1 July 2004
Amid Unprecedented Prosperity, Worlds Poor More Vulnerable Than Ever, Economic and Social Council Told, as High-Level Debate Continues
Speakers from Poorest Countries Press for More Concrete International Support, including Access to Global Markets, Debt Relief
NEW YORK, 30 June (UN Headquarters) -- Amid unprecedented global prosperity, the worlds poor were more vulnerable now than ever, participants in the high-level debate of the 2004 session of the Economic and Social Council were told today.
The 43 speakers in two meetings today -- on resources mobilization and an enabling environment for poverty eradication -- recognized that the primary responsibility for development in the least developed countries (LDCs) rested with those nations themselves. At the same time, several speakers, themselves on the list of 50 poorest countries, pressed for more concrete and substantial international support of their endeavours to help loosen the grip of grinding poverty and underdevelopment.
Bangladeshs representative expressed the fervent hope that the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010, known as the Brussels Programme, would not meet the same fate as the two related programmes that had preceded it. Bangladesh had progressed since Brussels, but the absence of proper administrative, trade and development institutions constrained the initiatives of many least developed nations to improve their lot.
On behalf of the African Group, whose member States comprised the majority of the LDCs, Burkina Fasos representative called for a levelling of the economic playing field, without which, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to attain the internationally agreed development targets. Since Brussels, African least developed countries had undertaken significant reform of their economic environments, resulting more open trade regimes. Yet, growth had continued to spiral downward. Touching on associated problems of resource deficiency, indebtedness and commodity dependency, he said it was time to adopt a comprehensive, rather than the existing piecemeal, approach to the LDCs.
For the heavily indebted poor countries, Zambias representative appealed for a rapid and sustainable exit from the debt crisis. Serious efforts were being made in his country, including a broadening of the tax base, but the successful mobilization of domestic resources went hand-in-hand with economic growth. Zambia had targeted areas of agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and mining as pillars for growth and poverty reduction. When it came to trade, however, LDCs enjoyed some preferential treatment, but they still faced serious constraints.
Norways representative urged all countries to increase market access for the LDCs. Supply-side constraints in those countries -- particularly those related to productivity and quality, logistics and infrastructure -- must be redressed, as international trade could not promote poverty reduction if export performance remained weak. There must be aid for trade. Meanwhile, Norways official development assistance had already exceeded the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP). It was committed to reaching its target of 1 per cent, and in the period from 2005 to 2009, it intended to remain committed to that level at least.
Chief Director of the Economic Development of South Africas Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the plight of the least developed countries did not seem to be lessening, in part because the measures that had been taken had not always achieved the desired result. He urged extreme caution in using trade liberalization to prop up those nations, citing the example of Zambia, whose formal sector was being wiped out as a result. The ultimate aim was to enable all of those countries to graduate to the higher development plane, but uncertainties about the transition had made some reluctant.
Also speaking today was the Foreign Minister of El Salvador, as well as representatives of: Czech Republic; Armenia; Thailand; Iran; Iceland; Lao Peoples Democratic Republic; Jamaica; Bhutan; Nepal; Kazakhstan; Canada; Colombia; India; Belarus; Malaysia; Sweden; Ethiopia; Libya; Cameroon; Brazil; Mauritius; Kenya; Senegal; and the Republic of Congo.
The rapporteur for the Committee for Development Policy also spoke, as well as a representative of the New York Liaison Office of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), on behalf of the Head of Special Programme for Least Developed, Landlocked and Island Developing Countries, and the permanent observer to the United Nations for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Representatives of the following also spoke: Interstate Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); International Association of the Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions; International Organization for Migration (IOM); Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-Algae Spirulina against Malnutrition; Conference on NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations; World Federation of United Nations Associations; Rotary International; International Movement ATD Fourth World; Legion of Good Will; and Global Action on Aging.
The Economic and Social Council will meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. to conclude its high-level segment and begin a segment on Coordination.
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met today to conclude the general debate of its high-level segment on resources mobilization and enabling environment for poverty eradication in the context of the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries. For additional background information, see Press Releases ECOSOC/6115 and 6119 of 24 and 29 June, respectively.
FRANCISCO E. LAINEZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, said todays discussion provided an opportunity to share possible avenues for a solution to the problems afflicting many countries. His own country had renewed its commitment to seek social peace, progress with equity and freedom with responsibility, with the Government focused upon democratic governance and consensus, closely reflecting the needs of the people. Its goals included promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, bringing about social progress and economic development for all, and seeking social concert based on gender mainstreaming and the creation of employment.
Reaffirming the Governments commitment to implementation of the internationally agreed development goals, he also warned that developing countries faced constraints, including instability in the international economy, low prices for exports, and general vulnerability. Those factors reduced the ability to comply with international commitments for sustainable development. In that regard, an enabling international environment should be promoted through increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) and official development assistance (ODA) in order to bring the benefits of globalization to the poorest States.
The constant fluctuation in the price of oil and derived products had posed serious concerns for developing countries, he added, as it had been necessary to reallocate additional sums, originally earmarked for economic development. The importance of that issue should be reflected by its inclusion in the ministerial declaration to be adopted at the end of the high-level segment. All countries were urged to show solidarity and international cooperation with developing countries and, in particular, oil-producing countries. The international community must explore alternative means of achieving economic stability, so that resources earmarked for social development were not diverted.
SYLVIA SABORIO, Rapporteur, Committee for Development Policy, presented the report of the sixth session of the Committee, which was held in New York from 29 March to 2 April. The Committee had addressed three major themes. The first was how to improve resource mobilization and ensure an enabling environment for poverty eradication in the context of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Development Countries for the Decade 2001-2010. Among the Committees recommendations in that regard was that the least developed countries (LDCs) should strive for governance systems characterized by participatory and transparent decision-making processes and adequate accountability. Also, the power of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) must be harnessed for that purpose.
She said that another recommendation, aimed at achieving macroeconomic stability, was the establishment of national vulnerability reduction funds. Such funds could use the increased resources available during surges in commodity markets to tide them over the lean years, thus allowing for an anti-cyclical -- as opposed to pro-cyclical -- fiscal stance. A number of suggestions designed to improve financial management and foster domestic savings were also made. The Committee also stressed the need to address the debt issue, and unleash the potential of increased aid effectiveness by untying the aid, supporting country priorities, and harmonizing donor policies and practices in all forms of aid delivery.
EDITA HRDA, Head of International Economic Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, said that improvement of partnerships at national, regional and global levels was essential, as the efforts to mobilize greater domestic and international resources for development in the LDCs were still considered insufficient. Her Government supported the strengthening of multilateral development assistance, as well as close cooperation among United Nations funds and programmes, the Bretton Woods institutions and donor and recipient countries. Her country constantly intensified its development cooperation. While in 2001 its ODA had comprised 0.065 per cent of the gross national income (GNI), in 2003 it had reached 0.1 per cent of the GNI, and it was expected that this year, it would grow by another 20 to 30 per cent.
Her Governments development assistance projects were mainly oriented at the strengthening of local supply capacities, especially in the areas of hydrological research, water management, sanitation, research of mineral resources, construction of health facilities, sources of food supply, vaccination and education, she said. The Czech Republic also attached great importance to the development dimension of international trade relations. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Generalized System of Trade Preferences (GSTP) was one of the most important instruments for strengthening collaboration and improving market access, especially for LDCs.
Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed commitments remained her countrys top priority, she added. In that context, the Czech Republic saw the New Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD) as one of the good examples of regional initiatives. Only through effective cooperation could the international community bring added value to the process of financing for development and mobilization of resources.
MANOUK VARDANYAN, Chairman of the State Committee of the Real Property Cadastre of Armenia, said poverty eradication was a crucial challenge faced by the international community. It constituted a central priority for LDCs, as well as other developing countries and countries with economies in transition. And as external resources played a significant role in creating the circumstances for development, particularly FDI and ODA, it was hoped that the increases of recent years would continue. Other important external factors for development included international trade, but that was plagued by trade barriers and high transport costs.
The Brussels Programme of Action took note of the problems with mobilizing domestic resources for development and highlighted the importance of creating an enabling climate for development, he added. In the Armenian experience, one element of reform had come through privatization of land and other types of immovable property. However, as there had been neither an existing system for registering private landownership nor any mortgage system, it had been the Governments top priority to create an appropriate legal framework. After the introduction of the cadastral system, the real estate market had been energized, as a result of which the economy had grown continuously over the past four years, with concomitant drops in unemployment and poverty levels. The Armenian cadastral system had been recognized as a model for other countries.
GEORGE KAWATU, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Lands of Zambia, said that tremendous efforts were being made in his country to improve the tax administration, as well as broaden the tax base. He was convinced, however, that for mobilization of domestic resources to be successful, it needed to go hand-in-hand with economic growth. Zambia had targeted areas of agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and mining as pillars for such growth and for poverty reduction. On trade, although LDCs had enjoyed some preferential treatment in terms of market access, they still faced significant constraints, such as limited capacity to produce sufficient and high quality goods for export, and meeting stringent sanitary measures. There was a need, therefore, for capacity-building and support to facilitate trade in LDCs.
He said that private capital flows were also important, but the domestic private sector was weak in most LDCs; thus, effective FDI was needed. Although most of the LDCs had attracted some form of FDI, that had not had a significant impact on their economies. In Zambia, reforms were under way, aimed at macroeconomic stability and improving financial management and accountability. The Government had set up a public/private investment forum, where the Government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and donors met to discuss issues aimed at attracting investment. Given the inadequate domestic resources, however, LDCs needed not only increased ODA, but also more effective utilization of those resources. For the heavily indebted poor countries, he appealed for a rapid and sustainable exit from the debt crisis.
JOHN DAVIES, Chief Director of the Economic Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, said that today there was real sympathy for the plight of the LDCs and a real desire to do something about it. The question was not whether action should be taken, but what kind of action. Among specific measures already taken, he mentioned such special market access steps as the Everything but Arms initiative and the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). He was pleased that the latter had been extended until 2015. Also important were debt relief initiatives, such as Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, and the commitment of a fixed percentage of gross national product (GNP) to LDCs. Those initiatives were making a difference and needed to be enhanced. Of course, it was also important to see whether the Doha round would take off again at the WTO.
Overall, however, the plight of the LDCs did not seem to be lessening, he continued. Part of the answer as to why the measures had not brought about the desired result stemmed from the fact that the advice given to the LDCs in the past, such as liberalization of trade, had proven to be unsound. The situation turned out to be more complicated than anticipated. For example, market liberalization in Zambia had resulted in much of its formal sector being wiped out, with escalating unemployment resulting in serious economic and social instability. In the case of LDCs, market liberalization needed to be approached with extreme caution.
South Africa had played a supportive role in such countries as Mozambique, he said, where it had helped to attract FDI and improve growth prospects. Of relevance in that case was the readiness of the South African Government to offer guarantees to the private sector, when others had hesitated. Some risk-taking by those better-off was necessary as part of the mix of policies necessary to make a real difference. Regional cooperation was relevant, too. In fact, the NEPAD Peer Review Mechanism could become a key initiative for promoting good governance and best practices, which could inspire confidence in African LDCs.
The ultimate aim was to effectively eliminate the category of LDCs by enabling all the present LDCs to graduate to the higher plane of regular developing countries. So far, only one LDC -- Botswana -- had graduated. Graduation was currently not a very attractive prospect, and members of the Council would remember the reluctance of certain LDCs in recent years to be considered for graduation, because of the uncertainties about the transition period and the lack of smooth transition strategy. That question needed to be seriously addressed.
PIAMSAK MILINTACHINDA, Director-General of the Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, said his country had delivered development assistance in a number of forms, including through provision of technical and economic cooperation to other developing countries, including LDCs. The Thai International Cooperation Programmes comprised ongoing, bilateral cooperation programmes funded by Thailand and other donor countries and international organizations. They were designed to extend assistance to other developing countries within and beyond the Asian region and to enhance regional and subregional cooperation, including South-South cooperation.
Thailand also placed importance on subregional and regional cooperation frameworks, such as the Greater Mekong subregion, he said, and had initiated regional frameworks, including the Ayeyawadi-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy, which aimed to create joint economic activities along the border in five priority areas of cooperation: trade and investment facilitation; agriculture and industrial cooperation; transport linkages; tourism cooperation; and human resources development. External participation, expertise and resources in mutually beneficial projects were welcome. Development partners could contribute technical cooperation and financial support.
Regionally, the Asia Cooperation Dialogue had been established as a forum for discussion of regionwide cooperation, he said, while internationally Thailand intended to work with NEPAD and other partners in extending technical and economic cooperation and sharing Asias best practices with Africa. To optimize its limited resources and achieve the greatest impact, Thailands concept of cooperation emphasized the four interrelated and complementary dimensions of enhancing economic linkages, providing technical cooperation, exchanging experiences and best practices, and cooperating in addressing global challenges. Through such activities, the country had positioned itself as an emerging donor.
EFIM MALITIKOV, Chairman of the Interstate Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), said that to prepare for the future the best stimulator was education -- principally new forms utilizing the newest technologies. Traditional education in the classroom has exhausted its resources in the information century, such as the Plato-based individual educational system for two or three disciples instructed during garden walks. The old educational system had lagged behind life, which created a growing digital divide and left 1 billion people absolutely illiterate. Another 5 billion also lagged behind in necessary modern knowledge. There was a deficit of 15 million teachers, and current educators needed to update their knowledge, their conservative views of education, and the application of new technologies.
He said that modern educational content could be sent from university television studios through satellite teleports to target any point on the planet. The cost of an education through the Internet would always be proportional to the number of users. Ten years of operating the Modern University for the Humanities in Russia, with its own satellite teleport, could serve as an example. It was illiteracy and, as a consequence, non-competitiveness, that had led to the current situation where hundreds of millions of people lived in unrelieved poverty, far beyond conditions compatible with civilized life. When the quantity of non-competitive illiterate people reached a critical mass, the sustainable development of humanity would be destroyed.
Delivering a statement by GHOLAM-ALI KHOSHROO, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs of Iran, that countrys representative, MEHDI MIRAFZAL, called for a serious and comprehensive approach, policy and action on a scale and magnitude commensurate with the situation in the LDCs. His country was involved in building the infrastructure, construction of hospitals, clinics and educational institutions in a number of LDCs. Given those countries vulnerability, Iran had, on several occasions, also provided financial and humanitarian assistance to countries in need. His Government had allocated a line of credit in the amount of $200 million for LDCs. Iran was also involved in regional efforts to provide assistance to those countries, in particular, through such institutions and financial institutions as the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Industrial Development Board (IDB) and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund.
