Upcoming Conference on Least Developed Countries must Find Ways to Improve Life for Millions, Its Secretary-General Tells Preparatory Meeting

10 January 2011
DEV/2856

Upcoming Conference on Least Developed Countries must Find Ways to Improve Life for Millions, Its Secretary-General Tells Preparatory Meeting

10 January 2011
General Assembly
DEV/2856
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee

 for Fourth United Nations Conference

 on Least Developed Countries

1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Upcoming Conference on Least Developed Countries must Find Ways to Improve

 

Life for Millions, Its Secretary-General Tells Preparatory Meeting

 

Istanbul Will Determine Development Paradigm for Years,

He Says of Poor Nations’ Need to ‘Graduate’ from ‘Least Developed’ Status

The upcoming Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, which would determine the development paradigm for years to come, must come up with concrete ways to achieve sustainable economic prosperity in those 48 nations and improve the lot of their millions of poor people, the Secretary-General of the Conference said at the opening session of its Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting.

Cheick Sidi Diarra told the Meeting:  “The key objectives for the next 10 years must include some ambitious targets, such as reducing by half the number of people suffering from poverty and hunger, and ensuring up to half of all least developed countries will be in a position to graduate from this category in the next 10 years, compared with only three graduations in the last three decades.”  Under-Secretary-General Diarra is the Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

He said the programme of action expected to emerge from the Conference, scheduled for 9 to 13 May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey, would focus on key priorities in least developed countries, such as building productive capacities, improving access to technology, promoting an agricultural revolution to erase hunger and ensure food security, as well as ensuring universal access to basic services, a genuine green deal to mitigate climate change and good developmental governance.  In preparation for the Conference, 34 of the 48 least developed countries had already submitted national progress reports on implementation of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action, he added.

Mr. Diarra emphasized that despite some progress by those nations towards achieving economic growth and sustainable development — as called for in the Brussels document — the structural transformation needed to overcome their vulnerability to external shocks had not occurred.  Nearly 80 per cent of their populations lived on less than $2 per day, and many people had little or no access to safe drinking water.  Infant and maternal mortality were high, while jobs and decent work for rapidly expanding populations were inadequate.

The global economic, food and energy crises, as well as climate change, posed serious threats to their development, he continued, going on to cite also the failure by development partners to fulfil pledges to earmark 0.15 to 0.2 per cent of gross domestic product to official development assistance (ODA), and to grant duty- and quota-free market access to goods and products from least developed countries.  He called on the international community to create a global architecture and external environment conducive to enabling least developed countries to erase such ills not only through a partnership against poverty, but also through a “compact of prospects”.

Jarmo Viinanen (Finland), Chair of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee, echoed that call, stressing:  “We have to find things that unite us.”  The Conference — which would appraise implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, identify relevant policies and reaffirm global commitments made at major United Nations conferences and summits to address the special needs of least developed countries — would provide a historic opportunity to improve the quality of life in those nations and forge stronger links between them and their development partners.

In a similar vein, Turkey’s representative, speaking as representative of the host country, said the Conference outcome document should put forward a new vision by strongly reflecting the parameters of the international development agenda and the development priorities of the world’s poorest nations.  Delegates should devise a short political declaration, sending a strong message on the importance of multilateralism, as well as a detailed action programme outlining a renewed framework for development cooperation.

He went on to underline that the text must be balanced, taking into account the priorities and concerns of least developed countries and their development partners, with particular emphasis on productive capacities; predictable financial flows, including ODA; agriculture and rural development; access to essential services, like education and health; South-South cooperation; gender equality; and climate change.  The outcome document must also set out a systematic monitoring and review mechanism, he said.

Discussing parliamentary preparations for the Conference, the Permanent Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) said it had encouraged parliamentarians to participate in regional preparatory meetings around Africa and Asia, as well as other Conference-related meetings, and to provide input on governance issues in pre-conference events.  She attributed poor implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action partly to weak parliamentary oversight of Government policies, stressing that success for the Istanbul Programme of Action would depend on enhanced national ownership and stronger cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of Government.

The International Coordinator of LDC Watch, speaking about civil society’s role, said the programme of action must not focus on past prescriptions for development.  It should genuinely recognize and respect human rights, particularly those of traditionally ignored and marginalized groups such as women, children and indigenous peoples, while including specific ways for the immediate redress of injustices against them.  It must create a predictable development mechanism in terms of taxes, finances and ways to manage climate change, he said, emphasizing the crucial importance of transparency.

The Deputy Director of the United Nations Global Compact Office, briefing on the private sector track, said the Conference would provide an historic opportunity to raise the voice of responsible, sustainable business and private-sector development in a way that had not yet been seen.  Trade winds were favourable, with a greater consensus around the private sector’s role in development, and more Governments embracing foreign direct investment (FDI) as a complement to development aid.  Rising numbers of firms from least developed countries were looking to be connected to the global economy, he noted, adding that other companies were examining the next wave of emerging markets, many of which were in least developed countries.

Earlier in the Meeting, Mr. Viinanen announced that Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou ( Benin) had been appointed Rapporteur of the Meeting.  He also drew attention to a “non-paper” on “Compilation of contributions for the outcome of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries”.

Also speaking today were representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Nepal (on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries), Hungary (on behalf of the European Union), Australia (on behalf of the CANZ Group), Bangladesh, Brazil, Sudan, Lesotho, Republic of Korea, India, Ethiopia, Egypt, Slovenia, Japan, Belgium, United States, Zambia, France, China, Indonesia, Norway, Cuba, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Dominican Republic, Finland and South Africa.

Officials spoke on behalf of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, International Organization for Migration, International Labour Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Development Programme.

Representatives of the Common Fund for Commodities, the Enhanced Integrated Framework and the World Intellectual Property Organization also delivered statements.

The Meeting will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 January, to conclude its general debate.

Background

The Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, to be held from 9 to 13 May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey, met this morning to open its first session and begin its general debate.

Before the Meeting were the review of the preparatory process for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/CONF.219/IPC/2), which covers the state of preparations as of October 2010; the report of the regional preparatory review meeting for Africa and Haiti (document A/CONF.219/IPC/3), held on 8 and 9 March 2010 in Addis Ababa; and the report of the regional-level preparatory review meeting for Asia-Pacific and Yemen (document A/CONF.219/IPC/4), held in Dhaka from 18 to 20 January 2010.

Opening Remarks

JARMO VIINANEN ( Finland), Chair of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee, launched the meeting by emphasizing that the task ahead was crucial and time limited.  Expressing confidence that delegates had the will to work together in laying a firm foundation for the success of the Fourth United Nations Conference, he stressed:  “There is no human dignity when hundreds of millions of children go hungry day in and day out.”  While the world had changed dramatically in the 10 years since the 2001 adoption of the Brussels Programme of Action, and common development efforts had brought tangible results, that progress was far from sufficient.

