Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am honoured to present to you the Secretary General’s report on Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001 - 2010. Let me start by outlining on-going preparations for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, or LDC IV.
As you may know by now, the United Nations Secretary General has designated me to serve as Secretary General of LDC IV. I will be continuing the work we have already started with Member States and partners in preparing for LDC IV. In addition, I will now be leading and coordinating activities of the entire United Nations system in the preparations.
I accept this honour with humility and am counting on your support to ensure that we gain strong international commitment for a reinvigorated development agenda for the LDCs.
Preparations for LDC IV are well underway and we have been following a bottom-up approach starting from the country level.
National consultations took place throughout 2009, supported by United Nations resident coordinators. They involved a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including governments, parliaments, civil society and the private sector. These consultations produced analytical and forward-looking reports that fed into the regional reviews.
Two regional reviews were organised by the respective Regional Commissions in collaboration with OHRLLS and UNDP. One for the Asia-Pacific region, hosted by the government of Bangladesh adopted the Dhaka outcome document in January of this year. The second regional preparatory meeting took place in March in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The outcome documents stressed that implementing the Brussels Programme remains unfinished business.
The Secretary-General has appointed a Group of Eminent Persons to advise on the international support measures needed to accelerate development in the LDCs.
The members have been selected in view of their high international stature, expertise and strong commitment to global development. They will be making efforts to raise public awareness and build strong political commitment in support of the LDCs. The group had its first meeting last week at which it was highlighted that business as usual will not do. The Group reiterated that progress in LDCs is vital for global peace and security and that therefore global solidarity is warranted. The meeting focussed on the importance of governance including local, national, regional and international. Special emphasis was also put on the situation of post-conflict and fragile states.
OHRLLS in consultation with the organisations and agencies of the United Nations system is organising a number of thematic pre-conference events. Several of these events have taken place already. The first pre-conference event was jointly organized by UNIDO and OHRLLS on 3-4 December 2009 in Vienna on The Impact of the Global Financial and Economic Crisis on LDCs’ Productive Capacities and Trade: Threats and Opportunities. It has stressed the importance of economic diversification in LDCs in order to enhance food security and productive capacities and to reduce vulnerability to external shocks.
Another preparatory event on “Migration, Development and Remittances in the LDCs Context” was co-organized by UNITAR, IOM, UNFPA and the MacArthur Foundation in cooperation with OHRLLS and the Permanent Mission of Nepal on 17 June 2010. It concluded that in order to facilitate the transfer of remittances, home and host countries should lower transfer costs, for example through changes in banking regulation and removing taxation on repatriated remittances. To make the most out of remittances a larger share should be channelled into productive use and private sector development activities through co-development schemes.
The Ministerial Meeting on “Enhancing the Mobilization of Financial Resources for LDCs’ Development” was held in Lisbon, Portugal, on 2nd and 3rd October 2010; co-organized by the Government of Portugal and OHRLLS. It stressed the importance of domestic resource mobilization, improving the quantity and quality of ODA, attracting FDI to LDCs priority sectors through home country incentives. It also called for more progress towards mobilizing innovative sources of finance, including new Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) and taxes on international transactions. The meeting concluded that the growing development needs of LDCs as well as the multiple global crises require a global stimulus package for LDCs and the creation of a special “crisis mitigation and resilience building (CMRB) fund for LDCs to enable them to respond to various kinds of shocks.
A pre-conference event on “Enhanced International Support and Smooth Transition of LDCs towards Graduation” took place last Friday as Second Committee Side Event. The event helped to examine the slow progress made by LDCs towards achieving the internationally agreed goals and graduating from the category. Concrete policy measures were also suggested that could make the transition from LDC to post-LDC life a prospect to be looked forward to.
Other pre-conference events will also cover key issues for LDCs such as Building productive capacities, Science, Technology and Innovation, challenges and opportunities that arise due to climate change; Promoting Democratic Governance, Enhancing Food Security through Agricultural Development, Universal Access to Essential Services, and South-South cooperation.
In order to ensure broad participation in the conference, my Office is working with civil society, parliamentarians and the private sector.
The Steering Committee of the civil society track will have its first meeting this week. It will manage the civil society track of the conference and will meet at least four times during the preparatory process.
We have also prepared a guide on mobilizing parliamentary support in collaboration with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and are planning a parliamentarian forum during LDC IV.
Preparations for the active involvement of the private sector have also started and there will be a high level forum on investments during the conference. Inputs from the private sector will help to identify concrete, action-oriented proposals addressing LDC-specific problems and challenges in the area of investment, enterprise development, trade and finance. The organization of the Private Sector Track is guided and advised by a Private Sector Steering Committee.
A Brainstorming Meeting on the substantive preparation for UN LDC IV has been held in July which helped us synthesize the lessons learnt from implementing the Brussels Programme and has provided some results that will help to improve the substantive content of the next development agenda and the methodology for monitoring progress.
