Third UN Conference on LDCs                                  

2nd Meeting (AM)

DEV/BRU/3

14 May 2001

DEV/BRU/3/Corr.1

‘THE CHALLENGE OF ERADICATING POVERTY; INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY RESPONSE’ SPECIAL EVENT AT BRUSSELS CONFERENCE ON LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES 

 

      Urgent, concrete action was needed to tackle the development problems facing the world’s poorest countries, Olesegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria, stressed this morning at a special event on “The Challenge of Eradicating Poverty: International Community Response” –- part of the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, being held in Brussels from 14 to 20 May.

 

      This morning’s event, designed as the first of a series of interactive sessions being held during the Conference, focused on such questions as what has been achieved to address the situation of least developed countries (LDCs) over the past 30 years, whether or not the initiatives taken are addressing LDC needs, and how the development goals set at the United Nations Millennium Summit last September can be achieved.

 

      President Obasanjo joined many other speakers this morning in emphasizing the need to address issues related to governance, poverty, capacity-building and debt relief in a tangible manner in order to help LDCs pull themselves out of their situation.  He also drew attention to the fact that foreign direct investment flows were uneven and, in some instances, being reversed. 

 

Alpha Oumar Konare, President of Mali, said African LDCs were not calling for handouts or dependence on foreign aid, but for global and sustainable financing.  The success of the Conference could only be attained through determination and political will.  Bold measures needed to be devised to increase assistance for development.  Negative terms of trade, indebtedness and prohibitive prices were also among the problems that must be addressed. 

 

      “We in the LDCs have to face our responsibilities”, said Benjamin William Mkapa, President of the United Republic of Tanzania.  The LDCs must establish the appropriate frameworks for economic growth, poverty eradication, peace and good governance.  They also needed genuine partnership and support from their development partners, which must be significant, comprehensive and sustained. 

 

      King Letsie III of Lesotho said that over the past decades considerable efforts and resources had been put into the fight against poverty in the LDCs.  While the international community was talking about the same old issues, however, the poor people were getting poorer, and children were dying of malnutrition.  As

a matter of great importance, more attention should be paid to strengthening LDC capacity to manage and implement programmes and resources.

 

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the commitments made at the Millennium Summit needed to be implemented, including the goal of reducing the proportion of people living in poverty by half by 2015.  He urged all countries to help the LDCs, as they had promised at the last LDC Conference 10 years ago.  Unlike its predecessors, he hoped the current Conference would make a real difference in the lives of people living in the LDCs.

 

Statements were also made by James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, Mike Moore, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Poul Nielson, European Commissioner, Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Christine Hemrick, Vice President, Cisco Systems, John Sayer, Executive-Director, OXFAM International, Harri Holkeri, President of the General Assembly, Andrew Natsios, USAID Administrator, Salil Shetty, Chief Executive, ActionAid, and Apollo Nsibambi, Prime Minister of Uganda.

 

Göran Persson, Prime Minister of Sweden and President of the Conference, opened the event.

 

In other business during the meeting, the Conference elected its 18-member Bureau.

 

An interactive thematic session on “Governance, Peace and Social Stability” will be held this afternoon

Background

 

The interactive debate was organized in two segments.  Segment I, “Results and Rethinking”, focuses on two questions:  What has been achieved over the past 30 years? and, Are the new approaches and initiatives addressing least developed country needs?  Segment II, “Reality”, addresses the question, How can we reach the 2015 international development goals?

 

Introduction

 

Opening the debate, the President of the Conference, GÖRAN PERSSON, Prime Minister of Sweden, said that the crowded hall demonstrated an international commitment towards a global vision for the future of development.  The stakes were high, but the timing was right.  Determination was needed to ensure a sustainable future and a dignified life for all.

 

      The Conference elected its 18-member Bureau, consisting of representatives of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cuba, Ethiopia, Grenada, Haiti, Hungary, Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mexico, Norway, Romania, United States, Nepal, Yemen, Belgium and United Republic of Tanzania.   The latter was also elected the Conference’s Rapporteur.

