Mr. Chairman,
Honourable Ministers, and
Distinguished Delegates,

            I thank you for the invitation to participate at the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, being held in this beautiful city of Johannesburg.  Its theme “Accelerating Africa’s Performance and Progress:
The Challenges of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)” is not only very timely and relevant but also substantively very crucial to the United Nations system as a whole, in particular to the work of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). 
My presentation would focus on the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 and in that context, on the activities of the new Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States,
with special attention to the Least Developed Countries in Africa. 

            The Twenty-first Meeting of the Committee of Experts which met prior to this Ministerial Conference had before it a document entitled “Programme for Action for the Least Developed Countries:  One Year after Brussels” (E/ECA/CM.1/4).  My Office participated at that Meeting and introduced the document.

This Conference comes one year after the Third Conference on Least Developed Countries held in Brussels in May last year.  The Conference adopted a forward-looking Declaration and the Programme of Action (POA).  The Brussels Declaration reaffirms the collective responsibility of the international community to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity.  The global scenario that has emerged since calls for a renewed focus not only on this most vulnerable group of countries, but also on the two other vulnerable groups – Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration of September 2000 called on the global community for both financial and technical support to these vulnerable countries.  It emphasized that the efforts that least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States make toward their development goals should be supported through adequate resources by the international community. 

Mr. Chairman,

The Brussels Programme focuses on seven specific commitments made by the LDCs and their development partners: (i) fostering a people-centred policy framework, (ii) good governance at the national and international levels, (iii) building human and institutional capacities, (iv) building productive capacities to make globalization work for the LDCs, (v) enhancing the role of trade and development, (vi) reducing vulnerability and protecting the environment, and (vii) mobilizing financial resources.

As a significant departure from the first two Programmes of Action for LDCs for 1980s and 1990s, the Brussels Programme recommended that an “effective and highly visible follow-up mechanism” be created to undertake the implementation, coordination, review and monitoring of the Programme.  For this purpose, upon recommendation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the General Assembly by its resolution 56/227 of 24 December 2001 established the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS).  I assumed my responsibilities in this Office formally in April this year.

In carrying out the mandate of the General Assembly, my Office has adopted a framework of action with four main elements: (i) Focus on country-level implementation – and this means both Least Developed Countries and their development partners,
(ii) Work with all the relevant entities of the UN family, including the Regional Commissions and Bretton Woods institutions, (iii) Work with multilateral organizations, particularly the regional and sub-regional organizations for support to the implementation of the Programme, (iv) Work closely with civil society and private sector – both at national and global levels.

The Economic and Social Council in July this year adopted a resolution to undertake the annual review of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries.  For this purpose, I have been asked to submit comprehensive progress reports at its substantive sessions every July.  My Office will be coordinating the inputs inter alia from the UN system organizations for these reports. 
In this context, the input from ECA will be highly valuable to the preparation of the reports and also to the Economic and Social Council’s annual reviews for the implementation of the Brussels Programme.

At this point, I would like to pay tribute to the leadership of Executive Secretary K.Y. Amoako and to express our deep appreciation to him for all the support and cooperation that we have received from ECA in the work of my Office.  ECA Headquarters has been one of the first UN entities that I had visited and established good working relations with the colleagues there.

Mr. Chairman,

As outlined in the annotation of the agenda of this Conference, with 34, out of 49, LDCs in Africa — and again, out of 53 African countries, 34 are LDCs —, special attention and measures are needed for these countries to accelerate their development and end their marginalization in an increasingly globalizing world economy.  Focussed global, regional and, in particular, national efforts are critical to eradicate poverty and to build a better life for the large segment of humanity living in these countries.  The commonalities between the Brussels Programme and the NEPAD, both concentrating on poverty eradication and human development, are remarkable and need to be emphasized and taken advantage of.  Human, institutional, and productive capacity-building, good governance, mobilizing financial resources and market access are all covered by both the NEPAD and the Brussels Programme of Action.  Objectives of the NEPAD and the Brussels Programme will be effectively enhanced by creating a synergy between their implementation processes.

The Brussels Programme is closely linked to the values, principles and objectives of the Millennium Declaration.  The global campaign that has recently been launched by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals has incorporated addressing the needs of LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS as key targets. 
The Millennium Declaration’s goals for development and poverty eradication will not make much headway toward their achievement if the LDCs are not supported to perform better.     The Secretary-General’s first annual report released recently on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration also indicates that these vulnerable groups of countries suffered from lack of such support, particularly due to a decline in ODA. 

