13 May 2011
General Assembly
DEV/2895

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

New Action Programme Vows to Halve Number of Least Developed Countries

 

by 2020, as United Nations Conference Closes in Istanbul

 


Consensus Text Sets Forth Decisive Steps to Transform

World’s Poorest Nations into ‘Future Developed Countries’


(Received from a UN Information Officer.)


ISTANBUL, 13 May — Slashing by half the list of 48 States with the most extreme poverty and vulnerability to crises is the goal of a new 10-year action plan agreed by the world’s Governments at the conclusion this evening in Istanbul, Turkey, of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.


Countries at the Conference, which opened on 9 May, reviewed progress in implementing the foundational Brussels Programme of Action, launched by Governments in 2001 in response to the profound challenges facing a stricken population of some 880 million.  The Brussels plan introduced good governance principles, among others, into the relationship between the least developed countries and their development partners and was widely seen as a results-oriented comprehensive poverty reduction strategy for the decade.


But amid mixed reviews on progress towards its implementation — only three countries graduated since its adoption from the United Nations-identified list of least developed countries (Botswana in 1994, Cape Verde in 2007 and Maldives in January 2011) leaving still 48 countries behind — the aim this week was to set policy priorities for the next 10 years to significantly improve that record.


Indeed, Governments tonight committed to further strengthen their support to the poorest countries by “creating a favourable environment for sustainable development, increasing productive capacities, diversification of economies and building the necessary infrastructure”, according to the political declaration (document A/CONF.219/L.1).


The declaration underscores that the ownership, leadership and primary responsibility for escaping poverty rests with the countries themselves, with good governance, inclusiveness, transparency, respect for human rights, reduced corruption and domestic resource mobilization central.  It also emphasizes, however, that those efforts must be given “concrete and substantial” international support “in a spirit of shared responsibility and mutual accountability through renewed and strengthened global partnership”.


The text serves as a sort of preamble to the new Programme of Action (document A/CONF.219.3), which calls for, among other things, development partners to “provide enhanced financial and technical support for infrastructure development in line with least developed countries’ sectoral and development needs and priorities” and use other funds to catalyze and leverage other sources of funding including foreign direct investment and domestic resources.


Noting that official development assistance had risen from $12 billion to $38 billion between 2001 and 2008 but still had fallen short of meeting the needs of the least developed countries, Governments pledged to ensure the fulfilment of their commitments and further align aid with the priorities and systems of their partners.  They also vowed to further advance trade policy in favour of the poorest countries in areas such as market entry and access, tariffs, customs and regional integration.


To assist more States in making the complex transition to graduation from the list of least developed countries, the new action plan specifies joint action by those countries and their development partners, covering 27 priority areas, from infrastructure building to provision of energy to disaster risk reduction to enhancing human resources through health measures and empowerment of women and youth — which formed a huge portion of the population in poor countries.


Organs of the United Nations, including the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, along with such agencies as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), were tasked in the document with overseeing follow-up activity, and the Assembly was invited to conduct a comprehensive five-year review.  The United Nations Secretary-General was also asked to report on implementation at the sixty-seventh General Assembly.


“We have a goal oriented, substantive Programme of Action for the next decade,” said Cheick Sidi Diarra, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States and Conference Secretary-General.


Now, he asserted, the more challenging phase was starting:  ensuring that our actions make a difference in the lives of the 880 million people in the LDCs (least developed countries)”.  He pledged that the United Nations would work with all stakeholders to assure that the results of this Conference would be something in which all could take pride. 


While the agreement did not entirely reflect the aspirations of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, or of the least developed countries, said Argentina’s representative on the Group’s  behalf, he said he was nevertheless pleased it had maintained commitments that had proven feasible in the Brussels plan.  In implementing the new Programme, it would be important to recognize developed countries as associates.


The representative of the European Union expressed satisfaction with the proceedings and their “ambitious and realistic” outcome, saying that the Conference had marked the beginning of a new era, with States entering a new and strengthened partnership for mutual accountability.  He pledged that the Union would continue its lead role in support of the work ahead.