 

      Segment I:  Results and Rethinking:

What Has Been Achieved over the Past 30 Years?

 

KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the Untied Nations, said that not only governments and international institutions, but also representatives of civil society and private enterprise should participate in the discussion, in order to “set the ball rolling”.  Most poor people knew that they were quite capable of earning their own living, but they must be given a fair chance to compete.  That applied both to individuals and countries.  Much depended on the quality of governance, for countries could only compete in the global market if they were provided with transparent public institutions and a say in the decision-making.  Given such a chance, many made large strides. 

 

It was also important to attract foreign investments, for developing countries had little of their own, he continued.  Least developed countries (LDCS) often found themselves in a vicious cycle.  They found it difficult to attract foreign capital for various reasons, including the instability of their domestic markets and the small size of their population.  To compete, LDCs needed access to open markets.  The “everything but arms” initiative of the European Union was a step in the right direction in that respect.  He hoped many international players would take similar decisions.  It was important to set a policy of duty- and quota-free access for LDC products.  Formidable barriers were still in the way, however, which included not only quotas, but also technical restrictions.   

 

New multilateral trade negotiations were needed, he said, which must be a true development round, aimed at eliminating all tariff and no-tariff barriers.  Among other things, it should allow countries to review progress reached in the Uruguay Round.  Some countries objected to holding such a round, because they felt that after the last one, poor countries had benefited less than their more developed partners.  That should not be the reason for arguing against a new round, however, because it was a forum that could resolve existing problems.  Without trade, LDCs would not attract investments. 

 

While market access was necessary, he said, it was not sufficient.  New technology was also needed, as well as adequate infrastructures and help in overcoming some appalling handicaps and environmental constraints.  Many LDCs suffered from chronic health crises, which decimated their populations.  A new phase of HIV/AIDS had become much more than a health crisis for many African countries -- it had become a development challenge and it could soon reach the same proportions in some parts of Asia.  He hoped the General Assembly special session on AIDS would help to develop a strategy for overcoming that scourge. 

 

He went on to say that many developing countries were still crippled by debt, but rich countries had not come up with sufficient resources to cancel it.  Even the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative had not provided sufficient relief, for even the poorest countries that qualified for debt cancellation under that scheme still spent more on repaying debts than they did  on health care.  Clearly, deeper, broader and faster debt relief was needed, and that meant that additional resources should be put into it.  It was extremely important not to subtract from funds already earmarked for official development, for they were small as it was.  Few had lived up to the goals of devoting 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) to official development assistance (ODA).   Least developed countries suffered disproportionately as a result of that.

 

He said that commitments made at the Millennium Summit needed to be implemented, including the goal of reducing the proportion of people living in poverty by half by 2015.  He urged all countries to reach the 0.7 target and allocate 0.15 of their GNP to helping the LDCs, as they had promised at the last LDC Conference in Paris 10 years ago.  Unlike its predecessors, he hoped the current Conference would make a real difference in the lives of people living in the LDCs.

 

GORAN PERSSON, Prime Minister of Sweden and President of the Conference, said, “we do not have the right” to leave our fellow men in a state of poverty and fear.  The commitment voiced today to fight poverty must result in equivalent hard work, since the necessary changes would not happen by themselves.  Peace was needed, as there was too much readiness to take up arms.  Conflict prevention was, therefore, imperative, while the root causes of conflict had to be addressed. Effective mechanisms must be established for the peaceful conciliation of group interests and the protection of minorities.

 

Addressing female liberation, he said that women must have access to paid work and income, as well as participation in decision-making.  They were powerful resources.  He also stressed that it was critical to provide LDCs with enhanced technical assistance and capacity-building, to promote international trade and to remove related barriers.

