ECOSOC – General Segment, Agenda item 6(b)

Geneva, 16 July 2003


Madame President
Distinguished Delegates

The document before you, A/58/86 – E/2003/81, is the first comprehensive progress report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action (BPoA) for the Least Developed Countries. It is submitted in accordance with resolution 2002/33 of the Economic and Social Council and General Assembly resolution 57/276 which requested a comprehensive report on the implementation of the Programme for consideration at the Council’s substantive session in 2003 and by the 58th session of the General Assembly. I have the honour to introduce the report.

The report is based on inputs received by my Office from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and their development partners, particularly relating to fulfilling the commitments made by them in Brussels in May 2001, as well as with the help of information obtained through the UN Development Group Office and from other relevant reports and materials. The structure of the report is based on the seven Brussels commitments viz.: (i) fostering a people-centred policy framework, (ii) good governance at national and international levels, (iii) building human and institutional capacities, (iv) building productive capacities to make globalisation work for LDCs, (v) enhancing the role of trade in development, (vi) reducing vulnerability and protecting the environment and (vii) mobilising financial resources.

It is important to bear in mind that poverty eradication, gender equality, employment, governance, capacity-building, sustainable development, special problems of landlocked and small island developing countries, and challenges faced by LDCs affected by conflict have been recognized in the Brussels Programme as cross-cutting priority.

Two years have passed since the Brussels Programme was adopted. The report indicates that despite certain progress, the implementation of the BPoA 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 thus assuming its full ownership. Successful implementation of the Programme of Action will ultimately depend on the spirit of shared responsibility and global partnership that was forged at Brussels.

The conclusions drawn and the recommendations put forward 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.

The additional detailed information on the implementation of the Programme by the LDCs, UN system and the donor community are provided in two matrixes separately from the report, as requested by the ECOSOC last year. A pamphlet has also been circulated to you providing information and statistics on ODA, debt and MDGs in respect of LDCs. I hope you will find those useful.

Madame President,

According to the recent UN estimates, the population in the LDCs has risen to an estimated 718 million, about 11 per cent of the world’s population. Population projection for 2015 is at 942 million, or about13 per cent of the world’s population. 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. In the same year, in 2002, only seven LDCs, five less than in 2001, achieved growth in their per capita GDP exceeding 3 per cent more.

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.

Madame President,

Notwithstanding positive indications of progress in some LDCs, the report shows that there is cause for deep concern on several fronts. In the area of health, the scourge of HIV/AIDS and other diseases are posing a very serious threat to development in a number of countries. In regard to gender equality, which is also vital for development, increase in the enrolment of girls in schools in LDCs will lay a strong foundation for equality.

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. 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 volume of ODA hopefully will live up to the commitments for the LDCs reiterated in Brussels and subsequent major global conferences. The World Solidarity Fund, establishment of which was endorsed by the ECOSOC last Friday, should appropriately 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 development resources. In some quarters, the HIPC process is considered unduly lengthy and access procedures burdensome. At the end of 2002, of the 30 LDCs that are in the HIPC programme, only five reached the “completion point”, 15 reached the “decision point” or intermediate benchmark and 10 are still to be considered. For these most disadvantaged countries, therefore, debt cancellation is a more worthwhile option that needs to be seriously considered.

The issue of trade is vital for LDCs. It is essential that the LDCs continue to take an active part in WTO negotiations, particularly to ensure and secure the special arrangements that the LDCs deserve. It is crucial that the forthcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun takes a supportive decision to expedite entry into the WTO for those LDCs that are not yet members.

It is also important that the development partners should continue their efforts to open up their markets to the LDCs, and reduce internal subsidies as well as tariffs to allow them to compete on a level playing field. After all, the share of the 49 LDCs in world trade is only 0.42 per cent. The article entitled “Africa needs a level playing field for trade” co-signed by President Toure of Mali and President Campaore of Burkina Faso and published in last weekend’s International Herald Tribune articulates this point very forcefully.