“The Programme of Action provides a clear road map for the future of almost 1 billion people living in LDCs,” said Upendra Yadav, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Nepal and Chair of the Global Coordination Bureau of the Least Developed Countries, following the text’s adoption.  Noting the intensity of negotiations during the past five days and the compromises made, he said the strategic focus of the Programme towards economic development intended to address the key challenges of all the poorest countries, related to high rates of poverty, deep structural constraints and vulnerabilities, in a coherent and sustained manner. 


Closing the proceedings, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, said the Istanbul Programme had drawn the parameters for renewed partnership during the next decade.  As a developing country, Turkey had many experiences to share with least developed countries, and it was ready and willing to do its part. 


In fact, he announced that his country would make available $200 million annually starting in 2012 for technological cooperation and scholarships, building on its history of support for development projects.  It also hoped to up its total investments in least developed countries to a total $5 billion by 2015 and to $10 billion by 2020.


“Let us be part of a process that builds hope and aspirations,” he asserted, suggesting that least developed countries instead be called “future developed countries”.   Turkey believed a brighter future was possible and it would do its utmost to make that happen. 


Earlier today, the Conference heard the views of senior officials of United Nations organizations, as well as regional multilateral finance and development institutions, as its week-long general debate concluded.  Some speakers argued for a significant scale-up of agricultural investments and speedy conclusion of the long-stalled Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization negotiations.


Others said that smart nutrition and security policies should revolve around investing in people.  Social protection programmes were essential, including safety nets, which should be scaled up or down as needed, in times of life-threatening events, many added.  Investing in nutrition was also key, as malnourished children tended to have lower adult earnings, which robbed countries of 2 to 3 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP).


A key question posed by some revolved around what young people would do in the coming decade.  The labour force in least developed countries was growing by 10.2 million annually and jobs must be created simply to maintain poverty levels.  The challenge hinged on creating activities both within and outside of the agriculture sector, as urbanization trends would only accelerate in the coming decade.


In the meantime, expanded access to information and communications technologies was already opening new avenues for growth in the poorest nations.  At the end of 2010, 3 per cent of their populations was connected to the internet, 10 times higher than in 2001, said Cosmas Zavazava, Chief of the Projects and Knowledge Management Department of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  “This is a big deal.”  The Internet could “massively” expand delivery of such vital services as health care and education over the next decade.


Round-up


The Conference, launched by General Assembly resolution 63/227 of 2008, opened on Monday with an appeal by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon:  “Let us recognize these 48 countries as vast reservoirs of untapped potential.”  He called for a new vision to reverse the profound poverty of the people living in the world’s least developed nations — 33 of which are in Africa, 14 in Asia and one, Haiti, in the Western hemisphere.  He said that investing in those countries was an opportunity for all.  “I am not arguing for charity, but investment,” he said, stressing that “the returns can be profound — not just for people living in the LDCs, but for the global economy”.


Among the other high-level speakers who addressed the opening were General Assembly President Joseph Deiss, who stressed that the international community must ensure a global environment that facilitated trade, investment and technology transfers conducive to diversifying the economies of the least developed countries.  In addition, Abdullah Gül, President of Turkey, insisted upon a new vision that reflected the parameters of the global development agenda and the development priorities of those countries themselves.


During the Conference’s general debate, which stretched over eight meetings, 150 statements were made by 36 Heads of State and Government and 96 Ministers, civil society organizations, private-sector actors and chiefs of international agencies.  A common theme was the need to preserve the range of pledges by all parties under the Brussels action plan, but to give greater weight to investment in productive sectors, chiefly agriculture and infrastructure.  Calls were also made for women’s empowerment, investment in youth job creation, and tearing down trade barriers that seriously hampered the efforts of the least developed countries to jump-start development. 


