Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving me the floor to brief the Preparatory Committee on progress in the organizational preparations for the Istanbul Conference.
Allow me to extend to you again my warmest congratulations on your assumption of this important leadership role. I truly look forward to working closely with you in the months ahead with a view to ensuring effective preparations for the Conference.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you are well aware, preparations for the Conference have been underpinned by a bottom-up approach starting from the country level, through regional reviews and are now entering full-steam the inter-governmental global level.
Throughout all these stages, we have strived to ensure the active participation and substantive contribution of all relevant stakeholders, including government representatives, parliaments, civil society and the private sector.
National consultations took place throughout 2009, supported by United Nations resident coordinators. So far, 32 least developed countries have submitted their national reports reviewing progress made in all seven areas of the Brussels Programme of Action against the targets contained therein. These analytical and forward-looking reports fed into the regional reviews. Copies of all such reports will be made available at the first session of the PrepCom in January.
Two regional reviews were organized by the respective Regional Commissions, in Asia and the Pacific and in Africa, in collaboration with my Office, OHRLLS, and UNDP, and provided an assessment of the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action with distillation of lessons learned and offering policy platforms setting out both region-specific and global expectations of least developed countries from the Conference. Both outcome documents stressed that implementing the Brussels Programme largely remains an unfinished business.
All throughout these last two very busy years, my Office has ensured and will continue to ensure the overall coordination of United Nations system-wide preparations for the Conference. Four inter-agency consultative group meetings were organized for that purpose, Almost 50 UN agencies and other relevant international organizations belong to our inter-agency consultative group. Meetings were held alternatively in New York and Geneva to ensure the broadest possible participation of all United Nations system and other organizations irrespective of their headquarters’ location. The inter-agency meetings reviewed the organizational structure of the preparatory process and agreed on the list of pre-Conference events as well as other substantive contributions, such as pre-Conference publications. More recently we have received an overwhelming response from our partners in terms of proposals for side events to be held on the margins of the Conference. For the strong commitment and dedication to ensuring a successful Conference, I am grateful to all our inter-agency partners.
Nine thematic pre-Conference events have already taken place, one just yesterday on food security and agricultural development, with participation of all stakeholders. Seven more pre-conference events are scheduled to take place in February and March next year. Their outcomes will provide important substantive inputs to the outcome document of the Conference.
In my capacity as Secretary-General of the Conference, I have also launched consultations with the host country Government, with a first visit to Ankara and Istanbul back in April to discuss substantive and organizations aspects for the Conference. The visit included meetings with key political authorities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant ministries and sought to exchange views on the policy and strategic aspects of the Conference and to address the following issues: the role of the host country Government in the preparatory process; the role of parliamentarians; civil society and private sector preparations and media coverage.
My Office, along with key United Nations Secretariat departments, such as the Conference Management Service, the Security and Safety Service, the Office of Information Technology and the Department of Public Information, undertook two planning missions to Istanbul and Ankara in June/July and in October 2010. The missions held extensive discussions with the host country authorities and viewed the excellent facilities being made available for the Conference.
Another important initiative taken in the course of the preparatory process in order to generate substantive inputs and raise awareness for the Conference was the appointment of a Group of Eminent Persons by the Secretary-General. The Group will examine obstacles faced by LDCs to their economic progress and recommend a new paradigm for transforming the least developed countries. The Group is co-chaired by Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré, the former President of Mali, and Mr. James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank. A first meeting took place in October and the second will be held in January next year in Brussels. The Group is expected to submit its report to the Secretary General in March.
Last but not least I would like to provide you with some highlights of the three other tracks in the preparation for the Istanbul Conference, as the inclusion and participation of all stakeholders is, as I said, a key element.
Given the important role that parliaments play in implementing international commitments, my Office is working closely with the Inter-Parliamentary Union to mobilize parliamentary involvement in the Conference. Parliamentarians were actively involved in both country and regional-level preparations. A separate parliamentarians’ forum will be organized on the day before the start of the Conference in Istanbul.
Another key component of the preparatory process has been the engagement with civil society organizations at the national, regional and global level. Thus far three regional CSO review meetings have been held; which stressed the need for greater space for CSOs, especially in the follow-up to the Istanbul Conference. To help ensure that civil society voices are heard on key issues, my Office has established a Civil Society Steering Committee which comprises seven international umbrella CSOs to help steer the substantive engagement with Member States in the lead-up to and during LDC IV. One of the key events in the coming year will be the interactive civil society hearings, which will take place at the General Assembly in New York. This hearing will provide CSOs and Member States with an opportunity to engage each other at the global level.
My Office has also launched preparations for the active involvement of the private sector, including a Private Sector Steering Committee. Given its pivotal role in the structural transformation of the LDCs’ economies, especially with respect to enhancing productive capacity and diversification, the private sector’s contribution to the Conference is expected to identify concrete, action-oriented proposals addressing LDC-specific problems and challenges in the area of investment, enterprise development and finance. Three events are planned for the Conference: the Investment and Partnership Summit, the Business Forum and the Trade Fair.
The date of the Conference – now set for 9 to 13 May 2011 - is approaching fast. The proposed structure of the Conference would follow the outline of previous conferences, in particular the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries and recent United Nations practice. It would include a high-level opening ceremony, a general plenary, a committee of the whole — with the possibility of bifurcation — negotiating the outcome document, interactive thematic round tables at the ministerial level for policy dialogue on key priority issues and parallel tracks for parliamentarians, civil society and the private sector and side events.
As we stand just 5 months away from the Conference, we have dedicated our best efforts to ensure effective necessary preparations and we count on the whole UN system as well as all member states to join us to make the LDC IV Conference a success.
In this context I wish to put forward a proposal that would apply to the conduct of the general debate at the first and second sessions of the Preparatory Committee in January and April. My proposal would be to limit individual statements to 4 minutes and statements on behalf of groups to 6 minutes. I am convinced that this would greatly help in ensuring a focused debate.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I shall not forget to mention that, in our endeavor to ensure effective preparations, we have benefited from crucial financial support from several member states, through much needed contributions to the Office Trust Fund: namely from Turkey ($2 million), India ($250,000), Belgium (400,000 euros) and Finland ($50,000); Portugal hosted the pre-conference thematic event on resources mobilization, while we have just been informed that Norway and Australia will contribute $500,000 each. To all of them we are extremely grateful. However pledges made so far still fall short of the total budget for the preparatory activities and for ensuring the effective participation of least developed countries to the two sessions of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee and the Conference itself. Therefore, donors are called upon to contribute as soon as possible to support the substantive and logistic preparations for the Conference.
On the substantive preparations, I will reserve my more specific briefing to when we meet again on 10 January.
I thank you and wish you fruitful deliberations.