complex and daunting challenges for developing countries, particularly groups of countries in special situations. The prolongation and intensity of the crises had caused significant impacts for both mid-term and long-term development prospects to vulnerable groups of countries. Further, economic and social regression caused by the crisis undermined the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, in the least developed countries.
Despite some progress since the adoption of the Brussels Programme of Action in 2001, there were still some daunting challenges and constraints, he said. The least developed countries were unlikely to achieve the goals of that Programme of Action by its deadline of 2010. Against that backdrop, genuine partnership between the governments of the least developed countries and their development partners should be further strengthened. Strong support from the international community was needed to assist the national efforts of least developed countries to mitigate the effects of the global economic crisis and achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and other internationally agreed development goals. To that end, ASEAN encouraged the United Nations agencies to continue playing a pivotal role in assisting the least developed countries to achieve their objectives and goals. While most of the United Nations agencies had already mainstreamed the Programme of Action into their policies and work plans, more concrete programmes and projects on the implementation of the Plan needed to be further promoted.
ASEAN attached great importance to increasing the capacity of Member States, particularly the less developed ones, to enable them to effectively contribute and optimally benefit from the various ASEAN initiatives, programmes and work plans as contained in the Vientiane Action Plan for 2004-2010 and the Initiative for ASEAN Integration. An efficient and integrated transport system was key for ASEAN to integrate with the global economy, improve competitiveness and enhance the inflow of foreign direct investment. ASEAN also attached importance to the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Inter-State Transport, which would greatly facilitate seamless regional cargo transportation and would serve as guidelines for Member States in undertaking trade facilitation policies.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that the Secretary-General’s report “Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001–2010” (document A/64/80-E/2009/79), provided a “mixed picture” in terms of progress made, and he urged Member States to give more focused attention to the needs of the least developed countries and the landlocked developing countries. Even stronger strategic partnerships were crucial in confronting existing and emerging challenges ahead of the Fourth United Nations Conference of the Least Developed Countries, to be held in Turkey in 2011.
With respect to ODA, he said that the contributions of 0.15 to 0.2 per cent of gross national income from donor countries fell far short of previous commitments, with only 8 donor countries meeting promised targets, according to the 2009 Gap Task Force for the Millennium Development Goals, and he reiterated a call for increased funding and capacity-building assistance. The stalled Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations needed to be re-launched and duty-free and quota-free access to markets for the least developed countries had to be implemented. Furthermore, effective improvements were needed in terms of debt relief.
Concerning climate change, he said that the international community should provide funds and technical support to mitigate its negative consequences, such as rising sea levels, melting ice caps and glaciers, droughts and floods, which had disproportionately affected countries in special situations, the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States. Regarding the food crisis, he said that it was particularly alarming, as more than a third of those affected were already undernourished, and he called for a policy to urgently overcome the crisis.
MUYAMBO SIPANGULES (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), aligned that group with statements made by Sudan on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and by Nepal on behalf of the least developed countries. He said that, despite SADC’s progress in its regional economic integration agenda, it had not been spared by the global financial and economic crisis, with the least developed countries and landlocked developing countries faring the worst. The sectors most affected were mining, textiles, agriculture and tourism, resulting in the loss of Government revenue, employment and investment. That region’s economic gains of the past five years were, therefore, now at risk of reversal. That downturn was also affecting development vis-à-vis the region’s ability to meet the internationally agreed goals, and greatly risked “losing the hard-won progress” in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action, 2001-2010.
Those new and emerging crises in the areas of finance, energy, food and climate change had further exacerbated the challenges facing least developed countries through the introduction of further shocks in terms of export, investment and access to capital. It was disappointing, he said, that the “strong political will” of delegations had not been matched by action, as a failure to act swiftly would seriously hinder the collective capacity to reach the Millennium Development Goals, and would “almost wipe out” the progress made in implementing the Brussels Plan of Action. Unfortunately, the donor community had not succeeded in providing the agreed 0.15 to 0.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in ODA, which hindered the least developed countries’ ability to meet the most pressing developmental challenges.
