SECOND COMMITTEE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION ON SPECIAL ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE FOR PHILIPPINES

8 November 2006
GA/EF/3166

SECOND COMMITTEE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION ON SPECIAL ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE FOR PHILIPPINES

8 November 2006
General Assembly
GA/EF/3166
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Second Committee

26th Meeting (AM)

SECOND COMMITTEE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION

 

ON SPECIAL ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE FOR PHILIPPINES

 

Members Begin General Discussion of Countries in Special Situations

The General Assembly would express its solidarity with the Government and people of the Philippines, by the terms of a draft resolution that the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) approved unanimously today.

By other terms of that text, on special economic assistance for the Philippines, the Assembly would appeal to development agencies to provide support and assistance in a timely and sustained manner to the post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation process taking place in that country.  It would invite the international community, the United Nations and other international organizations to increase their support for the strengthening of disaster preparedness capacity in the Philippines.

Also today, the Committee began its general discussion of countries in special situations.  Anwarul K. Chowdhury, High Representative of the Secretary-General for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010, and on implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action.

Offering a mixed review of progress in meeting the needs of the least developed countries, he said the period 2001-2004 had seen least developed countries grow at an average annual gross domestic product growth rate of 5.5 per cent -- much faster than they had in 1996-2000 and almost double the average annual growth rate in 1990-1995.  Yet, more than 50 per cent of the people in those countries still lived in extreme poverty.

Similarly, landlocked developing countries, as a whole, continued to suffer from infrastructure bottlenecks, despite innovations in transit corridor development strategies and increased monitoring of corridor performance, he said.  Only about 46 per cent of the combined road network of landlocked developing countries was paved and they also had very poor rail networks.  In addition, landlocked developing countries were encumbered by arduous customs procedures.  For example, the average customs procedure in Africa involved 20 to 30 different parties, 40 documents and 200 data elements, as well as the re-keying of 60 to 70 per cent of data, at least once.  Worldwide importing and exporting required between 32 and 40 days, compared to 57 to 72 days for landlocked developing countries.

Mongolia’s delegate added that the granting of greater market access for landlocked developing countries would reduce the disadvantages caused by natural and market-induced handicaps.  Leaders from landlocked developing countries, meeting in Cuba in September, had called on the international community to give special consideration to the high cost of transport and customs procedures, which were sometimes higher than the import tariffs charged for goods from those countries.  Meanwhile, there was a simultaneous need to improve the productive capacity of landlocked developing countries, increase their trade negotiating capacity and help them obtain funds and technical assistance to construct, maintain and improve transport and transit-related facilities.

Returning to the subject of least developed countries, Benin’s representative -- speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries -- said the fragile socio-economic conditions faced by those countries meant that many of them would be unable to achieve their development goals.  As such, the international community should do its utmost to assist with institutional capacity-building and infrastructure development, and invest more in those countries to provide them with adequate financial resources to meet their goals.  The recent high-level review of the Brussels Programme of Action should be seen as a starting point for developing new measures to help least developed countries.

As for least developed countries themselves, he said they must strengthen their productive capacities, which, against a backdrop of good governance, would help them achieve sustainable development.  Developed countries, meanwhile, should respect and live up to their commitments to allocate 0.2 per cent of their respective gross national incomes to official development assistance (ODA) for least developed countries.  That would give least developed countries access to developed-world markets on a duty- and quota-free basis, as well as cancel all their external debt.

The representative of Bangladesh said the suspension of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of negotiations entailed a disproportionately high cost for least developed countries.  Until the modalities of agriculture and non-agricultural market access were defined, it would be impossible to spell out Doha’s development dimension in real terms.  After they were properly determined, such mechanisms as “Aid for Trade” and the Enhanced Integrated Framework should be used fully to address capacity constraints and address the problems of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers in the developed countries that impeded exports from least developed countries.

Presenting a developed-world view, Japan’s delegate said his country had begun a “Development Initiatives for Trade” initiative based on the idea of “Aid for Trade”, under which Japan would help developing countries in every phase of the trade process:  producing, selling and buying.  As a result of that initiative, Japan had begun domestic procedures to implement duty- and quota-free treatment for least developed countries.  Technical assistance to improve basic economic infrastructure, such as roads and ports, would also be provided.  Japan intended to implement that initiative, regardless of the progress of the World Trade Organization negotiations.