 

Addressing ODA, he said words must be matched by deeds.  It was no longer time to talk, but to deliver.  He also urged standing up for life and health.  In addition to tuberculosis and malaria, HIV/AIDS was killing millions.  Affordable medicines were needed.  Excuses were not acceptable.  It is imperative that “we develop together or not all”, he said.

 

OLESEGUN OBASANJO, President of Nigeria, said poverty was a denial of human rights.  As for the crisis of governance in many developing countries, he said the lack of transparency, accountability, political instability and the lack of democracy had contributed to impeding measures that could have been aimed at combating poverty.  Corruption was also anti-development.  Good governance should, therefore, be made an integral part of anti-poverty efforts, rather than just a condition for foreign aid.

 

He said more than 50 per cent of the countries that had just joined the list of LDCs were those where conflicts had raged for some time.  Many were also too handicapped to make it out of the LDC league without a lifeline of cooperation and development.  Poverty could be dealt with effectively through, among others, subregional and regional integration.  A new round of world trade negotiation was also needed.  However, if appropriate related infrastructures were not put in place, market access by developing countries would be an exercise in futility. Debt reduction or cancellation was particularly urgent.  Debt servicing choked the capacity of States to improve social and physical infrastructure.

 

He drew attention to the fact that foreign direct investment (FDI) flows were uneven and, in some instances, being reversed.  Official development assistance must be resuscitated.  In addition, it would not be possible to  benefit from the information and communication technology (ICT) revolution and globalization if the necessary infrastructures were not in place.  Urgent, concrete action was needed by all to tackle the developmental problems of LDCs.

 

      ALPHA OUMAR KONARE, President of Mali, said that his country was a good example of the situation of many LDCs.  He presented Mali’s main indicators, which showed a worrying increase in poverty, despite efforts to reduce it.  Such a grave situation was not inevitable, however, and his country was shouldering its responsibility, with the support of its partners.  It was important to ensure peace, the rule of law, good governance and the promotion of freedoms and social rights to achieve development goals.  Efforts were being made to ensure better health care, provide access to essential medicines, and ensure rural development to provide food security.  The country was also trying to establish sound management of the natural resources.

 

Mali had invested in education, he continued, and much was being done to improve women’s education.  To achieve the objectives of universal basic education by 2015, however, more resources were needed immediately, and local communities needed to receive much-needed support.  The challenges of learning could also be achieved with the help of the Internet and better access to information. 

 

In its efforts to overcome the challenge of globalization, Mali found support at the regional level, he said.  The countries of West Africa were consolidating their economic achievements, in particular, through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  The convergence of national policies appeared to be among the conditions for survival.  African leadership should provide the impetus for development.  Without such leadership, no partnership would be viable in the longer term.  A partnership for the renewal of Africa should be created to eradicate poverty and place countries on the road towards economic growth and sustainable development. 

 

Africans were not calling for handouts or dependence on foreign aid, but for global and sustainable financing, he said.  The success of the Conference could only be attained through determination and political will.  Negative terms of trade, indebtedness and prohibitive prices were among the problems that needed to be addressed.  Access to markets was as important as building capacities.  Developing countries intended to be players, not objects of international efforts. 

 

A fair settlement of external debt problems must be undertaken, he said, but debt cancellation alone, not accompanied by substantial official aid, would not achieve the desired impact.  More justice was needed with the management of debt, based on solidarity, fair prices and ODA.  More justice was also needed in making available medicine to fight the AIDS pandemic, as well as in developing new strategies for fighting poverty.  Despite conflicts, growing poverty and diseases, Africa was not a doomed or damned continent.  It could break out of the darkness, drawing on its immense resources to become strong.  It must be assured of a true partnership in overcoming its problems, based on the values of freedom and sharing.

 

      Are the New Approaches and Initiatives Addressing LDC Needs?

 

JAMES WOLFENSOHN, President of the World Bank, said the Conference today was talking about 10 per cent of the world’s population with only one half of 1 per cent of world gross domestic product (GDP).  That was, by any measure, one of the greatest inequities on the planet and considering their plight was extraordinarily important.  Through partnership, an effort could be made to help put those countries on a path to greater development.