Promises also remained largely unfulfilled in the area of trade, he said. Duty-free and quota-free access had not resulted in an increase in the share of least developed countries’ exports in world trade, which remained marginal, due to insufficient focus on raising productive capacities and on economic and export diversification. Good progress had been made, however, in the implementation of the SADC Free Trade Area and in preparations for the negotiations of the SADC Customs Union. Those efforts needed the support provided by real progress made in the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations, in order to enhance the multilateral trading system.
He said it was a matter of grave concern that, while food production and availability had improved in the region, access to food and malnutrition remained a challenge, due to low income and high food prices. SADC was, therefore, committed to scaling up the implementation of the Dar es Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security. Regarding the Almaty Declaration and Programme of Action, he said that funding constraints remained the most important drawback in its implementation in the region. In conclusion, he said that most least developed countries aspired to become middle-income countries, and it was therefore important for the international community to put in place a framework for a smooth transition for “graduating countries” and ensure their full integration into the world economy.
WILLIAM EXANTUS (Haiti), speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the basic circumstances of the least developed countries had not improved significantly compared to last year, and the poorest and most vulnerable still felt the effects of the global economic and financial crisis. In fact, multiple crises had given rise to new problems in those countries, making a mockery of any talk of improvement. In Haiti, for example, frustrated citizens had rioted last year, provoked by the steep price hikes of essential food products. Adding to Haiti’s misfortune were the “perpetual shocks and natural disasters”, he said, and described life in his country as an “ongoing cycle of repairing damages” caused by hurricanes and floods.
While the causes of the economic and financial crisis were well known, the efforts by the developed world to mitigate its effect had not had its intended impact. He recalled that, at the outset of the crisis, some had speculated that the least developed countries would escape its consequences because of their poor integration into the global economy. However, he said, that had not been the case and the vulnerability of the least developed countries had become apparent. Despite that grim picture, CARICOM continued to believe that the challenges could be overcome and he called for a serious study of the Brussels Programme of Action.
In terms of ODA, donor countries were not living up to their commitments, but, given the unique challenges of the moment, business as usual no longer sufficed. The situation called for intense action on all fronts, he said, and while he praised the various measures taken by IMF and the World Bank after the Development Committee meeting in April, he also expressed hope that individual donor countries would honour their commitments in terms of development assistance.
N’GOLO FOMBA (Mali), speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that due to their distance from the sea, and the challenges they faced as developing countries, landlocked developing countries had to deal with specific limitations to development. Landlocked developing countries were not well integrated into world trade, because of huge transit costs, transport delays and other non-tariff barriers that reduced their products’ competitiveness on world markets. The Almaty Programme of Action aimed to rectify that through a fundamental change in transport policy, infrastructure development and maintenance, international support measures.
He called for specific attention to the review process. Progress had been achieved, but challenges remained. Progress was most notable in transport policy, which had shaved off seven days from the total number of days landlocked developing countries spent complying with customs formalities for their exports. Progress was also attributable to the introduction of trade corridors, and better roads and new routes in several States. But, landlocked developing countries were still very vulnerable, and that vulnerability was exacerbated by climate change and the financial, food and fuel crises sweeping the globe.
The sluggish economy reduced income and foreign direct investment in landlocked developing countries, he said. A total of 19 of the 31 landlocked developing countries had annual per capita incomes of less than $1,000. Very few of those nations would attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Despite their vulnerability and need for infrastructure funding, the 31 landlocked developing countries received little ODA and foreign direct investment. They were victims of the multiple global crises and they expected more solidarity from the international community in investment, trade, facilitation, ODA and foreign direct investment. He expressed hope that they would receive more specific attention. He appealed to all Member States to be flexible and to resume and successfully complete the Doha trade round. Landlocked developing countries trying to join the World Trade Organization also needed support to do so. He called for fully implementing the Almaty Programme of Action and the commitments made during its mid-term review.
SHRI T.K.S. ELANGOVAN ( India) said least developed countries and countries with geographical constraints had been hardest hit by the financial and economic crisis. Enhanced, targeted assistance, particularly from developed countries, was needed to help least developed countries implement much-needed counter-cyclical measures. That was of concern since least developed countries had registered 6 per cent annual average growth from 1998 to 2008. It underscored the need to enhance those countries’ inherent economic resilience. An integrated strategy was needed to address structural constraints. New and additional financing was a prerequisite. Foreign direct investment must be diversified and must enhance productive capacity, rather than remain concentrated in only a few natural-resource-rich least developed countries. Trade capacity must be built, and market access extended for products from least developed countries.