The United States delegate, while acknowledging that there was no substitute for least developed countries own efforts to end poverty, noted the importance of donor partners and aid in helping to support and enhance country-level efforts.  The United States also recognized that the global market was important to developing countries, and that trade was an integral part of that equation.  However, while the United States had been the single largest importer of goods from developing countries in 2004, and already maintained relatively low barriers to trade with developing countries, their own trade barriers remained substantial.  Developing-world trade barriers should not be overlooked, as the global community worked together on trade liberalization.

Also speaking today were the representatives of South Africa (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Finland (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Iceland, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries), Afghanistan, Paraguay, Haiti (on behalf of the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM), Zambia (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, or SADC), Russian Federation, India and China.

In other business, the Committee heard the representative of Angola introduce a draft resolution on international assistance for the economic rehabilitation of his country.

The Second Committee will meet again on at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, 10 November, to conclude its general discussion of countries in special situations.  It is also expected to take up poverty eradication, following the launch of International Human Solidarity Day, at 10 a.m.

Background

Meeting this morning, to begin its general discussion on groups of countries in special situations, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) had before it a report of the Secretary-General on Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (document A/61/82-E/2006/74 and Corr.1), which shows that, despite improved economic performance, extreme poverty appears to be decreasing in very few of those countries, while increasing in many.  In a reversal of historical trends, life expectancy is declining, as a result of AIDS and civil strife.

Other social indicators, including gender equality, while improving, due to direct donor support to the social sectors, remain the lowest in the world, the report says.  Very few least developed countries can meet the goals and targets of the Brussels Programme of Action, if current trends persist.  Rapid population growth and urbanization, environmental degradation and AIDS aggravate extreme poverty, while climate change is emerging as a new challenge to sustainable development, particularly for those in Africa and the small islands.

The seven commitments of the Brussels Programme of Action are:  fostering a people-centred policy framework; achieving good governance at national and international levels; building human and institutional capacities; building productive capacities to make globalization work for the least developed countries; enhancing the role of trade in development; reducing vulnerability and protecting the environment; and mobilizing financial resources.

Calling for continued commitment and renewed energy, on the part of least developed countries and their development partners, to implementing the Programme of Action, the report recommends, among other things, the integration of the Programme’s targets into national development strategies.  Development partners should support those strategies through the common country assessments/United Nations Development Assistance Fund (UNDAF) and poverty reduction strategy papers processes.  The keeping of promises on aid, debt relief, market access and technical assistance is crucial for breaking the poverty trap and maintaining the credibility of the Programme as a framework of partnership between least developed countries and their development partners.

Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the Midterm comprehensive global review of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (document A/61/173), which states that least developed countries have strengthened their policy and governance reform efforts, while their development partners have increased their development assistance, enhanced debt relief and provided some additional trade opportunities.  Tangible results include rising economic growth towards the target of 7 per cent, as well as progress towards a number of quantitative human development goals.  However, for most inhabitants of least developed countries, the absolute levels of deprivation remain higher than in other developing countries, and income poverty was largely unchanged.

Those countries should continue to improve governance, including by building human and institutional capacities, and should give greater attention to gender equality, agriculture, infrastructure and AIDS, the report says.  Development partners should continue to increase their support, while developed countries strive to reach the agreed quantitative and qualitative official development assistance (ODA) goals for aid to least developed countries.  Efforts to reduce external debt in those countries should be sustained, obstacles to exports reduced and private-sector investment increased, with support from civil society.

The Committee also had before it a note by the President of the General Assembly transmitting his Summary of informal interactive hearings of the General Assembly with representatives of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector (document A/61/162).

According to the summary, participants in the two interactive sessions underscored the importance of partnerships, good governance, and resources for development, trade, migration and vulnerable groups.  Women must be empowered to contribute fully towards development efforts, and investment in agriculture must be stepped up to promote food security.  Also, microfinance, as well as small and medium-size enterprises, could play an important role in promoting sustainable development, while agricultural subsidies in developed countries should be removed to improve least developed countries export performance.  It was also important to create more awareness about the plight of least developed countries, in order to overcome the “advocacy gap”.