LDC IV is a major undertaking of the entire United Nations system and the international community. Given its importance, adequate financial resources are necessary to ensuring its success. My Office prepared a project document to mobilize financial resources and I have held several consultations with donor countries, emerging donors and international organisations. I am very grateful for contributions from Turkey, India, Belgium and Finland also on behalf of LDCs as most of these resources will be used to ensure the full participation of stakeholders from LDCs including parliamentarians and civil society representatives in the preparatory process and the conference itself.
I would like to commend these countries for their generosity and urge others to expedite their own plans for providing financial resources to the Trust Fund for the LDCs.
Let me now turn to recent economic and social situation in the LDCs.
This year’s report comes at a time of cautious optimism for the global economy. The good news for LDCs is that on average, GDP growth in 2008 reached the target seven percent set by the Brussels Programme. This is very encouraging given the difficult economic conditions prevailing at the time.
However, when dealing with such a diverse group of countries, performance is always mixed. The report finds that only 11 LDCs exceeded the seven percent target for growth, and that ten of them are in Africa. It also finds that 12 countries grew by less than three percent.
There are other areas in which we have seen progress.
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which has been endorsed by the General Assembly in 2008, is also gaining momentum in LDCs. 15 LDCs have been candidate countries as of April 2010, having completed the sign-up phase and working towards full implementation of all EITI principles and criteria. Liberia is the first LDC that was evaluated as EITI compliant on 14 October 2009.
Poverty remains endemic in LDCs. The report finds that more than half the population of LDCs still live in poverty and suffer from hunger. The limited progress in reducing poverty and hunger is a strong reminder that implementing the Brussels Programme remains unfinished business.
The strong links between the different social sectors need to be taken into account for accelerating progress towards reaching the MDGs. This has also been recognised at the MDG Summit last month, which highlighted that there will be no MDGs without LDCs.
For example one third of all children in developing countries have experienced severe malnutrition before they enter primary school with irreparable damages to their cognitive development. In many LDCs early childhood care and education programmes are not widespread limiting the outcomes of schooling. Likewise improved access to water and sanitation contributes significantly to better health outcomes as well as education, especially for girls.
One striking feature of LDCs is weak productive capacity and lack of structural transformation. Manufacturing remains weak and only seven countries have a share of manufacturing in GDP of more than 15 per cent.
To improve productive capacity, most LDCs need to adopt sector-specific development policies focusing on agriculture, services and industrial transformation. Creating jobs must also be a key feature of such policies.
Improving international trading links, including through regional integration can also serve as a powerful engine for growth.
Full implementation of duty-free, quota-free market access by developed countries and developing countries in a position to do so, as agreed in the Hong Kong World Trade Organization Ministerial Declaration, is critical first step. Developed countries must also honour the pledge to eliminate all export subsidies by 2013. Clear and simple rules of origin, allowing for regional and South-South cumulation of origin, could improve the use and value of preferences.
The LDCs continue to rely on external financial resources, especially Official Development Assistance (ODA) for their development. Total ODA as percentage of the GNI of OECD countries reached only 0.09 % in 2008. This is way below the 0.15-0.20 target in the BPoA. The number of donor countries providing 0.15 per cent or more of their GNI in ODA to LDCs increased only from 7 in 2005 to 9 in 2008.
LDCs emit far less greenhouse gases per capita than others and therefore contribute the least to climate change, while they are more vulnerable to its effects, such as a rise in sea level in some areas and drought in others.
The very fact that the challenges of poverty, food, energy, global recession and climate change are all interrelated has presented the global community with a unique opportunity to tackle them together. A “green new deal for LDCs” should frontload large public investments in renewable energy in order to achieve economies of scale. In addition, policies, skills and incentives need to be developed to encourage private investments in environmentally-friendly and climate-friendly businesses such as energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and greening of commodity supply chains.
We are heading to Istanbul with roughly the same number of LDCs that began the journey in 2001. Only one country, Cape Verde, has graduated from the group and Maldives will graduate at the beginning of next year. This report makes concrete recommendations for a future development agenda and let me elaborate on three of them.
First, both implementation and monitoring of the Brussels programme was hampered by the lack of reliable data. Therefore, all LDCs should be supported to define and refine their statistical services from data collection through to dissemination.
Second, mainstreaming gender in development remains work in progress. The General Assembly has shown its resolve by recently approving the creation of UN Women, a new powerful intergovernmental agency to lead in this effort. Investment in gender equality must be scaled up and national budgets must be gender responsive.
Third, experience from the financial crisis has shown that all countries need the policy space to institute counter-cyclical measures in times of need. LDCs need this policy space in a wide range of areas including fiscal, trade and macroeconomic policies.
The LDCs need an ambitious and internationally supported development agenda. Let us redouble our efforts to ensure that LDC IV delivers such an agenda.
Thank you for your kind attention.