Developed countries must reduce their massive agricultural subsidies so domestic production in least developed countries could increase, he said. The preparatory process for the Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries should be substantive and thorough. The Conference should lead to concrete action to fully implement the Brussels Programme of Action. India was doing its part to help least developed countries. Last year, it had unilaterally announced a scheme to grant duty-free and preferential access to those countries’ products. India had also written off the debt owed by seven Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). He congratulated Equatorial Guinea for being recommended by the Economic and Social Council to graduate from the list of least developed countries. The international community, however, must help that country meet its post-graduation challenges. It was imperative to fully implement the Almaty Programme of Action on landlocked developing countries. Towards that end, he called for sustained international support and enhanced financial and technical aid.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that over the past year, the world had been ravaged by the financial and economic crisis, resulting in a drastic slowdown of the global economy, a sharp contraction of international trade, a protracted inertia in international investment, and bleak prospects for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. As vulnerable groups in the world economy, the least developed countries and the landlocked developing countries were major victims of that crisis, with their overall development gains critically rolled back, their domestic development challenges increasingly acute, their external development environment markedly deteriorated, and their future development tasks more formidable.
The international community should make concerted efforts for the full and timely implementation of all commitments contained in the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries, in an attempt to prevent the evolution of the crisis into a development crisis for such countries. He said China suggested that the international community strengthen efforts by increasing support to trade; promoting sustained growth in investment; truly increasing official development assistance; and expediting preparations for the review conference on least developed countries. The international community should also attempt to strengthen efforts to continuously enhance policy coordination, as well as steadily improve infrastructure. In addition, developed countries needed to drastically increase the share used for infrastructural development in their ODA, while ensuring the sustained and steady growth of such assistance, he said.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA (Kazakhstan), associating her delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that a series of global crises presented a major threat to the development prospects of landlocked developing countries. During the current global economic downturn, the inherent vulnerability of landlocked developing countries had exposed their economies to severely adverse impacts through trade financing difficulties, contraction in investment flows, potential reduction in official development aid, and, most importantly, through cuts in export demand and falling commodity prices. There was an urgent need for additional development aid by the international community in the form of predictable and concessional financial resources to assist landlocked developing countries facing financing and infrastructure gaps. Technical capacity-building was also crucial in addressing the emerging challenges.
At the same time, it was important to provide all earlier announced financial commitments for development, she said, including those under the aid for trade initiative and emergency assistance according to renewed procedures of the international financial institutions. Drawing particular attention to the economic vulnerability of intercontinental states, she said her delegation strongly called on the international community, including financial and development institutions and donor countries, to strive for the goals and objectives of the Almaty Programme of Action, its midterm review and outcome documents of the relevant ministerial meetings. In particular, Kazakhstan expected a new impetus to solving the landlocked developing countries’ trade barrier issues with the upcoming outcome document of the Third Meeting of the Trade Ministers of Landlocked Developing Countries, to be held in Swaziland.
TATIANA ZVEREVA ( Russian Federation) said that external shocks, including the global economic and financial crisis, had severely impacted the vulnerable least developed countries and she shared the concern of other Member States that the hard-earned achievements on development in these countries might not last. Consequently, it was necessary for the international community to pool its resources to help fragile economies stand firm. The Russian Federation, for one, had expanded its contributions both in terms of money and in terms of food assistance to those in need.