The Committee also had before it the Report of the preparatory meeting of experts for the High-Level Meeting on the midterm comprehensive global review of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (document A/61/323), convened at United Nations Headquarters from 5 to 7 September 2006.  A draft resolution entitled “Declaration of the High-Level Meeting of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly on the midterm comprehensive global review of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010”, was submitted for adoption by the General Assembly at its High-Level Meeting on 18 and 19 September.

Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on Implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action:  Addressing the Special Needs of Landlocked Developing Countries within a New Global Framework for Transit Transportation Cooperation for Landlocked and Transit Development Countries (document A/61/302), which describes the overall economic situation of landlocked developing countries, as well as activities undertaken by different stakeholders to address their special needs, as laid out in the Almaty Programme of Action.

The report concludes that the high cost of international trade represents a serious constraint to the trade and economic development of landlocked developing countries.  Measures to deal with their transit problems must address a broad range of factors, including inadequate infrastructure, trade imbalance, inefficient organization of transport, as well as weak managerial, regulatory and institutional systems.  Regional economic integration efforts, as well as subregional and bilateral transit cooperation agreements, play a critical role in creating efficient transit transport systems, which are essential to landlocked developing countries in gaining access to and from the sea.  Their implementation should be strengthened and monitored.

Among other recommendations, the report asks the international community to provide greater market access for goods originating in landlocked developing countries, so as to mitigate high trade transaction costs.  An immediate increase in technical assistance to those countries can help them play an effective role in World Trade Organization trade negotiations.  Donor countries as well as financial and development institutions -– particularly the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank -- are invited to provide greater financial resources to transit transport infrastructure projects in landlocked developing countries.

The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on Humanitarian Assistance and reconstruction of the Philippines (document A.C.2/61/L.8/Rev.1), by which the General Assembly would express its solidarity with, and support to, the Government and people of the Philippines, and invite the international community, the United Nations and other international organizations to increase their support for strengthening the country’s disaster preparedness capacity.

Also before the Committee was a draft resolution on International Assistance for the economic rehabilitation of Angola (document A/C.2/61/L.10/Rev.1).  (Please see Press Release GA/EF/3165 for background information).

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

The representative of Angola introduced the draft resolution on International Assistance for the economic rehabilitation of Angola (document A/C.2/61/L.10/Rev.1), noting that, four years ago, the General Assembly introduced a resolution to help his country overcome the difficulties of the previous 30 years of conflict.  Today, the reality of Angola was very different.  The country was engaged in a process of rehabilitation with its development partners.  While acknowledging the significant contribution made through South-South cooperation, the draft resolution acknowledged the primary responsibility of the Government for the welfare of its citizens.

The representative of the Philippines then introduced the draft resolution on Special economic assistance for the Philippines (document A.C.2/61/L.8/Rev.1) and expressed his country’s appreciation for the positive and constructive cooperation of Member States during the consultation process.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee then went on to approve, without a vote, the draft resolution on special economic assistance for the Philippines.

Statements

PETER LE ROUX (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcomed both the High-Level Meeting to assess the progress made on the Brussels Programme and the Cotonou Strategy, as a comprehensive analytical midterm review of the status of implementation of that Programme.  Very few least developed countries were expected to be able to meet the Brussels Programme objectives if current trends were to continue.  It was therefore essential that full implementation of the seven commitments be adhered to, if those countries were to achieve their development goals.

He said the Group of 77 Annual Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Ministers had stressed the need to fully implement the Almaty Programme.  In that regard, the Group welcomed the decision of the landlocked developing countries to hold a midterm review meeting in 2008.  Indeed, the review should be preceded by national, subregional, regional and substantive preparations in the most effective manner possible, to be coordinated by the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.  The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the regional commissions and other international organizations should be on hand to provide support.  The private sector should be encouraged to invest in the least developed countries and the landlocked developing countries, and development partners must fulfil the commitments made at all major conferences and summits in the past 10 years, especially the Monterrey Financing for Development Conference and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

TARJA FERNÁNDEZ ( Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the midterm review had been carried out in a constructive spirit and its outcome was welcomed.  As the biggest net ODA provider, the European Union noted, with satisfaction, the overall increase in assistance, especially to the least developed countries.  But there were still considerable gaps in some areas of the Programme.