With more than half the population in least developed countries living in extreme poverty, the forthcoming Conference would be an historic opportunity to improve the quality of their lives, he continued.  Least developed countries were the best experts on their own development, he pointed out, adding that a genuine global partnership would entail a joint formulation of the Istanbul Conference outcome by developing and developed countries.  “We have to find things that unite us”, he emphasized.

He went on to say that the Conference’s mandate was to appraise implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action; identify international and domestic policies in light of that appraisal; reaffirm global commitments made at major United Nations conferences and summits to address the special needs of the least developed countries; and to formulate and adopt a renewed partnership between least developed countries and their development partners.  Constructive engagement by all stakeholders was needed to achieve an outcome that would address the structural constraints of least developed countries, he said, calling for a spirit of cooperation and compromise in beginning work on the Istanbul Conference outcome.

Statements

CHEICK SIDI DIARRA, Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, addressed the meeting in his capacity as Secretary-General of the Istanbul Conference.  He said it would be the biggest and most comprehensive development conference of the new decade, and its programme of action would determine the development paradigm for years to come.  “The key objectives for the next 10 years must include some ambitious targets, such as reducing by half the number of people suffering from poverty and hunger, and ensuring up to half of all least developed countries will be in a position to graduate from this category in the next 10 years, compared with only three graduations in the last three decades.”  He called on the meeting to devise commensurate means to implement that vision.

Despite some progress by the least developed countries in achieving economic growth and sustainable development, structural transformation had not taken place, which left them still vulnerable to external shocks, he said.  Poverty remained high and some 78 per cent of their populations lived on less than $2 per day.  Challenges remained in the areas of access to safe drinking water, infant and maternal mortality, and the development of infrastructure and productive capacity.  A high population growth rate at 2.3 per cent annually, almost twice that in the rest of the developing world, posed a major threat, he noted, adding that least developed countries had not been able to create enough jobs and decent work for the growing number of people entering the labour force.

South-South cooperation was a new source of economic vitality that must be fully harnessed in trade, development aid, foreign direct investment (FDI) as well as technical and technological cooperation, he said.  The recent multiple crises, as well as climate change, posed serious threats to the development efforts of least developed countries.  Despite commendable efforts in the areas of debt relief, trade, official development assistance (ODA) and FDI, development partners were yet to fulfil their promises to earmark 0.15 to 0.2 per cent of gross domestic product to ODA and to grant duty- and quota-free market access to their goods and products.

He said the Programme of Action would focus on key priorities, such as building a critical mass of viable and diversified productive capacities, improving access to technology, promoting an agricultural revolution to eliminate hunger and ensure food security, ensuring universal access to basic services and progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, managing climate change and ensuring a genuine green deal, and ensuring good developmental governance.

In preparing for the Conference, 34 of the 48 least developed countries had submitted national reports that evaluated and assessed progress in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action, he said.  Forward-looking outcomes had emerged from two regional review meetings, and the Office of the High Representative was working closely with United Nations agencies and other global institutions on key thematic areas, as well as with the Inter-Parliamentary Union to mobilize the involvement of parliamentarians.

The private sector steering committee launched in 2010 would introduce the Global Business Partnership Forum for LDC Development, he said, recalling also that in August, the Secretary-General had appointed a Group of Eminent Persons to examine obstacles to the economic progress of least developed countries that would recommend a new paradigm for their structural transformation.  For least developed countries to prosper and realize long-term development aspirations, bold and systematic international support measures and a more conductive external environment were imperative, he said, calling on the international community to create a global architecture towards that end.  “[Least developed countries] should not be treated as an object of solidarity, rather a subject of global prosperity,” he said, calling not only for a partnership against poverty, but also a “compact of prospects”.

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey), speaking in his capacity as representative of the host country, said Turkey was privileged to host the Conference.  “We will be charting a new development path for the least developed countries in the next decade,” he noted, emphasizing that the task would not be easy.  The outcome document should put forward a new vision by strongly reflecting the parameters of the international development agenda and the development priorities of the world’s poorest nations.  Rather than produce a “generic policy document”, delegates should devise a short political declaration and a detailed action programme, he stressed, adding that the former should send a strong message about the importance of multilateralism, and the latter must outline the modalities of a renewed framework for development cooperation.

To ensure ownership of the outcome document at the national and global levels, the text must be balanced, he continued, stressing that it must take into account the priorities and concerns of least developed countries and their development partners.  Among areas deserving special attention were establishing productive capacities; predictable financial flows, including official development assistance; agriculture and rural development; access to essential services, like education and health; South-South cooperation; gender equality; and climate change.  Importantly, the outcome document must also set out a systematic monitoring and review mechanism, he said.

In addition to the substantive work ahead of the Fourth Conference, an intensive campaign to sensitize the international community to the challenges faced by least developed countries should continue to be conducted, he said.  It was crucial that the Conference and the Istanbul Programme of Action were owned by the international community as a whole.  The participation of least developed countries must be complemented by matching attendance by all development partners, both from the North and the South.  Since the Istanbul Conference would be the only such major event on development issues in 2011, it would provide an exceptional opportunity to bring fresh impetus to development cooperation, he noted, adding that his country was ready to work with all stakeholders to make it a success.

ANDA FILIP, Permanent Observer, Inter-Parliamentary Union, said the organization was proud to help organize the Conference’s parliamentary track as parliaments had neither been involved in the preparations for the Brussels Programme of Action nor mentioned in the 2001 outcome.  Indeed, the Programme of Action had not recognized the specific role of parliament as a key institution of good governance, which was — or should be — responsible for overseeing implementation of its commitments through the budgetary process.  Most parliaments today, including in developed nations, were insufficiently aware of the Brussels Programme of Action, she pointed out.

With that in mind, she said the main objectives of the parliamentary track were to facilitate the contribution of parliaments to substantive consultations; encourage the participation of parliamentarians in the Conference and promote the outcome document among parliamentarians, helping to raise awareness of new commitments.  At the national level of the preparatory process, parliamentary involvement in the Conference aimed to help parliaments engage in the review.  The approach was to mobilize existing parliamentary focal points and encourage parliaments that did not yet have focal points to establish them without delay.

At the regional level, the input of parliaments had been less extensive than at the national level, but they had ensured participation by an adequate number of parliamentarians in regional meetings held in Africa and Asia, she said.  At the global level, the parliamentary track was proceeding through three main steps:  a parliamentary briefing held last October; input to pre-conference events, notably on governance; and a parliamentary forum, slated to take place during the Istanbul Conference.  The main messages of the parliamentary community included the idea that the success of the next Programme of Action would depend on enhanced national ownership and stronger cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of Government.

Noting that the slow progress of the Brussels Programme of Action could be ascribed, in part, to poor implementation related to weak parliamentary oversight of government policies, she said broad-based national ownership involved citizen participation in policymaking, which in turn required stronger parliaments that were more representative of all constituencies.  Indeed, parliaments remained weak in part because they lacked capacities to function properly.  “Parliaments are looking to you, the Member States of the United Nations, for guidance and support,” she stressed, urging the same spirit of partnership that had nurtured that growing relationship over the last decade.

