President of Republic of Benin,


at the World Summit for Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa
03 September 2002

Honourable Chairmen of the Constitutional Institutions,

Mr. the High Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, in charge of the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing countries and Small Island Developing States ,

Mr. the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO),
Ladies, and Gentlemen, Honourable Ministers,
Ladies and Gentle-men, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Representatives of the International Organizations ,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Heads of Delegation, Honourable Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Since 1971, the United Nations Organization decided to name as the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) a category of countries that are deemed structurally hampered in their development and, therefore, need a special attention from the International Community so as to sustain their current development efforts.

This is the very first time when our Country, BENIN, has been entrusted with the responsibility to organize a Ministerial meeting of these countries, the 12th Ministerial Conference of the LDCs whose Representatives are here present. On behalf of the Beninese People and their constitutional Institutions, I would like to express my most heartily and cordial welcome in our country to our sisters and brothers from the Least Developed Countries, the Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States.

For all the peoples in the Least Developed Countries throughout the World, it is a great pleasure to live with positive hope that the most deprived will gain access into the Kingdom of God.

Indeed, according to the Holy Scriptures, they [the poor] hold, in the doomed land, a privileged position that ensures their access to the Heavenly Kingdom.

But, let us not worry, it is also said that every human being will earn his/her daily bread by the sweat of his or her brow.

Thus, poverty should not be viewed by us as a humiliation and even less so as a position of honor or a fatality.

Whether we are poor among the poorest, or less poor among the wealthier, let us stand proud and noteworthy, united and strong, comforted by our belonging to the Community of the Free Nations of our Planet.

This means that the Benin People and Government are happy and honoured to see you in such large numbers and firmly determined to tackle the biggest scandal represented by the extreme poverty in our respective countries, at the beginning of the 21st century and 3rd millenium.

Anyhow, the fact is that, despite the fast advances registered in Science and subsequent related practices in modern technologies as well as the unprecedented growth of wealth generated, so many countries and so many peoples throughout the world still bitterly suffer from hunger, thirst, illiteracy, malaria, AIDS and many other related and transmittable diseases.

The last report of the Conference of the United Nations on Trade and Development (CNUCED) as published in June 2002, has it that the number of extremely poor people will increase by one hundred and thirteen million (113.000.000) in the LDCs by the year 2015 should the current trend persist. This is how the LDCs Group numbering 32 in 1981 shifted to 42 in 1990, peaking at 49 countries in 2001 out of which 34 can be found in Africa, while others are anxiously waiting on their passes to enter the LDCs.

This sharp increase in the number of the poor worsens our concerns and anxieties on the real nature of the New World Order and on the actual determination of the International Community, Wealthy countries and the Development Institutions to eradicate poverty and promote a genuine and sustainable development in all the continents.

However, we should also acknowledge that the woes that have been undermining and hampering our development, by dangerously jeopardizing every day our socio economic situation as poor, for which our development partners though partly responsible hold us liable, are as follow

  • political instability 
  • lack of democracy 
  • corruption
  • bad governance
  • lack of patriotism and real will so as to resolutely get down to work to help our countries cope with poverty.
Under such circumstances, if we let ourselves continue to sink into mediocrity and become naive enough to believe in international conferences outcomes and relevant resolutions, promises made and adopted programmes, without caring for their being implemented with consistency, our countries shall not start off any development.
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Ministers, 
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Heads of Delegation, 
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Participants,
Confronted with so many challenges that it is up to us to take up, we must, here and now, draw lessons from our repeated failures so that the 3rd LDCs Programme of Action for the decade 2001 - 2010 as adopted in Brussels on 20th May 2001 by the 3rd United Nations Conference on LDCs may record the expected results because the International Community is more and more aware of our advanced condition of poverty.

This new awareness may be accounted for by the Millenium Summit held in NEW YORK in the UNITED STATES from 6th to 8th September 2001 and the International Gatherings that all paid a special attention to the crucial issues of poverty in LDCs.

The same is true of: the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization held in DOHA in QATAR from 9th to 14 November 2001, the International Conference on Development Financing in MONTERREY in MEXICO from 18th to 22nd March 2002, the United Nations Extraordinary General Assembly on Children held in New York from 8th to 10th May 2002, the World Food Summit held in ROME in ITALY from 10th to 13th June 2002 and the G8 Summit held in KANANASKIS in CANADA from 20th to 28th June 2002.

These are significant changes in mentality as well as qualitative transformations that we appreciate with proper judgment.

By establishing the United Nations Bureau especially entrusted with LDCs issues, the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. KOFFI ANNAN, concretely materialized the real political will of the International Community to effectively combat poverty.

By appointing Ambassador Anwarul Karim CHOWDHURY from BANGLADESH, a man of experience and commitment as his High Representative, he provides himself with the necessary means to succeed.

Mr. the High Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, I can reassure you that, whether as Chairman of the LDCs Coordinating Bureau or not, our country, BENIN, along with, our Government, will constantly provide you with its support and assistance so as to fulfill of your noble and exciting international mission.

  • Ladies, and Gentlemen, Honourable Ministers, 
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Heads of Delegation, 
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Delegates to the Conference,

Beside critically and thoroughly analyzing the issues on your agenda, you will have during your deliberations to harmonize your various concerns, set priorities to be achieved in order to promote a real development of LDCs, share our viewpoints with the rest of the world very soon in Johannesburg in SOUTH AFRICA at the World Summit on Sustainable Development and during the 57th United Nations General Assembly.

I would like therefore to invite you to draw up, during your working sessions, a critical and rigorous balance sheet of what has been achieved and what remains to be done by us as LDCs, individually and among ourselves, and by us as LDCs in conjunction with the rest of the International Community, in particular with the most rich and industrialized countries of the world.

It is high time for us to become fully aware of our state of poverty that is far from being a fatality.

That is why the Cotonou Conference should serve first and foremost as a clear manifestation of our common political will to extricate ourselves together from our category of LDCs.

By God's Grace, we can if we sincerely so wish!

It is with these words of faith and conviction that I declare open this day, Monday 5 August 2002, the COTONOU Ministerial Conference of the Least Developed Countries.