As for the landlocked developing countries, she expressed the European Union’s firm commitment to the Almaty Programme of Action, in recognition that the lack of territorial access to the sea, as well as geographical remoteness and isolation from world markets brought adverse effects on the socio-economic development of those countries.  The European Union was providing financial support to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional road transport and transit programme, and working with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  It was also working closely on issues related to “Aid for Trade”.

HARALD ASPELUND ( Iceland) reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the Brussels Programme as a crucial element in the global strategy to improve the situation of least developed countries.  Iceland was fully committed to reaching the United Nations target of allocating 0.15 per cent to 0.2 per cent of gross national income to official aid to least developed countries.  It was worrying that extreme poverty was decreasing in only a few of those countries, while increasing in many others.  Much remained to be done in the remaining five years of the Programme of Action and Iceland stood ready to play its part.

He said poor health care was a principal problem of least developed countries, pointing out that three out of 8 of the Millennium Development Goals focused on health.  That showed the pressing need for assistance in that area.  Regarding the landlocked developing countries, Iceland was fully committed to implementing the five priorities of the 2003 Almaty Programme of Action and recognized the special situation of those countries, whose lack of access to the sea and distance from world markets contributed to their poverty.  “Aid for Trade” was an important initiative to reduce the adverse effects of the geographic location of landlocked developing countries.

ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said they faced serious constraints in their efforts to eradicate poverty, achieve sustained growth and integrate into the global economy.  That was due, primarily, to prohibitive transit costs, stemming from those countries lack of territorial access to the sea, which was aggravated by their remoteness and isolation from world markets, inadequate infrastructure and cumbersome border crossing procedures.

Against that background, the World Trade Organization negotiations on market access should give particular attention to agricultural and non-agricultural goods of special interest to landlocked developing countries, he continued.  Negotiations on trade facilitation were also an important issue and landlocked developing countries needed increased financial and technical assistance to build their capacity in that area.

Turning to the first-ever meeting of leaders of landlocked developing countries, held in Havana in September, he said it had ended with the adoption of a declaration reaffirming the commitment of those leaders to creating genuine partnerships with their transit neighbours and development partners for the implementation of the Almaty Programme.  One important decision involved calling for a midterm review to assess the progress made and chart out strategies to translate special actions called for in the Programme into specific projects.  The Group of Landlocked Developing Countries would propose such a review to the current session of the General Assembly.

Noting that landlocked developing countries depended on their transit neighbours for access to and from the sea, he said the creation of efficient transit systems required closer and more effective cooperation and collaboration among those countries and their transit neighbours.  To that end, the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries reaffirmed its commitment to close cooperation with its transit neighbours in which regional economic groups, as well as transit and bilateral pacts, would play a critical role.

The Committee then broke off its general discussion to hear the introduction of the reports before it.

Introduction of Reports

ANWARUL K. CHOWDHURY, High Representative of the Secretary-General for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, then introduced the reports on implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (document A/61/82-E/2006/74 and Corr.1) and on implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action (document A/61/302), while apologizing for his delayed appearance before the Committee.

He began by praising the “remarkable” participation at the High-Level Meeting to review progress on the Brussels Programme, where 75 delegations had taken the floor, including six Heads of State and Government -- led by President Boni Yayi of Benin as the global Chairman of the Group of Least Developed Countries -- five deputy prime ministers, as well as 40 ministers and vice ministers.  The General Assembly President’s interactive hearings involving civil society, non-governmental organizations and the private sector had provided substantive inputs to the preparatory process.  However, the Meeting had concluded that, despite some progress, the overall socio-economic situation of the least developed countries remained precarious and required continuing attention.  The Cotonou Strategy for further implementation of the Brussels Programme was a welcome initiative owned and led by the least developed countries.

According to reports, he said, during 2001-2004, annual gross domestic product rates in least developed countries had grown at an average 5.5 per

cent -- much faster than they had in the period 1996-2000 and almost double the average annual growth rate in 1990-1995.  Yet, more than 50 per cent of the people in least developed countries lived in extreme poverty.  However, good progress had been made in universal primary school enrolment and gender equality, while HIV/AIDS incidence rates in most least developed countries had begun to decline, thanks to the international community’s support.  Still, tuberculosis infections had increased due to weakened human immune systems caused by HIV, which signified a need for more investment in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes.