She said that foreign trade played a key role in development and the Russian Federation’s preferential agreements on trade supported the export of craft and agriculture from developing countries. She also reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to the Almaty Programme of Action, and welcomed the Fourth United Nations Conference of the Least Developed Countries to be held in Turkey in 2011, saying that it could provide an impetus to further partnerships between the least developed countries and their development partners. To conclude, she said that infrastructure was an important component of the development agenda and outlined a number of Euro-Asian infrastructure projects, including the constructions of roads and railroads, which would improve the cost and safety of border crossing.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) said progress in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action for the Decade 2001-2010 was uneven. The financial crisis had exacerbated the impact of food insecurity, volatility in energy prices, and climate change on least developed countries. According to estimates of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), 53 million hungry people had fallen below the poverty line in 2009. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicted that the number of hungry would likely increase by 105 million. Climate change had particularly affected vulnerable communities in least developed countries and small island developing States, and he said it was time to provide joint, credible responses to that global challenge. Developed and developing countries should gear their efforts toward mitigation and adaptation in mutual trust, without putting sustainable development initiatives in jeopardy.
Considerable progress had been made in implementing the Almaty Programme of Action, he said, calling for continued efforts to mobilize and promote closer cooperation between landlocked developing countries and development partners, as well as partnerships between the landlocked developing countries and transit countries through regional cooperation mechanisms. In helping least developed countries translate goals into concrete action, national development priorities should be the guiding tool for development partners. The demand-driven assistance approach would increase the prospect of national ownership and therefore would work effectively to the benefit of the country concerned. Capacity-building in human resources, institutions and production facilities was crucial. Turkey had employed that approach in development efforts of the Turkish International Development Cooperation Agency.
BENITO JIMENEZ SAUMA (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said when the world was convulsed with crisis, the situation in the least developed countries and in the landlocked developing countries was worsened, and the magnitude of the recent economic, food and climate crises made it clear that it was necessary to change the development paradigm. High levels of debt in the least developed countries made them more susceptible to the effects of the economic crisis, threatening development achievements. Commercial exchange in the world contracted 9 per cent this year, the biggest contraction since 1945, according to the World Trade Organization.
He said that for the least developed countries and the landlocked developing countries, the outlook was particularly bleak, as they were also hit by the falling prices of raw materials, as well as the developed world’s protectionist measures. The Rio Group recommended the provision of quick loans with flexible terms, so that these countries could meet their funding shortfalls. With respect to the Millennium Development Goals, he said that the least developed countries had made some progress in the areas of health and education. But, he added that there had been no discernible progress on maternal mortality, that many still lived in extreme poverty and that malnutrition appeared worse, especially among women and children. He urged the international community to address the needs of the most vulnerable.
BELAL ABDULGABAR ALI ( Yemen) said the current financial, food and energy crises had negatively impacted least developed countries. It would be increasingly difficult for them to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. That was a hard blow. The international community must increase assistance for the least developed countries. Efficient mechanisms were needed to ensure that donor countries honoured previous commitments. The problems the world faced today were the result of weak implementation of previous commitments. Oil resources, a main source of Yemen’s revenue, had plummeted by 75 per cent, causing the Government to curb spending significantly in 2009. That had forced it to curb efforts to fight poverty. Official development assistance had been reduced, and income from tourism had also fallen.
Yemen had been fighting food poverty, and had reduced it by 8 per cent in the last five years, he said. But, food insecurity had arisen again in the wake of the financial crisis. Yemen was also facing a potable water shortage. In two years, it would not have enough for the population. Developed countries must implement the Brussels Programme of Action. Yemen’s official development assistance did not exceed $15 per capita. But, other countries with a similar economic profile had per capita official development assistance of $40. Too much money was spent on debt servicing and he called on multilateral institutions to either reduce or erase that debt. The upcoming least developed countries conference should focus on a review of the Brussels Programme of Action and lessons learned.
KUNZANG C. NAMGYEL ( Bhutan) said the Millennium Development Goals were fully integrated into Bhutan’s national planning process. In 2006, Bhutan was among the first countries, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to conduct an MDG Needs Assessment and Costing exercise. The exercise estimated that approximately $2.5 billion would be required from 2006 to 2015 to achieve the Goals. That figure would be much higher, however, because of the subsequent global crises, and the high cost of the destruction caused by the recent floods and earthquake in Bhutan.
While Bhutan was on track to achieve most of the Goals as a result of generous support and assistance from its donors, she expressed hope that the recent setbacks, coupled with the crises, would not impede progress. It was imperative that such a situation should also not arise for any of the Least Developed Countries. In that light, her delegation welcomed the kind offer of the Government of Turkey to convene the fourth United Nations Least Developed Countries Conference in 2011.
