Countries and small Island Developing States
Mr. Anwarul Chowdhury
I am honoured and privileged to address the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in my capacity as the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. The Office of the High Representative (OHRLLS) was set up earlier this year in accordance with the decision of the United Nations General Assembly.
This World Summit is one of the largest and most important international meetings ever held on the integration of economic, environmental and social decision-making. It comes one year after the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries held in Brussels. The new evolving global scenario calls for a particular focus on the vulnerable groups of countries - Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Since the Brussels Conference, the international community took into account the concerns of the LDCs. through the major global gatherings such as the Doha WTO Ministerial Conference (November 2001), Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development (March 2002), the mid-term review of UNCTAD X in Bangkok (April/May 2002) and the G-8 Summit in Kananaskis (June 2002). We expect that this Summit will devote a particular attention to the issue of poverty reduction in the most vulnerable countries. A closer linking of the Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries with the outcome of WSSD would reinforce the opportunity for bringing tangible progress in these countries.
Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro ten years ago, sustainable development has remained more elusive for the vulnerable countries. Poverty remains a major challenge, as many of these countries have not benefited from the process of globalization, thus further exacerbating their marginalization.
More than 10 per cent of world's population lives in the least developed countries. These countries are confronted with a series of vulnerabilities and constraints such as limited human, institutional and productive capacity; acute susceptibility to external economic shocks, natural and man-made disasters and communicable diseases; limited access to education, health and other social services and to natural resources; poor infrastructure; and lack of access to information and communication technologies. Support of the international community is crucial in the determined efforts that the LDCs are making to address these vulnerabilities, reflecting the special needs, problems and potentials of each country.
The Brussels Declaration and Programme of Action (POA) for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 reaffirm the collective responsibility of the international community to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity and to ensure that globalization become a positive force, as set out in the Millennium Declaration. The Programme of Action is focussed on seven specific areas of commitment: (i) fostering a people-centered policy framework (ii) good governance at the national and international levels (iii) building human and institutional capacities (iv) building productive capacities to make globalization work for the LDCs (v) enhancing the role of trade and development (iv) reducing vulnerability and protecting the environment (vii) mobilizing financial resources.
Focus of Commitment Six on reducing vulnerability and protecting the environment effectively articulates the core issues of this World Summit in respect of LDCs. For these countries, poverty is the worst pollutant. The LDCs are acutely vulnerable to a variety of natural shocks, including natural disasters, and severe structural handicaps, and are susceptible to global environmental phenomena as the loss of biological diversity and adverse effects of climate change which exacerbates drought, desertification and sea level rise. LDCs are at present contributing the least to the emission of greenhouse gases, while they are the most vulnerable and have the least capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change. Such vulnerabilities generate considerable uncertainties and impair the development prospects of these countries, and they tend to affect the poor the hardest, in particular women and children among them.
The Brussels POA has very clearly outlined concrete actions by LDCs and by its development partners. Ownership and partnership are the two key factors in the successful implementation of the POA. The LDCs will assume the ownership of development in their own countries and international community will provide them the much-needed support through partnership. The Cotonou Declaration recently adopted at the Ministerial Conference of the Least Developed Countries in Benin (57 August 2002) also called on all development partners to implement fully and effectively their commitments made in the Brussels POA, focussing on special measures and initiatives for poverty eradication.
In his message to the LDCs Ministerial Conference in Cotonou, Secretary-General Kofi Annan firmly stated, "The United Nations family remains committed to helping the least developed countries (LDCs) overcome the formidable obstacles they face". He further added, "... their development partners, as well as civil society, the private sector and all other stakeholders, will forge partnerships that will make the difference between success and stagnation". The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) of the African Union provides an immense opportunity for reinforcing and complementing the development efforts in the 34 African LDCs.
While the LDCs face the challenge of poverty eradication, the Landlocked Developing Countries continue to face geographical disadvantage for lack of access to the sea. Many sub-regional and regional policies were introduced to promote effective interstate transportation system, expand national and international transport infrastructure, create new communication methods, and facilitate the increase of transnational capital flow. Implementation of these policies are not effective in the real sense due to lack of monitoring and enforcing institutions.
Although the Small Island Developing States have been making serious efforts in moving towards sustainable development, these countries are increasingly constrained by the interplay of adverse factors such as its remoteness, small-sized market and sea level rise caused by global warming. These are underlined in Agenda 21 and the Barbados Programme of Action. It is important to build genuine partnership between Small Island Developing States and international community at global and regional levels through implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action ensuring sustainable development for these particularly disadvantaged countries.
The United Nations Millennium Declaration has called on the global community for both financial and technical support to these three vulnerable groups of countries. The efforts that LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS make toward their development goals should be supported through addressing their needs and enhanced cooperation by the international community.
Civil society including the NGOs plays an important role as development partners in the least developed countries. NGOs have been making a critical contribution to the development of these countries through their outreach work with communities at the grass-roots level. Private sector also plays an important role in LDCs including attracting investments, creation of employment opportunities and also entrepreneurial development. These partnerships need to be enhanced further through their involvement in the implementation of the POA.
In concluding, let me say that I am optimistic of the active participation of the international community in the development of the LDCs. Combined efforts of all development partners would cover substantial ground towards realizing the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015. I would reaffirm that development is not sustainable unless it benefits the poorest.