He went on to say that, while governance had improved, with help from the United Nations, there was a need to give greater support to the Organization’s Resident Coordinators in the 50 least developed countries; to heighten national ownership by least developed countries in the implementation of the Brussels Programme commitments; to raise the quality and quantity of ODA; and to pay the necessary attention to effective governance, particularly at the local level, women’s empowerment and infrastructure development.  The Secretary-General had considered the outcome of the midterm review and adopted, in October, a decision on further coordination of United Nations support to least developed countries.

Turning to the Almaty Programme, he said innovations such as the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa had introduced the use of sealed grids for regional road transport.  African regional integration organizations had been instrumental in further developing transit corridor development strategies and monitoring corridor performance.  Likewise, the private sector had played an increasingly important role in that regard.

Lack of infrastructure development and maintenance continued to be the major bottleneck in the economic development of landlocked developing countries and their integration into the world economy, he said.  Only about 46 per cent of the combined road network of landlocked developing countries was paved.  As a group, they also had a very poor rail network, and lagged behind, too, in communication infrastructure, particularly phone and Internet connectivity.  The African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Bank and the United Nations regional commissions had responded to those challenges and were actively involved in developing transit transport.

Pointing out that customs procedures and transport were the single greatest cost in external trade, he said they were higher than import tariffs for goods from landlocked developing countries.  Average customs procedures in Africa involved 20 to 30 different parties, 40 documents and 200 data elements, as well as the re-keying of 60 to 70 per cent of data at least once.  To complete those procedures, worldwide importing and exporting required between 32 and 40 days, respectively, figures that rose to 57 and 72 days for landlocked developing countries.  The average for transit developing countries was 23 and 29 days.  Serious efforts must be made to ease such bottlenecks.  For its part, the Office of the High Representative had made significant progress in mobilizing and coordinating international financing and development institutions to implement the Almaty Programme.

TINNA INTELMANN ( Estonia), Committee Chairperson, thanked the High Representative for his statement and invited delegates to resume their discussion.

Questions and Answers

The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, speaking on behalf of the Landlocked Developing Countries, noted that, three years since the approval of Almaty Programme, landlocked developing countries remained weak and vulnerable, as they faced the double challenge of distance and border crossings.  They spent 13 per cent of their export earnings on insurance and transport services -- some African countries spent more than 40 per cent -- compared to the 4 to 5 per cent that developed countries spent.  As the global community approached the midterm review in 2008, the landlocked developing countries wanted that event to be well-structured and inclusive of all stakeholders as they assessed the progress made so far and developed new strategies.

The representative of Afghanistan pointed out that the report did not reflect the lack of security in some landlocked developing countries.

The representative of Benin noted that, since the Brussels Programme’s adoption five years ago, the situation of least developed countries remained precarious and fragile.  What was the Secretariat’s strategy to mobilize resources for infrastructure and microfinancing?

The representative of Japan noted that assistance to least developed countries had increased by 75 per cent between 2001 and 2004 and aid from the United Nations system had risen by 80 per cent from 2000 and 2005.

The representative of Paraguay noted that the report did not contain the Secretary-General’s vision for landlocked countries in South America, an observation supported by the representative of Bolivia.

Mr. CHOWDHURY, responding to the Chairman of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, acknowledged that the challenge of distance was great and that much more could be done to ease it.  The upcoming five-year review would be helpful in taking stock and avoiding the loss of a sense of reality in implementing the Programme and reviewing new developments in the world economy.  Afghanistan’s emphasis on the link between peace and development was very important.

Turning to Benin’s concerns on resource mobilization, he pointed out that assistance to least developed countries had jumped over the last five years and there had also been a big jump between 2004 and 2005.  Those increases, which were due to debt cancellation, were valuable, as they released money that could then be made available for Government development efforts.  It was up to the least developed countries to decide how that money should be engaged in national development efforts.

He said infrastructure development was a primary need and his Office was engaged with officials of the World Bank and regional development banks on that issue.  Regarding resources for microfinance, the Capital Development Fund was raising financing in that area and expanding the Programme to other least developed countries.  The resource mobilization strategy should include contacts with donor countries.

The funds and programmes of the United Nations system had increased their resources to least developed countries, a process that would be advanced further, after the midterm review, he said.  Strategies that enveloped “Aid for Trade” and greater access to markets were also very important.  Development was a very complex process, and increasing ODA did not mean the automatic achievement of development goals.  Good governance, leadership and other factors were needed.

