Madame Chair,
 
Excellencies,
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
Let me start by thanking you for the invitation to address this first ambassadorial meeting of the Group in 2009. Indeed as we meet today, we are only too well aware of the challenging times ahead of us: in 2008 we witnessed the early signals of what has clearly become a global financial and economic crisis of unprecedented proportions. With this in mind, I would like to commend your able leadership in addressing the pressing challenges we face in a timely and effective manner over the course of 2008.
 
The first milestone in this regard was secured at the UNCTAD XII Conference in Accra last spring. The Ministerial Declaration of the LDCs highlighted core policy issues on trade and development. Most importantly, however, the Group Chair was instrumental in focusing the attention of the international community on soaring food prices and their impact on the LDCs. The Secretary-General took action by establishing the High Level Task Force on Food Security, which later resulted in the crafting of the Comprehensive Framework for Action detailing UN system responses over the short-term , medium and long terms.
 
With multiple crises unfolding, it is important that we continue to focus on food security issues in the LDCs and their linkages to both the Brussels Programme and the MDGs. The recent HL Meeting on Food Security for All in 2009, in Madrid, was a positive step in this regard, launching the process of establishing a Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition. As this process unfolds it is my priority to ensure that adequate attention is given to the LDCs and their specific needs so that we can deliver on global commitments and address systemic issues underlying food security and agricultural productivity.
 
As UNCTAD has noted the food crisis is indeed a development crisis. The 2008 Report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action put forward a number of recommendations in this regard. The National Focal Points Workshop organized during the General Segment of ECOSOC was an opportunity to exchange policy experiences among LDCs on integrating rural development and food security in national development strategies, and on the role of enterprise and entrepreneurship development in poverty reduction and sustainable development.
 
Climate change trends will also have important impacts on food security in the LDCs and the Ministerial Breakfast Meeting organized during the High Level Segment of ECOSOC provided a forum to underscore these linkages.
 
Having said this, enhancing productive capacities remains a priority if we are to improve agricultural productivity. On this topic, 2008 saw a number of follow-up activities related to the Conference on Making Globalization Work for the LDCs, which was hosted by the Government of Turkey in Istanbul in July 2007. Two High Level Workshops took place in Turkey – one for African LDCs in March 2008 and one for Asian, Caribbean and Pacific LDCs in December 2008. These events, along with the launching of the Conference publication, were important steps in highlighting global and regional policy issues that impinge on strengthening productive capacities in the LDCs.
Madame Chair,
 
Our joint efforts to address food security, productive capacities and integration in the world economy are now being seriously jeopardized by the unfolding of a financial and economic crisis of unprecedented proportions. The LDCs are likely to feel the negative effects through reduction in ODA, FDI flows and remittances. Public finances will also be affected because of higher costs of debt servicing and reduced export volumes. These trends were presented at the Seminar on Financing Development in Least Developed Countries: Trends and Prospects in November 2008. The seminar was organized in the run-up to Doha to further support the effective participation of the Group in the Financing for Development Conference. Allow me to once again commend the Group Chair for relentlessly negotiating on behalf of the Group so that adequate attention was given to the special needs of least developed countries in the Outcome Document. This is an important accomplishment that we can build on in the year ahead of us.
 
The impact of the financial and economic crisis on the implementation of the Brussels Programme will in fact figure prominently in the work of OHRLLS in 2009. The Report of the Secretary-General that we have started preparing will devote special attention to financing issues, as well as to the interrelated food crisis and climate change adaptation needs of the LDCs.
 
As a follow-up to the outcome of the Doha Review Conference we are also working closely within UN coordination mechanisms, including EC-ESA and UNDG, to ensure effective preparations of the High Level Conference on the impact of the world financial and economic crisis on development, which was requested in resolution 63/239. We need to address the systemic issues underlying the crisis, ensure that ODA commitments are not reneged upon and promote better coherence and consistency of the international monetary, financial and trading systems.
 
To raise the profile of the special needs of LDCs in mitigating the impact of the crisis, my Office intends to organize a panel discussion on the sidelines of the June Conference. In a similar vein, we are proposing that the 6th Workshop for National Focal Points to be held in the context of this year’s General Segment of ECOSOC also focus on development finance and trade in this new policy environment.
 
Madame Chair,
 
Last, but certainly not least, let me turn to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. At its 63rd session, the General Assembly considered the Note of the Secretary-General outlining the modalities of the Conference and its preparatory process. Thanks to the effective leadership of the Group, resolution 63/227 represents a key milestone in deciding to hold the Conference and entrusting my Office to be the focal point.
 
You can rest assured that moving forward in a coordinated and effective manner on the preparations of the Conference is my core priority – and that of the Office as a whole – in 2009 and 2010. We will work tirelessly to this end, mobilizing UN system agencies and ensuring their active involvement in the preparatory process. Moreover, I believe that the preparatory process will also provide important opportunities to further assess the impacts of a changing global environment on delivering development results in the LDCs.
 
We are currently preparing the concept paper and roadmap for the Conference for presentation to the Interagency Consultative Group . I am planning to convene an Interagency Consultative Group meeting towards the end of March to consider the paper and roadmap and launch UN system wide preparatory process. I will duly inform the Group of LDCs on the outcome of the meeting, including the outcome of its consideration of the above concept paper and roadmap. Following this, we will launch preparatory activities, starting with country level preparations and laying the grounds for the regional reviews. A second Interagency Consultative Group meeting has been planned in Geneva in the second half of the year.
 
From a managerial perspective, I am very pleased that we were able to secure 3 new resources through the Development Pillar so that the Office will have improved capacity to effectively focus and deliver on the preparatory process. We have also requested additional temporary resources within the 2010-2011 Programme Budget and look forward to your support in securing them as we move into regional and global preparations leading up to the Conference in 2011.
 
Madame Chair,
 
I would like to conclude with some brief remarks on our advocacy work and projects. To effectively advocate on behalf of the LDCs, we are making steady progress in the implementation of the Advocacy Strategy. My office is preparing advocacy messages, which will be made available you, not only to promote the implementation of the current programme, but also to highlight critical and emerging issues that need to be taken up at the LDC IV Conference.
 
We are strengthening our advocacy work with the European Union, beginning with a meeting of experts at the European Parliament hosted by the Committee on Development this week. We intend to have a similar interaction with the European Parliament on a regular basis. We are consulting with the Chairman of the Committee on Development on establishing a parliamentary caucus to help in keeping LDC needs on the agenda of the European Union.
 
As some of you will know, my Office has been working on a new initiative to mobilize academic institutions to support the development efforts of LDCs. I have consulted with some of you on the initiative, known as Universities for Africa and LDCs. We shall launch the pilot phase of the initiative this year. In the first phase, nominated civil servants in strategic positions in LDCs will have an opportunity to receive training in an area of interest to their country. The second phase will aim at creating capacity within academic institutions in the LDCs themselves, so that training can take place in-country thus reaching more people.
 
Madame Chair
 
I am confident that our joint efforts and vision over the next year will significantly contribute to effectively addressing new and emerging challenges faced by the LDCs while ensuring a meaningful and successful start of the preparatory process leading towards the Fourth United Nations Conference on the LDCs.
 
Thank you for your attention