New York, 28 June 2004

Madame President
Honourable Ministers
My dear colleague Under-Secretary-General Ocampo
Distinguished delegates

It is indeed a special honour and pleasure for me to address the High-Level Segment of the 2004 Substantive Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. For the first time, ECOSOC has chosen a theme for its Ministerial segment that focuses on the various dimensions of the development challenges facing the world’s fifty most vulnerable countries, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

At the outset, I would like to pay tribute to you, Madame President, for your leadership of the Council and for your guidance and keen personal interest and involvement in the preparatory process that commenced on 17 February bringing together the focus of the UN system activities relating to the theme and went on with major debates and exchange of ideas on 17 and 18 March with Ministerial participation bringing in the country level experience. These two sets of preparatory interactions contributed to the preparation of the report of the Secretary-General on this year’s theme available to you in document E/2004/54. My Office and all our collaborating partners would like to convey our deep appreciation to you for that.

Earlier today, we had the benefit of a very thought-provoking opening session. The keynote address presented by His Excellency President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin has set the tone for the deliberations on the theme by the Ministers and other senior leaders of delegations during these three days. His speech contains ideas and proposals that deserve full consideration by the ECOSOC and in its outcome document. I wish to commend President Kerekou for his deep commitment to and wise leadership of the cause of the 50 Least Developed Countries and his country’s continuing guidance as global coordinator for the Group.

I take this occasion to underscore that in establishing in 2002 the Office of the High Representative located at its headquarters, the United Nations unequivocally expressed its support to the concerns of the Least Developed Countries and emphasized the need for greater attention and intensified action on the part of all stakeholders in favour of these most vulnerable countries. In discharging its main mandate, my Office undertakes global advocacy and mobilizes international support for the LDCs. Annual reviews of the implementation of the Brussels Programme through progress reports of the Secretary-General is a major responsibility of this Office. It is therefore a matter of immense satisfaction to us all that this year the ECOSOC session is giving in addition such a high profile attention to the LDCs. We hope that the outcome will generate new momentum to the fulfilment of the international community’s commitments to these impoverished nations.

Let me also express how delighted I am to note the presence and participation today of such big number of Ministers and high-level delegates from the various parts of the world who have come to United Nations Headquarters to take an active part in the roundtables and interactions which have been organized under the broader umbrella of this afternoon’s Investment Promotion Forum.

We are now embarking on the interactive part of the High-Level Segment where we want to explore what possibilities exist to improve the investment climate and flow of resources to the Least Developed Countries. Thus, this afternoon, five simultaneous roundtables will focus on how to make the LDCs more attractive for investors, as part of the broader theme for the Segment. The roundtables will tackle issues of particular interest to LDCs relating to both foreign and domestic investment, the role of microfinance and microcredit in the private sector development, trade preferences in promoting investments, partnerships in mobilizing resources, investment in the urban services sector – all with the basic objective of poverty reduction in the Least Developed Countries.

Among the roundtables this afternoon, my Office is hosting one entitled “The role of trade preferences in LDCs in promoting investment”. International trade can become a very effective mechanism for poverty reduction in LDCs. One way to achieve this is to take an honest look at ways to assist LDCs countries to take full advantage of existing trading opportunities. The main question we will try to answer is how trade preferences accorded to LDCs can generate an increase in the level of domestic investment and how can they be used to attract foreign direct investment in order to take advantage of market access privileges accorded by their development partners.

As you embark on your discussions at the Forum roundtables, it is pertinent to mention that tomorrow and day after there will be two sets of seven simultaneous early morning Ministerial breakfast roundtables on the theme of the Segment. We are very confident that, given the high level profile of the chairs and participants, all these roundtable discussions will be extremely rich and bring out innovative ideas and suggestions, benefiting from the vast field-based experience in various areas. The outcomes of such interactive debates should not be lost and find recognition by being taken note of by the ECOSOC at the time of adoption of the Ministerial Declaration.

I look forward to what new ideas and creative proposals will be generated by this afternoon’s discussions that can be fed into the wider, more broad-based debate on the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action for the LDCs.

I thank you very much and look forward to the rich and interactive discussion.

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