5 May 2011
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Background Release

Poor Countries Bid to Halt Cycle of Poverty at United Nations Conference


on Least Developed Countries in Istanbul, 9-13 May


Prime Minister Erdoğan, Secretary-General Ban to Address

Heads of State, Government as Turkey Hosts Decade’s First Major Development Meeting

NEW YORK/ISTANBUL, 5 May 2011 — Talks on a new 10-year programme for the world’s poorest nations are under way as Heads of State and Government, lawmakers, civil society organizations, the private sector and chiefs of international agencies gather in Istanbul, Turkey, early this month.

Negotiators for the least developed countries (LDCs) are looking to put measures in place for building infrastructure to attain economic self-sufficiency, push back poverty and create decent jobs in the 48 poorest of nations,33 of which are in Africa, 14 in Asia and one, Haiti, in the Western hemisphere.  Such steps would include continued LDC progress on economic reform, governance and tapping domestic resources.

Internationally, the world’s most economically vulnerable countries are looking for the larger economies to open up market access for LDC exports; to continue increasing development aid and better targeting it towards infrastructure and leveraging new investment; and to provide incentives for companies thinking of investing in LDCs.

Around 40 Heads of State and Government have so far been confirmed for the Fourth United Nations Conference on LDCs in as many decades, in addition to 24 chiefs of United Nations and international agencies.

Second Decade of Twenty-first Century a Swing Point for LDCs

With decade-long growth rates higher than the emerging market average, possession of a significant share of the world’s strategic resources (petrol, metals, minerals and arable land), young workforces and growing buying power among consumers, LDCs are attracting private sector interest.  Among the features of the 9-13 May United Nations Conference will be an LDC trade fair and a private sector forum and CEO summit on international business opportunities in those countries.  However, LDCs average a 50 per cent rate of extreme poverty and are victims of deadly diseases and climate change, while remaining highly vulnerable to political or external economic shocks.  A report released in late March by an expert panel appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General warned of continued marginalization of LDCs.

Chaired by Alpha Oumar Konare, former President of Mali, and James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank, the panel said that the persistence of a two-track world — with advancing developed and emerging-market economies on the one hand, and poor countries falling behind — would have serious security implications.  Rising food prices pose a severe challenge and an opportunity; most LDCs are net food importers and one third of their populations are chronically malnourished.  But if modern infrastructure is in place and local farmers have access to necessary support, they might benefit from firm prices and launch a turnaround in low-productivity agriculture.

The Chief Executives Board (CEB), the highest level coordinating mechanism within the United Nations system and chaired by the Secretary-General, has taken the initiative to issue a joint statement supporting the Conference and its outcome.  The CEB statement will be issued on 9 May on behalf of 35 heads of United Nations-affiliated agencies and organizations — including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization — and of Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro.

Cheick Sidi Diarra, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, has been appointed Secretary-General of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.

For more information, contact Ricardo Dunn of the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States at dunn@un.org, Conference Spokesperson Tim Wall at wallt@un.org, Charlotte Scaddan at scaddan@un.org, or Andre-Michel Essoungou of the Department of Public Information at essoungou@un.org; or visit the Conference website, www.un.org/en/ldc/.

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For information media • not an official record