 

The contribution of the World Bank was a small, but important part of the efforts being discussed, he continued.  The Bank wished to be part of a coming together of the LDCs with the international community.  It was essential that the parties work together with mutual respect and a coordination of effort.  The international community must include trade, aid and a readiness to assist the LDCs in the development of their own programmes.  The LDCs must achieve growth, because without it there could be no diminution of poverty.  The leadership of the countries must recognize that there were fundamentals that must be met, before any investment could be made. 

 

There was no sense in opening trade without the necessary infrastructure, he said.  HIV/AIDS was another key problem.  The conquest of AIDS began with the leadership of the countries and involved improvement of education and health systems.  Poor people knew more about getting out of poverty than others and, thus, community-based development was essential, as was ownership of the process.  People in poverty were an asset, not a liability.  The Bank wanted to be supportive, to listen and to work in partnership with all sectors of society, he stressed.

 

      MIKE MOORE, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said that he did not want to just describe the problems.  More than 30 countries had made market access offers in the last 12 months, and he hoped that he would be able to announce many initiatives -- including a new system of cooperation to mainstream trade and economic policy -- later in the week. 

 

He went on to say that the international community had worked hard and had achieved some success, but that was not enough.  The LDCs needed a way out of poverty, and trade was not the only issue.  It was, however, an important component of recovery.  Much needed to be done on economic access.  Experience showed that, even when commitments were made, they had to be taken advantage of on the ground.  Much could be achieved in the coming round of trade negotiations.  In rich countries, the citizens had the luxury of protesting against globalization, but people should be worrying about marginalization.  There was a chance to move forward in the next round of talks, addressing the issues of globalization.  He pleaded with countries not to stop the launch of the new round, “but hold it in orbit until we receive the results we want”.

 

Some fundamental agreements could not be negotiated outside of a new round of such negotiations, he said.  The leadership of countries must ensure that the developing countries had the technical capacity to engage in meaningful negotiations.  A consistent stream of resources and capacity-building should ensure that countries had the skills to fight for their legitimate interests.  If the world neglected to take the opportunity to address the trade issues now, it was hard to predict what would happen in 15 years or more.

 

      POUL NIELSON, European Commissioner, Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, said the process of globalization was rapidly changing the world.  Not all countries could reap its benefits, and the divide between rich and poor was growing.  The situation was manmade and it should be addressed.  The LDCs must be integrated into the world economy.  That was an ethical imperative, but also contributed to stability and peace.  Despite past efforts, 10 per cent of the world lived in extreme poverty -– an intolerable situation.  The poverty reduction strategies being put in place could make a difference. 

 

He stressed the importance of ownership of the process by the LDCs and their people.  A commitment by the LDCs to good governance and an enabling domestic environment was also key.  If a country could establish itself as a “corruption free zone”, it would help attract foreign investment.  The Commission was ready to make its contribution.  It had set out practical measures in a number of areas, including the fight against disease, debt relief and market access.

 

Success could only be seen in a well functioning partnership, where LDCs took the lead, he said.  There could be no development for the LDCs without debt settlement, he added, noting the Commission’s important contribution to the HIPC initiative.  “Everything but Arms” –- an initiative to open markets to LDCs in all areas except weapons -- was another important measure.  Trade-related measures would be implemented to help LDCs take advantage of the initiative. 

 

An effective strategy must address the multi-dimensional nature of poverty, he said.  Political participation was also important.  Trade alone was not sufficient to ensure economic growth, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.  Those elements must be linked at the national level.  External assistance could not substitute for good national policies.

 

      SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, said that, as a group, LDCs had failed to make a major dent in the eradication of poverty, which also remained a major challenge for her country.  Experience showed that identification of the social and economic context of poverty was important for planning strategic interventions.  A pluralistic approach was needed to successfully deal with poverty eradication.  The ability to sustain growth was important for success. Making rural investment and diversification a priority was also important. 

