Least developed countries at a ‘turning point,’ says the UN’s Cheick Sidi Diarra

Cheick Sidi DiarraUnder-Secretary-General Cheick Sidi Diarra: Despite advances, LDCs still need “structural transformation” to eradicate poverty and develop their economies.
Photograph: UN Africa Renewal / Michael Fleshman

Dozens of countries attended a week-long meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York to speed anti-poverty efforts in the world’s poorest countries. The 10-14 January conference was a working session intended to inform discussions by world leaders at the 4th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) scheduled for the second week of May in Istanbul, Turkey.

The man leading the effort for the UN, Under-Secretary-General Cheick Sidi Diarra, told delegates at the conference opening that many LDCs made “considerable progress in some areas” over the last decade. But there has not been the kind of economic “structural transformation” needed to eradicate poverty and finance infrastructure, health and education needs, he continued. Despite some of the world’s highest and most sustained growth rates, he noted, more than half of the population in LDCs still live in absolute poverty.

Some 48 countries, including 33 in Africa, are currently designated “least developed” by the UN, using a combination of different measurements, including income, health and education levels and trade and economic development indicators. Only three countries have “graduated” from the LDC ranking — Botswana, Cape Verde and the Maldives. The Istanbul meeting is intended to add new urgency to international development efforts.

Mr. Diarra, the high representative for least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states, predicted that the 9-13 May meeting in Istanbul would shape the development agenda for the poorest countries for years to come. Increased investment in infrastructure, manufacturing and farm production, greater development aid and private investment, better access to world markets and help in combating climate change, he said, will be critical if the world’s poorest countries are to lift themselves from poverty.

Through better domestic policies and increased international support, Mr. Diarra concluded, half the countries now classified as LDCs could graduate from the list within the next 10 years. “We are at a turning point in the process,” he told reporters after the conference opening. “The next days and months will be crucial.”

— Africa Renewal online