Turning to the concerns of the South American countries, he said the report was an assessment of the implementation of the Almaty Programme.  It looked at the progress of the landlocked countries and their neighbours.  His Office sought political guidance from Member States, so as to help the United Nations develop a vision for those countries.

Statements

JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU (Benin), speaking on behalf of the least developed countries and aligning himself with the Group of 77 developing countries, said that the high-level review of the Brussels Programme should be viewed as a starting point for developing new measures to help least developed countries achieve growth.  Indeed, the fragile socio-economic conditions faced by least developed countries meant that many would not be able to achieve the Programme’s objectives, nor the Millennium Development Goals.  The international community should do its utmost to provide sufficient assistance in institutional capacity-building, infrastructure, production, investment and to provide adequate financial resources.

He said the least developed countries were heartened when Heads of States and Government reaffirmed their commitment to the Brussels Programme, and that the Cotonou Strategy had provided good recommendations for least developed countries and their development partners, to overcome their constraints.  Least developed countries now needed to proceed with their efforts to strengthen governance and productive capacities, so as to achieve sustainable development.  Developed countries, meanwhile, should assist in finding solutions to structural weaknesses and should respect their commitments to allocate 0.2 per cent of gross national product to official development assistance to least developed countries.  They should also provide those countries with access to their markets on duty- and quota-free basis and cancel 100 per cent of the debt owed by them.

He said the Cotonou Strategy was a kind of “regional charter” for the purpose of helping least developed countries and their partners to achieve those goals, with the United Nations taking the lead in mobilizing and coordinating the efforts of all actors.  The United Nations Resident Coordinator System and Regional Commissions should take an active part in such an effort, with the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States raising awareness over the issue.  Benin called on the United Nations to mainstream least developed country issues into its economic analyses, and on the Bretton Woods institutions to substantially increase the resources they allocated to those countries.

WILLIAM EXANTUS (Haiti), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and aligning himself with the least developed countries and the Group of 77, said that disparities in growth and development existed, not just between regions, but also within regions, as illustrated by the particularly deplorable situation faced by Haiti within the CARICOM region.  As for the overall condition of least developed countries in that same region, their modest economic performance, so far, had been severely tested, resulting in stagnation and even regression in some cases.  To address that situation, the Brussels Programme was the best and most ambitious framework.  But, as pointed out in the Cotonou Strategy, while some progress had, indeed, been made to help the least developed, that progress was limited to a small number of countries.

He said that its current trends were not reversed on a wider basis; many such countries would be unable to engage in sustainable development, or to reduce poverty among their citizens.  Indeed, where many should have seen a 25 per cent growth in investments, they had seen only around 6 per cent growth.  Further, Haiti was able to achieve only a 1.5 per cent economic growth rate, far below the targeted rate of 7 per cent.  Much more ODA was needed to speed up the growth process of Haiti and countries like it.  For its part, CARICOM had played a big role in helping Haiti reach its completion point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative, for example.  The Brussels Programme should drive overall international efforts to help countries in a similar situation.  ODA donors should step up their efforts to reach their targeted allocation levels in the next five years.

TENS C. KAPOMA (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and aligning himself with the least developed countries and the Group of 77, stressed the need to integrate the Brussels Programme into the national policies and strategies of the least developed countries.  International policies should include more aid and a rebalancing of sectoral allocations, to increase the share of official development assistance allocated to physical infrastructure and productive sectors.

With regard to the seven commitments of the Brussels Programme, the SADC had fared comparatively well on fostering good governance and continued to consolidate peace and security by implementing democracy, the rule of law and human rights.  One example was the constitutional referendum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that had led to the recent democratic elections.  Democratic elections had also been held in the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.

He said the SADC region faced many supply-side constraints and agricultural productivity was very low.  It also realized that trade was an engine for growth and that preferential market access for its goods was very important.  In order to meet export demand, there was a need to address supply-side constraints and improve supply capacities.  There was also a need to implement the “Aid for Trade” initiative, as well as to improve physical infrastructure and administrative procedures, so as to increase trade.  ODA also remained a critical resource for achieving objectives and targets.

