19 March 2010 The progress made over the past decade in lifting the world’s most vulnerable nations out of poverty has been undermined since the global recession began, according to a senior United Nations official, who urged rich countries not to renege on their commitments to support the poorest of the poor.
“We don’t think that the prevailing crisis should be an excuse to not continue international support in favour of the least developed countries (LDCs),” Cheick Sidi Diarra, the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said in an interview with the UN News Centre.
“We want to see the international community maintain the level of commitment and the level of enthusiasm it showed when we were adopting the Brussels Programme of Action,” he added, referring to the outcome document adopted at the 2001 UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
The 10-year plan outlines measures to be taken by both industrialized nations and the LDCs themselves to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development.
The Brussels Programme of Action includes specific commitments on good governance, enhancing the role of trade in development, reducing vulnerability to natural disasters, protecting the environment, mobilizing financial resources, and speedy implementation of steps to reduce the debt burden on poor countries.
While the world’s 49 LDCs were making strides and benefiting from international support, the situation changed with the onset of the global economic and financial crisis in 2008, which led to a reduction in official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment (FDI), noted Mr. Diarra.
“For the time being, we would understand that new commitments are difficult to take in this context. But what we want is for the international community to deliver on the commitments that have been already taken.”
He stressed that strong international support is particularly crucial to help LDCs achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight globally-agreed targets to halve poverty and other socio-economic ills by 2015.
“The small gains that we made during the first eight years of the first decade [of the millennium] might be lost because of the lack of support on the part of the international community,” the High Representative said.
The development challenges facing the LDCs was the focus of a regional meeting held in Addis Ababa last week in preparation for the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs, to be held next year in Istanbul, Turkey, where a successor to the Brussels Programme of Action is expected to be adopted.
In his statement to the regional meeting, Mr. Diarra stressed that African LDCs, and LDCs in general, cannot afford to lose yet another decade. “The MDG agenda, and indeed the entire global development agenda, cannot succeed unless it creates decent living conditions for the 800 million people in the LDCs.”
He cited in particular the need to support African LDCs to strengthen their productive capacity in three areas – agriculture, services and manufacturing. Diversifying their economies, generating employment and tackling issues such as food security and climate change, will also go a long way in helping them achieve the MDGs.
With five years to go before the 2015 deadline to achieve the MDGs, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in a report released this week that progress has been uneven and without an accelerated action plan several Goals are likely to be missed in many countries.
Mr. Ban is convening a high-level summit in New York in September, just prior to the start of the General Assembly’s annual General Debate, which he hopes will produce a concrete plan to chart the course for the coming years.
Mr. Diarra said he hoped that the September meeting will result in concrete steps on the part of both the international community and the most vulnerable countries to further poverty eradication and sustainable development for the “weakest of the weak.”
News Tracker: past stories on this issue