Introductory Statement by Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries,
Landlocked Developing Countries and SmallIsland Developing States

 

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at
2004 Sunstantive Session of the ECOSOC
General Segment

 

on
the Report of the Secretary-General

“Implementation of the Programme of Action
for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010″

Agenda item 6(b): Implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits: review and coordination of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010

 

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New York
15 July 2004

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

Let me begin by welcoming amongst us a number of National Focal Points from the LDCs who have specifically traveled to join this review deliberations by ECOSOC.

Only two weeks ago the High-Level Segment of ECOSOC undertook a comprehensive analysis of its theme on the resources mobilization needs and creation of enabling environment for poverty eradication in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). It brought together the government leaders and senior officials, representatives of the UN system and other multilateral organizations, including the Bretton Woods institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector. The three-day special multistakeholder assessment commenced with a clear message from President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin who, as the leader of the 50 LDCs, said ” Despite praiseworthy efforts, the LDCs continued to bend under crushing burden of debt, resulting in the weakening of social protection infrastructure, conflict and the continued ravage of the AIDS pandemic.” The segment concluded with the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration in which the LDCs and their development partners recognized the weak implementation of the ongoing Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries and reaffirmed their commitment to undertake increased efforts and speedy measures with a view to meeting its goals and targets in a timely manner.

Mr. President,

I am pleased to submit today the second Annual Progress Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Brussels Programme. The report is based on the analysis of inputs received from the LDCs and their development partners as well as on various other relevant reports. In its preparation, we were guided by ECOSOC resolution 2003/17 and General Assembly resolution 58/228 that had requested to submit the report “in a more analytical and results-oriented way by placing greater emphasis on concrete results and indicating the progress achieved in its implementation”. Limits on the size of the report and absence of clear indicators had been our obvious constraints towards that objective.

The Brussels Programme stipulates that “its success will be judged by its contribution to progress of LDCs toward achieving international development targets, as well as their graduation from the list of LDCs (A/CONF.191/11, p8, para21e). Since the progress on resources mobilizations has been extensively discussed during the High-Level Segment of ECOSOC, I would like to focus on the remaining areas of the Programme.

Progress of LDCs towards the Brussels goals and targets varies from country to country – in some cases from sub-region to sub-region . However, if specific goals are taken separately, some countries have made remarkable progress while others lagged behind considerably. This creates an impression of an overall slow or no progress in LDCs. Of course, extreme poverty remains the most overwhelming challenge. The Millennium goal of halving global poverty by 2015 will falter if the situation in 50 LDCs is not redressed with real determination. The continuing high population growth rate in these countries makes their development prospects more complex. Continuing conflicts and recurrent natural disasters keep on pulling back the LDCs from making progress.

Further complicating the situation is the increasing fury of the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has been particularly deadly for the African LDCs and in Haiti, Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal. Its effect has been especially significant in rural areas where it severely hit the agricultural sector. However, HIV prevalence rates have declined in Uganda and Zambia where this epidemic has been brought under control through effective social mobilization. In recent years, malaria infection rates have become especially high in African LDCs where it is the major cause of child mortality.

Though there is no mentionable change with regard to undernourishment in general, significant progress has been made by LDCs in achieving universal primary education and gender equality in primary education and literacy. All LDCs, however, lag behind on gender equality in secondary and tertiary education.

Despite high percentage of women in the parliaments of post-conflict LDCs like Rwanda, Mozambique and Timor-Leste, on average women’s representation in Parliaments remains low: 12 per cent in African LDCs, 10 per cent in Asian LDCs and 2 per cent in Oceania LDCs.

Mr. President,

Agriculture is the backbone of the economies of LDCs. With strong forward and backward linkages with the rural sector and other sectors of economy with a forward-looking rural development initiative, agricultural sector could turn into a real engine for growth and income generation in the LDCs. Yet statistics indicate the decline of agricultural production and marginalization of LDCs in agricultural trade. It also show some decrease of agricultural support of OECD countries to LDCs from 1.8 per cent as percentage of their GDP in 2001 to 1.2 per cent in 2002.

The Brussels Programme accords high priority to infrastructure development in LDCs for promotion of trade, delivery of services to population, efficient operation of existing productive assets and enterprises and attracting investments. However, in most LDCs infrastructure continues to be rudimentary. Even where it exists, it is notoriously imperfect. The situation is particularly acute in landlocked LDCs.

Data on ICT clearly indicate a glaring digital divide between the LDCs and developed countries and LDCs and other developing countries. There is only 1.3 telephone line and cellular subscriber and 0.2 internet users per 100 people in African LDCs. In Asian LDCs these figures are even lower: 1.0 telephone line and 0.1 internet user per 100 people.

