NEW YORK, 18 September 2006: As the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly to assess progress in fighting poverty in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) got underway at the United Nations today, the Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, called on LDCs to build on and strengthen the encouraging improvements in democracy and good governance.
“If LDCs are to eradicate poverty and promote human development, we need to do there what we do anywhere else, and that is to stress democratic governance as one of the main foundations of progress,” Malloch Brown told the meeting, which drew a number of heads of state and government.
He said that to flourish in today’s competitive economy, countries need to mobilize their own resources and attract foreign investment, but their ability to do this depends, in large measure, on the quality of their governance.
“Such governance means ensuring that the poor have a real political voice. And it means strong, transparent institutions that are capable of providing the services and protections people need most – not just healthcare and education but also personal security and access to justice,” he said.
According to a report of the Secretary-General prepared for the High-Level Meeting, governance has improved in the LDCs since world leaders adopted the Programme of Action for LDCs in Brussels in 2001.
The comprehensive poverty reduction programme committed the LDCs to improving governance, including the rule of law, respect for human rights and combating corruption, as well as undertaking economic reforms to improve the quality of life in their countries. Rich countries promised to support these efforts through increased development aid, trade and debt relief.
“Elections are now universal, with numerous presidential and legislative elections and referendums in the Least Developed Countries since 2001. Voter participation has been generally high and female participation and representation in elected bodies has increased,” says the Secretary-General’s report. It also notes improved attention to the rule of law and human rights and the participation of civil society and the general public in the determination of development priorities.
While conflicts in the LDCs have decreased in number since 2001, according to the report, these countries still suffer disproportionately from civil unrest, with half of the UN’s 16 active peace operations being in LDCs. The report cites poverty and underdevelopment as a breeding ground for unrest in the LDCs.
Poverty rates have not fallen significantly, if at all, despite improved economic performance in the 50 LDCs over the last five years. Driven by improved global commodity prices as well as domestic economic reforms, LDCs have been growing at better than six per cent a year since 2001, but they remain the most unlikely to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the poverty rate by 2015.
The Secretary-General’s report calls for increased investment in education, health, clean water, sanitation, physical infrastructure and rural and agricultural development. It also calls for expanded international support, including greater and better aid, accelerated debt relief and better market access for LDCs coupled with support for improving export capacity.
The High-Level Meeting, which ends on Tuesday, 19 September, is expected to provide fresh impetus to the implementation of the Programme of Actions for the LDCs.