ARJUN KARKI, International Coordinator, LDC Watch, said the Conference must address the challenges facing the world’s most marginalized people.  The least developed countries were bearing the brunt of new and emerging crises, including those concerning climate change, finance, food insecurity and the scant supply of fresh water, without having caused them.

Calling for a bold new agenda to halve poverty in least developed countries by the end of the decade, he emphasized that it must not be based on past prescriptions.  It must spell out in detail the global community’s goals and how to achieve them, place people and the planet above profits, and involve all countries and sectors of society.  The Istanbul Conference’s Programme of Action must genuinely recognize and respect human rights, particularly those of traditionally ignored and marginalized groups such as women, children and indigenous peoples, and include specific ways to redress injustices against them immediately.

The goals and targets set out in the Brussels Programme of Action 10 years ago were still valid today, he said.  However, despite action to achieve them in the past decade, the socio-economic situation in least developed countries was unsustainable.  The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative had not provided the necessary relief.  Public spending cuts and the impact of trade liberalization had negatively impacted least developed countries.  Despite commitments by developed countries to provide duty- and quota-free access for the goods and products of least developed countries, textiles still attracted high tariffs and only marginal access was granted for their other exports, he said, adding that such policies merely destroyed the lives of the poorest people.

The Conference must create a predictable development mechanism in terms of taxes, finances and ways to manage climate change, he continued, emphasizing the crucial importance of transparency.  Developed nations must live up to their responsibilities, of which realizing the Millennium Development Goals in least developed countries was a global responsibility.  For that to happen, structural changes were needed, he said, calling for predictable sources of financing for least developed countries, possibly to be raised through taxes on greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries.  The Programme of Action must focus on ensuring universal access to essential services, as well as gender equity and justice in trade and climate areas.  Civil society played a crucial role in building public support and partnership, he noted, adding that civil society organizations were ready to do their part during the Conference and beyond.

GAVIN POWER, Deputy Director, United Nations Global Compact Office, briefing on Istanbul’s private sector track, said it was not the presence but the absence of the business community that had helped condemn people to poverty.  The Conference would be a turning point with respect to the private sector’s role in least developed countries.  Indeed, a historic opportunity was shaping up to elevate the voice of responsible, sustainable business, with the potential to raise awareness of sustainable private-sector development in a way that had not yet been seen.  There was also the possibility of increasing widespread Government and business interest in least developed countries, and to connect Governments and businesses with least developed country enterprises, he said, adding that the overarching opportunity was to spur long-term economic and business development.

Trade winds were favourable, with a greater consensus around the private sector’s role in development and more Governments embracing FDI as a complement to development aid, he said.  Moreover, rising numbers of firms from least developed countries were looking to be connected to the global economy.  Other companies were examining the next wave of emerging markets, many of which were in least developed countries.  Such trends were reflected in the Global Compact for Development, a framework that outlined strategies for driving social advancement, encompassing everything from core businesses to philanthropy.  That framework had not existed 10 years ago, he pointed out.

Turning to the three pillars of the Conference’s private sector track, he said the “keystone” pillar would be an investment and partnership summit, where Heads of State and Government, alongside chief executive officers from companies in least developed and other countries, would aim to stimulate action-oriented measures and recommendations.  The half-day event would involve plenary and round-table discussions.  The second pillar would be a global business partnership forum, involving Governments, businesses and civil society in promoting partnerships for least-developed-country development.  It would last at least two days and be based on themes and interactive round tables.  The third pillar would be an expo and trade fair to showcase commercial opportunities in least developed countries, he said.

General Debate

ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the overarching goal of the Programme of Action should be to increase and sustain high economic growth, promote sustainable development and address the impacts of the multiple crises and challenges faced by least developed countries through structural transformation.  That would eventually enable those countries to eradicate poverty and graduate from the least developed category.  The success of the Programme of Action was also highly dependent on least developed countries taking the lead in effectively implementing relevant policies, and on predictable support from development partners.  Global development-oriented programmes and policies should complement the national efforts of least developed countries, he stressed.

The lack of productive capacities, full employment and decent job opportunities was a key challenge to the sustained growth and development of least developed countries, he said.  They needed to build competitive, diversified productive capacities in order to achieve the structural transformation of their economies, sustain development gains, create jobs, compete in the global economy, increase resilience to shocks, and eventually graduate from least developed status.  Deeply concerned that least developed economies were deteriorating in the wake of the multiple global crises, reversing their modest development gains, he said most of them lagged behind in the race to realize the Millennium Goals.  With annual population growth rates of 2.3 per cent, most of them would continue to grapple with poverty for years unless concrete steps were taken to address poverty’s root causes.

Citing the 2010 report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on least developed countries, he said the number of people living in extreme poverty had doubled between 1980 and 2007.  The lack of adequate official aid and FDI had thwarted the ability of action programmes for the least developed countries to bring about socio-economic transformation in the last 30 years, he said, calling for scaled up and predictable financial support for the future.  The international community must devise a concrete, practical programme of action with clear, measurable targets and implementation timeframes, taking into account the Brussels Programme of Action and redressing the shortcomings that undermined its full implementation, he said.

CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating with the Group of 77, said least developed countries were trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, due to the combined effects of structural constraints and extreme vulnerabilities.  No other group faced such a severe challenge.  While least developed countries had made progress over the years in the crucial areas of democratic governance, health, education and gender empowerment, progress remained “uneven, minimal or unsustainable”.  More than 50 per cent of their people lived below the poverty line and had the least resilience to shocks, he said, warning that without a holistic approach and a proper mix of policy coherence, institution-building and resources, such problems could hardly be overcome.

Successive action programmes had brought no structural transformation in the socio-economic sectors over the last three decades, he said, emphasizing that the Istanbul Programme of Action should undertake a broader vision.  It should aim to enable half the least developed countries to graduate from their present status through structural transformation, high and sustained growth and poverty eradication.  Key priorities for the Conference must include building competitive and diversified productive capacities across the board to help them sustain development gains and generate employment, he stressed, adding that the agriculture sector, though pivotal in ensuring food security, faced huge challenges due to a lack of investment, while infrastructure bottlenecks had constrained supply-side capacities.

Integrating least developed nations into the global trading system through market access measures and capacity-building was another challenge, he said, pointing out that poverty would remain a burden unless its root causes were tackled.  New and emerging challenges such as climate change had only compounded already difficult burdens.  A new “international support architecture” should be put in place with more resources to bolster collective efforts.  The Group of Least Developed Countries looked forward to more ODA, beneficial trade, debt relief and FDI, among other things, he said, cautioning that a new Programme of Action should avoid past pitfalls of weak implementation.  National, regional and global level monitoring mechanisms should be mutually complementary and reinforcing.

CSABA KÖRÖS (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union, shed light on some of the bloc’s major achievements in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action.  It was the world’s largest donor of development assistance, providing more than half of all aid to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  In 2001, the European Union had committed to grant full duty- and quota-free access to all imports from least developed countries, he recalled, adding that it had since delivered on its commitment with the “Everything but Arms” scheme.  This month, it had begun providing differentiated treatment for exports from least developed countries through simpler, more development-friendly rules of origin, he said, encouraging other developed countries and emerging markets to follow suit.

