Press Releases

    SG/SM/7801
    DEV/2306
    15 May 2001

    AT INAUGURAL CEREMONY OF THIRD UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS CONFERENCE MAY BE ‘LAST CHANCE OF BETTER LIFE’ FOR 600 MILLION PEOPLE

    NEW YORK, 14 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the inaugural ceremony of the third United Nations Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, delivered this morning in Brussels:

    We are gathered today to consider the problems of 49 countries, where roughly one tenth of the world’s population live.

    They live in conditions very different from those we see around us here, at the headquarters of the European Union, which is generously hosting this conference.

    For all too many of those people, life is a continuous struggle against hunger, malnutrition, polluted drinking water, infectious disease, ignorance, oppression and violent conflict.

    They have not chosen to live like that, and it is in no one’s interest that they should continue to do so.

    Those people do not wish to live on charity. All they ask is to be given the same chance as the rest of us to earn their living and support their families.

    We are here to find ways of giving them that chance.

    They would like to join in the global market, as both consumers and producers.

    It is in everyone’s interest that they do so, but they cannot do it without support.

    We are here to consider what kind of support would be most useful to them, and to make sure that they do get it.

    We are here to develop new partnerships, through which to make development aid more generous and more effective.

    And we are here to convince potential partners that the effort is worth making.

    This is the third conference in 20 years. In that time the list of Least Developed Countries has grown longer, not shorter. Only one country has ever graduated from the list, and by a cruel twist of fate that country, Botswana, now sees its prospects blighted by HIV-AIDS. It has the highest rate of infection in the world.

    Clearly, this Conference has to be different from the previous ones. And it is. It has been carefully planned to ensure that no source of ideas is neglected, and that people with different roles and different viewpoints have to listen to each other.

    Moreover, it has been designed to produce agreement, not only on targets, but also on precise mechanisms for achieving those targets, and for monitoring progress towards them.

    Let us make good use of those preparations. Let us not fail more than 600 million people, for whom this Conference may be the last chance of a better life.

    Thank you very much.

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