The Brussels Programme has recognized the special problems of landlocked and small island LDCs as a cross-cutting priority.  Let me underscore here that the challenge for development is even larger for the 15 African Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), which face additionally the geographical disadvantage for lack of access to the sea.  The bottom of the ranking of the Human Development Index of UNDP is dominated by these Landlocked African countries—this showing clearly the formidable obstacles that they face.  Many sub-regional and regional policies were introduced to promote effective interstate transportation system, expand national and international transport infrastructure, and facilitate the increase of transnational capital flows.  However,
the implementation of these policies is not effective in the real sense due to the lack of monitoring and enforcing institutions. The upcoming International Ministerial Conference on Transit Transport Cooperation in August 2003 in Kazakhstan is expected to make progress in resolving some of these pressing issues for LLDCs.  Preparatory meetings for Africa’s sub-regions for this Conference are expected to articulate
sub-regional plans of action and deliverables.  Active participation and substantive inputs from respective governments to these preparatory meetings are important and necessary, as they are crucial to a successful outcome of the Conference.  As the secretariat of the Kazakhstan Conference, my Office is working closely with ECA, which is playing a lead role in the preparation and organization of these sub regional meetings.

Although the Small Island Developing States, a good number of these countries in Africa, have been making serious efforts in moving towards sustainable development, these countries are increasingly constrained by the interplay of adverse factors such as its remoteness, small-sized market and sea level rise caused by global warming. These are underlined in Agenda 21 and the Barbados Programme of Action. The Plan of Implementation adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development early last month in this vibrant city emphasized the importance of building genuine partnership between Small Island Developing States and international community at global, regional and national levels through implementation of the Barbados Programme ensuring sustainable development for these particularly disadvantaged countries.  Africa has taken the lead in preparing effectively for the ten-year review by the United Nations of the Barbados Programme of Action with the generous offer of Mauritius to host that review conference.  The Barbados+10 should not merely take stock of but must engage in its practical and progressive implementation. 

Mr. Chairman,

The Brussels Programme and subsequently the United Nations General Assembly have clearly indicated the important role of the UN system organizations in the implementation of the Programme.  The General Assembly resolution, which I mentioned earlier, invites the UN system organizations to mainstream the implementation of the Brussels Declaration and the Programme of Action within their programmes of work as well as in their intergovernmental processes.  Responding to this call, the governing bodies of UNCTAD, UNDP, UNICEF, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), UNESCO, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and WTO have already adopted decisions to mainstream the Brussels POA within their respective programmes of work.  In this connection,
I would like to request the distinguished delegates participating at this Conference to take a similar action to mainstream the Brussels Programme within ECA’s programme of work as well as in its intergovernmental process.

Furthermore, I would like to suggest that the Commission decide to include one separate section on LDCs in the ECA annual Economic Report on Africa.  This is being done annually by ESCAP for their reports.  Ensuring that the needs and problems of the LDCs are addressed as part of the Regional Commissions’ ongoing work is clearly indicated in the Programme.  The information on progress in implementation of the Brussels Programme at country and regional levels, as well as on their impact in African LDCs, would contribute to the follow-up process and facilitate monitoring the progress in these countries.

Let me also take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of integrating the Brussels Programme in the LDCs national development plans, of appointing a high-level LDC focal point to monitor and follow-up their national implementation, and of working closely with the UN Resident Coordinator to facilitate reporting the progress made to the UN.  In this context, I would also like to add that the Secretary-General Kofi Annan has addressed a letter last month to all the Governments of least developed countries and their development partners urging the effective implementation of the Programme. 

LDCs represented at this Conference are encouraged to establish in their respective countries a “national forum” to oversee regularly and systematically the progress in the implementation of the Programme through a broad-based and inclusive dialogue between policymakers, private sector, NGOs/civil society, academics, foundations and media.  LDC representatives are also urged to effectively participate in the intergovernmental processes and coordination efforts to register their concerns and to ensure support of the international community.

The regional and sub-regional organizations, such as the African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and East African Community (EAC), whose member states include also African LDCs, should give full attention in their economic analysis and monitoring to the problems, needs and achievements of LDCs.  They are also encouraged to provide appropriate inputs to the global-level follow-up and review process, particularly to the Economic and Social Council’s annual reviews I mentioned earlier.

Lastly, I would like to call on the Commission to facilitate the implementation of the Brussels POA at the regional level.  It should undertake, as the Programme specifically asks for, periodic sub-regional and regional monitoring and review of progress in the implementation of the Programme.  This should offer an opportunity for LDCs in their respective regions, together with neighbouring developing countries,
to exchange experiences and seek solutions to development problems common to them at the regional level. 

Mr. Chairman,
Honourable Ministers, and
Distinguished Delegates,

I conclude my statement by quoting Secretary-General Kofi Annan from his recent message to the Cotonou Ministerial Conference of the Least Developed Countries:  “The United Nations family remains committed to helping the least developed countries overcome the formidable obstacles they face.”  He expressed the hope that “All LDCs and their development partners, as well as civil society, the private sector and all other stakeholders, will forge partnerships that will make the difference between success and stagnation.” 

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