The Conference also featured a series of high-level interactive thematic debates, seen by the participants as an innovative mechanism for renewing partnerships, identifying challenges and providing solutions.  Those expert-led discussions focused on:  enhancing productive capacities and the role of the private sector in least developed countries; resource mobilization and global partnership; harnessing trade for development and transformation; good governance at all levels; reducing vulnerabilities, responding to emerging challenges, and enhancing food security; and human and social development, gender equality and empowerment of women.


In further business, Jarmo Viianen of Finland, Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, introduced that Committee’s work to the Conference, which was then adopted.  Jean-Francis Zinsou of Benin, Conference Rapporteur, introduced the draft Conference Report, contained in document A/CONF.219/L.2, which was also adopted.


Also, the representative of Argentina, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution, entitled “Expression of thanks to the people and Government of Turkey”.  It was adopted by the Conference.


Statements in the general debate were made today by representatives of the International Organization of Migration (IOM), African Development Bank (AfDB), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty Organization (CTBTO), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), International Maritime Organization (IMO), and United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).


The President of the Economic and Social Council also spoke. 


Explaining their position on the outcome documents were the representatives of the Delegation of the European Union, and Australia (on behalf of Canada and New Zealand-CANZ).


Background


The Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries this morning continued its week-long meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.  (For background, see Press Release DEV/2877 of 5 May). 


Statements


WILLIAM LACY SWING, Director General of the International Organization of Migration (IOM), said “our world is on the move”, due, not just to population growth, but to the information and communications revolution.  Ten years ago, 300 million people were connected to the Internet; today, that figure was at 2 billion.  Labour market requirements, economic and social disparities between the North and South and the increasing effects of climate change were also driving migration.


The issue of migration, which 10 years ago would have received very little notice, was today front and centre for every Government, he said, noting that it was a principal determinant of whether societies prospered or development opportunities bore fruit.  The Istanbul outcome must reflect the relationship between migration and development, and the need to identify strategies for a smooth partnership.


At least $350 billion circulated from host to home countries, and attention must be paid to how best to use remittances, he said.  The nexus between migration and climate change also deserved more attention, as migration was a survival strategy for some and an adaptation strategy for others.  South-South migration — which was much larger than South-North migration — as well as women and family migration were also important.  Those issues must be included in national development plans and donor strategies.


KAMAL EL-KHESHEN, Vice-President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), said the Bank continued to target its activities towards infrastructure, private sector development, governance and skills development to the least developed countries.  It also supported efforts to build capable Government institutions, particularly through sound public financial management to effectively generate, manage and expand public resources and create an enabling environment for private-sector development.  Through its unique “fragile States” facility, which had helped mitigate persistent vulnerabilities, the Bank worked to bolster development in the African least developed countries, particularly the 17 most fragile and post-conflict States.


He said that growth must become inclusive and sustained, and the Bank was working to ensure that, even as many African countries continued to struggle with weak capacities and economies that were built around single or few commodities.  The Bank also supported the movement towards scaling up investment in the continent’s agriculture sector.  At the same time, African countries must begin to seek out innovative solutions, such as public-private partnerships, remittances and diaspora networks.


The Bank, he noted, was supporting that effort by, among other ways, reducing risks of doing business on the continent by building institutions and promoting good governance and economic stability.  He remained highly optimistic about the future of African least developed countries and hoped the Istanbul programme of action would help them achieve their development goals.  For that to happen, it was imperative that an effective and participatory monitoring mechanism be established to guide the programme’s implementations.


MUSTAPHA SINACEUR, representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), expressed support for the proposal put forward by Turkey to review the term “least developed country”, so the potential of those countries was recognized.  The rapid rise in food and commodity prices was troubling.  For example, the prices of cereals — the food staple for most people worldwide — had jumped by 68 per cent in the past 18 months.  That trend was exacerbated by the increase on natural disasters and the inexorable effects of climate change. 


He said that eradicating hunger and meeting food and nutrition demands by 2050 required increasing production by 70 per cent globally and nearly 100 per cent in the developing world.  Accomplishing that required, among other things, a significant scale-up of investment in agriculture and the speedy conclusion of the long-stalled Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization negotiations.  The Food and Agriculture Organization, for its part, had launched a series of food security initiatives, totaling some $3.7 billion.  It had also worked in recent years to combat rising food prices in the least developed countries by, among other ways, securing through the European Union Food Facility a programme to increase farmers’ access to credit and other funds to enable them to increase production.  


