Group of Eminent Persons for world’s poorest countries urges international community to fulfill commitments

New York: 21 October 2010- The Group of Eminent Persons appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to advocate on behalf of the world’s 49 poorest countries on Wednesday called for a greater political commitment from the international community.

At the Group’s first meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York, Alpha Oumar Konaré, the former President of Mali and co-chair of the Group stressed the need for a “political message of commitment that will be used as an advocacy tool to drum up support” for the development of LDCs. Mr. Konaré, however, cautioned that the LDCs themselves ought to shoulder the burden of their national development.

Speaking to reporters at a press briefing on 13 October 2010, James Wolfensohn, former World Bank President and co-chair of the Group, underscored the need to address issues of governance in the LDCs. “ It is very clear that we cannot deal with development unless we look at the question of governance, and unless we look at shared responsibility.” he said.

From May 30 to June 3, 2011, member states, the private sector and civil society groups will meet in Istanbul, Turkey for the Fourth UN Conference on the LDCs. The global gathering is expected to review the progress made in tackling the challenges facing the poorest countries 10 years after world leaders in Brussels committed to doing more to eradicate poverty in vulnerable countries. The Istanbul conference is also expected to reach agreement on a new generation of international support measures for the LDCs.

During the Group’s gathering, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the stature and experience of the members placed them well to advocate on behalf of the LDCs. “By raising public awareness and building strong political commitment, especially at a challenging time for global solidarity, you can reinvigorate the compact in support of the development and transformation of the LDCs over the next decade,” Mr. Ban said. 

Responding to questions on what were some of the progress achieved by LDCs since the Third UN Conference in Brussels 2001, Under Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Cheick Sidi Diarra told reporters that while some progress has been recorded over the last decade, nearly half of the population -some 800 million – continue to face conditions of absolute poverty and misery.

He explained that whilst there were indeed international support measures in place which aim to assist LDCs – citing the European Union’s Everything-But-Arms and the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiatives – structural weaknesses, such as the serious lack of productive capacity, meant that most LDCs were unable to benefit from these assistance packages.

“In the final analysis, I think it is safe to say that the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action is unfinished business. Much remains for us to do. What is required is a stronger and more meaningful partnership between LDCs and development partners,” Under Secretary-General Diarra said.

The nine-member Eminent Persons Group, includes Louis Michel, formerly the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid; Louis A. Kasekende, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Uganda; Sir Richard Jolly, Honorary Professor of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, Hiromasa Yonekura, Chairman of Sumitomo Chemical Company Ltd.; Kemal Dervis, former head of the UN Development Programme ; Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder and chairperson of the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee and Nancy Birdsall, the founding president of the center for Global Development. To access short bios of the Eminent Persons please click here.

The Group is expected to contribute to a final report of recommendations that envisages new paradigms for transforming low-income economies.

For further information: Ricardo Z. Dunn, Public Information Officer, Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS): Tel:(917) 367-6006 / dunn@un.org