Mr. Chairman and
Distinguished delegates,

            I thank you for the invitation to address the Hundred and Twenty-Third Session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Council. 

More than a year has passed since the United Nations Third Conference on Least Developed Countries was held in Brussels.  A forward-looking Declaration and the Programme of Action (POA), adopted at the Conference to support the development efforts of the LDCs, 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.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration of September 2000 also called on the global community for both financial and technical support to these vulnerable countries.  It emphasized that the efforts that the least developed countries as well as the landlocked developing countries and the small island developing States make toward their development goals should be supported through adequate resources by the international community.  The Brussels Programme has recognized the special problems of landlocked and small island LDCs as a cross-cutting priority.

Mr. Chairman,

            The Brussels POA 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 (vii) mobilizing financial resources.

Recognizing that the lack of follow-up machinery in the past two Programmes of Action for LDCs was a major impediment for their implementation, 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 as the High Representative formally in April this year.

In carrying out the mandate of the General Assembly and the Brussels Programme,
the Office has adopted a framework of action with four main elements: (i) Focus on country-level implementation, (ii) Work with all the relevant entities of the UN family, in particular the Funds and programmes, Regional Commissions, Specialized Agencies, and the Bretton Woods institutions, to ensure that these entities mainstream the Brussels POA in their activities and in the intergovernmental processes as well as establish appropriate focal points for review and
follow-up, as called for the POA and the GA resolution 56/227, (iii) Work with multilateral organizations, particularly the regional and sub-regional organizations, for support to the implementation of the POA, (iv) Work closely with civil-society and private sector—both at national and global levels —so that they contribute as full development partners.

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 United Nations system organizations for these reports.  In this context, the input from FAO will be highly valuable to the preparation of the annual reports and also to the Economic and Social Council’s annual reviews for the implementation of the Brussels Programme.

Mr. Chairman,

Agriculture is a pivotal sector for development in the LDCs, as it underpins food security, export earnings, industrial and rural development, and employment generation.  Yet, LDC agricultural production for domestic and export markets in the LDCs has fallen behind.  Slow production growth combined with sharp fluctuations in output have been a serious problem for the LDCs, contributing to their persistent poverty and rising food insecurity.  According to a FAO report, the proportion of undernourished in the total LDC population increased from 38 percent to 40 percent between 1970 and 1997, while the absolute number of such people rose from 116 million to 235 million.  LDCs have also been marginalized from world agricultural markets, accounting for only 5 percent of global agricultural exports in the early 1970s but barely 1 percent in the late 1990s.  In addition to the market access constraints, the situation has been made worse due to the harsh impact of the agricultural subsidies, particularly for these countries.  Increasing the productive capacity of agriculture and fisheries and the income of people working in these sectors in LDCs is therefore a key priority.  Further support is needed to enhance productivity and competitiveness, and to diversify exports and moving up the value chain in the processing and export of their agricultural products. 

            The Brussels Programme incorporates such concern in the Commitment 4 of the Programme which focuses on “building productive capacities to make globalization work for LDCs.”  I would like to underscore two sections that are highly relevant to the work of FAO. 

First, section E of this Commitment deals with agriculture and agro-industries.  It urges both the LDCs and their development partners to take actions to increase new investments in agricultural and fishery research and rural infrastructure, extension of better farming and fishing practices and sustainable technologies, as well as marketing advice, effective finance and greater tenure security.

            Secondly, section G of the Commitment 4 specifically calls for actions regarding rural development and food security.  Lack of food security is the most typical face of poverty for both urban and rural people in LDCs.  It calls for food and nutritional security to be part of a larger framework of sustainable rural development and of poverty eradication.  Some 70 per cent of the poor and food-insecure are rural dwellers, and many of them are small farmers who produce on the brink of survival, or landless people trying to sell their labour.  It also refers to the importance of women’s rights for entitlements over land, as women are often responsible for the bulk of food production.  However, they need the right to own land and to inherit land in order to increase the productivity of the land and to be able to better feed themselves and their families.  The target of the World Food Summit, reiterated at its five-year review, to reduce by half the number of undernourished people by 2015 is specifically stated as the goal in the Commitment 4.

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, national efforts are critical to eradicate poverty and to build a better life for the large segment of humanity living in the continent of Africa.  Here I would like to underscore that the commonalities between the Brussels Programme and the NEPAD, which are remarkable and need to be emphasized and taken advantage of.  The overarching objective of both NEPAD and Brussels Programme is poverty eradication.  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.  There is a need for promoting synergy between the NEPAD and the Brussels Programme in order to accelerate sustained growth and development in the LDCs. 

The Brussels Programme is also 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. 

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 United Nations 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 the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) 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 Council session to take a similar action to mainstream the Brussels Programme within FAO’s programme of work as well as in its intergovernmental process.

Commitment of the United Nations system organizations is particularly needed to help these most vulnerable countries overcome the enormous challenge that they face.  The Office of the High Representative is determined to make a concerted effort in coordinating actions and mobilizing support for a global movement to end the marginalization of the LDCs.

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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