COSMAS ZAVAZAVA, Chief of the Projects and Knowledge Management Department of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said information and communications technology played a catalytic role in accelerating local economies and meeting development goals.  In 2001, combined “teledensity” in least developed countries stood at 1.17 per cent, while in developing countries — including powerhouses such as China — that was at 17 per cent.


At the start of 2011, however, mobile cellular “teledensity” in last developed countries had reached 29 per cent, he said, adding that at the end of 2010, 3 per cent of their populations were connected to the Internet, which was 10 times higher than in 2001.


“This is a big deal,” he asserted, because the Internet could “massively” expand delivery of vital services, such as health care and education, especially in countries with large rural populations.  There was tremendous cause to be optimistic, as information and communications technologies would be pivotal to the economic and social development of least developed countries over the next decade.


MOHAMED EL-KOUHENE, Deputy Director, Division of Multilateral and NGO Relations of the World Food Programme (WFP), said the Programme had transformed from a food aid organization to a food assistance agency, with programmes tailored to meet the needs of the most vulnerable countries.  Smart food, nutrition and security measures to be included in the Istanbul action plan should be people-centred.  A simple indicator of countries’ quality of life was the percentage of its “stunted” children, with low height.  Malnourished children tended to start school late and had lower adult earnings, which robbed countries of 2 to 3 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP).


Investing in social protection programmes was also essential, he said, including safety nets, which should be scaled up or down as needed.  Investing in nutrition was also vital, as the first 1,000 days of a child’s life were the window by which those investments would have the greatest impact.  The effects of undernutrition were largely irreversible.  The resilience of vulnerable communities to climate change also must be enhanced through community disaster risk-reduction measures.  “There can be no food security without climate security,” he said, as there would be an estimated 25 million more malnourished children because of climate change.


GUNILLA OLSSON, Director of Governance, United Nations and Multilateral Affairs of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), appealed to participants to keep strongly in mind the commitments made in Istanbul when they returned home and to generate a real change for people in poor countries, particularly for those who represented both the present and the future, and who made up around half the population of the least developed countries — children.  Those nations were lowest in terms of access to basic services and highest in terms of malnutrition.  That caused stunting, which, in turn, greatly reduced the ability to build a nation.  Poor nutrition was a “silent emergency” that received far too little attention.


She said that while investing in productive capacity was fundamental, it must also be recognized that investing in people, in the social sector, was the foundation of any country’s development.  A focus on the most disadvantaged was also essential, to narrow the gap between rich and poor children, which had actually widened recently in many least developed countries.  That approach was actually most cost-effective, as it could quickly reduce mortality under age 5.  Investing in the most vulnerable children, and providing them with the opportunity to develop their potential, was one of the best investments a country and the international community could make.


TIBOR TÓTH, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), said that in mid-March, Japan had been hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.  That catastrophe had led to a nuclear emergency, owing to the release of radiation. Those parallel events had revealed that it was difficult for even the most developed of countries to cope with natural and manmade disasters.  Yet, it might soothe some to know that there was a global monitoring system, which, with more than 300 stations, had detected the earthquake and contributed to tsunami early warning, and which had monitored the spread of radioactive particles in the wake of the nuclear incident.


He said that those stations were part of an international monitoring system.  That system was backed by a treaty — the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  And that Treaty was backed by an international organization, the CTBTO.  “This system is your system; this organization is your organization; and this Treaty is your Treaty,” he said, asking delegations what they would do if they had $1 billion and more than 1,000 top-notch scientists working at hundreds of high-tech facilities worldwide at their disposal every hour of the day.  “Would you say no to that?  I am here to tell you why you should say yes.”


