New York, 1 July 2004

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

The majority of nearly 750 million people of the Least Developed Countries live in rural areas. The agriculture sector in the structure of the economies of the LDCs occupies a critically important place and that makes rural development absolutely essential for the development of these most impoverished countries. Economic growth, poverty reduction and food and nutritional security in most LDCs will remain elusive as long as agriculture and rural development do not receive priority attention. Heavy dependence on primary commodities makes the situation even more complex. Continuing high population growth in many of these countries, particularly in rural areas, further underscores the importance and urgency of action.

Recognizing the primary importance of rural development for the LDCs, the ECOSOC decided to devote special focus on the LDCs in the theme for the coordination segment this year on rural development. The Report of the Secretary-General (E/2004/58) on this segment’s theme appropriately identifies rural development as “a precondition for the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger”. In considering the item, it is necessary to recall that the Ministerial Declaration of the 2003 ECOSOC session emphasized that rural development should be pursued through an integrated approach, encompassing the economic, social and environmental dimensions, taking into account the gender perspective and consisting of mutually reinforcing policies and programmes. It went on to say that the approach should be balanced, targeted, situation-specific, locally owned, include the local synergies and initiatives and be responsive to the needs of rural populations.

It is also worth recalling that rural development was addressed by the World Food Summit (1996), the Millennium Summit (2000), the Third UN Conference on the LDCs (2001), the International Conference on Financing for Development (2002), the World Food Summit – Five Years Later (2002), and the World Summit for Social Development (2002). These conferences recognized the need to create an enabling environment for rural development and poverty eradication. In the context of the integrated and coordinated follow up of the implementation of the outcomes of major global conferences and bearing in mind the wide network of the organisations of the United Nations system with varying mandates, coordination, policy coherence and collaboration within the UN system, especially when implementing major internationally agreed development goals, is very vital and absolutely essential. ECOSOC, as the central mechanism for the coordination of the UN system activities, has therefore decided in a timely manner to consider coordination issues relating to rural development, particularly in LDCs, soon after adopting the Ministerial Declaration on rural development last year.

For the LDCs, the Brussels Programme of Action for the current decade emphasizes the key role of agriculture and agro-industries as well as that of rural development and food security in their development processes. The Brussels Programme calls upon the LDCs and their development partners to undertake specific and detailed actions in these areas. The Programme also provides the UN system with a guiding framework for coordination of support to LDCs in the various components of the Programme, including the building of productive capacities. To be effective and results-oriented, coordinated actions by the UN system entities are essential. The Secretary-General’s report specifically underlines that an integrated approach to rural development across a broad front is required in order to effectively assist the LDCs to break out of the poverty trap and make progress towards the international development goals, highlighting the need for effective coordination of national efforts and international support. The report also emphasizes policy coherence as especially important for achieving adequate resource allocation to LDCs.

Identification of what the entities of the UN system have been doing and should be doing at the international and national levels to promote rural development in the LDCs would enhance synergy and eliminate duplication. The major load of the work of the United Nations for the LDCs in the area of rural development is carried mainly by the FAO, IFAD, WFP and they have enhanced coordination by defining a global agenda for rural development. These agencies are increasingly joining forces to promote agricultural growth and broad-based rural development particularly LDCs. Of relevance to the LDCs, it is also noteworthy that the governing bodies of these three agencies have adopted separate resolutions to mainstream the implementation of the Brussels Programme in their activities. The same could be said of a number of other relevant entities of the UN system whose governing bodies have mainstreamed the Brussels Programme, thereby bringing in the special attention needed by the LDCs.

Commodity-dependent LDCs will benefit from the International Task Force on Commodities that is being put together by UNCTAD promoting a multi-stakeholder approach and forging a global coalition that includes the Bretton Woods institutions. It is relevant to note that in responding to the Brussels Programme and the General Assembly resolutions, the UN Office of the High Representative has the responsibility for the full mobilization and coordination of all parts of the United Nations system to facilitate coordinated implementation as well as coherence in the follow-up and monitoring of the Programme of Action at the national, regional, sub-regional and global levels. The UN Regional Commissions also play a supportive role for the implementation of the Brussels Programme in their own regional context.

Partnerships with civil society organizations and the private sector are increasingly becoming an integral part of many activities undertaken by the UN entities at the country level thereby enhancing their effectiveness. The UN Public-Private Alliance for Rural Development is a worthy initiative and the framework could be taken up for replication following positive results out of the first LDC pilot country, Madagascar.

Let me emphasize here that the poverty eradication and rural development role that the microcredit and microfinance play in the LDCs require that the UN system must give further impetus to this area that have also contributed to closing the gap in rural gender inequalities. However, few least developed countries have reached a credit penetration rate over 1 percent, indicating an enormous growth potential for microcredit. Bangladesh, a leader in this area, where roughly 7 per cent of the population has access to credit, is an exception.

The potential of the United Nations system to support South-South cooperation has also not been fully realized. Hence, I would also like to emphasize that in its coordination efforts the United Nations must give due attention to supporting South-South cooperation in various fields and activities. For instance, the potential for expanding LDC participation in intraregional trade in agricultural and agro-industry products has not yet been fully exploited.

My Office will take all necessary measures to fulfil its mandate of coordinating the implementation of the Brussels Programme, within the United Nations system. In this context, the conclusions and recommendations as contained in the Report of the Secretary-General (E/2004/58) should receive the full and committed support of the ECOSOC. I am confident that the outcome of the Coordination Segment will prove a major impetus to effective coordination of UN system organizations and entities in supporting rural development in the Least Developed Countries.

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