The Brussels Programme of Action contained a wide range of measures in various areas, which were modest and achievable, he continued. The commitments under the Programme needed new resources, over and above what was already available and on the table. The overriding issue was the need for urgent action to fill the gap between the commitments and implementation. He called on the international community and particularly developed countries, as well as the United Nations system and multilateral organizations, to live up to their commitments.
MICHEL KAFAND (Burkina Faso), speaking on behalf of the African Group, acknowledged that responsibility for development was primarily the responsibility of the individual country, but said that such a situation would require the economic playing field to be level, which it was not. Instead, developing countries economic development was greatly determined by decisions taken in developed countries. The African Group, he stressed, continued to be concerned about the situation of LDCs, as 34 of the 50 LDCs were located on the continent. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for those countries to attain the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development objectives, and to implement the commitments undertaken in the Brussels Programme of Action.
Since the adoption of the Programme of Action, he added, African LDCs had undertaken significant reform of their economic environments, the result of which liberalization policies meant that most LDCs now had trade regimes more open than other developing countries, and as open as developed countries. Yet, economic growth and development had continued to trend downward, with concomitant increases in the level of extreme poverty. Least developed countries had demonstrated their commitment to sustainable development, but had encountered many problems in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action, the worst of which was a lack of resources from donor countries. Least developed countries also continued to be heavily commodity dependent, and the constant drop in commodity prices had undermined their economies, while the high level of external indebtedness continued to pose an intolerable burden. While promising, the HIPC Initiative had not gone far enough, and the international community must develop innovative methods to deal with that problem. Overall, it was time to adopt a comprehensive, rather than the existing piecemeal, approach to LDC issues.
HJALMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland) said that assistance must be realistic, focused and designed to each countrys specific needs. In all of those areas, donor agencies could and should do better. Also, increased and better-targeted assistances for countries most at risk of civil war could play a crucial role in preventing conflict. In those cases, it was especially important that the assistance was timely and gradually phased. Perhaps more than in any other setting, coordination and partnerships between stakeholders was critical in promoting economic and social development in conflict-ridden countries. International assistance was key to post-conflict reconstruction.
He said his Government had recently decided to contribute further to attaining the objectives of the Brussels Programme of Action by tripling its ODA from current levels by 2008/2009. Most of that specifically targeted the LDCs. Moreover, addressing the nexus between conflict and development was an important pillar of Icelands development policy. In recent years, Iceland had contributed civilian experts to peace-building operations in the Balkans, Sri Lanka and Iraq. Its latest undertaking in that area was to take control of the Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan this month. By taking on such challenging assignments, Iceland was exploring, with the help of civilian experts, alternative ways to bridge the gap between military peace-building operations and long-term development efforts.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that the two action programmes previously adopted by the world community for LDCs had failed to deliver. He fervently hoped that the Brussels Programme of Action did not meet the same fate. Amid unprecedented global prosperity, the worlds poorer today were more vulnerable than ever, and the 700 million people in the LDCs were being increasingly marginalized. The LDCs were striving to meet their commitments. Bangladesh had emerged as a war-ravaged independent State in 1971, when it had started from scratch. It had made considerable progress. It now had one of the highest primary school enrolment rates in the developing world, and gender parity had been achieved at the primary and lower secondary levels. Infant mortality had been cut in half over the last two decades, and immunization rates were better than most in the developing world. The population growth rate had been reduced at unprecedented speed and was currently at 1.5 per cent.
He said that such successes were owed to a prudent mix of socio-economic strategies, sound macroeconomic management, appropriate use of external support, a culture of pluralism, pro-market policies, democratic institutions, a strong and burgeoning middle class, the emergence of a vibrant civil society and, most importantly, the flowering of innovative home-grown ideas like microcredit, non-formal education and social forestation, which were products of the countrys indigenous intellectual and cultural resources. Development must be domestically owned, designed and driven. Bangladesh had an interim-Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) in place, which incorporated its Brussels commitments.
Since Brussels, Bangladesh had moved forward, he said. It had established an independent anti-graft commission and was in the process of enacting a money laundering prevention act, setting up a national human rights commission, and separating the judiciary from the legislature. To mobilize domestic resources, it had expanded the tax net. Total revenue generation from domestic sources increased in 2001 by more than 41 per cent over the fiscal 1997, while tax revenue increased by 46 per cent in the same period. Microcredit had been identified as a key instrument for domestic resource mobilization. Aid could play the crucial role of capacity-building. Absence of proper administrative, trade and development institutions constrained the initiatives of the LDCs in improving their lot, and it was important, therefore, for their partners to fulfil their commitment.
ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao Peoples Democratic Republic) expressed concern that the worlds 50 most vulnerable countries continued to be marginalized in the global development process. His was a least developed country, as well as a landlocked developing country, he noted, and as such faced two additional challenges: the challenge of distance and that of border-crossing. Yet, it had spared no efforts in implementing its five-year socio-economic development plans, which had resulted in 6.3 per cent annual growth rates in gross domestic product (GDP) over the past decade, with both the industrial and service sectors experiencing high levels of growth. However, agriculture remained the mainstay of the national economy, with approximately 80 per cent of the population in rural areas depending on subsistence agriculture for survival.
The Government remained committed to implementing its National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy, he added, with the ultimate goal of exiting the LDC list by 2020. To that end, major challenges must be overcome, such as integrating national development priorities, providing sufficient resources, improving the government structure, reducing inequality in society, sustaining the natural environment, ensuring broader popular participation and increasing ICTs.
In terms of the Brussels Programme of Action, his Government had undertaken to reform its legal and regulatory framework, he said. A national strategy for rural credit and microfinance was in the final stage of finalization, the taxation system had been strengthened, an anti-corruption decree had been issued and reinforced at all levels, and consultancy on money-laundering had been undertaken. ODA programmes had been better integrated into national development priorities, and there had been a marked increase in FDI. However, more efforts and resources were needed to implement reform programmes and ensure an enabling environment for economic growth.
STAFFORD O. NEIL (Jamaica) said that, in order to advance LDCs development, several important issues should be kept in mind. First, sustained growth would require the adequate transfer of resources to the productive sector in LDCs. Without strong support for building the productive capacity of LDCs, the liberalization of trade and increased access to markets in developed countries would fail to have the desired impact on the LDCs economies. The benefits of free trade would continue to bypass LDCs if their supply capacities remained severely limited by lack of support for supply infrastructure. Least developed countries should be empowered to take full advantage of more open markets. Least developed countries should also be allowed sufficient policy space to define their own priorities and development strategies.
He said that a one size fits all development strategy could not adequately respond to the unique development needs of each developing country. The role of the State in the development process, particularly in developing countries with a weak and underdeveloped private sector, should be fully recognized. A fledgling private sector could not act as an effective engine of growth. The commonly held view that what was required for growth was the free reign of the market and a conducive environment for a vibrant business sector was, at best, disingenuous. The history of development showed that sustained growth required a strengthening of the public sector in its development role. To ensure sustained growth, the channelling of external resources to LDCs must be aimed primarily at strengthening the States capacity to deliver on its development priorities.
DAW PENJO (Bhutan) said that, guided by the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, which placed the individual at the centre of the countrys development process, Bhutan had aligned its overall goals and strategies with the Brussels Programme of Action. Working in close cooperation with its development partners, his Government had adopted a comprehensive approach to poverty eradication. Its strategies accorded priority to rural development, with emphasis on infrastructure, land reforms, microcredit and private sector growth. Also important were development of human capacities and investments in the health and education sectors. High priority was accorded to environmental conservation.
