SECOND COMMITTEE SPEAKERS UNDERLINE NEED FOR EFFECTIVE FOLLOW-UP TO THIRD UN CONFERENCE ON LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES

29 November 2001
GA/EF/2985

SECOND COMMITTEE SPEAKERS UNDERLINE NEED FOR EFFECTIVE FOLLOW-UP TO THIRD UN CONFERENCE ON LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES

29/11/2001
Press ReleaseGA/EF/2985

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

34th Meeting (AM)

SECOND COMMITTEE SPEAKERS UNDERLINE NEED FOR EFFECTIVE FOLLOW-UP

TO THIRD UN CONFERENCE ON LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES

Support Expressed for Proposed Office of High

Representative for LDCs, Landlocked, Small Island Developing States

As the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to discuss the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs), delegates emphasized the need for effective follow-up measures to ensure that those countries met their development goals.

The Conference was held at the Brussels headquarters of the European Parliament from 14 to 20 May 2001.  The 159 participating Governments reviewed socio-economic progress in the LDCs in the 1990s, as well as progress in international support measures during that decade.  The Conference adopted a Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010.

The representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Brussels Declaration and Programme of Action made it possible to establish a set of specific commitments by LDCs and their development partners.  It was now for national governments to implement the Programme at the national and regional levels.  The Union was relying on the participation of the entire United Nations system, particularly the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), to assist governments in implementing their commitments.

The Programme of Action, said the representative of Norway, clearly placed the main responsibility for development and poverty alleviation on the LDCs themselves.  Development could not occur unless basic domestic conditions were in place.  The international community could only assist LDCs in reaching their development goals.  Donors and international development agencies could not and should not sit in the driver’s seat.

Speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, Iran’s representative said the Programme of Action contained a wide range of measures, which were modest, and achievable, and required resources beyond those currently available.  The overriding issue was the need for urgent action to fill the gap between commitments and implementation.  The effective and meaningful follow-up of the Programme of Action was an imperative.  In that regard, he welcomed and supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish an Office of the High Representative for LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

Japan’s representative felt that for follow-up to be effective, it was important to allow sufficient time before convening review meetings, so that LDCs and their development partners could translate the Programme into action.  What should be avoided was the “review fatigue” that had set in among Member States as a result of having many and too frequent review meetings of the outcome of the major United Nations conferences and summits.

The representative of the Russian Federation also made a statement.

An introductory statement was made by Susan Brandwayn, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Special Coordinator for Least Developed, Landlocked and Island Developing Counties of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Also this morning, the Committee heard the introduction of four draft resolutions by the representative of Iran, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China.  Those were on the following topics:  the International Conference on Financing for Development; enhancing international cooperation towards a durable solution to the external debt problems of developing countries; towards a strengthened and stable international financial architecture responsive to the priorities of growth and development, especially in developing countries, and to the promotion of economic and social equity; and the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 30 November, to continue its discussion of the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to consider the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, for which it had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document A/56/297 and Corr.1).  The Conference, hosted by the European Union, was held at the Brussels headquarters of the European Parliament from 14 to 20 May. 

The 159 participating governments reviewed socio-economic progress in the least developed countries (LDCs) during the 1990s, as well as progress in international support measures during that decade.  They adopted a political declaration as well as the Programme of Action for the LDCs for the Decade 2001-2010, containing commitments at the national and international levels on policies and measures for accelerating the development process in those countries during the decade.

According to the report, the overarching goal of the Programme of Action is to make substantial progress towards halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and suffering from hunger by the year 2015, and to promote the sustainable development of the LDCs.  Another important objective is to contribute to the renovation and invigoration of partnership between the LDCs and their development partners by promoting mutual and shared responsibility, as well as greater opportunity and for integration of the LDCs into the global economy.

Also before the Committee is the report of the Secretary-General on resources available to the Office of the Special Coordinator for Least Developed, Landlocked and Island Developing Countries for the biennium 2000-2001 (document A/56/434), which provides information on the regular and extrabudgetary resources made available during 2001 to the Office. 

The report states that in December 1999, the Assembly provided additional general temporary assistance and other resources to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in the amount of $616,400 for the purpose of assisting in the preparations for the Conference.  Those resources consisted mainly of 48 work-months of Professional staff and $70,000 in the form of funds for travel of UNCTAD staff to preparatory meetings, including those of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee for the Conference, held in New York.  Those resources were fully expended or committed as at mid-2001.

The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of UNCTAD’s Secretary-General on the effectiveness of the functioning of the Unit for Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (document A/56/208).  Following the decision by the Assembly to re-establish the Unit, the activities of the Office of the Special Coordinator related to the particular needs and problems of 30 landlocked developing countries and 44 small island developing States have expanded and intensified to improve the participation and accelerated integration of those countries into the global economy.