Her delegation believed it would not be necessary to come up with completely new policy recommendations during that conference. There were enough studies and analyses of what would and would not work. Instead, it was necessary to use the preparatory processes in the lead-up to the conference, as well as the conference itself, to give greater impetus to the momentum generated by the Brussels Programme, since that was leading everyone in the right direction. It was also necessary to use the conference to find innovative ways to mitigate the adverse effects of such crises in the future, so that progress was not hampered.
KATI KORGA ( Togo) said that the economic and financial crisis, the energy and food crises and the upheaval caused by climate change had imperilled the progress of the least developed countries, which were the “weakest link” of the international community. A combination of rising food and fuel prices, with a reduction of demand for exports, and compounded by the problem of debt, had darkened the economic and social prospects for those nations.
Togo, just emerging from a political and social crisis, had suffered in particular because its development partners for 15 years suspended their partnership with dramatic consequences, he said, adding that, despite the Government’s efforts, every day Togo moved further away from the attainment of the goals embedded in the Brussels Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals. Growth rates were disappointing; there had been a collapse in investments, and health care and job creation still needed attention. Meanwhile, major floods had created other difficulties. With respect to climate change, he encouraged Member States in the developed world to increase their financing of projects to help the least developed countries adapt to the phenomenon.
ESAYAS GOTTA ( Ethiopia) said the least developed countries had not benefited from globalization, despite efforts to integrate themselves into the global economy. They had also been hit hard by the global economic crisis. It was incumbent upon the international community to assist them. Least developed countries had made considerable efforts to fulfil their commitment to the Brussels Programme of Action, marked by significant economic growth, poverty alleviation, good governance and increased foreign direct investment in recent years. But their share of global foreign direct investment and trade flows remained low. He called on development partners to help least developed countries build their productive capacity and remove obstacles to trade, and to give them duty-free and quota-free market access. Only eight of the 22 Development Assistance Committee countries had met their official development assistance (ODA) targets. He called on the rest to follow suit.
He said Ethiopia had continued its political and economic transformation. The economy had posted double-digit growth annually in the last five years, and it was expected to do the same this year. That had enabled it to make significant gains in poverty reduction, and it was determined to redouble efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. He called upon development partners to support those efforts. He lamented that since 1971, when the Group of Least Developed Countries was formed, only two of its member countries had managed to graduate. There were only 23 least developed countries in the Group in 1971. Today there were 49. The upcoming Fourth Conference for the Least Developed Countries must look critically at the weaknesses and failures, and it must chart an appropriate course of action for the future. Ethiopia was committed to the Almaty Programme of Action, and it had supported several transport infrastructure development projects.
MOHAMED CHERIF DIALLO ( Guinea) said the devastating effect of the economic crisis was still being felt, particularly in the developing world. A slowdown in growth, increasing unemployment, declines in direct foreign investment and the consequences of climate change presented very gloomy prospects for the least developed countries, which did not have enough resources to face these challenges. Since these crises could erode the development progress which had already been made, it was imperative for the international community to spare no effort to come to the aid of the poorest and most vulnerable. So many years of hard work should not be for nought.
With regard to the Brussels Programme of Action, there had been encouraging results by the least developed countries, especially in the areas of economic and political governance. Politically, there had been a remarkable development in the promotion of democracy, State-building and rule of law. There had also been considerable progress in the fight against corruption, the promotion of sexual equality and access to education. However, much remained to be done for the people of the least developed countries to achieve a higher standard of living.
Economic growth rates were slow and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS was still very high. Similarly, malaria, one of the primary causes of infant mortality, was still a major problem, although bed nets sprayed with insecticides had helped. To conclude, he appealed to all development partners that they continue their assistance and for donor countries to increase the volume and quality of aid. “The success of the Brussels Programme of Action is not inevitable but depends wholly on the will of all stakeholders to honour their commitments,” he said.
JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said the Brussels Programme of Action aimed to help least developed countries through a people-centred policy framework, good governance, building human and institutional capacity and productive capacity to make globalization work, enhancing the role of trade and development, reducing vulnerability, protecting the environment, mobilizing financial resources and better use of aid. Since 2001, there had been much effort by the international community and the least developed countries themselves to achieve those aims. Landlocked developed countries had made efforts to ensure development, but their efforts had not been long-lasting, owing to the multiple global crises. Africa would grow only 2 per cent between 2007 and 2009, after growing 6 per cent between 2004 and 2008.
Least developed countries still suffered from large-scale poverty and high debt, he said. Their economies still suffered. Africa was suffering from the drop in export revenue, official development assistance and remittances. Despite those problems, Africa was obligated to follow pro-cyclical policies and to submit to drastic conditionalities. It was urgent to rethink the conditions of Africa’s participation in the world economy and to enable African countries to make the most of their comparative advantages. Least developed countries needed financial help, and he spoke of commitments made to them by different partners in 2001. He said he supported the holding of the Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in 2011 and he appealed to developed countries to actively participate, so that the international community could jointly review the Programme of Action for 2001-2010.
PHOLOGO GAUMAKWE ( Botswana) said the 2003 Almaty Programme of Action went a long way in offering approaches to addressing the multifaceted problems faced by landlocked developing countries. In his subregion, bilateral arrangements were aimed at simplifying, harmonizing and standardizing roles on transport and transit with neighbouring States, extending use of their ports, rail system and road networks for movement of imports and exports.
He said the geographic location of his country in the heart of southern Africa made it a main transit country serving the Trans Kalahari Corridor linking South Africa and Namibia, and the Lubumbashi Corridor linking the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia. While progress had been made in mobilizing resources from development partners in the social fields, more support was needed in the area of regional infrastructure with attention on a fair balance in assistance to cover the entirety of transport routes and trade corridors. In the current climate of the economic and financial crisis that had negatively impacted on the implementation of infrastructure development programmes, donor countries could consider increasing infrastructure spending beyond the current 10 per cent of the bilateral official development assistance for Sub-Saharan Africa.
IRUTHISHAM ADAM ( Maldives) said her country was poised to graduate from the list of least developed countries in 2011, but tough challenges remained, especially given the turbulent economic environment. Although Maldives had formulated a long-term transition strategy, the present deadlock in the World Trade Organization negotiations raised concerns, and should not be used as an excuse to stall official development assistance, trade, debt relief, investment and other measures. Global environmental degradation was a threat to Maldives and other small island developing States.
One of the Government’s top priorities was economic revitalization and fiscal stability, she said, adding that the United Nations system, along with the IMF and the World Bank, had pivotal roles to play by making financing for development more responsive to the acute vulnerabilities of the least developed countries. Debt relief, increased official development assistance and technology transfers were necessary to address increasing challenges to food security and other issues. She called on development partners, stakeholders and friendly countries for additional funding and predictable innovative forms of financing. A global partnership and collective action were needed to address the special needs of the least developed countries to build on existing accomplishments and to deliver on the promises of the Millennium Declaration.
DAVID CARBAJAL (United States) said his country had embraced a new era of engagement with its partners among the least developed countries, based on mutual interest and respect, and was executing on that commitment. For example, before and after the Pittsburgh G-20 Summit, a senior United States economic official leading with the G-20 process had met with representatives of those countries. In the months ahead, the United States looked forward to building on that dialogue and to information sharing at the United Nations. President Barack Obama had recently announced that the United States would commit at least $3.5 billion over the next three years to promoting agriculture in developing countries. United States leadership had catalyzed momentum at the 2009 G-8 Summit at L’Aquila, Italy, where donors had collectively committed $20 billion to that goal. The United States was committed to working with its least developed country partners to advance and implement country-led agricultural development programmes and strategic coordination.
He also spoke about his country’s major health initiative that would benefit many of those countries. The United States had set aside $63 billion to carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS, end deaths from tuberculosis and malaria, eradicate polio, and strengthen public health systems. It was joining with other countries to contribute influenza A (H1N1) vaccines to the World Health Organization (WHO). Questions of development required a global response and the United States was committed to working with the least developed countries for finding global solutions. Upcoming United Nations events, such as the Economic and Social Council and Second Committee ongoing work on the global financial crisis, next year’s financing for development review, and the 2011 landlocked developing country event, would be key opportunities for advancing that work.
GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA ( Brazil) said the economic crisis may have taken longer to affect least developed countries because of their weak links to global financial centres, but those countries were affected differently, be they oil exporters or net food importers, depending on their levels of debt sustainability, exposure to the climate change and other factors. He called for fiscal and monetary prudence in least developed countries.
He said he welcomed the decisions made by the G-20 to stabilize conditions for the continued growth and welfare of least developed countries. Brazil was a staunch supporter in the G-20, and elsewhere, of measures to boost trade and safeguard development in low-income countries. Brazil’s President has been vocal in his support for more resources for countries most affected by the crisis. During the London Summit in April, agreement was reached to give $50 billion more for least developed countries and $6 billion for the poorest among them, in flexible and fast-disbursing facilities.
Developed countries should make good on their official development assistance commitments, he said, and continue to improve transparency, accountability and local ownership of assistance. South-South cooperation should be further enhanced and supported by the United Nations development system to further implement the Brussels Programme of Action. That should not be guided by the principles of aid effectiveness of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) governing traditional donor-recipient relationships; rather, a different set of principles should be developed to accommodate the specific characteristics and requirements for South-South cooperation based on solidarity, equality and local ownership. The Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries would be a unique opportunity to evaluate how the current economic situation could affect implementation of the Programme of Action and address weaknesses and uneven progress.
BENEDICT LUKWIYA (Uganda) noted with concern that in spite of the recent rise in primary commodity prices, the multiple economic constraints faced by poor countries, particularly the landlocked least developed, had prevented effective diversification of productive capacities in those countries. Instead the extreme volatility of commodity prices in 2008 had significant impact on their economies.
In spite of pursuing strategic policy reforms and continued liberalization of their economies, he said, the inflows of resource-seeking foreign direct investments had continued to be confined to a few countries and sectors such as oil and other extractive industries. Value addition by those commodity-dependent countries had also been hampered by lack of such investments, and poor financing systems as well as high international standards. While there had been considerable increase in aid, its allocation by donors had been characterized by selectivity and high concentration. In his view it was therefore clear that the severe difficulties faced by the least developed countries, particularly those landlocked, had greatly weakened the competitiveness of their domestic economic operators to a low overall economic performance that had resulted in increased levels of poverty.
He added that Uganda strongly believed that cooperation at the subregional and regional levels, including South-South cooperation, held great potential for poverty reduction in those countries if there was a proper mix.
HATEM TAG-ELDIN (Egypt) said that while some progress had been made, least developed countries and landlocked least developed countries continued to be marginalized in international trade, preventing them from fully using trade as an instrument for development goals, and he called on Member States to give special attention to their needs during the Doha negotiations. Furthermore, there was a need to accelerate implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action, he said, adding that Egypt encouraged the strengthening of South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation with the involvement of donors, as well as cooperation among relevant sub-regional and regional organizations.
The current crises in the areas of food, energy, climate and finance compounded the development challenges and constrained national efforts to implement Programmes. Consequently, a robust initiative that included a doubling of efforts and resources on the part of all development partners was required. In terms of official development assistance, developed countries should deliver on their commitments to provide 0.15 per cent to 0.2 per cent of their gross national income to the least developed countries. For its part, Egypt had established two funds as part of its foreign policy mechanism to support and strengthen South-South Cooperation, and the country gave great attention to the role of these Funds.
JOSE ANTONIO DOS SANTOS ( Paraguay) said landlocked developing countries were in an extremely vulnerable situation, which had been exacerbated by the current global crises. He stressed the importance of effectively implementing the Almaty Programme of Action as a way to minimize the costs caused by those countries’ geographic situation. Paraguay’s $450 million infrastructure development programmes aimed to improve the country’s existing infrastructure. Official development assistance was a main financing tool for landlocked developing countries. Investment in infrastructure required predictable international support. He called on donor countries and institutions to give funds to help erase the infrastructure deficits of landlocked developing countries.