The Istanbul Conference outcome document should be inspired by that of the recent Millennium Development Goals Summit, he said.  It should begin with a short political chapter conveying a strong message of the global community’s commitment to least developed countries, using the Millennium Development Goals as a reference.  That should be followed by a short review of progress and shortcomings in achieving global targets.  The Programme of Action should be focused, realistic and selective, targeting the specific needs of least developed countries, and establishing a proper follow-up process to build on existing United Nations mechanisms for regular review of progress.  It should aim to help least developed countries graduate from that category, he added.

He went on to emphasize that the Programme of Action should include three main objectives.  It should create a favourable environment for sustainable development in least developed countries through good governance, democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, gender equity, coherent public policies promoting development, and resource mobilization.  It should promote inclusive, sustainable economic growth in those nations by developing their productive capacities, invest in marginalized sectors, foster private-sector development, promote environmental sustainability, and bolster regional and global economic integration.  It should also enhance the resilience of least developed countries to shocks by developing their human and institutional capacities, economic diversification, food security, and peace and security.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia), speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said it was essential least developed countries build up their resilience to withstand shocks and crises, adding that he looked forward to working with all States to prepare an Istanbul Programme of Action that set out priority actions in key areas.  A high-level political declaration should reaffirm and update the key principles for development while stressing the importance of strong national ownership and leadership, and the greater inclusion of least developed countries in global processes.

He went on to emphasize that the Istanbul Programme of Action must include actions on thematic areas, especially those that could effectively address the yet unfulfilled objectives of the Brussels Plan of Action.  Given that agricultural productivity and rural development were essential to ensuring stronger markets that could withstand shocks, measures must be taken to promote sustainable practices in that sector, he said.  States should also promote equal participation by women as decision-makers in development.  Finally, good governance, respect for human rights and the prevention of corruption were all essential to helping least developed countries.  Such actions should be balanced and consistent with outcomes from other relevant processes, he said, adding that the CANZ countries would play a constructive role ahead of the Conference and help ensure that Member States left Istanbul with a renewed commitment to partnership.

MUHAMMED MUSHARRAF HOSSAIN BHUIYAN ( Bangladesh) said regional preparatory meetings for Istanbul had been held recently in Dhaka and Addis Ababa, where least developed countries had shared their experiences.  Both meetings had called for a strengthened, enhanced global partnership for development, he said, emphasizing that the outcomes of regional preparations should be properly reflected in the Istanbul outcome document.  The Conference must adopt a comprehensive, forward-looking and targeted set of measures, clearly spelling out the partnership for development, and focusing on goals of crucial importance.

Underscoring the importance of overcoming the financial, food, energy and climate change crises, he said least developed countries needed support for their survival.  Special efforts were needed to integrate them into regional markets, he said, pointing out that market access was the major economic driver in recent decades.  Least developed countries needed duty- and quota-free market access, and targets for the next decade in that regard should be clearly defined.  He stressed the need to help least developed countries build up the capacity to scale up development in different sectors.  To be effective and predictable, development aid must not be extra-budgetary, but a permanent part of the architecture, he said, proposing the establishment of strict, legally binding follow-up mechanisms to designate focal points within different institutions in that regard.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said the Conference outcome document must convey a strong political message in support of least developed countries, ensuring sustained international engagement in the goal of achieving inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.  It must set out an action agenda for the implementation of commitments, including time-bound targets, she said, stressing the importance of focusing on specific goals, such as addressing economic vulnerabilities, promoting human and social development and improving infrastructure.  In Istanbul, States must also reaffirm their commitment to all ODA pledges, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank should pursue the goal of increasing access to non-conditional resources.  Furthermore, innovative measures, such as “debt for health” and debt-swap arrangements, could provide resources to priority areas, helping least developed countries achieve debt sustainability.

It was also crucial to help facilitate the transfer of remittances, she said, underscoring that States should call on the international community to support South-South cooperation as a means of creating national capacities in such key areas as agriculture, health, education and social inclusion.  On trade, a key area for action, duty- and quota-free access would have only limited effect without bringing down non-trade barriers.  She went on to say that bringing the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations to an early, “pro-development conclusion” would help least developed countries achieve their development objectives.  The Organization’s funds, programmes and agencies, including the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), could also develop programmes tailored for least developed countries.

DAFFA-ALLA ELHAG ALI OSMAN ( Sudan) said recent regional meetings in Dhaka, Addis Ababa and Lisbon had revealed that many least developed countries had taken positive steps towards development, but obstacles to eradicating poverty remained.  The multiple global crises, armed conflict, climate change and their weak position in international trade had blocked the ability of least developed countries to achieve their desired objectives.  There must be a new global vision to enable them to implement national development strategies, he said, adding that the draft final document provided a sound basis for negotiations during the preparatory process. 

Underlining that security could not be achieved in the face of armed conflict, he said the Conference should include a call to global partners to help solve armed conflicts in an objective, just manner.  They should commit to providing the necessary aid to least developed countries emerging from conflict.  Like other least developed countries, Sudan had been affected by the economic crisis, as well as the referendum for South Sudan, but it had scored some success in infrastructure development.  It was also one of the nations most negatively affected by climate change, but the Government had developed a national programme to urgently address immediate challenges such as poverty, desertification, water scarcity and food insecurity.

Despite its debt burden, Sudan was one of the few least developed countries that had benefited from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, he said, calling on the global community to facilitate his country’s accession to HIPC.  The Istanbul Declaration should include a paragraph about lifting international sanctions, and there must be a fair, responsible international trading system, based on mutual obligations, he said, expressing hope that developed countries would present reasonable proposals in 2011 on granting market access to least developed countries.  Sudan also called for the easing of least developed countries’ access accession to the World Trade Organization.

MOTLATSI RAMAFOLE (Lesotho), associating with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said his Government had entered the new decade with high and renewed expectations for the future, wishing to see the graduation of half the least developed country membership, their increased representation in the global financial architecture and more fiscal policy space.  It must be acknowledged that least developed countries were not at the same development level, and that their capacities were at variance, as was their competitiveness, he said, adding that such realities called for the creation of development space at different levels.

He went on to say that collective ideas for a successor programme of action must not depart drastically from the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration and others consistent with it.  The draft least developed country text on the Istanbul Programme of Action represented their aspirations, balancing their responsibilities with those of their development partners as a basis for smooth negotiations.  For its part, Lesotho had been unable to derive optimal use from preferential trade arrangements, he said, calling for continued implementation of special and differentiated treatment for goods and products originating in least developed countries.  Finally, he called for a redoubling of efforts to honour ODA commitments and for the question of remittances, an important source of development finance for most least developed countries, to be sufficiently canvassed in the new Programme of Action.