Bhutan had undertaken trade liberalization initiatives through trade and transit arrangements with neighbouring countries, he continued. The country participated in regional cooperation and was in the process of accession to the WTO. Bhutan also continued to expand its revenue base and exercise prudent fiscal management. Among the measures undertaken in recent years were introduction of a personal income tax in 2002 and measures to strengthen tax collection and administration.
The lack of domestic resources posed a major challenge to LDCs, he said. In Bhutans case, there was neither a large domestic market nor a strategic trading location to attract FDI and private external inflows. Despite prudent fiscal policies, the country continued to rely heavily on ODA for its development programmes. The LDCs were making concerted efforts to meet their commitments and eradicate poverty. Those measures needed to be expeditiously complemented by a clear and long-term commitment of financial and technical assistance by development partners. That would enable LDCs to shift away from a piecemeal approach to development and adopt bold and integrated initiatives instead. The critical role of ODA in financing the resource gap of LDCs also needed to be highlighted.
JOHAN L. LOVALD (Norway) noted that the primary responsibility for development lay with the LDCs themselves, as sustainable development and poverty alleviation could not take place unless basic national conditions were in place. Sound policies and good governance were needed at all levels: in macroeconomic policy and public administration; in democracy and human rights; in anti-corruption policy; and investment in social and physical infrastructure. Important reforms in those areas had been made by LDCs, yet additional progress continued to be necessary to mobilize the necessary resources -- nationally and internationally -- to fight poverty in those countries.
The international donor community, he said, must assist LDCs in that endeavour, as all shared joint responsibility to ensure the success of follow-up to the Brussels Programme of Action. Least developed countries needed greater international support in development assistance, FDI and debt relief, as well as improved market access. For its part, Norways development assistance in 2004 constituted 0.94 per cent of its GNI and the Government remained committed to reaching the target of 1 per cent in the period 2005-2009. Last year, LDCs received 42 per cent of that bilateral aid. Yet, increasing the volume of ODA was insufficient to address the problems confronting LDCs. Aid must also be more effective and better coordinated.
Debt sustainability in low-income countries also continued to be an essential condition for economic stability and development, he stressed. The HIPC Initiative must be expanded and extended beyond the sunset clause, long-term financing of the Initiative must be ensured and a more robust debt sustainability framework established. Furthermore, LDCs and other developing countries required increased market access in order to avoid the debt trap and achieve long-term, sustained growth. Norway would continue to cancel 100 per cent of the poorest countries debt.
All countries should also contribute to increasing market access for LDCs, including through WTO negotiations, he said, while noting that the GSTP could serve as an important means of promoting South-South trade and cooperation. Supply-side constraints in LDCs - particularly those related to productivity and quality, logistics and infrastructure -- must be redressed, as international trade could not promote poverty reduction if export performance remained weak. There must be aid for trade. The private sector must be stimulated, including through the provision of FDI and ODA for building infrastructure and institutions conducive to private sector development.
MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said that, owing to conflict, disease, lack of resources, volatile commodity prices, and the recent global economic downturn, nearly one third of LDCs, the majority of those in Africa, had recorded negative growth or stagnation for the past several years. Those nations were in a precarious situation, which would likely remain so unless dramatic changes occurred in their economic performance. If the present trend continued, the number of people living in absolute poverty in those countries would rise from 334 million in 2000 to 471 million in 2015. Those statistics were chilling. Evidently, the Brussels plan, three years since its adoption, had yet to begin making a difference in the lives of ordinary people. That was a clear reminder to all stakeholders to take urgent, bold and resolute measures to win the war on poverty and hunger in the LDCs and to help meet the Millennium Development Goals.
He said that his country, like other LDCs, was trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and backwardness. Poverty reduction was its first priority, for which it had focused attention on accelerated growth, human resources development and poverty reduction activities, as well as on good governance. Central to its development strategy were efforts to optimize its comparative advantage and harness its resources, such as its water and tourism potential. The Government closely collaborated with the private sector and civil society. It had decentralized authority and empowered local governments to raise resources, as well as to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate development activities at the local level. Peoples participation was one of the pillars of its development edifice.
Yet, he continued, just when the pace of development was picking up, the Maoist insurgency and global economic slowdown came along, sinking Nepals growth into negative territories. Though that growth revived with the global economic rebound, it remained at a paltry 2.23 per cent in 2003 and was expected to be only slightly better in 2004, as the Maoist problem continued to sap the countrys resources. The Government had accorded top priority to finding a political settlement and to the holding of general elections by April next year. It was also strenuously engaged in combating corruption and improving the delivery of basic services, all of which would put Nepal on a firm footing for progress. His country would not succeed in facing its formidable challenges in development and governance, however, without the injection of new and additional resources from development partners -- aid, debt relief and FDI.
YERZHAH KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) supported the recommendations contained in the Secretary-Generals report on resource mobilization for the development of LDCs and said that poverty was a problem faced by virtually all developing countries and economies in transition. Kazakhstan had taken forceful measures to eradicate poverty in close cooperation with the private sector and civil society. In particular, the country had increased the level of microcredits, including in the rural areas, reduced unemployment, raised the minimum wage and pensions, and grew internal savings.
Kazakhstans progress in the eradication of poverty had resulted mostly from mobilization of domestic resources, he continued. However, the issue of paramount importance to the LDCs was mobilization of international resources. He supported the appeal to donor countries to honour their commitments with regard to ODA flows to those countries, to provide free markets access to their exports, accelerate the implementation of the HIPC Initiative, and facilitate the efforts by governments to expand education programmes related to AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. He also supported an increased strategic partnership in the follow-up to the outcomes of major international conferences.
For its part, Kazakhstan was ready to contribute, within its means, to international efforts to find a solution to those problems, he added. An example of its commitment was the recent allocation of $100,000 to the trust fund for the implementation of the outcome of last years conference of the landlocked developing countries.
GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said that efforts to enable the private sector to help poor people prosper should be systematically integrated into development assistance efforts. An enabling domestic environment was a central challenge and imperative in the international communitys quest for a better life for the citizens of the worlds LDCs. Canada recognized that the international community could not simply wait for enabling conditions to be in place in LDCs. His countrys international assistance had increased by 8 per cent each year for the past four budgets. Half of that increase was targeted to Africa. An increased proportion of assistance went to bolstering key social development preconditions for development, such as education and health, including HIV/AIDS, as well as encouraging private sector development.
In close collaboration with LDCs themselves, Canada was also taking measures to create good governance through building up legal, political and administrative systems and strengthening human rights and democratic practices. It had cancelled all bilateral debt for heavily indebted poor countries that had reached their completion point and was working with eligible countries to accelerate implementation of the HIPC Initiative. Least developed countries were also provided with duty- and quota-free access to the Canadian market.
Among the factors that diminished the positive impact of aid, he listed inadequate systems of domestic governance, poor coordination among donors, imposition of multiple reporting and accountability structures, and other inefficiencies. Clear-headed acknowledgement of the problems and good-willed and concerted efforts were needed to remedy that situation. Committed in that regard, Canada was reviewing and reforming existing practices to make them more flexible and responsive to the needs of developing countries. Canada was also working with others to alleviate the burden on partner countries and build their capacity to manage development assistance. The most effective collaboration and harmonization took place in the field, under host government leadership, based on the priorities and harmonization plans identified by host countries.
