From the Statement made by Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury, United Nations Under-Secretary-General on 28 June 2004 at the High Level Segment of the 2004 Substantive Session of the ECOSOC in New York
* For the first time, ECOSOC has chosen a theme for its Ministerial segment that focuses on the various dimensions of the development challenges facing the world's fifty most vulnerable countries, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
* International trade can become a very effective mechanism for poverty reduction in LDCs. One way to achieve this is to take an honest look at ways to assist LDC countries to take full advantage of existing trading opportunities.
From the Statement made by Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury, United Nations Under-Secretary-General on 29 June 2004 at the High Level Segment of the 2004 Substantive Session of the ECOSOC in New York
* This ECOSOC High-Level Segment marks a very important occasion. It coincides with the third anniversary of the adoption of the Brussels Programme of Action for LDCs, which laid down a partnership for development emphasizing that effective poverty reduction in the LDCs needed a more supportive international environment.
* The living conditions in the LDCs are characterized by severe, mass poverty with four out of five people living on $1 a day, with the lowest per capita GDP, weak human assets and high degree of economic vulnerability. Many of them are in conflict situations or coming out of it - some others experience recurrent natural disasters - all at a tremendous human and material cost.
* A big number of LDCs are also landlocked or small islands. Starting from this point, the key element for the implementation of the Brussels Programme, aimed at reduction of poverty in these countries, is a combination of availability of financial resources for investment and the creation of an indispensable policy and regulatory environment.
* There are significant differences among the LDCs, with some performing very well and others very poorly. Even for those LDCs performing well, the critical question is the sustainability of recent positive growth trends, especially for non-oil commodity-exporting LDCs. The economies of many agriculture-dependent LDCs are characterized by growth instability.
* Over the period
2000-2002, only seven countries achieved the 7 percent growth rate target
set by the Brussels Programme. The annual average growth rate of real
GDP, in 22 Least Developed Countries was less than half the target rate
and it actually declined in 13 LDCs.
* If these current economic and social development trends continue, the majority of LDCs may not be able to achieve the Brussels goals by 2010, which would consequently impact negatively on the achievement of the Millennium Goals by 2015.
* LDCs must keep up their domestic efforts to reform, to reorganize themselves, with a view to creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment, with improved efficiency, transparency and accountability in the administration of public resources and expenditures, and facilitate the emergence of an effective governance structure and a business-friendly environment.
* The international
community is called upon to fulfill their commitments, not only through
increased and better quality development assistance, but also through
increased investment, debt relief and free and fair trade.
* The quality of ODA delivery has also a major impact on its effectiveness. In this regard, substantial progress has been made in the aid harmonization agenda. The alignment of donor assistance and the simplification and harmonization of donor requirements would go a long way to contribute to reducing the transaction cost of development assistance and enhancing aid effectiveness.
* Another major improvement in aid modality would be a medium to long-term ODA commitment flow to LDCs, thus reducing the uncertainty and unpredictability of fluctuating yearly allocation of ODA.
* ODA is not a panacea for solving the root constraints to economic and social development in the LDCs. Speedy and effective implementation of the enhanced HIPC Initiative is urgently needed, combined with bilateral debt cancellation. Distorting subsidies and high peak tariffs in industrial countries should be eliminated so as to allow LDCs' producers to compete on a level playing field at the international level.
* Current preferential
schemes in favour of LDCs are to be lauded, but there are ample opportunities
for improvement in terms of long-term predictability, wider product coverage
and more realistic rules of origin to take into account the limited industrial
capacity and other supply-side constraints in LDCs.
* South-South cooperation has the potential to open up additional source of resource flow for the LDCs. Such cooperation therefore needs to be geared to give special attention to the specific needs of these most vulnerable countries. Already a significant share of LDCs' trade takes place with other developing countries.
* There is a potential for both LDCs and the more advanced developing countries to gain mutually from increased trade and investment linkages between them. If developing countries were to halve the average tariffs applied to each other, it would generate an additional $15.5 billion in trade.
* The recent launch of a third round of negotiations for the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP), which is expected to include a larger number of developing countries than the existing ones, bears great promise and LDCs are urged to benefit from this window of opportunity and avoid further marginalization in international trade.
* Actions, big or small, that can be set on the road to implementation right away, and no further promises or reiteration of commitments, are what the LDCs need.
From the Statement made by Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury, United Nations Under-Secretary-General on 1 July 2004 at the High Level Segment of the 2004 Substantive Session of the ECOSOC in New York
* The majority of nearly 750 million people of the Least Developed Countries live in rural areas. In the economies of the LDCs, agriculture occupies a critically important place and that makes rural development absolutely essential for the development of these most impoverished countries.
* The Ministerial Declaration of the 2003 ECOSOC session emphasized that rural development should be pursued through an integrated approach, encompassing the economic, social and environmental dimensions, taking into account the gender perspective.
* For the LDCs, the Brussels Programme of Action for the current decade emphasizes the key role of agriculture and agro-industries as well as that of rural development and food security in their development processes. The Brussels Programme calls upon the LDCs and their development partners to undertake building of productive capacities. To be effective and results-oriented, coordinated actions by the UN system entities are essential.
* The Secretary-General's report specifically underlines that an integrated approach to rural development across a broad front is required in order to effectively assist the LDCs to break out of the poverty trap and make progress towards the international development goals, highlighting the need for effective coordination of national efforts and international support.
* The major workload of the United Nations for the LDCs in the area of rural development is carried mainly by the FAO, IFAD, WFP. They have enhanced coordination by defining a global agenda for rural development. These agencies are increasingly joining forces to promote agricultural growth and broad-based rural development, particularly in LDCs.
* Commodity-dependent LDCs will benefit from the International Task Force on Commodities that is being put together by UNCTAD promoting a multi-stakeholder approach and forging a global coalition. In responding to the Brussels Programme and the General Assembly resolutions, the UN Office of the High Representative has the responsibility for the full mobilization and coordination of all parts of the United Nations system to facilitate coordinated implementation as well as coherence in the follow-up and monitoring of the Programme of Action at the national, regional, sub-regional and global levels.
* Partnerships with civil society organizations and the private sector are increasingly becoming an integral part of the activities undertaken by UN agencies at the country level thereby enhancing their effectiveness.
* Poverty eradication and rural development role that the microcredit and microfinance play in the LDCs require that the UN system must give further impetus to this area that have also contributed to closing the gap in rural gender inequalities. However, few least developed countries have reached a credit penetration rate over 1 percent, indicating an enormous growth potential for microcredit. Bangladesh, a leader in this area, where roughly 7 per cent of the population has access to credit, is an exception.
* The potential of the United Nations system to support South-South cooperation has also not been fully realized. For instance, the potential for expanding LDC participation in intraregional trade in agricultural and agro-industry products has not yet been fully exploited.
* The Office of the High Representative will take all necessary measures to fulfil its mandate of coordinating the implementation of the Brussels Programme, within the United Nations system. In this context, the conclusions and recommendations as contained in the Report of the Secretary-General should receive the full and committed support of the ECOSOC, which is the central mechanism for coordination of UN system activities.