 

Describing her country’s experiences in the fight against poverty, she stressed that resource requirements for that purpose were formidable, and future initiatives needed to recognize that fact.  Success of reforms, to a large extent, depended on the provision of sufficient resources.  Expenditures in education and health had increased sharply in her country.  A series of programmes to directly target the poor had been initiated, including a micro-credit project and a food for education initiative.   Special allowances were being introduced for old people and other vulnerable groups.  High priority was being attached to the programmes for girls and women.  A vibrant civil society and an active non-governmental organization community had contributed to the success of many efforts. 

 

The ODA flow per capita in LDCs had declined, and tariff barriers and unfair restrictions presented a serious problem, she said.  Far too often, new deadlines needed to be set to meet old poverty targets.  The help from development partners did not translate into sufficient aid for the poor.  A multilateral approach would address those problems in a more effective manner.  The LDCs still remained entrapped in an unbearable debt burden and they appreciated the willingness of their partners to find a way out.  All LDCs should be able to take advantage of the debt relief programmes, and conditions attached to such efforts should not stand in their way. 

 

CHRISTINE HEMRICK, Vice-President, Cisco Systems, said the revolution in technology over the last decade had offered the private sector an opportunity to contribute new and more innovative approaches to development on a scale that could not be imagined five years ago.  She said Cisco Systems had learned three important lessons:  to focus on what it did well and leverage core competences; to fill in the gaps of what it did not know by working in partnership with the public sector; and to ignore the sceptics by trusting in the power of commitment and will.

 

Regarding lesson one, she said the private sector was not an expert at developing social competences or solving world problems.  It was expert at was putting concepts into operation and investing a lot, to get a lot in return.  Regarding lesson two, she said gaps in expertise were addressed by partnering. Cisco knew, for example, that if it attempted to expand its network alone, it would fail.  Two parties, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), had proven to be key players in identifying appropriate institutions and in building local support.  The vision and leadership of those agencies had been essential in forging agreements and allow their organizations and Cisco Systems to work effectively together.

 

As for lesson three -- ignoring the sceptics –- she cited her company’s plan to take an ambitious technology programme to LDCs.  By May 2001, there were several hundred students in many LDCs sitting in classes.  Agreements were in progress, structures were being created and classes were also scheduled to begin in other developing countries.  As part of the same training programme, there were also academy training classes in some non-LDC countries in Africa.  By the end of 2001, Cisco Systems envisaged some 45 networking academies in 27 LDCs, plus six in non-LDC countries.  Some of the most serious issues faced so far were funding for education and the scarcity of reasonably priced Internet connections.  High initial investment costs made it prohibitive for development countries to access information technology.  Now was the time to make investments that would change that educational scenario.

 

      JOHN SAYER, Executive Director of OXFAM International, said that the Conference provided a litmus test to see if globalization could be managed to close the gap between the rich and the poor.  The danger was that the Conference would turn into yet another costly “talk shop”.  To avoid that, it was important that governments and international institutions be called to account for the promises they had made.  Civil society should be better represented at the event. The opportunity to develop was among the fundamental rights, and his organization was working with people in some of the LDCs.

 

      The developed countries had made promises to improve market access and promote debt relief, he said.  Many speakers today had talked about the central role of trade, and he believed that the promised “preferences” for LDCs were absent from such important sectors as textiles and agriculture.  One of the worst offenders, the United States, placed significant barriers on textile exports.  Europe offered a more generous market access, but there was little else to be proud of.  The “everything but arms” initiative seemed to break that mold.  However, big farm lobbyists had successfully removed such commodities as beef and rice from the list.  Now, some said that the initiative was not about “all but arms”, but “all but farms”. 

 

Industrialized countries continued to subsidize their agricultural production, flooding the markets with cheap products, he said, and it was important to open immediate unrestricted market access to developing countries.  The HIPC fell far short of what was needed.  If words were not converted into real change, fewer non-governmental organizations would join the meetings and more would be found protesting outside.