NIKOLAY V. CHULKOV ( Russian Federation) said the Brussels Programme should remain a priority for the global community, since the progress of the poorest countries would be a factor in their attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals.  Member States should cooperate to implement the programme fully.  Besides taking steps to help least developed countries, by cutting export duties and adopting trade-preference regimes for their imports, the Russian Federation was also playing an active part in debt cancellation initiatives.

He said his country had participated in several regional transportation transit projects that had shown their ability to reduce transportation times for landlocked countries, which could lead to cost savings.  Efforts to develop regional agreements, including bilateral pacts, in that area, were very important.  The Russian Federation supported such agreements, as well as the monitoring of their implementation.

KAZUO SUNAGA (Japan) said his country had announced its “Development Initiatives for Trade”, based on the idea of “Aid for Trade”, under which Japan would help developing countries with every phase of the trade process -- that is, producing, selling and buying.  As a result of the initiative, the country had begun domestic procedures to implement a duty- and quota-free treatment for least developed countries.  Technical assistance to improve basic economic infrastructure, such as roads and ports, would also be provided.  Further, the initiative would be implemented, regardless of the progress of the World Trade Organization negotiations.

He said that the United Nations and donors should bear in mind that the framework within which national and international efforts were made was just as important as the quantity of aid being given.  Official development assistance to least developed countries had risen by about 75 per cent between 2001 and 2004, and United Nations expenditures were 80 per cent higher in 2005 than 2001.  Full advantage should be taken of that increase, by coordinating the work of the United Nations with that of other development partners.  Their activities should then be supported by the self-help efforts of least developed countries.

As for landlocked developing countries, he said Japan welcomed the first summit meeting involving those countries, in September, in Cuba, during which it was an observer.  The Declaration adopted there would help to further progress under the Almaty Programme, in support of which Japan had provided ODA grants and concessional loans.  The country had also held seminars on a range of subjects relating to infrastructure and improvement of regional transportation networks.

MUFTI MOHAMMED SAYEED (India), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the 2008 midterm review of the Almaty Programme would undoubtedly provide an impetus for the implementation of its goals and commitments.  While transit developing countries faced many challenges, they took on additional costs when providing transit transport facilities to landlocked countries, even as areas in their own countries remained equally remote from the sea.  In the spirit of cooperation, India enjoyed close and historical links with both its landlocked neighbours, Bhutan and Nepal.

Noting that ODA disbursements to least developed countries were more than a third short of the agreed targets, he stressed the crucial importance of those funds, as the physical and social infrastructure of several least developed countries was too weak to attract private-sector investment.  Debt relief was also important for many least developed countries, but it must be accomplished by efforts to improve debt management capacity and a proactive approach to boosting growth and revenues, as well as enhancing exports.  That could be achieved through better market access and enhanced trade-related opportunities.  Valuing South-South cooperation, India was finalizing a preferential market access package for least developed countries products, and Africa was a high priority as the country strengthened its ties with the continent through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and other efforts.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY ( Bangladesh), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said least developed countries faced such severe structural impediments that they were unable to break the cycle of poverty by themselves.  Global support had been far from adequate -- net capital injection into least developed countries was less than $5 billion a year, or only 2 cents per day for every least developed country citizen.  Obtaining even that meagre amount was not an easy task for those countries, since they had to comply with reform requirements and other such conditionalities.

Also, he said that suspension of the Doha Round had entailed a disproportionately high cost for least developed countries.  Indeed, until the modalities in agriculture and in non-agricultural market access were defined, it was impossible to spell out the development dimensions of Doha in real terms.  It was also time to fully implement “Aid for Trade” and the enhanced integrated framework for least developed countries, which would address capacity constraints and address the problems of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers in the developed countries that impeded least developed country exports.

Indeed, resources flowing to least developed countries needed to expand; their debts to be written off; their products to be given duty- and quota-free access to developed markets; and non-tariff and other non-trade barriers to those products to be lifted.  Rules of origin must be made simpler; flexibility should be shown to least developed countries to meet their international commitments; special and differential treatment should be mainstreamed into the World Trade Organization’s legal architecture; all service providers (human capital) should be given free access to other countries; and foreign direct investment and remittances should be encouraged as a means of capital accumulation.

