Mr. Chairman
and Distinguished Delegates,

I thank you for the invitation to address the 108th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union here in Santiago, Chile. I bring with me warm greetings and best wishes of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, for this important Conference.

At the outset, I would like to pay tribute to the people and Government of Chile for the excellent arrangements made for this Conference. I am particularly reminded of my wonderful assignment here as the Bangladesh Ambassador to Chile four years ago and I am happy to be back.

The 108th IPU Conference is of special significance to the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS), as it is our first participation at the IPU Conference since our establishment last year by the General Assembly.

Mr. Chairman,

To address the developmental challenges that face the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) today, strong political support is indispensable. The parliament, as the legislative engine, is the main force in strengthening democratic institutions and ensuring human development. The IPU plays a leading role in ensuring the role of parliaments in developing public policies in an era of globalization and multilateral issues. Cooperation between the IPU and the UN Office of the High Representative could bring a parliamentary dimension to the work relating to the areas of peace and security, economic and social development, human rights, democracy and gender issues for the 615 million people - 10 per cent of the world population - who constitute the poorest and weakest segment of the international community.

Mr. Chairman,

After two decades of efforts to address their social and economic agenda, development remains elusive for the 49 Least Developed Countries, 34 of which are in Africa. People living on less than a 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.

Against this backdrop, in May 2001, the international community took another major step to put the needs of LDCs in the forefront of global agenda for cooperation. It adopted the Brussels Declaration and the Programme of Action (PoA) for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010. This programme is different from the earlier LDC 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. Poverty eradication, gender equality, employment, governance, capacity-building, special problems of landlocked developing countries and small island developing states, as well as special problems faced by least developed countries affected by conflict, have been singled out in the Brussels POA as cross-cutting priorities.

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 the vulnerability and protecting the environment; and

(vii) mobilizing financial resources.

In carrying out the mandate of the 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 by both the LDCs and donor countries;

(ii) work with all 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 inter-governmental processes as well as establishing appropriate focal points for review and follow-up, as called for by the UN General Assembly;

(iii) work with other 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 private sector - both at national and global levels - so that they contribute as full development partners.

Mr. Chairman,

By drawing parliamentarians' attention to the plight of the LDCs and enlisting their support for the effective implementation of the Brussels PoA, one can develop the tools necessary to overcome the development obstacles that face LDCs today. Within the context of the Brussels PoA, each LDC will translate national policies and measures within the framework of its national programme of action, taking into account its particular circumstances and priorities. LDCs should endeavour to accomplish this with the full involvement of domestic stakeholders and the collaboration of its development partners in implementing the agreed commitments of the Brussels PoA. Support at the parliamentary level will ensure the implementation of such a development strategy by strengthening democratic institutions and ensuring human development.

Commitment 2 of the Brussels PoA highlights the objectives of good governance at national and international levels. Parliamentary support will provide the boost necessary to achieve good governance objectives at the national level. Success in meeting the objectives of development and poverty eradication depends, inter alia, on good governance in LDCs. It also depends on good governance at the international level and on transparency in the financial, monetary and trading systems. More efforts are required to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.

Despite efforts by LDCs in this regard, their governance goals have not yet been achieved. These efforts need to be pursued, with the support of the international community as an essential element. In LDCs, many institutions and processes are inadequately developed, reflecting again low overall levels of socio-economic development. To promote good governance in these countries, it must be recognized that parliamentary support is essential and should be approached with a long-term perspective.

In the area of good governance, the LDCs have made commitments in the Brussels PoA to undertake actions. The success of these actions are very much dependent on proactive and continuing parliamentary support at the national level. Parliamentarians of donor countries could also play an important role in providing support to fulfilling their countries commitments made in the Brussels PoA.

Mr. Chairman
and Distinguished Delegates,

The United Nations General Assembly has reiterated in its last two sessions its invitation to the organizations and bodies of the United Nations and other multilateral organizations to mainstream the Brussels Declaration and the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 within their programmes of work. As a global and prominent multilateral organization, the Inter-Parliamentary Union's support for mainstreaming the Brussels PoA would have the potential of effective oversight and monitoring of the implementation of the Brussels commitments at the national level by respective parliaments as well as of strengthening the parliamentary system and popular participation in the Least Developed Countries. Adoption of an appropriate decision in this regard by this Conference will contribute in a big way to ensuring good governance objectives of the Brussels PoA.

In conclusion, I must mention that in light of the IPU receiving observer status at the United Nations, it could develop in its future agenda, programmes/activities to promote close collaboration with the UN Office for the Least Developed Countries and with other UN entities focussing particularly on the implementation of the Commitment 2 on the good governance objectives at the national and international levels, aimed at contributing to the overall implementation of the Brussels PoA.

I thank you for your kind attention.