 

BENJAMIN WILLIAM MKAPA, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said for progress to be made three basic questions must to be asked.  First, did the international community know why earlier approaches, initiatives and commitments had failed?  Second, was the international community convinced that the new approaches envisaged could effectively deal with previous problems?  Third, was the international community sufficiently determined to nurture a genuine partnership based on mutual trust and respect?

 

He called for genuine local and national ownership of the development process, as well as deeper initiatives and greater speed in the implementation of debt-relief measures.  Unless all development actors were willing to do something much more than what had already been done, 10 years from today the world would gather somewhere else to reflect on yet another failed effort, he said.  Clearly, the LDCs had reason to be worried that the targets agreed upon in Brussels would be no more successful than previous ones.

He said the LDCs could benefit from globalization and free trade, but only where circumstances were right, where the different starting points were recognized and provided for, and where special measures were taken to remove supply-side constraints.  Success in the war on poverty would help the LDCs reap the rewards of globalization in a sustainable manner.  The United Nations system had helped the LDCs to ameliorate the worst manifestations of poverty.  Regrettably, the commitment of some developed countries to the work of the United Nations was less than what the LDCs considered necessary.  He pleaded for more, not less, resources for the key United Nations development actors.

 

“We in the LDCs have to face our responsibilities”, he said.  The LDCs must establish the appropriate frameworks for economic growth, poverty eradication, peace and good governance.  They also needed genuine partnership and support from their development partners, which must be significant, comprehensive and sustained.  Any future programmes for LDCs should include an effective follow-up and monitoring framework at the national, regional and global levels. 

 

      Segment II:  Reality:

How Can We Reach the 2015 International Development Goals?

 

      HARRI HOLKERI (Finland), President of the General Assembly, said that one of the main reasons the international community had so often failed in promoting sustainable development in the LDCs was that it had focused primarily on narrow and short-term goals.  The post-cold-war world was a globalized and interdependent one, yet one of the key dimensions of globalization had been overlooked -- global responsibility.  That shared responsibility had been recognized in the Millennium Declaration, which reflected an unprecedented global consensus on international development targets and gave a clear direction for the international community. 

 

      It was time for the international community to live up to its global responsibility and to recognize the steps taken by the LDCs, he said.  That called for a multi-dimensional and integrated approach, where different policies reinforced one another.  “We need to remove trade barriers and provide debt relief, as much as we need to build local health-care and education systems”, he said.  “Finding the right balance varies from one society to another, but the main strength in development are the people of the LDCs themselves.”

 

      To achieve success, a new kind of partnership at all levels was needed, he said.  National governments and intergovernmental organizations could no longer carry on their tasks alone –- they needed the cooperation of their civil society partners, such as non-governmental organizations.  Partnership with the private sector was also key.  The Conference was an integral part of the follow-up to the Millennium Summit and provided an opportunity to turn its ambitious goals and global consensus into concrete action.

 

      ANDREW NATSIOS, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said conflict was destroying the building blocks of human development.  A quick glance at the list of LDCs revealed that 25 per cent of those countries were in the throes of conflict.  It also revealed that poverty was often the result of conflicts.  The USAID was looking new instruments and methodologies that would help it to deal with conflicts before they began.  Conflict resolution and prevention were important to poverty reduction.

 

His organization was also renewing its commitment to address the needs of the rural poor.  Both developed and developing countries and his own agency had neglected agriculture.  He reminded delegations that many industrialized countries had not arrived at their current stage of development without having placed some emphasis on agriculture at one time or another.

 

He said USAID had focused and played a major role in global health for some time now and HIV/AIDS needed attention.  The United States had contributed some $340 million to address the epidemic.  President George. W Bush had also announced the provision of another $200 million to fight the disease.  He said a Global Development Alliance based on recognition of economic environmental changes was also being put in place by USAID.  He hoped his organization’s resources could be leveraged with those of private institutions in the United States and other countries.