NICOLAS RIVAS DE ZUBIRIA (Colombia) said that, given the worsening situation for LDCs and the decrease in the number of middle-income countries -- all of which aggravated global inequality -- the commitments of the international community were not only insufficient, but also late or not met. There was wide agreement on the responsibility of States on their path towards development and domestic poverty eradication. There was also agreement on the urgent need to deploy international actions to achieve that goal. That must not be limited merely to support, but to fostering national capacity, which would lead to the competitive economic integration of developing countries.
He firmly supported market access, the suppression of protectionist barriers, particularly subsidy regimes in agriculture, and reorienting international policies on basic products. Globalization is the origin of the aim by developed States to foster market liberalization. It was highly contradictory, therefore, that those same States continued to impose non-tariff barriers on commerce, while turning them into retaining walls for products coming from the developing nations. The latters already fragile economies were further weakened by unemployment and deepening poverty. The lack of a favourable international environment would not only worsen the current poverty situation, but would also keep reducing the number of middle-income countries, many of which were already divorced from the benefits of globalization.
In order to overcome the national and international crisis, he called for the further mobilization of resources, together with the strengthening of the regional financing organizations. He also called for greater ODA, the promotion of foreign investment and the redesign of the international financing architecture. International support was also important in solving internal armed conflicts. Those conflicts seriously threatened development, even beyond the evil effects on the fundament rights of those people affected by them. A multilateral fund under United Nations auspices would help stabilize resource allocation, foster the return of displaced persons, assimilate former combatants and pave the way to sustainable peace and development.
A. GOPINATHAN (India) urged development partners to move vigorously in supporting the efforts of LDCs and other developing countries in achieving higher growth rates, improving service delivery and reducing poverty with more and better aid, debt relief and improved market access. The debt problems facing many low- and middle-income countries severely affected their capacity to accelerate economic development. While many bilateral creditors had provided relief to low-income countries, that had generally fallen short of the need to achieve long-term debt sustainability and to effect significant reduction in poverty levels. Finding a durable solution to the problem would reduce debt-servicing obligations and, thereby, enable increased social spending. India had written off the debt owed by seven highly indebted countries that had reached their decision points.
He said that for development to be self-sustaining, domestic resources should be made the foundation. Every effort should be made to expand the domestic resource base and to make the most productive use of the available resources. A one size fits all approach to the LDCs was not practical and unlikely to succeed. Accordingly, capacity-building in developing countries should be given priority. Foreign direct investment flows were the more stable source of investment, and greater efforts were required to assist LDCs in that regard, especially in setting up the requisite institutional framework to prioritize the sources and destination, and attract, evaluate and facilitate such inflows. Official development assistance could promote greater foreign and domestic private investments consistent with national priorities for sustainable development, especially in terms of poverty relief.
JACQUES DERMAGNE, President of the International Association of the Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions, reviewed the history of his organization, which had decided to parallel its 2004 discussion on the theme chosen by ECOSOC. Given that the African Union of Economic and Social Councils had served as the lead agency during that discussion, he wished to turn the floor over to RAPHIOU TOUKOUROU, President of the Economic and Social Council of Benin.
No development plan could be successful, said Mr. TOUKOUROU, without effective collaboration between countries from North and South. The elaboration of a more efficient model of collaboration, based on measures stimulating economic growth in poor countries and leading to increased revenues through expansion of the private sector, was necessary, although primary responsibility lay with the governments and peoples of each least developed country to promote and support development. Collaboration of national and local administrations with civil society was also necessary for effective poverty reduction.
There must be cooperation to avoid further widening of the gap between the North and South, he added, including focus on integrating developing countries in the international trade system. In that regard, the International Association recommended a review of the consequences of the Marrakech Agreements. To give globalization a human face, there must be full respect for the commitments given to LDCs. There must also be institutional reform at all levels, including that of the United Nations. Overall, economic and social actors should commit themselves to greater concert and greater responsibility to revive the hopes of those left behind by globalization.
ALEG IVANOU (Belarus) said that successful implementation of the Brussels Programme could serve as the basis for achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the LDCs. He was concerned that, at present, only seven of the 50 LDCs had reached the level of economic growth of 7 per cent per annum -- a necessary condition for achieving the goal of cutting in half the number of people living in abject poverty by 2015. The share of LDCs in the volume of international trade was still very low. There was agreement that domestic resources should serve as the basis for development financing, but, at the same time, investments and modern technology were needed to achieve the goals agreed upon by the international community for the LDCs, as well as advice and international assistance.
Continuing, he said that actual current needs of LDCs and the magnitude of challenges before them testified to the seriousness of the problem. Official development assistance continued to be a significant source of financing for those countries, and it was important to implement international commitments in that respect. He also underscored the importance of establishing true partnerships between LDCs and donor countries and of addressing the problem of external debt. It was also necessary to ease access to markets of exports from the worlds poorest nations. For its part, Belarus had decided to provide free access to several of those countries. The country was also participating in regional cooperation and technology transfer programmes.
All governments should pursue sustainable macroeconomic policies geared at achieving economic growth, creating flows of investments and increasing employment. Each government should realize that building an enabling environment for development creates favourable conditions not only for the growth of national economies, but also to address other problems of the LDCs. The leading United Nations agencies should serve as the political nucleus of international responsibility.
MOHD RADZI ABDUL RAHMAN (Malaysia) said that what was urgently needed now was to ensure that the commitments undertaken at Brussels were translated into tangible deeds. Mobilization of greater domestic and international resources posed a daunting challenge for LDCs. In that regard, all possibilities, including innovative financing, should be considered. Financial intermediation systems, especially microfinance institutions, must be expanded and further developed. Developed country partners must undertake to fulfil their obligation to meet the ODA target as pledged. Also, it was an established fact that economic growth, especially in todays globalization era, depended largely on trade. Fifty LDCs with a population of more than 600 million represented less than 1 per cent of the total global trade.
He, therefore, called on the development partners to provide market access by removing tariff, non-tariff, technical and other trade barriers. The developed countries must eliminate subsidies, which negatively affected and marginalized the LDCs, who were mainly producers and exporters of agricultural goods. At the same time, efforts must be made to accelerate the LDCs accession to the WTO through a streamlined and non-discriminatory process. The LDCs, for their part, had agreed to mobilize the political will to take the necessary steps for creating an enabling environment for economic growth and foreign investment. Among the important measures in that regard was the reduction in bureaucratic red tape, simplifying cumbersome procedures, removing inefficiency and a myriad of other negative practices, which impeded healthy investment.
ULRIKA CRONENBERG-MOSSBERG (Sweden), aligning herself with the statement made yesterday by Ireland, on behalf of the European Union, said she wished to convey the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs disappointment at being unable to attend the Councils high-level segment. She also wanted to highlight the recent publication of Swedens 2004 report on implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, which sought to open debate on the way forward and provide a policy for global development.
The report, she added, covered Swedens contributions to the achievement of Goals 7 and 8, relating to sustainable environment and developed countries contributions, respectively. It showed what had been done by the country, as well as what it was now doing and what it would do in the future. Topics discussed therein covered: official development assistance; effective development cooperation; an open trading and financial system; a sustainable debt burden; productive work for youth; access to health care, including medications; information and communication technologies; migrants and remittances of money and knowledge; foreign direct investment; education development; and global public goods.