Madame President,

The implementation of, follow-up to and reporting on the Brussels Programme at the national level is of primary importance. National arrangements are the most effective means of ensuring national ownership of the Programme. These national arrangements, as envisaged in the Programme, include the establishment of a national forum, which is critical for conducting regular follow-up and monitoring of the implementation of the commitments at the national level. In this context, the designation of a high level national focal point is crucial. As of the information transmitted to date, only ten LDCs have set up national forums and only few LDCs have been able to designate focal points within their respective Governments to monitor the implementation of the Brussels Programme and to serve as a national contact point for all stakeholders as the latter support the Programme’s implementation.

To support the monitoring and reporting process at the national level, the Office of the High Representative is planning to organize a Workshop for the National Focal Points of the LDCs at the UN Headquarters in New York in January 2004. It will allow for a substantive exchange of information among the 49 National Focal Points, thus facilitating sharing of experience on successful and not-so-successful approaches and networking opportunities among them. This workshop will build capacity at the national level for the monitoring and reporting responsibilities envisaged in the Brussels Programme. I count on the LDCs’ as well as donor’s support for this initiative.

General Assembly resolution 56/227 called upon the United Nations system organizations to mainstream implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action within their programmes of work and in their intergovernmental processes. There has been a good response by the UN system organizations. Within the short period since June last year, as many as 14 UN system entities have taken specific decisions by their governing bodies to mainstream the implementation of the Programme. They are: ECA, ESCAP, FAO, HABITAT, UNCDF, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNIFEM, WFP, WIPO and WTO. The Global Compact, in its work with the private sector, has begun an initiative on Least Developed Countries, seeking an increase in investment while promoting sustainable development. Some of the other multilateral organizations too have taken similar positive steps. Among the UN system organizations, some of them have even set up specifically designated funds for LDCs.

All the three major global conferences convened since Brussels gave special attention to LDC concerns. They were the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Each of these conferences made a focussed commitment to address the needs of the LDCs as articulated in the Brussels Programme. Effective implementation of the outcomes of these conferences would reinforce the opportunity for making tangible progress in the Least Developed Countries.

Madame President,

In the implementation of the Brussels Programme, South-South cooperation has the potential of playing a significant role in promoting sustained growth and sustainable development for the LDCs. Based on the developmental needs of LDCs, South-South and triangular cooperation should be built as an integral part of the international community’s support to these countries. Opening of markets and transit transport cooperation can make South-South cooperation meaningful for the LDCs. The growing network of regional and sub-regional organizations could also play an important role in enhancing this cooperation.

Madame President,

The principle of partnership is an integral component of the Brussels Programme. Although LDCs are primarily responsible for designing and implementing their development strategies, it is through genuine partnership, including with civil society and the private sector, generously supported by the international community, that significant gains will be made. The report points out that the United Nations system has demonstrated the effectiveness of inter-agency partnership in generating system-wide coherence and coordination. However, most LDCs experience great difficulty in coping with the multitude of demands from various partners that have an impact on the opportunity and transaction costs. Various, these instruments and frameworks, for example, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), combined with individual donor requirements, are burdensome. The LDCs have neither the requisite national capacity to implement the measures that would allow them to reach the targets set out in the various frameworks and programmes, nor the resources to pay for them. The United Nations system and international partners should strive for one nationally driven analytical process to set up the poverty reduction strategies and priorities, thus reducing the burden on Governments.

Madame President,

The Office of the High Representative, as mandated by General Assembly resolution 56/227 and the Medium-term Plan 2002-2005, has been actively engaged in the implementation of the Brussels Programme through frequent consultations with LDCs and their development partners, including civil society, the private sector and the UN system and other multilateral organizations.

At this point, let me express the deep appreciation of the United Nations to the Government of Morocco for championing the cause of LDCs during their Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China. Last month’s Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministers of the Least Developed Countries hosted in Rabat, at which my Office was represented, is a tangible expression of that commitment.

