Your Excellency President Abdoulie Wade of the Republic of Senegal,
Your Excellency Ambassador Acharya of the Republic of Nepal,
Your Excellency Ambassador Akapan of the Republic of Turkey,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking your Excellency President Wade for being with us today and sharing your wisdom.
Let me also thank Ambassadors Acharya of Nepal and Akapan of Turkey, for their strong support in preparations for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. The Conference, taking place in Istanbul, Turkey from May 30 to June 3 next year, is an important opportunity for building stronger international support measures in favour of the LDCs.
Let me also thank our good friend Professor Guillaumont, who has been part of the LDC journey for many years now.
The summit meeting currently taking place on the Millennium Development Goals has made it clear that the Goals will only be attained by accelerating progress in the LDCs. The focus of the MDGs on poverty and hunger, education, health, and other social services, is also reflected in the Brussels Programme of Action for the LDCs. The Brussels programme was adopted one year following the Millennium Summit and drew much inspiration from it.
Progress in addressing poverty, which, by the way, is also the overarching goal of the Brussels Programme of action, and progress in service delivery is considered a result of the increase in productive capacities and employment opportunities in the LDCs. In this respect, the Brussels Programme goes beyond the MDG targets by explicitly focussing on investment and growth, leading to structural transformation, which, in turn, is the best way of sustaining social gains and overall development.
Assessing the progress on the MDG front at the global level, the WHO reports that annual deaths of children under five years of age fell by about one-third to 8.8 million from 1990 to 2008. It also reported a decline of 1/3 in maternal mortality during the same period.
On eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, the Global Monitoring Report 2010 projects that the number of extreme poor could total around 920 million five years from now, marking a significant decline from the 1.8 billion people living in extreme poverty in 1990. This shows a positive trend indicating that at a global level, we are still on track to achieve the first MDG of halving extreme poverty.
Many developing countries, including LDCs, have made commendable efforts to implement commitments in the MDGs and the Brussels Programme. For instance, Liberia has been named the winner of this year's MDG award for outstanding leadership and commitment in promoting gender equality and women's empowerment. Nepal received an award for its success in significantly reducing maternal mortality (by 60% since 1990). Bangladesh received an award for outstanding progress in reducing infant mortality and for achieving boys and girls parity in primary education. And Malawi was awarded a prize for the efficient policy measures it took to massively increase food production, transforming the country from a food deficient to a food exporter over a short period of time.
However, even though some progress is being made, the situation remains precarious for the most vulnerable. FAO estimates that more than 900 million of them would not have had breakfast this morning and are not sure where the next meal is coming from.
Most of the Least Developed Countries, including African LDCs are the epicenter of crisis, with continuing food insecurity, a rise in extreme poverty, a high child and maternal mortality rate, and large numbers of people living in slums. Due to the recent economic and financial crisis, 92 million more people will remain in extreme poverty by 2015.
According to UNICEF, maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are the highest in the world. A woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to a 1 in 4,000 risk in a developed country – the largest difference between poor and rich countries of any health indicator. This figure is truly shocking. No woman should face such a high risk of loosing her own life while giving birth.
These are some of the reasons why the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries is crucial. It is an opportunity to re-examine the entire development paradigm in the light of the recent multiple global crises and persistent poverty.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It remains our ambition to see more countries graduating from the LDC category during the next decade. The United Nations Secretary General has signalled his determination in this regard and will be attending the Istanbul Conference. He also recently appointed a Group of Eminent Persons to raise awareness and help in building the international solidarity needed to for success at Istanbul.
Allow me to mention some priority areas that have been identified by the LDCs and their development partners.
First, considering the pivotal role of agriculture in poverty reduction, it is critical to prioritise agricultural development through increased investment, especially in smallholder agriculture to enable them access locally adapted seeds, fertilizers, animal feed and other inputs in order to increase agricultural production.
Second, given the poor state of infrastructure development in the most vulnerable countries, more resources will be urgently required to close the huge infrastructure deficit.
Third, while ODA to the poorest countries has increased in recent years, donors remain significantly off-track in meeting their aid pledges. This calls for increasing ODA and targeting it to priority sectors, including productive sectors, while simultaneously improving aid effectiveness.
Fourth, in view of the devastating effects of climate change on the most vulnerable countries, adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources will be needed for climate change adaptation.
Fifth, more effort is needed to develop the enormous human resources potential that exists in many LDCs including through a dedicated scheme for building skills across a wide spectrum of needs in LDCs economies.
Lastly, there is a need for deliberate policies and interventions such as enhanced redistributive mechanisms, strengthened social protection and universal access to basic services in order to reduce vulnerabilities of individuals and communities and construct more socially cohesive societies.
Thank you for your kind attention.