SHIN BOO-NAM (Republic of Korea) said preparation for Istanbul must start with a precise picture of the current situation of least developed countries.  Besides their low income levels, weak human assets and high vulnerability, they also suffered from environmental degradation, global economic instability and highly volatile food prices.  In their discussions, States must do their utmost to help them overcome such challenges, he said, highlighting in that context the need to examine the quality of economic growth since extractive industry and growth oriented around primary-commodity exports had not contributed much to poverty reduction.  The Istanbul Programme of Action should include ways to achieve inclusive, equitable growth, he said.

The nexus of the Istanbul Conference with the Millennium Development Goals must be considered, he observed, underscoring the need to synthesize the approach of the Brussels Programme of Action with that of the Millennium Goals so as to deliver a consistent message.  Also while support for least developed countries had increased, it had not been distributed equally in terms of geography and need, he noted, urging consideration of how best to tailor support.  Those points must be clearly delivered in a concise, action-oriented message from the Conference, which would strengthen the political nature of the outcome document, he said.

RUCHI GHANASHYAM (India), endorsing the Group of 77 statement, said collective attention to the causes of the problems facing least developed countries had not been commensurate with the urgency of the situation.  For far too long, problems such as structural weakness, lack of productive capacities, infrastructure and institutional strength, as well as extreme poverty, had persisted, and it was now time to focus on solutions.  Building productive capacities and infrastructure by fulfilling ODA pledges should be the priority, she stressed, adding that the private sector had an important role to play in generating growth.  The onus was on least developed countries themselves to create a domestic environment conducive to private enterprise, he emphasized.

In the area of trade, she called for an examination of impediments to preferential market access and ways to address supply-side constraints.  Noting that the majority of least developed countries were net food importers, she said improving agricultural productivity through more investment, scientific inputs and both market and credit access must be given high priority to ensure long-term food security.  There was also a strong case for helping least developed countries in “technological leapfrogging” to ensure energy security through clean technologies.  India supported the multi-stakeholder nature of engagement proposed for the Conference, believing that the presence of parliamentarians, in particular, would add tremendous value.  Ahead of the Conference, India would host an India-LDC Ministerial Conference between 18 and 19 February, he announced.

AMAN HASSEN ( Ethiopia) said least developed countries had done their “level best” within limited capacities to keep up their end of the bargain enshrined in the Brussels Programme of Action.  However, their hard-won development gains had been compromised by low and unpredictable external development assistance as well as food-price and financial crises.  As a member of the Bureau of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee, Ethiopia believed specific measures to boost agricultural production, enhance the sector’s institutions and increase incentives for small farmers must be streamlined within new commitments, he said, adding that least developed countries should commit to bringing about the structural transformation of their economies in order to increase their growth trajectories.

As for the social sphere, if there was anything worse than the failure to achieve the commitments of the Brussels Programme of Action it was the failure to reverse trends in infant and maternal mortality, he said.  Equal importance must be placed on providing basic social services in the next decade.  On climate change, he said the next 10 years would be “extremely decisive”, adding that least developed countries wished to see the Green Fund established in Cancun take actions to halt global warming.  In other areas, he said South-South cooperation was a complement to, not a substitute for, North-South cooperation.  For its part, Ethiopia had made progress on all fronts in efforts to realize the Brussels Programme of Action and, as a result, had achieved an 11.6 per cent annual average growth rate over the past seven years, he said.

Mr. KHALIF (Egypt), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that commitments had not been fulfilled since the last United Nations Conference on least developed countries in Brussels.  Efforts should be made to address the problems of least developed countries, he said, adding that limited progress in reducing poverty and hunger was a stark reminder that implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action was “unfinished business”.  There was an urgent need to devise a new programme of action for the 2011-2020 decade, with clear, measurable targets and implementation timeframes.  Indeed, a strengthened global partnership for development was needed, with developed-country pledges to allocate 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product to ODA reaffirmed, he stressed.

Enhancing the resilience of least developed countries to external shocks and natural disasters should also be a target of the Istanbul Conference, he said.  Other efforts should be redoubled to ensure debt relief and reinvigorate multilateral trade talks.  Within that overall plan, support to least developed countries by the United Nations and international financial institutions should be intensified, especially vis-à-vis policy formulation, he said.  On the other hand, he urged respect for national ownership and strengthening the ability of least developed countries to formulate and implement their own development policies.  For its part, Egypt would continue to assist least developed countries by providing technical assistance, whether bilaterally or through triangular cooperation, he said.

ANDREJ LOGAR ( Slovenia), associating with the European Union, said the outcome document of the Istanbul Conference should be forward-looking and action-oriented.  It must also be realistic and include inputs from all stakeholders, ensuring that the least developed countries themselves were in the “driving seat”.  Indeed, the Conference must offer new solutions for improving the situation of least developed countries, presenting effective international measures to support inclusive and sustainable economic growth and enhancing the graduation process, which thus far had been slow.  Coherence of public policies was crucial to sustaining results, he added.

Emphasizing the importance of respecting ODA commitments, he also underscored the need to tie aid to effectiveness in order to produce the desired results.  Since economic growth was not always a sufficient way to alleviate poverty, Slovenia urged the promotion of a positive, predictable and safe economic environment underpinned by global and regional economic integration, market-oriented productive capacities and inclusive growth, among other things.  The recent multiple crises should not be seen as obstacles to reaching a new global action agenda for the next decade, but rather as an incentive, he stressed, urging constructive engagement from the start to ensure the success of the Istanbul Conference.

SHIGEKI SUMI (Japan) said his country was committed to the development of least developed countries, having extended substantial assistance to those in Asia and having actively supported Africa, where 33 of the 48 least developed countries were located.  With that in mind, he proposed several principles and policies for inclusion in the Istanbul outcome, the first of which centred on ownership.  The role of international support based on partnership should be to back up efforts by least developed countries themselves, he stressed, noting that the ultimate goal of assistance was to realize their self-sustained development.  It required an “autonomous” economic growth mechanism that did not depend excessively on foreign assistance, but rather, was driven by the private sector.

Investment in the productive sector was “a must” for sustained economic growth in least developed countries, he stressed, noting the need for international support in areas linked to an improved environment for foreign investment, including infrastructure, trade and agriculture.  A continuing focus on the social sector was also needed, he said, calling for a balance between nation-wide economic growth and the development of health and education services, among others.  By engaging all stakeholders in a broader partnership, including OECD Development Assistance Committee members, emerging countries and the private sector, the Conference would achieve tangible results, he said.

JAN GRAULS (Belgium) said his country was a sincere, active ally of the least developed countries, pointing out that about 30 per cent of its ODA in 2009 had gone to least developed countries and that 10 of the 18 countries with which it had bilateral cooperation belonged to that category.  Belgium was providing €400,000 euros to support the Istanbul preparatory process, he added.

Development aid alone would not ensure economic growth and human development in the least developed countries, he cautioned.  The relationship between developed and developing countries should go beyond the stage of assistance and solidarity.  Rather it should progress to mutually beneficial economic partnership, he said, adding that it was in everyone’s interest to help least developed countries grow.  Strong political will and faith in their capacity to achieve their own development was the first step towards overcoming their geographic, infrastructure, human, economic and environmental constraints.

