Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Mr. Cheik Sidi Diarra, I would like to express our sincere appreciation for the invitation to be part of this biennial session of ESCAP’s Special Body on Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries.
Might I add that the Office views its participation at this important meeting as further evidence of the productive relationship we continue to share with the Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As was highlighted this morning, the current food, fuel, and financial crises threaten to undo much of the developmental gains achieved in recent years. This is particularly salient when considering that even prior to this cocktail of challenges, the world’s most vulnerable countries found themselves in an already precarious economic situation.
Indeed, the UN Secretary-General has raised the alarm and called for a global effort to tackle the fall-out, warning that if left unchecked, the effects of the ongoing crises could prove profound and possibly prolonged for the poorest amongst us. In response, the General Assembly agreed to convene a high-level conference on the impact of the world financial and economic crisis on development, from 1to 3 June at Headquarters in New York.
Undoubtedly, what is required is a coordinated global response, but might I add that it remains imperative that we consider the importance of regional cooperation, which ESCAP has fostered since its inception, as a complimentary measure to address some of the structural deficiencies identified. The current crisis could even be viewed as an opportunity to redefine regional cooperation, and as ESCAP proposes in its report before us, to “usher in a new development framework that includes principles of social justice, environmental sustainability and the reprioritization of the role of Government in economic management to achieve the MDGs”.
As many of you are aware, the Asian Pacific region has in recent years experienced stunning economic performance, sustaining an annual average growth rate of 7.4 per cent. The pattern of economic growth has contributed to expanding influence, but has unfortunately also resulted in exploding inequalities within and between countries and the sub-regions. Amidst this prosperity, the 14 Least Developed Countries in the region have singularly failed to benefit from the region’s high growth performance, as well as the regional flows of trade and investment.
When we look at the progress made by the 14 Asia Pacific LDCs, it is quite clear that they are doing better than most other LDCs. However in the Asian context, when compared to other developing countries of the region, the progress in various sectors of development has been quite lackluster. Additionally, with the impact of the global fuel and food crises, and the subsequent recession, there is a measurable decline in their economic performance in 2007 and most likely even more so in 2008 and 2009.
Their share of trade remains insignificant. While it is widely acknowledged that the removal of trade restrictions and the facilitation of exports have the potential of boosting income and reducing poverty, the destination and composition of LDC exports needs special attention.
There are however several reasons to be optimistic.
Over half the trade in Asia and the Pacific is now intra-regional in character. Much of the flow of labour, goods and services is now within the region. Foreign direct investment from the emerging economic powerhouses from within the region is increasing significantly.
With this in mind, the foundations for regional integration are thus stronger with an increasing need for regional support to further facilitate the process.
The Brussels Programme of Action for LDCs affirms the role of regional and South-South cooperation in drawing upon the expertise and resources existing in other developing countries for the benefit of LDCs. There are some solid examples of regional cooperation that LDCs benefited from in recent years, such as from triangular cooperation in the area of human resource development, such as Bhutan with Singapore and Thailand. As ESCAP’s report illustrate there are positive developments in respect of effectively lower tariffs on imports from LDCs by several countries, as well as expanding trade in energy and services, such as the natural gas exports by Myanmar and electricity exports by Bhutan, Nepal and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. As ESCAP points out, services in trade for example in the form of tourism and overseas employment could benefit the countries with special needs.
There is still much that could be done in regional cooperation in terms of providing investment, trade opportunities and technical cooperation to LDCs to achieve sustainable development and reduction of poverty.
We should particularly be cognizant of the role developing countries can play in assisting the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS in dealing with new and emerging challenges.
Management of trans-boundary resources such as energy and water, trade and labour movements have surfaced as cross-boundary regulatory issues which require regional support. In addition to these emerging issues, governance challenges for deepening democracy remains across the region. It is evident that developing countries in the region can contribute immensely to the weakest members of the global community. What is important is for countries that make up the Asian/Pacific region to continue to make the most of their complimentary advantages through the increasing process of regional economic cooperation and integration. As part of the initiative of moving forward, strengthening mutual understanding, deepening integration within the region and connecting it more closely with the global economy, Asia’s position in the international community will only continue to grow.
My intervention today comes at time when the Office for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS has embarked on preparations for the Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries scheduled for early 2011, which constitutes a comprehensive appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Decade 2001-2010 by the LDCs and their development partners, the sharing of best practices and lessons learned, and identifying obstacles and constraints encountered, as well as actions and initiatives needed to overcome them. There will also be a strong emphasis on identifying effective international and domestic policies in the light of the outcome of the appraisal as well as new and emerging challenges and opportunities and the means to address them.
As was the case for the Brussels Conference in 2001, the Fourth UN Conference is expected to attract priority attention of the international community and broad participation.
A key element is of course the regional preparations which are expected to bring the regional perspectives into the review process. It is hoped that the regional process should build on the country reviews with the aim of identifying regional constraints, challenges and policy priorities, including the role and contribution of regional institutions and actors.
Additionally, the regional reviews will also provide an effective forum to review the contribution of regional trading arrangements and the role of regional economic communities in fostering a better integration of the LDCs in the global economy. Given their responsibility for regional integration and cooperation, as well as for support towards the sustainable development of countries of the region and the unique mandate for analytical, normative and operational activities, the regional commissions will play a lead role in the preparation and organization of the regional review meet.
In this regard the contribution of UN ESCAP, and more specifically this Special Body, through its Regional Review to be carried out in conjunction with its 66th Commission Session, will be critical to the success of the Conference. On behalf of the High Representative, I would like to express my appreciation for the cooperation thus far extended to our Office. We sincerely hope that as we progress with preparations, we can deepen our collaboration so as to stage a Conference that is both timely and meaningful.
I thank you for your attention.