While lack of market access, agricultural subsidies and supply-side constraints seriously limit LDC opportunity to benefit from their export trade, enhanced south-south cooperation creates win-win situations in knowledge sharing, technology transfer and trade expansion between LDCs and other developing countries. Data indicate that total exports of LDCs to other developing countries more than doubled during the last decade rising to 34 per cent. It has been clearly established that elimination of trade barriers of fellow developing countries will bring tremendous benefits to the LDCs. Recognition of the need for special treatment for the LDCs in the articulation of the new geography of international trade and resumption of the negotiations for the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP) among developing countries during UNCTAD XI have real potentials for trade expansion for the LDCs.

Mr. President,

The report of the Secretary-General details specific policies and measures undertaken by LDCs and their development partners in order to attain the goals of the BPOA and fulfill their mutual commitments.

It mentions that most of LDCs have adopted pro-poor, people-centred policies, strategies and programmes. They have embarked on the path of broad political and macroeconomic reforms and took specific measures to develop democratic institutions, ensure good governance including accountable, transparent and corruption-controlled public administration, strengthen rule of law and promote human rights. It is worth recognizing that among the 23 African countries which volunteered to join the path-breaking Peer Review Mechanism, a sizeable number are LDCs. My Office is working on a compendium of best practices to showcase the determined efforts of the LDCs to move ahead. The 2003 Human Development Report (in pages 45 and 46) encapsulates a number of success stories from LDCs.

Nonetheless, limited capacity of the LDCs to mobilize domestic resources through greater savings and tax collection, crushing burden of external debt, lack of foreign investments and minimal increase in ODA, as well as their continued marginalization in global trade remain major impediments to the implementation of the Brussels Programme and continue to hamper seriously the LDCs development efforts.

While emphasizing the primary responsibility of the LDCs in the implementation of the Programme at the national level, the Report calls upon their development partners, in particular the United Nations Resident Coordinator system and the country teams as well as the country representatives of the Bretton Woods institutions and of bilateral and multilateral donors to provide support to LDCs in building effective human, institutional and technical capacity related to policy developments, monitoring of implementation and coordination. Their efforts in this regard are reflected in their contributions to the second Annual Progress Report of the Secretary-General that are available for the delegations.

Mr. President,

Since its establishment in 2002 by the General Assembly, the Office of the High Representative has undertaken a series of activities and various initiatives for mobilizing international support and resources for LDCs and for advocacy to put their concerns high on the global agenda including the Millennium Development Goals. Servicing and supporting the annual review of the Brussels Programme by the ECOSOC is in the performance of my Office’s follow-up, monitoring and reporting responsibilities for the implementation of the Brussels Programme. Initiating and supporting coordination efforts at national, regional and global levels have been a major function of the Office.

Follow up of the decisions to mainstream the implementation of the Brussels Programme by various entities within the UN system and outside, submission of substantive inputs for the Annual Progress Report by partner organizations and regular interaction and collaboration with those by the Office of the High Representative have contributed positively to its coordination role at the global level. We have been also using for coordination purposes existing Executive Committee mechanisms of the secretariat, such as the UN Development Group and the ExCom for Economic and Social Affairs. Active consideration is being given for establishing an Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to ensure more coherent, focused and collaborative approach to the implementation of the Programme at the global level.

Regional level coordination is being basically undertaken through the Regional Commissions. The Office of the High Representative and the Office of Special Advisor on Africa (OSAA) work closely for advocacy and synergy in the NEPAD implementation process for the obvious reason that of the 53 African countries, 34 are LDCs.

For the national level coordination, last May, my Office, upon the request of the LDCs Group and in collaboration with UNDP, UNCTAD, UN DESA and the World Bank organized at the UNHQ in New York a five day workshop for the National Focal Points of LDCs. The overarching objective of the workshop was to strengthen the national capacity of the LDCs for the follow-up and implementation of the Brussels Programme, provide them with a forum for sharing national experience, lessons learned and best practices, build the foundation for their future networking and clarify the roles of the National Focal Points and National Forums in the follow-up and implementation of the Programme at the country level. The workshop also addressed issues of monitoring and reporting.

Monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Programme are major challenges faced by my Office. First, not all the quantifiable goals included in the Programme are specified in a way in which they can be monitored. Second, data are not available for many LDCs. Third, LDCs lack necessary statistical capacity, infrastructure and resources for collecting data. Fourth, given the periodicity of the progress reports, it is difficult to provide new data on an annual basis as the average periodicity, as you know, for new statistical data is 3 to 5 years.

Finally, the Brussels Programme envisages a comprehensive mid-term review at a time to be decided by Member States. It is important now to identify the timeframe for such a review. The 2006 ECOSOC review process could be adjusted appropriately to become a self-standing mid-term review. Your guidance in this will be most appreciated.

I thank you for your attention and support.

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