LIU ZHENMIN (China), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that, despite the fact that economic growth of some least developed countries had approached the target rate of 0.7 per cent, others had found themselves trapped even deeper in poverty.  Their debt burden had become heavier and there had been only a limited increase in the official development assistance they received.  Indeed, the international community was duty-bound to provide assistance to the least developed countries, since the survival and development of 700 million of the world’s poorest people depended on it.

Hopefully, donors from the developed world would honour their commitment, under the Millennium Declaration and the Monterrey Consensus, by reaching the target of the 0.15 to 0.2 per cent of their gross national income as ODA to the least developed countries by 2015; by expanding the scale of grants; by continuing the drastic reduction of debts of the least developed countries, on the basis of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative and the ‘Group of 8’ initiative for debt relief; and by implementing the outcome of the 2005 World Trade Organization Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong and granting duty- and quota-free market access, no later than 2007, to all least developed country exports.

He said that President Hu Jintao of China had announced measures to help other developing countries, and to date, the country had provided assistance or grants to 49 least developed countries, on more than a thousand occasions.  It had completed 799 projects, cancelled 172 outstanding debts owed by 36 of those countries, and given tariff-free access to some exports from least developed countries with which China had diplomatic relations.  At the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, held a few days ago, China had proposed measures to support African countries specifically.  Also, being a transit developing country, China understood the concerns of landlocked developing countries and had signed 13 multilateral and bilateral agreements on motor transportation with neighbouring countries.  It had also provided the Republic of Kyrgyzstan with RMB (Reminbi) 60 million, which would be spent on road construction to connect that country with China and Uzbekistan.

RICHARD T. MILLER ( United States) said his country realized that least developed countries experienced crucial difficulties and that it was in the interest of all nations to help lift poverty-stricken people out of their plight.  The current administration placed development, one of the pillars of its national security strategy, at the centre of its foreign policy.  ODA from the United States had nearly tripled between 2000 and 2005 from $10 billion to $27.6 billion.  Between 2004 and 2005, the country’s bilateral aid to least developed countries had increased more than 40 per cent to nearly $5 billion.  Additionally, its aid to Africa, in 2005, had risen to $4.2 billion, up more than 250 per cent from 2000 levels.  The United States remained the largest single-country source of humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

While there was no substitute for the least developed countries own efforts to end poverty, the role of donor partners and aid were important in supporting and enhancing country-level efforts, he said.  The United States also recognized the importance of the global market for developing countries and that trade was an integral part of that equation.  In 2004, the United States had been the largest single importer of goods from developing countries and it already had relatively low barriers to trade goods from developing countries.  But their own trade barriers remained substantial and should not be overlooked, as the global community worked together on trade liberalization.  The United States remained committed to far-reaching global trade liberalization through the Doha Round.

He said that, with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, announced by President Bush at Monterrey in 2002, the United States had kept its promise to provide more aid to developing countries that were taking concrete steps to invest in their citizens, promote economic freedom and encourage good governance in which individual rights and free expression were respected.  The Millennium Challenge Corporation aimed to reduce poverty by creating sustainable growth.  It was now engaged with 22 eligible countries, 12 of which were least developed countries and embodied the Brussels Programme, by recognizing there was no one-size-fits-all recipe for development.  The Millennium Challenge Corporation and other United States transformational development assistance programmes offered partnership and substantial resources in exchange for measurable performance and results, with the aim of achieving lasting development outcomes.

PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said the Heads of State and Government of the those countries had gathered in Havana for their first summit meeting, demonstrating their resolute stance to collectively address the specific needs and challenges they faced.  In the Declaration from the meeting, participants pledged to establish genuine partnership with transit developing countries and development partners, aimed at attaining Almaty Programme objectives.  They had also emphasized the need to establish dialogue between Governments and business communities.

He said that greater market access for landlocked developing countries would reduce the disadvantages caused by natural and market-induced handicaps.  The Landlocked Developing Countries Summit called on the international community to give special consideration to problems such as high cost of transport and customs procedures, which were sometimes higher than tariffs for goods from those countries.  There was also a simultaneous need to improve the productive capacity of landlocked developing countries, to increase their trade negotiating capacity and to obtain funds and technical assistance to construct, maintain and improve transport and transit-related facilities.  Mongolia also supported the establishment of a think-tank to help build optimal strategies on matters of common interest.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.