He said that the entire CTBTO architecture could help the least developed countries, particularly because they were most affected by climate change and natural disasters.  The verification regime of the Treaty used cutting-edge technologies and scientific methods to monitor the planet for nuclear explosions.  The resulting data offered a wide range of civil and scientific applications, including possible uses in research on the Earth’s core, monitoring of earthquakes and volcanoes, climate change research, atmospheric monitoring and biological research.  “So, this Treaty is your Treaty,” he reiterated, and added:  “The Treaty is about the future of your security and the future of your environment”.


DEMBA DIARRA, Secretary, Office of the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that African least developed countries had significant growth rates over the past three years and had even rebounded a bit in the wake of the global economic and financial crisis.  Trade, particularly between and among developing countries, had been essential in driving that growth.  Yet, that success had not led to job creation and had not helped those countries expand or diversify their export bases. The rate of African countries’ graduation from the least developed category had been disappointing.


The key to changing that trend was developing a critical mass of productive capacity to enhance the economies of those countries and strengthen human development.  The potential of South-South cooperation in boosting productive capacity should also be exploited.  He also called for the speedy conclusion of the Doha Development Round and more investment in Aid for Trade initiatives.  As for the African least developed countries themselves, he urged those nations to, among other things, continue to integrate the aims of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), particularly the African Peer Review Mechanism.  Enhancing productive capacity was critical for resilience and sustained growth, and, ultimately, for graduation from least developed status.


JUVENAL SHIUNDU, Deputy Director of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), said the maritime transport sector was a primary service of the global economy, as 90 per cent of global trade was carried by sea, by far the most effective way to move food and raw materials.  Many developing countries could not implement IMO instruments, and for that reason, a technical cooperation programme had been established to help build capacity and compliance with the regulatory framework.  It prioritized activities to promote implementation of IMO instruments and attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.


The IMO, since the mid-1990s, had placed Africa among its priorities, he said, explaining in that context that high transport and logistics costs had impacted least developed countries’ ability to compete in the global marketplace, as many paid up to three times more for their shipping services than developed nations.  In response, a programme had been designed to support small island developing States and least developed countries, aiming to address poverty alleviation through capacity-building in the maritime sector.


He said that the East African and Indian regions were the most affected by piracy, noting that between $7 and $12 billion were lost annually from the disruption of shipping services.  In February, the IMO had launched an action plan to strengthen its anti-piracy efforts, aiming to increase awareness of the situation off the coast of Somalia, motivate Governments, among others, to stem piracy around the Horn of Africa and send a message that the plight of seafarers was central to the IMO.


GUNTER FISCHER of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said fiscal austerity and “doing more with less” was the order of the day.  There was a strong will to build on the Brussels action plan, because, while least developed countries had achieved high growth, the pattern of that growth had been based on mineral and oil extraction, on the one hand, and “survivalist” informal activities, among others, on the other. Poverty reduction had been painfully slow.


One key question revolved around what young people would do in the coming decade, he said, noting that the labour force in least developed countries was growing by 10.2 million annually.  Jobs must be created in those nations simply to ensure that poverty levels did not increase.  The challenge centred on activities created both within and outside the agriculture sector, as the trend of moving to the cities would only accelerate in the coming decade.  Indeed, it was essential to harness the power of young people.


Welcoming that productive capacity had been placed at the heart of the Istanbul programme, he also said it was a key to reducing poor nations’ marginalization in world trade, reducing their structural vulnerabilities and providing a base for expanded resource mobilization in the medium- and long-term.  UNCTAD had advanced that agenda for some time, arguing that productive capacity required a more active development role for the State.  It was also encouraging that the Istanbul programme prioritized science, technology and innovation, and devoted attention to commodities.


LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, noting that some would leave Istanbul disappointed that they had not achieved all of what they had wished, while others would be pleased their goals had been met, said:  “This is the nature of negotiations.”  He viewed the Conference not as a negotiation, but as a dialogue in which there were not supposed to be winners or losers.  The Conference had presented an opportunity to build bridges among all stakeholders, and break down the many invisible walls that prevented them from understanding each other, he said; walls intended to protect those who least needed it, yet hurt the most vulnerable. 


