Mr. Chairman,
Executive Director of World Food Programme
Distinguished Delegates,

I thank you for this opportunity to address this year's First Regular Session of the Executive Board of the World Food Programme (WFP). I value this immensely as it shows very clearly the attention and support that the Programme gives to addressing the needs of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in its areas of activities. For this,
I convey my deep appreciation to the distinguished Chairman, members of the Bureau and members of the Board. I take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to Executive Director James Morris for his committed leadership of the world's largest humanitarian agency.

After two decades of efforts to address their social and economic agenda, development remains still elusive for the Least Developed Countries. People living on less than one dollar a day in the LDCs will reach 420 million by 2015 if the current trend continues. In the second half of the 1990s, almost 9 out of 10 people in African LDCs were living on less than a dollar a day. These figures show the enormous challenge ahead for the LDCs as well as for its development partners.

Keeping this in view, in May 2001, the international community took another major step to put the needs of LDCs in the forefront of global agenda for cooperation. The Programme of Action (POA) adopted by the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Brussels is different from the earlier programmes in terms of its objectives, orientation, scope and follow-up arrangements. The basic objective of the Brussels POA is to achieve, in respect of forty-nine LDCs, substantial progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving poverty by 2015 and promoting sustainable development. 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 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,
the Brussels POA 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 the General Assembly by its resolution 56/227 of the 24 December 2001 established the Office of High Representative for the Least Developing Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS).

In carrying out the mandate of the UN General Assembly and the Brussels POA, the Office of the High Representative has adopted a framework of action with four main components: (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 BWIs, to ensure that these entities mainstream the Brussels POA in their activities and in the intergovernmental processes as well as establishing appropriate focal points for review and follow-up as called for the POA and the GA resolution 56/227 and now 57/276 (iii) work with multilateral organizations outside the UN system, particularly the regional and sub regional organizations, for support to the implementation of the POA and (iv) work closely with civil society and the private sector -both at national and global levels- so that they contribute as full development partners.

Mr Chairman,

Hunger and poverty in the LDCs continues to be one of the most formidable development challenges to the United Nations. As the food arm of the United Nations system, the World Food Programme (WFP) is mandated to combat hunger and starvation. Recent estimates indicate that the number of people in the world who do not have enough food to meet their basic needs continues to be extremely high, reaching approximately 800 million.

Lack of food security is the most typical face of poverty for both urban and rural people in LDCs. Some 70 per cent of the poor and food-insecure are rural dwellers,
many of whom are small farmers who produce on the brink of survival, or landless people trying to sell their labour. Poverty eradication is critical in improving access to food. Food and nutritional security must be part of a larger framework of sustainable rural development and of poverty eradication. This issue has been underscored in the commitment 4 of the Brussels POA.

My office strongly commends WFP's extensive efforts in creating emergency and development programmes worldwide, the majority of which include the LDCs of Africa. We welcome the recently launched "Africa Hunger Alert Campaign" to channel support to Africa, as WFP is struggling to feed up to 25 million additional beneficiaries in that continent alone. In recent months, the work of WFP is particularly commendable in the two regions, the Horn of Africa and southern Africa, where most countries are LDCs. While the WFP provides food assistance to save lives in emergency situations and to improve the nutritional status of the most vulnerable people, it is also committed to the provision of food aid to support economic and social development. Food aid for development purposes assists national governments and local communities to realize their development objectives by helping the hungry and the poor to create assets and skills that benefit them and their communities. This challenging task underlines Commitment 3 of the Brussels Programme of Action. To be truly effective, food aid should be fully integrated into the development plans and priorities of recipient countries and coordinated with other forms of assistance. My Office welcomes the approach of WFP in coordinating its activities in an integrated way at the country level so that it can respond to the urgent needs as they occur while retaining core developmental objectives. In both its emergency and its development projects, the WFP has already made a special commitment to helping women gain equal access to life's basic needs. WFP has emphasized that women are the first and fastest solution to reducing hunger and poverty. Also, we need to be aware that the high rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence in rural areas is having devastating effects on agricultural productivity and food security and needs to be addressed. As WFP has underscored, poverty and hunger must be alleviated to help stop the spread of AIDS.

In the Third UNLDC Conference at Brussels, the WFP stated that "no investment is more sustainable than investment in human resources". Our Office appreciates very much WFP's role particularly in school feeding that enables poor and hungry children, especially girls, get an education; through Mother and Child Health programmes that provide nutrition for mothers and children, thus fostering proper childhood development and reducing infant mortality; through adult literacy programmes for the poor, especially women, to increase their access to information and chances of employment leading to better lives for them and their families.

The United Nations General Assembly has clearly indicated the important role of the UN system organizations in the implementation of the Brussels POA. In this context, I would like to highlight the GA resolution 56/227 of December 2001 and resolution 57/276 of December 2002 inviting the UN system organizations to mainstream the implementation of the Brussels Declaration and Programme within their respective programmes of work as well as in their intergovernmental processes. Responding to this call, the governing bodies of UNICEF, UNESCO, UNCTAD, FAO, WTO, UNIDO, UNCDF, WIPO, UNDP, and UNFPA all adopted during the last year decisions to mainstream the Brussels Programme.

I call upon you, the distinguished delegates of the Executive Board of the World Food Programme, to take a similar action to mainstream the Brussels Programme of Action within the WFP activities as well as in its intergovernmental process. Your strong support and cooperation would clearly contribute further to the effective implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action.

Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Delegates,

With more than 600 million people, the LDCs could meet the challenges of hunger and poverty eradication through effective national and international policies that are anchored more firmly in long-term developmental strategies aimed at the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his address to the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly last September reminded the international community that, "Only by multilateral action can we give people in the least developed countries the chance to escape the ugly misery of poverty, ignorance and disease".

I thank you for your attention.