During the current biennium, as a focal point within the United Nations system for activities in favour of landlocked developing countries, the Office continued to formulate, monitor and implement specific actions related to the particular needs and problems of those countries.  It also continued to formulate and implement technical cooperation projects aimed at increasing the efficiency of external trade transactions in close cooperation with United Nations entities, regional commissions and other relevant international and professional organizations.

The Office continued to provide analytical work on the economic vulnerability of small island developing States, says the report.  It has contributed to the work of the Committee for Development Policy related to vulnerability indicators and graduation of small island least developed countries from the list of LDCs.  Also, the Office had intensified its support to small island developing States in their efforts to reduce their structural economic handicaps resulting from smallness and remoteness through action to increase economic efficiency and competitiveness.

Also before the Committee is the report of the Secretary-General on a follow-up mechanism for coordinating, monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the Programme of Action for the LDCs for the Decade 2001-2010 (document A/56/645 and Add.1).  Regarding proposals for future follow-up, the report states that the Assembly may wish to establish an Office of the High Representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.  The High Representative would be at the level of Under-Secretary-General and would report directly to the Secretary-General.

The key functions of the Office would include assisting the Secretary-General in ensuring the full mobilization and coordination of all parts of the United Nations system to facilitate the coordinated implementation of and coherence in the follow-up and monitoring of the Programme of Action at the country, regional and global levels.  Also, the Office would assist in mobilizing international support and resources for the implementation of the Programme of Action and other programmes and initiatives for landlocked developing countries and small island developing States.     

Draft Resolutions

By the text of a draft on the International Conference on Financing for Development (document A/C.2/56/L.31), the General Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report to it at its fifty-seventh session on the outcome of the Conference, to be held in Monterrey, Mexico, in March 2002, and to include in that report ways and means to further enhance cooperation among stakeholders.  It would also decide to include follow up to the Conference on the agenda of its next session.

By the text of a draft on enhancing international cooperation towards a durable solution to the external debt problems of developing countries (document A/C.2/56/L.32), the General Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report to it at its fifty-seventh session on such international cooperation, and to include in that report a comprehensive and substantive analysis of the external debt and debt-servicing problems of developing countries.  That report should include problems resulting from global financial instability and its impact on the development of developing countries.  It would also decide to include the item on the agenda of its next session.

By the text of a draft entitled towards a strengthened and stable international financial architecture responsive to the priorities of growth and development, especially in developing countries, and to the promotion of economic and social equity (document A/C.2/56/L.33), the General Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report to it at its fifty-seventh session on reform of the international financial architecture, coherence in the international monetary, financial and trading systems, and net financial flows to developing countries.  It would also decide to include at its next session the sub-item entitled international financial system and development under “Macroeconomic policy questions”.

By the text of a draft on the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/C.2/56/L.34), the General Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report to it at its fifty-seventh session on the outcome of the Conference on Financing for Development, with particular emphasis on its impact on the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence. It would also decide to include the issue on the agenda of its next session.

Statements

In an introductory statement, SUSAN BRANDWAYN, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Special Coordinator for Least Developed, Landlocked and Island Developing Countries of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said the Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) was held at the Brussels headquarters of the European Parliament from 14 to 20 May 2001.  The General Assembly had designated UNCTAD as the focal point for the preparations for the Conference.  One hundred and fifty-nine Governments participated in the Conference, which reviewed socio-economic progress in the LDCs in the 1990s, and progress in international support measures during that decade.  It also adopted a Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010.

On behalf of the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, she also extended her deep appreciation for the support of the entire United Nations system and of other international organizations, as well as Member States, which had made it possible to organize a successful Conference.

BAGHER ASADI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that the actual outcome of the Conference left much to be achieved in the future; it should have achieved more.  The Programme of Action contained a wide range of measures which were modest and achievable.  The commitments under the Programme needed new resources beyond those currently available.  The overriding issue was the need for urgent action to fill the gap between commitments and implementation.  He called again on developed countries and the United Nations system to undertake what was needed to live up to the commitments undertaken in the Programme of Action.

In the post-Brussels atmosphere, he said, the entire international community must resolve, among other things, to assist the LDCs to build up their human and infrastructure capacity, increase official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment (FDI) flows and provide effective relief from the crushing debt burden.  The effective and meaningful follow-up of the Programme of Action was an imperative.  A heavy responsibility had been entrusted to the United Nations system for the development of LDCs, making coordination and cooperation all the more crucial.  It was essential to pursue implementation of the Programme in its totality in a holistic manner.

He welcomed and supported the proposal in the Secretary-General’s report to establish an Office of the High Representative for LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.  He also welcomed the assertion that the Office would be responsible for coordination, advocacy and reporting.  Its key functions, as laid out in the report -- particularly the mobilization of the United Nations system and international support and resources for implementation of the Programme of Action -- were clear and reassuring and should be supported.