TERUNEH ZENNA (Ethiopia) said that the challenge that the LDCs were facing in their quest to realize the objectives of the Brussels Programme and the Millennium Development Goals had been daunting. If current trends continued, the LDCs, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, would fail in achieving the internationally agreed goals.
For its part, Ethiopia had designed a development strategy focusing on rural development, reform of the justice system and civil services, decentralization, empowerment of people and capacity-building, he said. Policy reform had been undertaken to create an enabling domestic environment for resource mobilization. The rural financial intermediation programme, managed by the Development Bank of Ethiopia, aimed to extend to 1.5 million to 2 million rural households skills in non-collateral-based lending, and improve linkages between rural finance and the formal banking sector. The New Coalition for Food Security had been launched in partnership with other governments, the private sector, NGOs and civil society.
The agreement reached in Brussels with respect to external resource mobilization needed to be adhered to, he continued. In that regard, he noted with appreciation the increased concentration of aid flows to the LDCs and efforts to harmonize delivery of development aid. There was an increasing acknowledgement of the potential benefits of a gradual move towards more flexible instruments of aid delivery, such as direct budget support and sector support. However, the volume of ODA still fell short of the agreed targets, and there was a need for new and additional resources in support of LDCs national development programmes.
While welcoming the market access initiatives in favour of LDCs, including Everything but Arms and AGOA, he said that most poor nations had not been able to benefit from the growth in international trade, as they were dependent on a limited number of commodities. For example, as a result of a persistent decline in coffee prices, Ethiopia had lost about $830 million over the last five years. He urged the countrys development partners to heed the advice of the Secretary-General, who urged the international community to suggest solutions to the problem of a dependence on commodities. It was also necessary to facilitate transfer of knowledge and technology to the LDCs.
NDIORO NDIAYE, Deputy Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM), asked participants to consider the potential contributions of migrants to the economic and social advance of their countries of residence and their countries of origin. United Nations resolutions had raised the question of better coordination between developed and developing countries to limit the negative impact of the brain drain on lasting development. Yet, very few initiatives had been taken in that regard. Instead, recent years had witnessed a further rise in the recruitment of qualified professionals from the least developed countries by the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
She suggested that human capital flows could be more balanced, especially at a time when forecasts confirmed that Western economies would need qualified human resources for large segments of their economies over the next 50 years. That would considerably improve the image of migrants and their social integration into their country of residence, while their simultaneous contribution to the sustainable development of their country of origin would strengthen their dual social, economic and cultural roots. The commitments made at Monterrey and confirmed at the Johannesburg Summit must be honoured. They should not be replaced by a system of support through money remittances from migrants, which were private funds. The combination of ODA, FDI, and money remittances could enable the LDCs to advance along the path of development in the context of improved governance.
JABER ALI RAMADAN (Libya) said the high-level segments theme embodied the international communitys commitment to eradicate poverty and hunger worldwide. The terms of the Brussels Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries required allocation of financial, human and institutional resources and the creation of an enabling environment at the international and local levels for its implementation, as well as the creation of partnerships at all levels. Mobilizing resources for LDCs was one of the most important elements of development, and would be achieved domestically by reforming tax systems, ensuring microcredit and microfinancing and preventing capital flight, among other activities. At the international level, mobilization of external resources such as ODA, resolution of the debt burden and increased FDI were required.
Weakened by the instability of commodity prices, LDCs were left unable to benefit from international trade due to their susceptibility to issues of demand and trade barriers, he added. To combat that situation, the recommendations contained in the Secretary-Generals report must be implemented. Donors must uphold their international commitments. It was also hoped that the Councils discussion would lead to recommendations for the creation of new resources and increased ODA flows to support LDCs poverty-eradication efforts. The Ministerial Declaration should reaffirm commitments and pledges in the context of the Brussels Programme of Action, ensure the continued funding of the HIPC Initiative, and call for market access and the removal of all tariffs and barriers on LDC exports, among other aspects.
MARTIN BELINGA EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said that the theme of the high-level debate gave the international community a chance to take a new look at the goals of development, elimination of poverty, mobilization of resources and creation of an enabling environment for development. It was important to enhance international performance and generate robust growth to generate prosperity and jobs. However, financing was one of the main constraints that hindered development of LDCs. The Millennium Development Goals and the outcome of recent international conferences were the basis for developing international solidarity for the mobilization of resources. The Council could not remain on the sidelines of international action. It needed to ensure their effectiveness.
Management of debt must continue to be the focus of international attention, he continued. An enhanced HIPC Initiative could contribute to the well-being of many developing countries, including Cameroon. To reduce poverty, it was also necessary to increase the flows of ODA and FDI and invest in the development of the private sector. Access to international markets should be provided for the export products of LDCs. He also called for more equitable rules of international trade, saying that without such rules, LDCS competition with the countries of the North would be similar to competition between an iron pot and a clay pot.
The reduction of poverty goal was very important to Cameroon, he added, but the implementation of the countrys strategy in that respect would require significant financial means, which the country could not mobilize domestically. The international community should deliver on the solidarity that it had proclaimed. That was the test that the development partners needed to meet. In that connection, it was important to remember that the fate of the world could not be separated from the fate of its poorest countries.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said no challenge represented as great an opportunity for global partnership for development as the fulfilment of targets for the poorest of the poor. If unable to do so, the international community would fail at the greatest challenge of the twenty-first century. Failure would mean the intolerable perpetuation of poverty and destitution, with all the risks entailed therein.
Numerous recent reports had concluded that stronger efforts were required to unblock the poverty trap in which LDCs were ensnared, he noted, and to ensure LDCs were able to achieve sustained growth, participate in international trade on an equitable footing, and provide decent jobs for their workers. Special programmes for LDCs emerging from conflict also required close and constant attention. Although the international community had expanded its capacity to deal with such situations through peacekeeping, it was reaching its limits. The new ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Groups could provide additional support.
Also reviewing the need for a more equitable international trade system, he said that, although the Doha round had not yet produced coherent results, new arrangements of States dedicated to reducing distortions in world trade and ensuring that multilateral instruments effectively generated gains for the majority of the worlds people had emerged. The unity of the LDCs had changed the dynamics of multilateral negotiations, but should not distract the developing world from acting together to correct distortions and integrate agriculture fully into the multilateral trading system, including through dismantling the subsidy system.
JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) said he recognized that the primary responsibility for development rested with the developing countries themselves, but those efforts should be sustained and complemented by the international community in a spirit of shared partnership and interdependence. Development led to stability and the necessary conditions for social and economic prosperity. In that regard, the Government could play a vital role as a partner and facilitator, and provide the necessary framework for the private sector to flourish. Paramount requirements included the creation of a favourable business environment, development of financial instruments, such as microcredits, and appropriate institutional and legal frameworks.
He said that, as a complement to national efforts, FDI was an important component of development finance. He called on the development partners to assist the LDCs in creating an enabling and attractive environment. Regional development and trade provided the necessary window into the world economy. In his own region, the experience of Mauritius, Madagascar and others had demonstrated that, with sound economic management, peace and stability, the stage could be set for development. Market access was another imperative for LDCs. He applauded the Norwegian Government for its initiative to grant all imports from LDCs duty-free, and he encouraged others to follow suit.
Debt servicing was draining limited resources from LDCs, he said. It was imperative, therefore, that the HIPC Initiative be fully implemented. He called on development partners to consider a more robust framework in that regard. Most of the LDCs were in Africa, and he commended the initiatives of NEPAD and the African Union to address the situation. The former had established a peer review mechanism, to which 19 African nations had already subjected themselves. That was one way to ensure good governance and best practices and inspire the countries of the continent and the international community towards development prospects in Africa.