That determination must be translated into a clear vision of future strong leadership and effective governance, he continued.  The Istanbul Conference must lay the foundation for that renewed common will, and the new multi-year action plan to be adopted must include solutions to the structural constraints and challenges of least developed countries.  It must propose a resolute, balanced approach combining the development of productive capacities, as well as human and social capital.  It must offer a remedy for the chronic institutional weakness of many least developed countries and stand up against corruption, as well as help least developed countries graduate from least developed status, he said.

JOHN SAMMIS ( United States) said the development of the world’s poorest countries was a moral, strategic and economic imperative shared by all.  The United States had disbursed $8.1 billion to least developed countries in 2009 and anticipated extending more in 2010.  It also planned to expand the $3.5 billion “Feed the Future” programme, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s global development policy.  The United States approach to least developed countries was guided by broader agreements from the recent High-level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, the 2008 Doha Declaration on Financing for Development and the 2002 Monterrey Consensus, he said.  Diversity within the least developed country group, including in terms of the degree of fragility, population size and geographic advantage, meant there could be no one-size-fits-all approach.

As such, the Istanbul Programme of Action must be narrowly focused and realistic, he said, adding that it should be based on a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of the Brussels Programme of Action.  Least developed countries that had experienced growth were reasonably stable and maintained sound policy performance.  Noting that responsibility for development lay at the national level, he said infrastructure development and export diversification could boost the exports of least developed countries.  Globally, an ambitious conclusion of the Doha Round of trade talks would boost prospects for growth in least developed countries.  ODA could help achieve the Millennium Goals, but the objective was to create conditions whereby assistance would no longer be needed.  South-South cooperation, among other efforts, could be expanded upon as a promising source of development financing or assistance, he said.

IRENE B.M. TEMBO (Zambia), associating with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, reminded delegates that the description “least developed” was not at all prestigious, and stemmed from structural economic weaknesses.  The Brussels Programme of Action had brought some hope but, as its review had revealed, international support measures were far from adequate.  Only two countries had graduated during the decade — Cape Verde in 2007 and the Maldives in 2010.  The decade had also witnessed multiple global crises that had further reversed the gains made by least developed country towards realizing the Millennium Development Goals.

However the major challenge had been persistently high poverty, she said, adding that in her country’s case, it had not been commensurate with economic growth.  In the next decade, Zambia would aim to build on develop gains and to ensure that the benefits trickled down to the poor.  In that regard, investment in agriculture would be of key importance, she said, adding that the country would also continue to promote investment in tourism, manufacturing, energy and science and technology, with a related aim of developing the socio-economic infrastructure needed to promote export-led growth.  In closing, she said she looked forward to fruitful deliberations to devise a succinct Istanbul Programme of Action that would deliver on the much discussed global partnership for development.

NATHALIE BROADHURST ( France) said least developed countries must be at the heart of the development agenda, and the international community must reiterate its commitment to making them a priority.  The allocation of aid must be based on needs and not uniquely on performance, she said, emphasizing that ODA must go to the poorest countries.  Greater mobilization of all sources of financing was desirable, including greater access to local resources, particularly through fiscal reform and greater involvement by new financing sources, including from the private sector.  She stressed the potential of innovative financing.

The creation of a tax on international financial transactions was a priority of the French presidency of the Group of Twenty (G-20), she said.  During its presidency of the Group of Eight (G-8) and G-20, France would focus on enhancing dialogue for good governance through the Forum for Partnership with Africa.  She stressed the importance of developing the private sector, fostering responsible investment, improving the business climate and combating tax evasion, as well as the importance of reducing the vulnerabilities of least developed countries and strengthening their capacity to react to and resist shocks.  Specific support to least developed countries must focus on tackling climate change and food insecurity, among other priorities, she said.  The severity and frequency of the recent multiple crises necessitated improved access for them to agricultural markets.

WANG HONGBO (China), endorsing the Group of 77 statement, said that, through preferential terms of trade and proper aid distribution, the international community had taken proper measures to support least developed countries.  However, they still faced tremendous tasks in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, given their fragile economic structures and inadequate development funding.  Indeed, only two countries had graduated from the category the last 10 years, she noted, urging the international community to enhance its support for least developed countries.

The Istanbul outcome document would be the highlight, as it directly affected the timely realization of the Millennium Goals, she said, expressing hope that the Istanbul Conference would yield a new consensus and ensure the fulfilment of old and new commitments.  Among the elements to be included in the outcome document was a focus on poverty and hunger reduction as core goals.  Ownership by least developed countries of their own development should be fully respected, and attention should be paid to their special needs, she said.  Developing countries should be supported through the adoption of a package of integrated measures, including debt relief, investment and aid.  Furthermore, ODA goals should be enhanced and the predictability of resources increased, she said, expressing her country’s strong support for least developed countries in addressing new challenges like climate change.

HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said that despite some meaningful socio-economic growth in least developed countries over the last decade, it was a matter of deep concern that much remained to be done.  Many targets of the Brussels Programme of Action were yet to be achieved, particularly the eradication of poverty and hunger.  The global financial crisis had exacerbated the difficulties and challenges facing least developed countries regarding development and the Millennium Goals, he said, adding that he looked forward to a draft programme of action that could provide a good basis for further negotiations in Istanbul.  The text should have the overarching goal of ensuring sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth while promoting sustainable development in least developed countries, he said.

He went on to say the draft programme should support the efforts of least developed countries to stimulate economic growth while strengthening productive capacities, savings and capital formation, as well as investment.  That would enable least developed countries to strengthen their competitive advantages.  Despite extensive trade liberalization in past decades, the existing production and trade structures of least developed countries offered them only limited opportunities to benefit fully from a globalized world market driven by knowledge intensive products and services, he said, stressing that it was therefore important to strengthen their competitive advantages.  The Istanbul Programme of Action must also provide adequate tools and support for least developed countries to address environmental challenges, and could be used as an opportunity to design a greener development strategy.  It should also address agriculture productivity, technology transfer, stronger governance, and regional and South-South cooperation.

TINE MØRCH SMITH ( Norway) said her country was a highly committed partner of least developed countries and the Istanbul Conference was an important opportunity to revitalize the global partnership.  The outcome document should recall fundamental principles, including human rights, gender equality, good governance and democracy.  While least developed countries bore the prime responsibility for their own development, they needed an enabling environment, and the Conference must strengthen the partnership between them and their partners, she said, adding that her country, for its part, remained committed to contributing to the financing of international development efforts.

In that vein, she said more than 1 per cent of Norway’s gross national income had been allocated to development assistance.  The Government was also committed to providing full financing for the HIPC Debt Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI).  Underscoring the need for developing countries to mobilize more of their domestic resources, notably by broadening their tax base and fighting corruption, she said Norway was working to place the issue of illicit financial flows from developing nations higher on the international agenda.  Those flows were “many times” higher than total annual development assistance, she said, pointing out that the size of the poverty challenge also warranted scaled up and innovative financing.

