It gives me great pleasure to address this first meeting of the Private Sector Steering Committee of the Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries. I would like to seize this opportunity to thank you all for coming. I am confident in a successful outcome of today’s deliberations.
Today, we will focus on the Private Sector, the very engine of growth and development anywhere, but especially in the Least Developed Countries. The private sector is key to enabling LDCs to build productive capacities, generate jobs and lift people out of poverty. More than any other sector, it provides the poor with opportunities and enables them to generate incomes and make the best of their lives.
The Private Sector is an agent of change; an agent of change that also has the enormous potential to create entrepreneurial opportunities, to facilitate the transfer of technology, and to innovate. It can build human capital, help create physical infrastructure and generate public revenue for government.
We have convened this meeting to discuss how to leverage this potential and to ensure the integration of the private sector into our overall efforts to achieve sustained economic growth and development in LDCs.
As you may be aware, the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs is scheduled to take place in Istanbul, Turkey from 30 May to 3 June 2011. The purpose of the Conference is two-fold: on the one hand it will assess the results of the 10-year action plan for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on LDCs in Brussels, Belgium, in 2001. On the other hand it will adopt new measures and strategies for the sustainable development of the LDCs into the next decade.
Preparations for the conference are in full swing, with activities being organized at national, regional and global levels. It is an inclusive process involving – in the four respective ‘tracks’ of the Conference – the participation of Governments, parliamentarians, the civil society and the private sector.
The purpose of the Private Sector Track is to enhance the contribution to, and active engagement of the private sector in the preparations for the Conference, in particular with a view to helping identify concrete, action-oriented proposals addressing LDC-specific problems and challenges in the area of investment, enterprise development and finance. These proposals will contribute directly to the formulation of innovative strategies that will form the new development framework to be adopted at the Conference by the UN Member States.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To overcome their vulnerabilities and marginalization, LDCs need to undergo a structural transformation and attain sustained broad-based economic growth. This can only be brought about through the strategic vision of a committed country leadership and a dynamic and vibrant private sector engaged in a business environment where competition stimulates the investment, innovation and technological progress that underpins economic growth.
The governments of LDCs have to work in partnership with, and facilitate the growth of the private sector and create an enabling environment for activities that can generate economic opportunities. Underdeveloped markets in LDCs are prone to market failure and it is therefore of vital importance that governments create reliable institutions and lay down the ground rules to ensure the fair and proper functioning of markets.
At the same time, there is a need for LDC governments to become more innovative in mobilizing domestic financial resources to support the development of the private sector, while harnessing FDI for economic growth and local productive capacity building, including by supporting the beneficial interaction of foreign investors and local producers, with the aim to enhance and upgrade capacities, transfer technologies and foster integration in global production and distribution chains
The private sector in most LDCs too is characterized by the lack of entrepreneurial, managerial and technical skills, inadequate equipment and facilities, poor market information, inefficient production processes and technologies. Economic production is mostly small-scale, informal, low-technology and based in the agricultural or extractive sectors.
I strongly believe that the fourth UN Conference on LDCs will make a difference. It will define the framework in which we will operate in the next decade. It will, so to speak, shape the development paradigm of the future. Engaging the private sector as a genuine partner in this process will prove to be a key success factors to guaranteeing a successful outcome of the Conference.
As Members of the Private Sector Steering Committee, you are tasked with providing overall guidance and direction to the private sector participation in the Conference. We have asked you to join us today to discuss the Concept Note on the Private Sector Track. This meeting will also discuss the key steps for the preparation of the Private Sector Track and define what each one of you can contribute to making the Conference a success.
This Committee should also contribute to raising awareness among all actors of the private sector in your respective regions and networks about the special needs, priorities and aspirations of this group of countries. To that effect it should develop certain messages which are focused, user friendly and actionable.
This Committee should use its networks to ensure the participation of a maximum of actors at the activities leading to the Conference and at the Conference itself.
On the long run, private sector actors should reinforce partnerships with LDCs’ Governments to develop an inclusive and consensual legal framework and policies that make it easy to attract FDI and to do business. They should invest in developing productive capacity, including infrastructure and power grids, as well as in research and development, especially in the area of agriculture and agro-business, which generate revenues for 70% of LDCs’ active population. Investments in mining industry with high value addition done locally, reinforcement of trade capacity and trade financing, investment in service sector and manufacturing are also areas of interest for sustainable development of LDCs.
In doing so, they must make sure that investment packages also include transfer of adapted technologies and know how.
They must also uphold the principles of global corporate social responsibility developed by the United Nations through its Global Compact. That is why the Global Compact has joined us as co-organizer of this private sector track of the Conference. I am very grateful for that.
Before concluding, let me say a few words on how the countries of origin of investments can continue their support to the sustainable development of LDCs.
They should adopt special measures to ensure flows of investments to the LDCs by creating fiscal incentives, adopt measures to guarantee protection and promotion of investment, strengthen existing preferential treatment for the LDCs in terms of market access, establish more flexible rules of origin and facilitate access to financing for potential investors and for trade.
I am confident that our deliberations today will generate concrete ideas and recommendations. In conclusion, I call upon you to engage actively and constructively in the discussion and I wish this Meeting a success.
I thank you all.