“We may not have built all the bridges we need, nor broken all the walls,” he said, “but we have made a start,” by setting clear goals and concrete measures to achieve them.  It should be understood that the ultimate truth was that real human progress could only be achieved if it brought prosperity to all countries of the world.  There would be no real peace “as long as we allow small islands of wealth to float in the turbulent oceans of poverty”, he declared.


Action on Texts


The Conference then adopted by consensus its outcome documents, the Istanbul Political Declaration and Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (documents A/CONF.219/L.1 and A/CONF.219/3, respectively).


Speaking in explanation of position after action on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the representative of Argentina said that, at times, it had been a “very hard” negotiating process and delegates must congratulate each other for having adopted the Programme of Action.  While the agreement did not entirely reflect the aspirations of the Group or of least developed countries, it had maintained various commitments that had proven feasible in the Brussels action plan, and he was pleased about that.


In implementing the Istanbul Programme, it would be important to recognize developed countries as associates, he said, underlining their critical role in investing in physical and human capital, reducing poverty and promoting both growth and sustainable development.  The United Nations system, including the Bretton Woods institutions and regional development banks, was also called on to support the least developed countries.


Developing countries, for their part, were proud that the Istanbul Programme, through its inclusion of South-South cooperation, had kept a specific identity and preserved a logic based on solidarity and respect for national developing priorities.  “We look forward to the promotion of South-South cooperation within our own capacities,” and of bringing added value to the Action Programme.


In that context, he said partnership was not a matter of charity, but rather entered into with a view to improving the quality of life and remedying the consequences of injustices that had pervaded the world for centuries.  With that, he thanked the representative of Nepal for his role as Chair of the Global Coordination Bureau of the Least Developed Countries.


The representative of the Delegation of the European Union expressed satisfaction with the proceedings and their “ambitious and realistic” outcome, saying that the Conference marked the beginning of a new era.  Indeed, 2020 should see half of the least developed countries meeting graduation criteria.  The Union’s support for their development had always been strong.  It was the largest donor to least developed countries, providing full market access to all their products and encouraging others to do likewise.


Indeed, in Istanbul, States had entered into a new and strengthened partnership for mutual accountability, he said, citing the involvement of developing countries and emerging economies through South-South cooperation.  Expressing full confidence in the private sector’s support for the Programme of Action, he said the document set out priorities for overcoming structural challenges.


He also was satisfied that the global partnership had been made stronger, which sent a great message to those most in need.  For its part, the Union was determined to continue its lead role in those endeavours, and he expressed appreciation for the “spirit of cooperation and mutual trust” that had prevailed among Member States.


The representative of Australia, speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand (CANZ), applauded the strong political commitment that had been shown in Istanbul, and welcomed the documents just adopted.  The outcomes contained concrete goals and objectives, which spoke to the will of the international community to comprehensively address the situation of the least developed countries.  “We will all need to work hard to achieve these goals, and CANZ will do its part to see that we achieve them,” he said.


Closing Statements


UPENDRA YADAV, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Nepal and Chair of the Global Coordination Bureau of the Least Developed Countries, noted the intense negotiations of the past five days and said that the Istanbul Programme of Action was a significant step forward, even though, as was true of any negotiations, middle ground had to be found between differing ambitions.  What had been achieved must be consolidated and built upon further in the days ahead.  “The Programme of Action provides a clear road map for the future of almost 1 billion people living in LDCs (least developed countries).  It also reflects the firm commitments of LDCs and those of our development partners based on the principle of shared responsibility,” he declared.


He said that following the Conference’s conclusion, all focus should be on the timely fulfilment of those commitments, with a view to ensuring an effective implementation of the Programme of Action.  The strategic focus of the Programme towards economic development intended to address the key challenges of all the poorest countries, related to high rates of poverty, deep structural constraints and vulnerabilities, in a coherent and sustained manner.  The Conference had rightly placed the issues high on the international agenda.  In conclusion, he expressed thanks to the Government and people of Turkey, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and all those involved with the organization and success of the Conference.