JAIRO RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ (Cuba) said that since 2001 the socio-economic situation in least developed countries had worsened because of the impacts of the global economic crisis and climate change.  The number of people living below the poverty line had risen due to the loss of jobs, income and savings.  It was embarrassing that the number of people in extreme poverty had increased; the number of hungry people now topped 1 billion and more than 2 billion people were malnourished.  Pointing out that the number of least developed countries had risen after three decades of supposed attention to development, he said a comprehensive approach was needed to address the links between foreign debt, climate change, international trade and financial performance, the performance of ODA, and FDI.

Developed countries were not even remotely meeting their commitment to allocate 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product to ODA, he noted, stressing that there was an urgent need for resources beyond foreign aid to help least developed countries fight the effects of multiple crises.  South-South cooperation must play an important role as a complement to, not a substitute for, North-South cooperation, he added.  The Istanbul Programme of Action must be based on respect for the right of least developed countries to determine their own national priorities and specific cooperation needs, without conditions, he said.  Special and differential trade treatment for them must prevail, he said, adding that no action plan for them would be effective if technology transfer remained limited, access to developed-world markets stayed restricted and external debt continued to multiply.  The United Nations must create a new global economic order and a new global financial architecture to ensure a truly just, equitable, inclusive and transparent global economy, he emphasized.

ARAYA DESTA (Eritrea), associating with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, recalled that the latter’s Ministerial Declaration adopted on 27 September 2010 called for a scaled-up global partnership to ensure that all least developed countries realized all the Millennium Goals by 2015.  However, despite successive programmes of action, no substantial achievements had been made to help them out of hunger and poverty.  In the area of trade, they had yet to achieve the goal of duty- and quota-free market access for all their exports, he said.

Welcoming China’s commitment to phase in zero-tariff treatment for products under 95 per cent of all tariff items from least developed countries, he went on to say that ODA would either stagnate or decline in the short-term.  As such, there must be serious follow-through on the Aid for Trade initiative.  There was also much to be done in the areas of health and education.  The critical resource gap, due to unfilled ODA commitments and failure to deliver on other promises, had become a preoccupation for everyone, he said, adding that he looked forward to the Istanbul Conference as the “light at the end of the tunnel” for least developed countries that had been “caught in the trap”.  It was time to act together to make the Conference a success.

MOHAMMAD WALI NAEEMI (Afghanistan) said it was becoming increasingly clear that some least developed countries, including his own, would be unable to realize the Millennium Goals by 2015.  According to its national development strategy, Afghanistan, as a post-conflict nation, had designated 2020 as the target year for realizing the Goals.  Pointing out that the seven goals of the Brussels Programme of Action had not been achieved, he said the focus should be on analysing the main challenges and constraints to achieving them.  Least developed countries, particularly those emerging from conflict, had high expectations for a result-oriented outcome of the Istanbul Conference.  Least developed countries, particularly those emerging from conflict, continued to face structural constraints and extreme vulnerability. 

Whatever progress they had made had been slow and uneven, he said, adding that whatever they had achieved had been reversed by the combined effects of the multiple global crises.  The Conference must be seen in that wider perspective, he emphasized, adding that it should produce an ambitious, comprehensive, forward-looking and results-oriented outcome in order to foster the desired socio-economic transformation in least developed countries over the next decade.  The “business as usual” approach would not yield substantial results, he cautioned, stressing that an enhanced, effective, and consolidated package of international support measures, in line with General Assembly resolution 63/227, was needed.  He called for an action agenda, to be implemented in its entirety with strong results on the ground.

FEDERICO ALBERTO CUELLO CAMILO ( Dominican Republic) called for a global partnership that would bring about true compliance with agreed objectives in a spirit of greater cooperation.  He agreed that efforts should focus on creating a structural transformation for reducing poverty and increasing prosperity, while also welcoming the fact that least developed countries had called for the graduation of at least half of their membership.  The relevant document’s coverage of trade, production and other areas showed their commitment to the most effective results, he said, adding that subsequent revisions would benefit from a greater emphasis on the role of women, which was essential.

Indeed, women’s access to education, health care and political participation must increase if least developed countries were to advance, he continued.  The global partnership, together with a strict monitoring mechanism, would allow such objectives to be met.  The global partnership to be formed in Istanbul could examine building up the resilience of least developed countries against external shocks, natural disasters and other crises, he said.  In that context, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recommendations outlined in its accelerated Millennium Development Goal framework should be borne in mind as they were urgently relevant for least developed countries.

PIRJO SUOMELA-CHOWDHURY ( Finland) said the Istanbul Conference would be a good opportunity to see what worked for least developed countries.  Their ownership of the process and their role in it was crucial, she said, noting that least developed countries accounted for many of her country’s development partners, receiving most of Finland’s aid.  Its support continued to grow steadily, and Finland had already made good on its commitment to allocate 0.15 per cent of gross domestic product to least developed countries, she said, adding that there was strong public support for such measures.

She said ODA could only be one element in promoting sustainable development.  Finland’s development policy emphasized inclusive economic growth, an enabling environment for business, and investment in agriculture and rural development, among other areas.  It was also necessary to ensure coherence, she said, emphasizing that development policy must be linked to trade and environmental policy.  Aid must be made as effective as possible, and development must be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable, she said.  The Brussels Programme of Action could still serve as a basis for development, and this week’s session must be used to ensure a successful outcome in Istanbul.

BASO SANGQU ( South Africa), associating with the Group of 77 and China, expressed concern that least developed countries were lagging in realizing the Millennium Goals and that they would likely be affected in the long-term by the ongoing impacts of the global financial and economic crisis.  In that context, he urged States to ensure that the next decade would see least developed countries assisted in ways that would lead to their graduation from their current status.  Among other things, it was critical to make available adequate and predictable resources in order to improve infrastructure, agriculture, and information and communications technology.

He went on to say that sufficient resources of financing for development could be mobilized domestically and externally, both of which could support sustainable economic growth.  It was troublesome that the majority of least developed countries were in Africa, and it was thus imperative to remember commitments made.  The 2001 adoption of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) had re-energized the drive to address the continent’s underdevelopment, while the Africa Action Plan outlined steps to increase the progress of priority programmes.  Now the moment must be seized to advance the development agenda that the United Nations held dear.

CHARLES GORE, Head, Research and Policy Analysis Branch, Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that since 2001, the agency had undertaken analytical and technical cooperation functions, including preparation of the Least Developed Countries Report, as part of the follow-up to the Brussels Programme of Action.  In the last 15 months, UNCTAD had held a series of preparatory events for the Istanbul Conference, including an expert meeting in Kampala in October 2009, to exchange views and best practices on overcoming development challenges in least developed countries.

He said there had also been a meeting in Geneva last February of an ad hoc group of experts on structural change problems in least developed countries, and a pre-conference event last November on building the productive capacity of least developed countries for sustainable and inclusive development.  UNCTAD had distributed its latest Least Developed Countries Report and its assessment of the Brussels Programme of Action in its areas of competence to delegations, he said.  It suggested that despite significant macroeconomic growth in the last decade, progress on poverty reduction in those countries had been slow, economic vulnerabilities severe and structural change minimal.  In the coming decade, least developed countries would face enormous employment challenges, he warned, adding that good development governance would be vital for success.  Specific measures to support least developed countries were not adequate to address their structural constraints, he said, calling for a broader aid agenda.

MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, Permanent Observer, International Organization for Migration, discussed recommendations that had emerged from a preparatory event held last June, including one on the link between migration and development.  It was well recognized that migration could provide critical livelihood and education opportunities, she said, adding that tapping into the human capital of skilled emigrants and diaspora members was an important step in promoting development in least developed countries.  UNDP had identified reducing barriers to human mobility as a critical means of reducing poverty and deserved priority in the Programme of Action.

Turning to climate change, she said least developed countries were the most vulnerable to displacement as a result of environmental degradation exacerbated by climate change.  In fact, climate change could become a major factor shaping migration flows, especially in countries with low adaptive capacities and vulnerable geographies.  Such countries would require support to address environmental migration and other human impacts of climate change.  Measures that they could take included considering migration as a potential adaptation strategy to move people out of harm’s way, she said, adding that migrants could also play an important role in providing funds that would contribute to development and adaptation in their countries of origin.

PARVINDAR SINGH, Chief, Policy Programme Management and Evaluation Unit, Common Fund for Commodities, said the Conference would go a long way for development in least developed countries.  The Common Fund had supported interventions in the commodity sector in least developed countries over the last decade.  It had worked to help small producers foster horizontal and vertical diversification and increase their access to global markets, among other areas.  Many least developed countries had achieved sustainable growth prior to the recent global financial crisis, but their commodity boom during those years had suffered in the wake of the crisis.  Commodities would remain the main vehicle for development in least developed countries in the foreseeable future.

He recalled that the Secretary-General had called for a global commodity fund for development to raise agricultural productivity, ensure efficient food utilization, promote greater use of existing technological advances and develop domestic markets, among other things.  The Istanbul Programme of Action should build on the experiences of the past decade while aiming to improve ODA significantly, specifically targeting the commodity sector.  It should also focus on capacity-building and advancing value-added integration of the commodity chain, and on support for horizontal diversification to ensure the production of more than one commodity in order to offset risk.  The lack of financial investment and trade-related structures were major obstacles, he said, calling for policies that would effectively mobilize the necessary capital and for the international community to support export diversification.

MASSIMILIANO LA MARCA, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that in developing a programme of action for Istanbul, it would be important to expand on the notion of productive capacities in at least two main respects.  Recalling that the transmission from capital investment to employment was not automatic, he said that in too many cases, high investment levels and growth had not translated into sufficient job generation.  There was a need for, among other things, coherent strategies linking employment-friendly macroeconomic frameworks, public spending on infrastructure and agriculture, sectoral policies targeting bottlenecks and labour market policies to facilitate enterprise creation.

A second dimension concerned the quality of jobs, he continued, noting that labour in least developed countries was an abundant resource that was vastly under-used.  It was central to tackle the question of informality that afflicted many workers, supporting the transition to formal employment.  “This is not just a question of economic growth,” he said, stressing that it concerned institutions and policies for giving voice, protection and rights.  There was also a growing consensus that poverty could be eradicated through a broad-based structural transformation that allowed for growing productivity and added value in dynamic sectors.  A strong focus on productive capacities and job creation, together with the building of solid social protection floors, could create a policy environment conducive to stable, inclusive growth, he concluded.

ANTHONY MOTHAE MARUPING (Lesotho), speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of the Enhanced Integrated Framework, said the initiative supported the efforts of least developed countries to mainstream trade into national plans and policies.  It aimed to make trade the locomotive of strong, sustained growth in addition to creating jobs, eradicating poverty and fostering human development.  The Framework had already held regional orientation workshops in the Pacific, Asia and Africa, and had more than 20 viable project proposals.

Least developed countries were already benefiting from the Framework, which was part of a partnership of those countries’ Governments, the private sector and civil society, he said, adding that it focused on ownership by least developed countries as well as predictable resources.  Preparatory meetings for the Istanbul Conference had fostered many ideas about the desired content of the Programme of Action.  Implementation of its various facets must be financed, he said, stressing the importance of an October ministerial meeting to enhance funding for the Istanbul Conference.  Special funds already existed, he said, calling for additional financing to help make major advances in least developed countries.

LILA H. RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, Director, Food and Agriculture Organization Liaison Office, discussed priorities identified at a 16 December 2010 event on enhancing food security through agricultural development and access to food and nutrition.  Noting that agriculture was the backbone of the least developed economies, she said it employed more than 70 per cent of the active population.  Those countries needed agricultural development to reduce their dependence on food aid.  Investments for the sector should come from ODA, national budgets and the private sector, she said, adding that agriculture, food and nutritional security must be integrated into national development strategies.

She said that in order to strengthen the resilience of least developed countries to the risk and uncertainty of global trade and food markets, responses must be country-specific and context-specific so as to reduce food-price volatility.  Social protection should be promoted, as should the capabilities of poor rural people to manage risk, through education, skills development and adequate access to business-support services.  Moreover, there was a need to promote greater accessibility to commodity investments, she said, citing other important issues to be taken into account, including South-South cooperation and technical assistance for technology transfer.

LUCIANA MERMET, speaking on behalf of the Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Development Policy, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that despite significant progress towards global realization of the Millennium Development Goals, significant challenges remained, particularly in least developed countries.  Poverty had not been reduced to the extent necessary to meet the targets, and the multiple global crises, as well as ongoing conflict, continued to exacerbate efforts to reach the Millennium Goals.  She called for a new Programme of Action with an ambitious vision articulating the common goal of enabling least developed countries to graduate from that status.  It should include elements of a global initiative and partnership for building productive capacity, she said, pointing to valuable insights in that regard in the twentieth-anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report, released a few months ago.

The report showed that while people were healthier, more educated and wealthier today than they were 20 to 40 years ago, the disparities between countries were striking, she continued, emphasizing that youth in least developed countries required more attention and that, overall, the average human development index value of least developed countries was the lowest of any group.  It was necessary to scale up what worked, grounded in the principles of sustainability, equity and empowerment, and to invest in areas proven to have a multiplier effect across all the Millennium Goals.  UNDP was ready to support least developed countries and was implementing a new tool — the Millennium Development Goals acceleration framework — to help countries identify bottlenecks to progress as well as effective solutions.  The Programme had worked with United Nations agencies in 10 countries to create framework pilot projects across a range of Millennium Goals, she added.

KIFLE SHENKORU, Director, Division for Least Developed Countries, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), noted that in four regional preparatory meetings, parliamentarians had focused on using innovation and creativity for development.  WIPO would hold a parallel event during the Istanbul Conference which would focus on using innovation and creativity as a tool for economic growth, with time-bound and “implementable” deliverables in various areas.  In that context, he discussed the importance of establishing technology centres in all least developed countries; using branding to promote exports; building infrastructure for using innovation and creativity in development; and devising strategies to promote innovation and creativity.

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