Statement by Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States at the Roundtable on “Addressing the Least Developed Country Issues of Globalization for Sustainable Development” during UNCTAD XII Conference in Accra, Ghana, 20 April 2008

Mr. Chairman and President of LDC Watch,
Your Excellency the Chairman of the LDC Group,
Distinguished delegates,
Civil society representatives,
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to address the participants at this roundtable, which has brought together representatives of Member States, international organizations, civil society and other partners. As the Brussels Programme of Action recognizes, governments, civil society and the private sector have an important role to play in its implementation and follow-up. Indeed, the Brussels Programme is premised on a partnership among governments, international and regional organizations, civil society and the private sector. I would therefore like to thank LDC Watch and other civil society partners, both at national and international levels, for rising to the challenge of pursuing the implementation of the Programme.

The ultimate objective of the Brussels Programme is the beneficial integration of the LDCs into the global economy for poverty reduction and sustainable development in those countries. But with just over two years left to the end of the programme, we are still very far from that goal. It is true that the LDCs have made significant progress, especially in improving governance, strengthening institutional capacities and reforming their economies to ensure macro-economic stability and to promote trade and investment. Progress has also been registered on the donors’ side, with development assistance to LDCs increasing by over 50 percent since 2002, from around 18 billion dollars to about 28 billion dollars in 2006. As a result of these and other measures, the LDCs have posted fairly good economic growth rates, averaging 6 percent per annum since 2000. There have also been improvements in the areas of health and education.

The major concern, however, is that impressive economic growth has not translated into poverty reduction in the LDCs. Social disparities, especially between rural and urban areas have deepened. Fast population growth combined with rapid urbanization has seen even more people seeking non-existent jobs outside agriculture. At the same time, agricultural productivity has been declining and undernourishment has been increasing. The earlier progress recorded on water and sanitation has not been sustained and has even reversed in some LDCs.

Despite the increase in development assistance observed above, ODA remains well below the target of the Brussels Programme. Moreover, a significant part of the increase in ODA has been due to the demands of humanitarian assistance and post-conflict recovery. Foreign Direct Investment has concentrated in a few oil and mineral-rich LDCs. Nearly 75 percent of LDC exports are still primary products, leaving them highly exposed to external shocks and price volatility on the international market. In short, Mr. Chairman, despite the economic and social gains the LDCs have made in the last few years, their situation remains highly precarious.

As the current programme of the LDCs draws to a close, it is imperative that both LDCs and their development partners redouble their efforts to consolidate and build upon the achievements that have been made. The midterm review of the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action undertaken by the General Assembly in 2006 identified the actions that the LDCs and their partners need to take to accelerate progress towards the goals of the programme. In particular, there is a need for investing in the productive capacity of the LDCs, including capital accumulation, technological progress and strengthening institutional and human capacities. This calls for increased assistance from the donor countries and more efficient and transparent management of resources by LDCs.

Civil society has a major role to play through advocacy, mobilizing international support, and holding both LDCs and donor governments accountable to their commitments under the Brussels Programme. Equally important is the private sector as the source of sustainable economic growth. Indeed, without the private sector, the integration of the LDCs into the global economy cannot become a reality.

Mr. Chairman, as we approach the end of the Programme in 2010, we have started preliminary preparations for the anticipated Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. At its 62nd session, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to prepare a note proposing modalities of the conference. We expect that based on the Secretary-General’s proposals, Member States will take a firm decision on holding the conference. It is therefore not too early to start laying the ground for the substantive input of civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders into the process. My Office looks forward to working with you and other partners to ensure an inclusive and participatory process leading up, during and beyond the LDC IV conference.

Thank you for your attention.