Drawing attention to the plight of the small island LDCs, he said that their situation was further exacerbated by their limited capacities to withstand exogenous shocks. That should be considered when reviewing graduation prospects from the LDCs list. Abrupt withdrawal of support for those on the list could have long-term negative effects and risk reversal of the progress achieved by those countries over several years of effort.
GEORGE OLAGO OWUOR (Kenya) said that, given the nature of the economies of LDCs and other low-income countries, it was impossible to expect them to mobilize the necessary domestic resources for development. In fact, those nations had to rely on external financing, as well as the fulfilment of the commitments made by their development partners. The development of LDCs continued to depend on actions taken by development partners with respect to ODA, foreign investment, trade and external debt. Although there had been some improvement in ODA flows, their quality and quantity left much to be desired. While FDI could play an important development role, those flows had been concentrated in only a few countries. It was also true that higher levels of ODA would assist LDCs in building the infrastructure necessary to attract foreign investment.
He said that most developing countries had not been able to reap the benefits of international trade, because markets remained restricted. That scenario should be corrected in order for those countries to break away from poverty, underdevelopment and over-reliance on aid. Urgent action was required to remove all trade-distorting subsidies, and developed countries should extend trade preferences to developing countries, particularly LDCs. The commodities problem also needed to be urgently addressed, as most LDCs and other low-income countries were dependent on one, or a few, of those. Over the years, commodity prices had continued to decline. The international community should resolve the issue of the price instability of commodities and assist the LDCs in their efforts to diversify and add value to their products.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal) said that the adoption of the Brussels Programme had inspired great hopes in least developed countries, including his country, which in recent years had made considerable macroeconomic progress. Economic growth in Senegal had exceeded 6.5 per cent, and its good performance had led to a reduction in the number of people living in poverty. However, much remained to be done in order to reach the overall goal of halving poverty by 2015. The support of the international community was needed, in that respect. Members of the international community needed to carry out their respective responsibilities.
The level of ODA continued to be too low, and innovative measures were needed to meet those agreed goals, he continued. For their part, LDCs needed to take action to fight corruption and end cumbersome bureaucratic procedures that hindered effective use of assistance. Another question that required attention was the issue of external debt. As for trade, it was necessary to remove obstacles for LDCs access to markets. The LDCs would continue to be excluded from the multilateral trade system, unless fair rules were introduced.
In conclusion, he said that Senegal joined all those who still had hope that the Brussels Programme would lead to success. Despite obvious obstacles, the goals were within reach, and it was important to persevere in its implementation.
LAZARE MAKAYAT-SAFOUESSE (Congo) said the process of globalization had kept many LDCs in an extremely precarious state. And while internationally agreed development goals had given rise to hope that the situation of LDCs would be improved through international partnerships, that hope today seemed to have been undermined. Yet, some countries had achieved positive results, however spotty, showing that they had undertaken the necessary reforms. The international community must recognize that progress and recommit to its international obligations.
His country had placed poverty eradication at the heart of its development agenda, he said, and had undertaken several reform programmes, including one aimed at combating corruption. It was his view, as the representative of a developing country, that the current debate offered the international community a chance to review the problems faced by LDCs. Developing countries expected the international community to fulfil its international obligations.
HARRIS GLECKMAN, New York Liaison Office, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), on behalf of HABIB OUANE, Head of Special Programme for Least Developed, Landlocked and Island Developing Countries, focused on UNCTADs 2004 report entitled Linking International Trade and Poverty Reduction. Among the highlights, the report noted that the severe poverty affecting a large proportion of the population in most LDCs was not simply a result of economic stagnation, but also a cause of economic stagnation. The sharp decline in aid flows that began at the start of the 1990s had been arrested and, to some extent, reversed after 2000. Those flows to the LDCs, however, had generally been unstable, unpredictable and declining.
She cited as requiring urgent attention some of the major shortcomings of the current flows of development aid. Among them, the significant compositional shift away from economic infrastructure and production sectors towards social infrastructure remained a problem. In addition, aid for trade-capacity development accounted for a negligible 0.1 per cent of total aid commitments to LDCs. The non-grant component of ODA had shown a marked increase in the last couple of years, outstripping the growth rate in grant components, resulting in the gradual build-up of official debt burden in the LDCs. With regard to FDI, inflows had continued to concentrate in only a few countries and a few sectors, with 10 LDCs alone accounting for more than 86 per cent of FDI flows into all LDCs from 1998 to 2000.
Concrete action was needed to attract FDI to LDCs beyond the conventional promotions activities, including exploring the use of ODA to fund innovative activities that leveraged FDI, she said. Resources from debt relief should also be targeted to the development of productive sectors and for trade development. The share of the LDCs in world trade had continued to decline since the 1980s, accounting for only 0.4 per cent of world trade in average terms over the last couple of decades. The trade share of those LDCs, which were heavily dependent on single or few commodities exports, was extremely low, creating onerous economic problems for that group of countries.
She said that UNCTAD continued to put the LDCs at the centre of its work programme. At the highlevel dialogue of the just concluded UNCTAD XI in Sao Paulo, Brazil, several conclusions were reached, including that national efforts should continue to be at the heart of development efforts. Also, more attention should be paid to reducing conditionality, particularly to eliminating the micro-management of development programmes and ensuring national ownership. There was also an urgent need to support national objectives by channelling development aid into national budget processes and aligning project aid with national development objectives and priorities.
On debt, she said it was imperative that all bilateral and multilateral creditors enhance debt relief measures, including debt cancellation of all outstanding debt owed by the LDCs. Regarding international trade, concrete actions were required to effectively address market access and market entry constraints, as well as supply side constraints. The ongoing multilateral trade negotiations in the framework of the Doha work programme should urgently address the complex problems resulting from the policies of developed countries, including agricultural subsidies and other trade-distorting domestic support, which were undermining development efforts and prospects. On commodities, urgent steps were required to mitigate the adverse effects on the economies of the LDCs of excessive price instability and long-term decline in world commodity prices.
BHAGWAT SINGH, Observer of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, said that, despite international recognition of the link between poverty and the environment, there had been little effort to apply lessons learned from actually putting poverty eradication at the centre of conservation. Pro-poor conservation strategies had failed to emerge due to the misrepresentation of the poverty-environment. It should be understood that poverty could not be alleviated unless additional assets -- better road networks, basic health care, primary education, reliable market access and potable drinking water -- were made available to poor people. Moreover, building those assets and getting them to the people could not be achieved overnight.
Working with numerous partners in eastern Africa, the International Union had seen substantial return on investments in community-based natural resource management and ecosystem restoration, he said. In addition to the direct benefits of increased crop yields and enhanced food security, village after village had reinvested income from such activities into supporting health-care workers, covering school fees, building schools and contributing to development funds. While pro-poor conservation and sustainable use strategies alone were often insufficient to lift people out of poverty, they made an important, immediate and cost-effective contribution to national poverty-alleviation programmes, while other assets were put in place.
IRINI SARLIS, Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-Algae Spirulina against Malnutrition, said that those suffering from hunger and malnutrition needed a rehabilitative process with appropriate food. Spirulina Paltensis had a production rate of 50 tons of protein per hectare per year, or 260 times more than beef proteins, 210 times more than rice and 30 times more than soya. Spirulina also led to water savings, because production consumed 50 times less water per kilogramme than what was needed to produce the same quantity of meat. In doses of 10 grams per day, spirulina rehabilitated the victims of food emergencies from marasmus, kwashiorkor and protein-energy malnutrition within three weeks, or three times faster than any other conventional treatment.
