I am pleased to introduce the fifth annual progress report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 contained in document A/62/79-E/2007/63. I will also be introducing the Advocacy Strategy on the Effective and Timely Implementation of the Programme of Action, which is contained in document A/62/322.
As the annual progress report was considered by the Economic and Social Council during its substantive session this July in Geneva, I would like to highlight only its key findings.
The report shows that strong economic performance of the least developed countries (LDCs) continues. However, fast growth in African LDCs has been significantly compromised by their rapid population growth. By comparison, Asian LDCs, with lower population growth rates, have been able to benefit even from their modest economic growth. Growth of the Pacific island LDCs has slowed down and reached a near-zero point, jeopardizing their sustainable development.
International support to health and education is paying dividends. Access to and completion of primary education has been improving. As a result of better prevention and treatment policies, an increasing number of LDCs is making progress on the reduction of the under-five mortality rate, as well as on the prevalence and death rates from malaria and tuberculosis. HIV/AIDS incidence is also declining in most of the LDCs but in seven African and two Asian LDCs incidence of HIV is increasing. Maternal mortality seems to be extraordinary high in the sub-Saharan African LDCs and access to improved water and sanitation rural areas remains a problem in nearly half of LDCs with data. Extreme poverty seems begin to decline but in the increasing number of LDCs, particularly in Africa, malnutrition has been actually worsening due to the combination of high population growth, low agricultural productivity, environmental degradation, recurrent natural disasters and challenges associated with climate change. As a result, these countries face the danger of food shortages, disruption of food supplies and famine.
Addressing food security in LDCs requires greater focus of donors on enhancing the productive capacity of LDCs, in particular in agriculture. It also needs adapting agriculture to climate change and mitigating its disastrous impact. Furthermore, it requires conducive macroeconomic and trade policies, improved infrastructure and access to credit, land and markets, as well as the elimination of trade barriers, export subsidies and the reform of food aid programmes.
That said, the Brussels Programme is not about food security. It is about beneficial integration of LDCs into the world economy through their accelerated, sustained and inclusive growth and sustainable development. This far reaching and long-term objective, as well as the all-encompassing and comprehensive nature of this Programme requires genuine partnership between LDCs and their development partners. Unsurprisingly, the Programme has been designed as a framework for partnership and partnership has been identified as the key principle in its implementation. Fostering this partnership is the matter of the highest priority if the goals and objectives of this Programme are to be met in 2010. Conducive and coherent policies at the national and international level, scaling up domestic and external financial resources and greater involvement of the civil society and private sector are also crucial for this Programme to succeed.
I will now introduce the Advocacy Strategy on the Effective and Timely implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010, contained in the report of the Secretary-General A/62/322.
Building on the results of the advocacy work undertaken by the United Nations since the adoption of the Brussels Programme in 2001, the advocacy strategy aims at accelerating the implementation of the Programme by increasing awareness about its objectives, goals and commitments among all stakeholders. The strategy lays out the actions that will be undertaken in the next three years by the United Nations, in collaboration with key partners, to draw attention to the shortfalls, challenges and opportunities in the implementation of the Brussels Programme, with special emphasis on areas where progress has been lacking or limited.
Drawing on the conclusions of the midterm review, the proposed advocacy activities will focus on the following:
a) Increased mobilization of both domestic and external resources for poverty eradication in the LDCs, as well as enhanced transparency, accountability and efficiency in the utilization of such resources.
b) Expanding trade opportunities for LDCs through full and effective access of their products to the markets of the developed countries, elimination of trade distorting subsidies and non-tariff barriers that negatively affect LDC actual and potential exports, and strengthening the trade capacity of LDCs.
c) Improving the availability and quality of infrastructure and services in the transport, communication, energy and social sectors in the LDCs.
d) Expanding opportunities for productive employment in the LDCs through increased access to financial services, private sector investment and development of human capital.
e) Reducing the environmental vulnerability of the LDCs, including vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change, through enhanced resilience and adaptation capacity.
Advocacy actions in these areas will target the governments of Member States; United Nations System organizations; Bretton Woods institutions; regional financial institutions; regional and sub-regional organizations; the media, civil society and the private sector; foundations and academia. In implementing the advocacy strategy, the United Nations will collaborate with other partners, particularly relevant civil society organizations.
The information, communication and advocacy infrastructure of the United Nations system will be fully utilized for the implementation of the advocacy strategy. At the same time, partnerships with civil society, foundations, the media and academia will be strengthened and expanded. In accordance with its mandate, the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States will lead and coordinate the implementation of the strategy. The implementation of the strategy will be adjusted as needed to ensure that it achieves maximum effect.
The challenges facing the LDCs remain daunting, but they are not insurmountable. Increased and timely support of the international community is vital to overcoming these challenges. My priorities, therefore, are the mobilization, in real terms, of international support and resources for LDCs; advocacy with development partners to take concrete measures in favour of the LDCs; and the full mobilization and coordination of UN System in support of these countries.