United Nations, 6 November 2003 


Mr Chairman,

The General Assembly has requested the Secretary-General that his annual progress reports on the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) be submitted to it via the Economic and Social Council. This present report (A/58/86-E/2003/81) is the first such report. As stipulated in the Brussels outcome, the ECOSOC substantive session last July in its general segment deliberated on the report with a good participation of donor and  G-77/LDC delegations. Foreign Minister Rogatien Biaou of Benin initiated the debate speaking as the Chairman of the LDCs. Partner organizations of the UN system, other multilateral bodies and civil society organizations also took part.

ECOSOC debate was preceded by two special events in Geneva – a Dialogue with civil society and a Panel discussion on the role of the UN system in implementation of the Brussels Programme. Both organized by the Office of the High Representative. My Office also hosted a ministerial roundtable breakfast meeting on the rural development in the LDCs during the high-level segment.

The present report is the first attempt to take stock of the implementation of the Brussels Programme and stimulated a very fruitful discussion among key stakeholders that culminated in the adoption of the ECOSOC resolution 2003/17. The resolution expressed deep concern over the weak implementation of the Programme and expressed expectation of its more vigorous implementation by all partners. It also called upon the Secretary-General to submit the next annual progress report in a more analytical and result-oriented way with greater emphasis on the progress in the implementation.

The conclusions drawn and the recommendations put forward in the report are designed to ensure that effective monitoring mechanisms and follow-up procedures are put in place for a coherent and coordinated implementation of the Programme of Action during the on-going decade.

More than two years have passed since the Brussels Programme was adopted. The report indicates that despite certain progress, the implementation of the Programme remains a challenge for most of the LDCs. The three major challenges facing LDCs are development of sufficient national capacities to implement the Programme, the cost associated with the implementation process, and assumption of its full ownership. Successful implementation of the Programme will ultimately depend on the spirit of shared responsibility and global partnership that was forged at Brussels.

According to the recent UN estimates, the population in the LDCs has risen to an estimated 720 millions, about 11 per cent of the world’s population. Population projection for 2015 increases the figure to 942 million. If the present trend continues, the number of people living on less than US$1 a day in the LDCs will reach 420 million by 2015.

Of the 41 LDCs for which data are available, 15 recorded a fall in per capita GDP in 2002, only seven LDCs, five less than in 2001, achieved growth in their per capita GDP exceeding 3 per cent or more.

Financial resource flows to the LDCs are far from the level whereby the needs of LDCs could be met. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows to the LDCs have also not been encouraging though many LDCs have made remarkable strides to improve the investment climate in their countries. Global FDI in developing countries has increased dramatically, from $209 million in 1990 to more than $1.3 trillion in 2000. Yet only 0.5 per cent of this amount has been invested in the LDCs, with one third of that directed to four oil-exporting countries. The Official Development Assistance (ODA) for LDCs is to be increased to give a boost to their national development efforts. The positive trend that is emerging regarding the total volume of ODA should not lose out on the commitments for the LDCs reiterated in Brussels and subsequent major global conferences. The recently-established World Solidarity Fund should focus on the eradication of poverty in the LDCs as a priority. For many LDCs, debt continues to be a major hardship. High levels of debt and debt service payments are draining away their development resources.

Trade is a powerful engine for sustainable development. But unfortunately the LDCs share in the world trade has fallen from 3% in 1990s to a meagre 0.4% in 2002. Their trade is characterised by severe reliance on export of commodities, often of a single commodity. With Cancun behind us and as we approach UNCTAD XI in Sao Paolo next June, it is important for LDCs that the commodities and erosion of preferential margins are among the issues that are highlighted there. Effective utilization of preferential arrangements by the LDCs often hampered by stringent rules of origin, complex documentary procedures and practices, lack of trade-related capacity and supply side constraints also need to be addressed seriously at this forum.

Given the challenge, the development process in the LDCs has been slow and requires efforts both from within these countries as well as from the entire international community. The UN Millennium Development Goals indicators, which find reflection in the Brussels Programme, will be a daunting challenge for the LDCs to meet, specifically that of reducing poverty by half by 2015. It must be stressed nevertheless that although the challenges faced by LDCs are immense, they are not insurmountable.