As part of our advocacy and the partnership building work, my Office has launched the Open Forum for Partnership earlier this year. Three inter-active dialogues have been held so far with the Geneva-based International Trade Centre (ITC), Bonn-based United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) and Amsterdam-based Common Fund for Commodities (CFC). The Open Forum is a platform for all stakeholders implementing the Brussels Programme, in particular for the multilateral UN entities, to share information and perspectives relating to their work in support of the development efforts of the LDCs.

Last November the Office of the High Representative launched its website to update information on the activities and concerns of the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. It is the first comprehensive website of these three vulnerable groups of countries. Based on the response of the users, this information tool seems to be useful and very much appreciated.

I should also like to mention that in response to General Assembly resolution 57/276 a Trust Fund was established by the Secretary-General, to support the activities of the Office of the High Representative in the implementation of the Brussels Programme. Countries that have already made an initial contribution are Austria, Bhutan, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Kuwait. I would like to call on all stakeholders to make voluntary contribution to the Trust Fund so that implementation of the Programme could be carried out more effectively.

Madame President
Distinguished Delegates

As you are aware, yesterday my Office organized two special side events: one event was co-organized with the UN-NGLS and LDC Watch focussing on “Dialogue with civil society/NGOs on their role in advancing the implementation of the Brussels Programme”. The second special side event with the LDC Ministers and the UN system organizations related to “How the UN system can support the Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries at the National Level”. I believe there will be opportunities for the two Moderators to present the summary of the discussions during this segment.

Before concluding, let me take up three issues that I believe are important for the LDCs as well as for my Office.

First, I would like to draw your attention to the discussion taking place here on 21 July on the report of the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) regarding the graduation and inclusion of countries in the list of LDCs. The CDP recommendation for Timor-Leste to be included in the list is appropriate and my Office looks forward to working closely with that country in establishing an integral link between its development efforts and the Brussels Programme. With regard to CDP recommendation for graduation of Cape Verde and the Maldives, I believe it is important to give careful consideration to the cases presented by these two small island developing countries with some very cogent rationale. Graduation should mean minimal disruption to a country’s economy and should ensure sustainability. The concept of smooth transition also needs to be articulated in more practical terms.

Second, my Office sincerely hopes that ECOSOC will agree to the Secretary-General’s proposal for its next year’s themes relating to Least Developed Countries for the high-level segment and part of the coordination segment. Increased, focussed and in-depth attention to the cause of the LDCs is absolutely necessary if we want to realize the commitments of the Brussels Programme and to reach the Millennium Development Goals.

Third, the issue of participation of LDC representatives at the ECOSOC sessions is very important and I strongly support a positive decision by the Council as requested by the Group of 77 and China. This is particularly necessary, as the ECOSOC from now on, will be reviewing the Brussels Programme every year. Without full participation of LDCs, no meaningful assessment of the implementation could be done.

Madame President,

The human spirit of the people living in the Least Developed Countries is that of irrepressible resilience. They have to cope with so many adversities and obstacles. Even in the face of increasing marginalization they have been able to remain afloat. The development process of LDCs is not only about increasing GDP but also about building capacity, both human and institutional, involving them in decision making, and opening up opportunities for the people to improve the conditions of their lives. Therefore, it is crucial that development partners pay particular attention to these LDCs who, despite many hurdles are actively and effectively pursuing economic and political reforms in support of their development efforts. That would enable the people of the LDCs to seize the opportunities offered by the Brussels Programme and become not just the beneficiaries of change, but also its agents.

Let me conclude by quoting Secretary General Kofi Annan: “The development of the least developed countries is an ethical imperative for the international community. It requires painstaking effort, commitment, resolve and forbearance on both sides. …. We (the United Nations) will continue to walk beside you (LDCs) on your journey”.



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