Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6229
    21 July 2006

    Economic and Social Council Reviews Implementation of Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries for Decade 2001-2010

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 20 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this morning continued its discussion on the implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits, focusing on the review and coordination of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least-Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010.

    Introducing the annual progress report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010, Anwarul Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said the Programme was a comprehensive poverty reduction and development strategy tailored to the special needs of least developed countries; it had been designed as a framework of partnership between the latter and their development partners, and was the foremost result-oriented programme which included 30 international development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration. 

    In the context of the debate, speakers said, among other things, that while the least developed countries constituted the most vulnerable segment of the international community, and while they still had the primary responsibility for their own development, the international community had a clear responsibility to support their efforts.  Poverty eradication and the improvement of quality of life in the developing countries would depend on the success of the international community in addressing the problems of the most vulnerable in the least developed countries.  Good governance was essential for sustainable development, and sound economic policies and solid democratic institutions that were responsive to the needs of the people were the basis for sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and employment creation.

    While the outcomes of all major United Nations summits and conferences might have laid the foundation to promote development, it was important to accept that what was actually needed now was the full implementation of all of those commitments.  The international community should also fulfil the commitments and objectives of the Monterrey Consensus with respect to official development assistance (ODA) for the least developed countries and to other financial measures including the cancellation of bilateral and multilateral debts of the least developed countries.  A fair global economic system, just international trading system, and equitable representation in the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were equally necessary components of the development equation.  For progress and positive achievements to be sustained, the continuing support of the developed countries, the United Nations system, and the international financial and trade institutions was of critical importance, speakers underlined.

    Speaking this morning were representatives of South Africa for the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, Finland for the European Union, Benin, Turkey, Bangladesh, Tanzania, China, the Sudan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Russian Federation, Belarus, the United States, Guinea-Bissau, Vanuatu, Nepal, Libya, Guinea and Colombia. 

    A draft resolution on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least-Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 was introduced at the end of the meeting.

    The next meeting of the Council will be held at 3 p.m. this afternoon, when it will conclude the list of speakers under this item, and hold a panel discussion on mobilising resources and creating an enabling environment for poverty eradication in the least developed countries: including implementation of the 2004 ministerial declaration. 

    Documents

    The report (E/2006/73) entitled summary by the President of the Economic and Social Council of the special high-level meeting of the Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (New York, 24 April 2006) says the overall theme of the meeting was "coherence, coordination and cooperation in the context of the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus and the 2005 World Summit Outcome".  The consultations resulted in agreement on four sub-themes that were the focus of substantive discussions in four parallel round tables that took place during the meeting. The four sub-themes were: (i) implementation of and support for national development strategies towards the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals; (ii) fulfilling the development dimension of the Doha work programme: next steps, including in the area of "Aid for Trade"; (iii) external debt: implementing and building on current initiatives to enhance debt sustainability; and (iv) supporting the development efforts of middle-income developing countries.

    The report (E/2006/74) entitled implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 shows that despite improved economic performance, extreme poverty appears to be decreasing in very few of the least developed countries and increasing in many.  In unprecedented reversal of historical trends, life expectancy is declining in several least developed countries, most affected by HIV/AIDS and civil strife.  Other social indicators, including gender equality, are improving owing to the donor direct support to the social sectors but remain the lowest in the world.  The report concludes that very few least developed countries can meet goals and targets of the Brussels Programme of Action, if current trends persist.  The report shows that fast population growth, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation and HIV/AIDS aggravate extreme poverty in least developed countries.  Climate change is emerging as a new challenge to sustainable development of the least developed countries, in particular those in Africa and the small islands. 

    The report calls for continued commitment and renewed energy of least developed countries and their development partners to the implementation of the Programme of Action.  It recommends that least developed countries integrate the objectives, goals and targets of the Programme of Action into their Millennium Development Goals-based national development strategies and calls on their development partners to support those strategies through the common country assessment/United Nations Development Assistance Fund and poverty reduction strategy papers processes. Those integrated investment and operational frameworks must be underpinned by a bottom-up and needs-based assessment and supported by a number of "quick-win" interventions.  The report emphasizes that keeping promises on aid, debt relief, market access and technical assistance is crucial for breaking the poverty trap of least developed countries and for maintaining the credibility of the Programme of Action designed as a framework of partnership between least developed countries and their development partners.