Effective follow-up, implementation, monitoring and review of implementation of Brussels require genuine partnership of all key stakeholders, including private sector and civil society at all levels: global, regional and national. UN system organizations and multilateral bodies have a special role to play in the implementation process and we appreciate that 18 UN system entities and international organizations have already adopted decisions to incorporate and mainstream the implementation of Brussels Programme in their respective work programmes.

Regional and sub-regional organizations also play a crucial role in implementation of the Brussels Programme by promoting the South-South and triangular technical cooperation. The role of such sub-regional and regional organizations such as ECOWAS, COMESA, SADC, ASEAN, SAARC, Pacific Islands Forum and CARICOM has been particularly valuable for the least developed countries. The European Union’s support for the African LDC programmes in trade expansion, environmental protection and development of human resources could also serve as a good example of triangular cooperation. Next month’s high-level meeting on South-South cooperation in Marrakech needs to give special attention to LDCs. Given Morocco’s championship of the cause of LDCs as the chairman of the G-77, we are confident of that.

By recognizing primary responsibility of the LDCs for their development, the Brussels Programme made special emphasis on the national level implementation. Follow-up and implementation of the Programme at the national level includes, inter alia, identification of the national Focal Point, establishment of the broad based and inclusive national forum and incorporation of the Brussels Programme into national development programme and poverty eradication strategy. So far, 21 LDCs have identified national Focal Points as compared to 9 reported at the ECOSOC session. We hope the process would move faster and by the end of this year we would cover all LDCs.

Lack of capacity for the effective follow-up and implementation at the national level and for participation in the intergovernmental process is a great challenge faced by the LDCs. Upon the request of the LDCs, my Office is planning to organize a five-day briefing and training workshop for national Focal Points in New York in January 2004 to assist in building this capacity. The realization of this very important initiative depends, to a great extent, on the adequate support of the donors. I would reiterate here our requests made to them individually in this respect.

The Brussels Programme recognized the special problems of the landlocked and small island developing countries as cross-cutting priority. Out of 49 LDCs, 27 countries – 16 landlocked and 11 small islands – suffer from the added handicap of geography, making their development efforts more difficult. For the landlocked developing countries, a new beginning has been made in global partnership to address their special needs through adoption last August of the landmark Almaty Programme of Action incorporating focussed, implementable and measurable actions. Effective implementation of Almaty will contribute to moving forward the Brussels agenda at the same time. We also expect that next year’s International meeting in Mauritius for the small island developing states will have a similarly positive outcome and as a result will advance the Brussels implementation. The Office of the High Representative is closely involved in both the processes.

In its decision 2003/287, the ECOSOC has decided to devote the next year’s high-level segment to the theme “Resource mobilization and enabling environment for poverty eradication in the context of the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010”. This would be an important opportunity to put the LDCs cause at the top of global development agenda.

In its resolution 2003/17 the ECOSOC requested the Secretary-General, in consultation with Member States, to submit to the General Assembly recommendation to facilitate the participation of the delegations of the least developed countries in the substantive sessions of the Council. These recommendations have been submitted in document A/58/532 under item 102 of the agenda. Given that the Economic and Social Council has been identified in the Brussels Programme as the key mechanism for its global review and monitoring, it is important to find a practical way to ensure participation of the LDCs in the work of the Council. I believe that a solution could be found out of the options presented in this report.

Since Brussels, all the major engagements of the international community in Monterrey, Johannesburg and Doha, have reiterated the critical importance of paying special attention to the needs of the LDCs. The Millennium Development Goals incorporate these needs very clearly. We hope their positive outcomes make a real difference for the most deserving LDCs.

All our efforts in support of achieving the Millennium Development Goals would become meaningless unless we are able to realize these Goals in the most impoverished countries of the world. All our pronouncements in support of international cooperation for development would sound hollow if the weakest and most-poverty-stricken segment of the international community continue to languish in the margins of the global economy. This is our “ethical imperative”.

To conclude, let me quote the Secretary-General from his speech at the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Brussels: “The poor are seldom poor by choice. Very few people in this world enjoy living on handouts. Most poor people know that they are quite capable of earning their living by their own efforts, and are eager to do so. But they must be given a chance to compete. That applies to individuals. It applies to companies. And it applies to countries”. Many of the LDCs are making remarkable strides in establishing democracy, good governance and rule of law and we must stand by their side in these painstaking efforts. The Least Developed Countries must be given a fair chance to be beneficially integrated into the global economy.



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