She said that spirulina was very safe. The United States Food and Drug Administration had declared that it was a food containing sources of protein, vitamins and other minerals. Above all, spirulina met the three most important world quality standards and purity certification -- the European certification ISO 9001, the Kosher Purity Certification, and the Halal Purity Certification. Spirulina was also very inexpensive. In Viet Nam, a spirulina-producing centre distributed food to thousands of marasmic children each year, and several projects were under way in India, Senegal, Togo, Burkina Faso, Benin, Central African Republic, Brazil, Cuba and Thailand.
Rehabilitative food must be rich in proteins and vitamins, well accepted, digestible and, above all, mixable with cereals and stockable for years as an emergency-prevention stockpile, she said. Among the various possibilities, micro-algae spirulina was an excellent solution to the provision of emergency food. Her institution had been established with the goal of diffusing the humanitarian use of spirulina. The goal was to build 10 spirulina-producing centres -- five in Africa, two in Asia, two in Latin America and a Central Coordination Centre. As emergency food, spirulina was extremely effective, very safe, readily absorbable and affordable.
JACKIE SHAPIRO, of the Conference on Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO), presenting an address on behalf of the Conferences President, said the theme of the high-level segment went to the heart of NGO concerns and activities, as creating an enabling environment for poverty eradication in LDCs meant establishing the conditions for good governance, which allowed the State, civil society and private sector to work together, and which would contribute to continued mobilization of resources. New partnerships would be necessary to eradicate poverty, particularly relationships with the poor themselves.
Noting that the Conferences latest forum had addressed the subject of rural development for poverty eradication, she said participants there had stressed the fact that the State could not disengage itself from the provision of basic social services, such as health and sanitation, as so often had been done in the past. Trade liberalization and privatization of essential services, such as water and electricity, were among the main obstacles to development, as they deprived the State of precious financial resources and destroyed local production. Those participating had seen in decentralization a promising means of establishing new partnerships between local authorities and civil society organizations to increase democratic participation and fight poverty. If adequate resources were transferred to local authorities and NGOs, promising partnerships for poverty eradication could be established.
PERA WELLS, of the World Federation of United Nations Associations, affirmed the relevance of the Millennium Development Goals framework and supported the view that there needed to be higher cooperation and coordination of efforts to eradicate poverty and world hunger. The Federation had been holding monthly dialogues on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in preparation for the session of ECOSOC. A common theme had been the imperative need for additional funding towards that end. One of the best ways of channelling funds to civil society was through the General Voluntary Trust Fund in support of the informal regional network United Nations-NGO-IRENE, and she recommended that it should be mentioned in the Ministerial Declaration.
It was also important to strengthen partnerships among all stakeholders, including the civil society. She called upon the Council to fully take into account the recommendations of the civil society to maintain the global momentum in the fight against poverty.
One of the strong messages sent by the Federation was that development efforts in each country needed to be home-grown. United Nations associations increased public knowledge about the Organization and its role in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. However, only half of the worlds 50 LDCs had set up such associations. The Federation was providing assistance to countries in that respect. It also played a part in holding model United Nations conferences to involve young people in the implementation of international goals. In collaboration with the North-South Institute, the Federation also conducted an annual online survey of civil society organizations to assess their knowledge and engagement with the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
SYLVAN BARWETT, of Rotary International, said his organization was comprised of more than 1.2 million business and professional leaders in 166 countries, all united to provide humanitarian services and build goodwill, peace and international understanding worldwide. The organizations top philanthropic goal was to eradicate polio worldwide by its centenary in 2005. To that end, Rotary had launched in 1985 its PolioPlus programme, to which more than $500 million had been contributed and through which more than 2 billion children in 122 countries had been immunized. In addition to fundraising, Rotary had provided an army of volunteers who donated time and personal resources to assist in national immunization campaigns.
The organizations community-based leadership, volunteer support and initial funding for the oral polio vaccine had provided the catalyst for the World Health Organizations 1988 resolution to eradicate polio, he added. Great progress had been made. In 2003, less than 800 polio cases were reported in six countries worldwide. Entering its 100th year, Rotary pledged to continue its work and involvement with the social and humanitarian efforts of various United Nations system bodies wherever possible and feasible.
VICKY SOANS, of the International Movement ATD Fourth World, noted that the challenges faced in LDCs were formidable, and recommended that, as the international community continued to mobilize financial resources for poverty eradication, it keep in mind that the people living in LDCs wanted to offer their human resources to help reverse the social exclusion that propagated poverty from one generation to the next. Though people living in poverty might lack job qualification or literacy skills, their life experience could be applied to help change their own situation and to shape a future vision of humanity.
The poorest must be included in the planning and implementation of sustainable development programmes, policies and projects from the outset, he continued. Through building relationships of trust, Fourth World Volunteer Corps members had succeeded in helping the poor youth to contribute to the development of their communities and countries. It was imperative to learn the following lessons: stakeholders living in poverty possessed knowledge crucial to sustainable development programmes and dialogue with them encouraged mutual understanding, while dispelling misconceptions that could lead to conflicting goals and initiatives. Dialogue brought them to the decision-making table and encouraged the very poor to contribute to the sustainability of development efforts. The ECOSOC could play an important role in recognizing and promoting the active participation of such individuals.
MARA MALAMAN of the Legion of Good Will, a Brazilian NGO, informed the Council about the outcome of a recent seminar on the theme Latin America-Africa: Promoting the Eradication of Poverty in LDCs. Participating in the event were 37 NGOs from various regions of Latin America. The discussions were centred around the links between poverty and hunger, on the one hand, and educational and cultural needs of the population, on the other. Among the proposals made by the participants of the seminar, she mentioned the need to develop the peoples potential through education, promote self-help housing construction, education and rational use of water. It was also necessary to develop public policies to promote womens development and emphasize their role as agents of conflict prevention. Other recommendations related to the transfer of technology, establishment of information and communication networks, development of the infrastructure and identification of best global technological practices.
SUSAN PAUL, a representative of a non-governmental organization, Global Action on Ageing, asked the participants of the high-level segment to advocate special protective measures for older persons caught in armed conflict and following instability. The elderly in LDCs had much to contribute, but they could be especially vulnerable in times of crisis, famine and war. They also got little attention from the international community. Organizations working on the rights of older persons had expressed increasing concern and called for positive measures by international organizations to protect affected older persons. The international community had recently taken important steps to strengthen the protection of other vulnerable groups, including children, women and humanitarian workers. Now, it needed to act on behalf of the elderly, as well.
Continuing, she suggested that the Council use the innovative structure of its ad hoc advisory groups to address the needs and skills of older persons in the delicate period when countries moved from armed conflict to post-conflict development. The ECOSOC should also: encourage United Nations agencies to gather concrete information and develop programmes to address older persons situation; press for new mandates in that respect; determine that special measures needed to be taken to assure humane treatment of older persons; and emphasize the positive role of older persons in mediation, crisis-prevention and community solidarity.
Before closing the meeting, the President of the Council, MARJATTA RASI (Finland), informed the delegates that consultations on the Ministerial Declaration were continuing, and she hoped the Council would be able to adopt it tomorrow morning.
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