BRUNO VAN DER PLUIJM (Belgium) spoke on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Iceland.  He said the European Union was particularly honoured to be hosting the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.  In terms of both format and substance, considerable progress was made in Brussels.  With regard to the substance, the Programme of Action and Political Declaration made it possible to establish a set of specific commitments by LDCs and their development partners.  That partnership, coupled with mutual and shared responsibility, constituted the backbone of the Programme of Action.  By its unilateral initiative to open its markets and its commitment to untie its assistance, the European Union had already shown that it was prepared to assume its responsibilities in that partnership.

It was now for national governments to implement the Programme of Action at national and regional levels, he added.  The European Union was relying on the effective participation of all organizations in the United Nations system, particularly UNCTAD, to assist governments in implementing the commitments entered into in May.  The United Nations operational organizations could make a useful contribution by their input into a detailed analysis of development problems, in particular through the Common Country Assessment as well as the United Nations Development Assistance Framework.  In almost all of the LDCs, the national development plan in practice had taken or would take the form of a poverty-reduction strategy paper.  In so far as they reflected a national and concerted strategy and realistic objectives, those strategy papers would serve as a point of reference for the European Union’s planning of development assistance.

EVGENY A. STANISLAVOV (Russian Federation) said that eradication of poverty and prevention of the marginalization of LDCs depended to a large extent on their further involvement in world trade and on increased investments in the production sector and infrastructure.  He supported the well-known initiatives aimed at improving the access of LDCs to world markets, including the General System of Preferences, the “Everything but Arms” scheme and other measures.  Today, practically all major goods from LDCs were imported to Russia duty free.  He confirmed his country’s readiness to extend the duty- and quota-free regime to all goods from LDCs except weapons.  Also, Russia was going to introduce additional changes to its legislation to address the issue of tariff preferences and to ensure even more liberal terms of access of goods from developing countries to the Russian market.

The UNCTAD, he said, had been successfully dealing with issues affecting LDCs.  Now it was necessary to concentrate on the practical implementation of the Programme of Action on the basis of the “road map” drawn by UNCTAD.  The UNCTAD’s current mandate in that field conformed to the principal of universality, and provided for an integral implementation of the development concept and for the coordination of all bodies and organizations of the United Nations system in the area of trade, which was vital for LDCs.  The High Representative would also face serious tasks, including in drawing international attention and mobilizing support for LDCs and in the implementation of the Programme.  With regard to practical issues related to the functions, level and establishment of the Office, he would study the proposals contained in the Secretary-General’s report.

KENJI HIRATA (Japan) said his country was actively supporting LDCs in a variety of areas, including trade, official development assistance and debt relief, so that those countries would not lag behind.  Recognizing the important contribution of trade to the development process of LDCs, Japan was improving preferential market access for their products.  It accorded duty-free and quota-free treatment to about 99 per cent of the mining and industrial products of LDCs. In addition, Japan had donated $500,000 for a pilot scheme to establish an integrated framework relating to trade-related technical assistance for LDCs.

He added that, for the follow-up to the Programme of Action to be effective at the intergovernmental level, it was important to allow sufficient time before convening review meetings, so that LDCs and their development partners could translate the Programme into action.  What should be avoided was the “review fatigue” that had set in among Member States as a result of having too many review meetings of the outcome of the major United Nations conferences and summits.  While his delegation was ready to consider any proposal for the implementation of the Programme at the secretariat level, any new mechanism should improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the work of the secretariat.  In that regard, if a new Office was created, steps should be taken to ensure that it did not duplicate the work of existing offices, such as the Office of the Special Coordinator for Least Developed, Landlocked and Island Developing Countries in UNCTAD.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the most important deliverable to engage from Brussels was the commitment made by the LDCs themselves at the national level.  The Programme of Action clearly placed the main responsibility for development and poverty alleviation on the LDCs.  There was a clear acknowledgement that development could not take place unless basic domestic conditions were in place.  The international community could only assist LDCs in reaching their development goals.  Donors and international development agencies could not and should not sit in the driver’s seat. 

The commitments contained in the outcome would have little value if they were not properly implemented, he said.  The main challenge was to ensure that the Brussels commitments did not end up as empty promises.  Therefore, it was imperative that all actors concerned should demonstrate a genuine ownership of the Programme of Action and do their utmost to implement it at the national level.  While the main follow-up of the Programme must be at the country level, an international mechanism should be developed to promote the active involvement of the international community.  Although he supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to appoint a High Representative, he needed further clarifications on some of the modalities of such an Office.

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

The Committee then heard the introduction of four draft resolutions.

MOHAMMAD ALI ZARIE ZARE (Iran), on behalf of the Group of 77 Developing Countries and China, introduced the draft entitled “towards a strengthened and stable international financial architecture responsive to the priorities of

growth and development, especially in developing countries, and to the promotion of economic and social equity”.

He also introduced the drafts on:  enhancing international cooperation towards a durable solution to the external debt problems of developing countries; the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence; and the International Conference on Financing for Development.

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For information media. Not an official record.