New UN statistics released this month show that nearly half of the world’s 50 least developed countries achieved growth rates of 5 per cent or better in 2002-2003.
Anwarul Chowdhury, the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, attributed this advance to domestic reforms, improved donor assistance, rising commodity prices and a recovering international economy.
At the same time, he cautioned that the future remains uncertain. “We do not know how sustainable the recovery in commodity prices will be, and how long the international economy will stay strong,” said Ambassador Chowdhury, who will speak at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which opens Sunday in São Paulo, Brazil.
“This is the time to get increased aid, fairer trade and more effective debt relief into play,” he added, citing these measures as critical to reaching international anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Global economic trends seem to be favouring the LDCs. They have benefited from the overall rise in official development assistance to all developing countries, which jumped to $68 billion last year from $52 billion in 2001.
Recent statements by the European Union and the United States have revived hopes for the successful resumption of the international round of trade talks. Particular concern centres on the farming subsidies in rich countries which take a heavy toll on agriculture-dependent poor countries.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently ruled in favour of a complaint that included four LDC African nations, whose market for cotton exports is largely blocked by subsidies.
The week-long UNCTAD conference – the 11th in a series – will specifically address improving developing countries’ access to markets and the need to redress past imbalances in the global trading system.