 

      King LETSIE III of Lesotho said that, over the past decades, considerable efforts and resources had been put into the fight against poverty in the LDCs.  The Conference today, however, was addressing the same problems as existed 10 or 20 years ago.  That was clear evidence that something had gone wrong.  While the international community was talking about the same old issues, the poor people were getting poorer, and children were dying of malnutrition.  Looking for reasons of such failure, some had said that people in the LDCs had lost ownership of the programmes.  Many of the projects in the past had been imposed on the LDCs, with donors leading the efforts.  Unfavourable terms of trade and unfair tariffs imposed by the North were also among the problems.

 

      He added that another obstacle in the fight against poverty was the lack of capacity to efficiently utilize domestic resources and the resources coming in through donor and international agencies.  As a matter of great importance, more attention should be paid to strengthening LDC capacity to manage and implement programmes and resources.  Thus, the building and strengthening of institutions should be among the priorities. 

 

Lesotho, like other LDCs, had limited natural resources.  In its fight against poverty, the country considered it vital to strengthen its main national resource -– its people -– by providing efficient and affordable health services. Many of the diseases afflicting his people were curable, including malaria and tuberculosis.  The country was also faced with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which presented a great obstacle to development.  That problem should receive special attention.  “In order to trade, we need to produce”, he said.  “In order to produce, we need healthy people.”  Development assistance programmes had to include AIDs-sensitive elements.

 

      SALIL SHETTY, Chief Executive of ActionAid, said that instead of giving facts, he would tell a story of a “not-so-imaginary” village in a least developed country, in particular about a woman who had lost her husband in a long-running war.  She had a small plot of land and used every opportunity to earn some money.   When she learned about the Conference, she asked why they would not send somebody like herself to speak to the participants.  Presenting the real-life situation in her country, the woman told him that countries were repaying back to industrialized countries more than they were receiving in official aid, which was not reaching the people.  Among other issues of concern to the population were the rising prices for goods and the falling commodity prices. 

 

Many conditions were imposed on the governments if they wanted to get a loan, he continued.  AIDS was also a problem.  The Conference would only mean something if poor people had food on their tables, if they were healthy and if


they had work to do.  A real international commitment would be meaningful only if industrialized countries stopped preaching to the poor ones and provided the necessary assistance.  The basic rights of marginalized people needed to be addressed.  Only when meaningful commitments were made would he be able to go back to the woman in the village and tell her that now real action and real money would be available to the least developed countries.

 

APOLLO NSIBAMBI, Prime Minister of Uganda, spoke on behalf of the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.  He said that, to eradicate poverty and other forms of underdevelopment in the LDCs, it was essential that those countries own up to their persistent internal weaknesses and address them.  That should be done through, among other ways, the acquisition of visionary and democratic leadership.  “Owning up to our weaknesses and addressing them assiduously and persistently is a prerequisite for absorbing external assistance for the meaningful transformation of our economies”, he said.

 

He called for a commitment by the developed countries to the agreed ODA target of 15 per cent of their GDP.  Debt-relief measures beyond the current HIPC initiative, such as debt waivers and debt for equity swaps, should also be considered.  They provided opportunities for the LDCs to channel their resources to meet the socio-economic needs of their people.  Enhanced market access schemes for the exports of LDCs was yet another important measure for improving productive capacity.  In addition, industrialized countries should be urged by this Conference to grant duty-free market access for the LDCs.

 

      He said the LDCs needed to provide an enabling environment that was internationally competitive. Good governance was also essential to address persistent internal and external conflicts.  While the international commitment to eradicate poverty was appreciated, it was inadequate.  He said there could be no development where conflict occurred.  When such disasters occurred, the international community had a fundamental responsibility to invest heavily in policing the State in turmoil and in creating dialogue among the warring elites.  He noted that when Kosovo faced such a disaster, the international community responded speedily and invested a lot of resources in restoring peace and order. Unfortunately, that international response had been slow and low when States had collapsed in Africa.

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