South-South cooperation was a priority, but it alone was not sufficient and it must complement North-South cooperation, he said. Climate change was also of concern to Paraguay, which was affected by desertification, reduced rainfall and potable water, and extreme weather events. He reiterated Paraguay’s commitment to implement the Almaty Programme of Action. It was time for a more equitable, just relationship between Member States to help landlocked developed countries overcome the effects of their geographic disadvantage and help them integrate into world markets.
ASAD KHAN (Pakistan) said that important development gains made over the last decade could be reversed on account of the ongoing financial turmoil and other accompanying crises, and that there was a real risk that well-performing economies could be pushed back into the ranks of the poor and vulnerable. Consequently, the United Nations in conjunction with the Bretton Woods institutions should carry out an urgent and comprehensive review of how the present crises have impacted countries in special situations.
Furthermore, the assessment should suggest specific measures to sustain growth and scale up development, he said, adding that Pakistan remained committed to helping the least developed countries and landlocked least developed countries pursue their development goals. With regard to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, to be convened in 2011, he expressed hope that the Conference would play a critical role in restoring the momentum of the process and chalk out a road map for future actions. With regard to climate change, this was a “transformational challenge”, he said, and added that the situation demanded vigilant monitoring with a view to assess the vulnerabilities of each country, especially among the poor.
WALI NAEEMI ( Afghanistan) said that since 2001 Afghanistan had taken very important steps towards achieving the goals set out in the Brussels Programme of Action. He then went on to outline some of those accomplishments, among them getting 7 million children back to school, a third of them girls. However, many children, especially in rural areas, had a hard time getting to school because of the security situation and the terrorist attacks on schools and teachers. Other efforts included substantially reducing the annual rate of infant mortality and maternal mortality, but he noted that close to 900 children under the age of 5 still died every day, and that more than 60 women died daily because of complications related to pregnancy.
Economic growth had been significant, he said, generating a gross domestic product increase per capita of 53 per cent in the last five years, but Afghanistan remained one of the poorest countries in the world with an estimated 28 million people -– or about 70 per cent of the population –- living in poverty. While Afghanistan believed in the Brussels Programme of Action, he expressed fear that the global economic crisis might undermine its implementation. Given Afghanistan’s particular situation as a post-conflict State, and a member of the group of least developed countries and the landlocked least developed countries, he expected that the United Nations and other international organizations would assist with financial and technical support as well as capacity-building and development assistance, so that the country might attain the goals of the Brussels Programme of Action as well as the Millennium Development Goals in a timely fashion.
Alessandro Motter, Liaison Officer for the Inter-Parliamentary Union, whose statement was read by MARINA GARDE, said that weak parliaments brought about weak democracies, and weak democracies, in turn, made for poor development outcomes. Today, more than ever, involvement of parliaments was crucial to ensure that Governments were held to account for the implementation of international commitments such as the Brussels Programme of Action. Regrettably, however, weak capacities continued to limit input of parliaments, as far as that Programme was concerned, and there had been a palpable lack of legislative ownership of the Brussels Programme of Action process. He was pleased to note that the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, was striving to remedy that shortcoming.
The trend of strong growth in least developed countries in the years immediately following the adoption of the Brussels programme had been reversed by today’s series of global crises, which drove home the urgent need to step up efforts to turn the programme into everyday reality. Preparations for the Fourth Conference of Least Developed Countries offered a golden opportunity for parliaments to contribute to those efforts. He expected that the role of parliaments in preparations for the conference would be fully realized. The Union had called for direct parliamentary involvement in national and regional preparations, asking its members to exercise more oversight and demand more government accountability with respect to the Brussels Programme.
RICHARD KENNEDY, of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said that despite positive achievements in economic growth and poverty reduction in recent years, the least developed countries faced a very high risk of losing much of those gains for reasons beyond their control.
The exact implications of the global recession for productive sectors among those countries were unclear. UNIDO and the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States, in collaboration with other key development agencies, were organizing a conference of ministers of industry and trade, to be held in December. That was aimed to better understand the impact of the crisis and to formulate a plan of action to support the least developed nations in emerging from the crisis on a path to sustainable development. Further, there was support already available within the United Nations system, he said, noting that more than 70 per cent of UNIDO’s trade-capacity-building programmes were aimed at the least developed.
* *** *For information media • not an official record