In concluding remarks, CHEICK SIDI DIARRA, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States and Conference Secretary-General, thanked all participants for their hard work on the intergovernmental, parliamentary, civil society and private sector tracks.


“We have a goal-oriented, substantive Programme of Action for the next decade,” he said, pointing to items not contained in the Brussels Programme of Action, such as issues of climate change and its mitigation and funding, technology transfers, and transfers in investment and capital — issues that were not high on the list of concerns in 2001 at the Brussels Conference.


He also welcomed the commitment to address the needs of countries that graduated from the category, along with the intention to create comprehensive follow-up mechanisms.  He noted a host of side initiatives launched at the Conference, in trade, agriculture, human development and many other areas. 


Now, however, the more challenging phase was starting, namely, “ensuring that our actions make a difference in the lives of the 880 million people in the LDCs”, he said.  The United Nations would work with all stakeholders to ensure that the results of this Conference would be something in which all could take pride. 


Finally, he thanked the Government of Turkey for hosting the Conference and working in many areas on behalf of the least developed countries.  He also thanked those countries, individuals and groups, and the United Nations Secretariat, which had supported the organization of the Conference. 


Wishing all a safe voyage home, he said it was now incumbent upon all to deliver on their commitments.


AHMET DAVUTOĞLU, Minster of International Relations of Turkey, speaking also on behalf of President Abdullah Gül, said it had been an honour to chair the Conference, which constituted a significant step forward in confronting the problems of least developed countries.  The Istanbul Programme of Action had drawn the parameters for renewed and strengthened partnerships during the next decade.


From the outset, he said that Turkey had committed to hosting the Conference and had contributed substantively by taking part in the preparatory process.  In the last two years, many regional and thematic meetings had been held, which had paved the way for today’s outcome.  He was delighted that 8,931 people had attended the Conference.  “This is a very good number,” he said, noting that, together with side activities, that figure would exceed 10,000.  Further, 36 Heads of State and Government, 96 ministers and 66 presidents of international organizations had attended, which testified to the priority and dedication given to the least developed countries.


Describing the Istanbul Programme, he said it contained actions to be taken by 2020 by the least developed countries and their partners to achieve sustained and equitable growth.  Its primary aim was to eradicate poverty and hunger.  Quoting the Prophet Muhammad, he said:  “He who sleeps on a full stomach while his neighbour goes hungry is not one of the members of humanity.”


In that context, he said he was pleased that the Programme further strengthened the international community’s partnership with the least developed countries.  It set out a cooperation framework with the United Nations and international institutions within the context of South-South cooperation, and highlighted the importance of women’s role in that effort.  It also underscored the need for more official development assistance, enhanced trade access, increased production capacities and the promotion of investments to those ends.


Turkey was ready and willing to do its part, he said, announcing that his country would make available $200 million annually starting in 2012 for technological cooperation and scholarships, building on its history of support for development projects.  Turkey also hoped to increase its total investments in least developed countries to a total $5 billion by 2015 and to $10 billion by 2020.


While the Brussels action plan had been criticized for not delivering on its promised results, he said the Istanbul Programme of Action would ensure ownership of the post-Conference phase by all stakeholders, who must take responsibility for implementation and monitoring.  Turkey would allocate $5 million for monitoring the implementation of the Istanbul Programme and was ready to host a midterm review in 2015.


As a developing country, Turkey had many experiences to share with least developed countries, he said, adding that it sought no economic or political gains.  Bridging the East, West, North and South, it was determined to work for economic justice for all, a duty bestowed on it by its geographic location.  Indeed, a world that tolerated extreme inequalities was not one built on shared objectives; a more dignified future must be built for the least developed countries.


“Let us be part of a process that builds hope and aspirations,” he asserted, suggesting that least developed countries instead be called “future developed countries”.  Turkey believed a brighter future was possible and it would do its utmost to make that happen.  “We are a big family of humanity; we need to have full solidarity and feel the suffering of 900 million brothers and sisters all over the world,” he declared.


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