    Statements

    Anwarul Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introducing the annual progress report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010, said the Programme was a comprehensive poverty reduction and development strategy tailored to the special needs of least developed countries, and had been designed as a framework of partnership between the latter and their development partners, and was the foremost result-oriented programme which included 30 international development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration.  In recent years, the least developed countries had benefited from better economic performance, however, this growth, largely driven by the high demand for extractive commodities, had not resulted in meaningful reduction of extreme poverty in those countries. 

    Some progress had been made in the increase of the volumes of the official development assistance (ODA) and untying aid to least developed countries.  In addition, considerable attention had been given recently to new and innovative efforts for mobilisation of resources for least developed countries.   Another area of progress in the past year had been the serious efforts made by least developed countries to address the critical issues of governance, and the United Nations system's support in this regard had yielded positive results.  The Secretary-General's report identified obstacles, constraints and emerging challenges to the implementation of the Programme.  It emphasised that effective implementation of the Brussels Programme required strengthening country ownership, genuine partnership, an integrated approach, market consideration, and results-orientation.  It also contained a number of specific policy recommendations to least developed countries and their development partners to enhance the implementation of the Programme in various areas. 

    SHELDON MOULTON (South Africa), speaking on behalf of "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said follow-up was required on decisive action on each and every one of the commitments that had been made at the major United Nations summits and conferences in the economic, social and related fields.  While the outcomes of all major United Nations summits and conferences might have laid the foundations to promote development, it was important to accept that what was actually needed now was the full implementation of all of those commitments.  Anything less would undermine the good faith with which, all along, one had been assured that those commitments were made, and denigrate them to merely paying lip service to development.  The right to development was something that the Group of 77 and China considered to be sacrosanct.  The Group attached the utmost importance to the full implementation of the development commitments, including those relating to the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council, as made in the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields. That included those commitments made in the 2005 World Summit Outcome.

    While the least developed countries constituted the most vulnerable segment of the international community that still had the primary responsibility for their own development, however, the international community had a clear responsibility to support their efforts.  Such responsibility was accepted at the Millennium Summit in September 2000, where the Heads of State and Government resolved to address the special needs of those countries, and again at the World Summit of September 2005, where they reaffirmed their commitment.  In spite of appropriated measures taken and tremendous efforts made by those least developed countries themselves to build enabling national environments for the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, the support received from their development partners in their efforts to pursue much needed development was still insufficient or completely lacking.

    JOUKO LEINONEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union, as a major development partner of the least developed countries, took this opportunity to reaffirm its full commitment to the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action as a part of its wider commitment to the global development agenda.  Sustainable economic growth and sound increase in trade flows were important factors in development, and to realise these objectives in the least developed countries, the European Union was supporting several concrete actions.  The European Union remained fully committed to a universal, open, equitable, rules-based and non-discriminatory trading system.  The special needs of the least developed countries should be taken into account.

    The European Union also remained convinced that trade liberation should be supported by various other actions, particularly in the least developed countries.  In the centre of this challenge were the productive capacities and infrastructure, which should be strengthened and expanded. There was concern for the slow progress made in promoting gender equality.  The Secretary-General should give further guidance in this regard while preparing the report for the coming Mid-term Comprehensive Global Review of the Brussels Programme of Action for the least developed countries.  It should not be forgotten that good governance was essential for sustainable development.  Sound economic policies and solid democratic institutions that were responsive to the needs of the people were the basis for sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and employment creation.  The sustainable development of the least developed countries was at the heart of the broader development agenda, particularly in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  Poverty eradication and the improvement of quality of life in the developing countries would depend on the success of the international community in addressing the problems of the most vulnerable in the least developed countries. 

    EDOUARD OHO GLELE ( Benin) said that when it came to the implementation of the programme of action for the least developed countries, the Secretary-General had presented a clear report with regard to the particular situation of those countries.  The report contained conclusions and recommendations to which Benin subscribed.  However, one could observe that little had been done towards the efforts of those countries in achieving their development goals.  On the part of the least developed countries there had been no refusal as to the implementation of the programme of action.  The weakness manifested by some partners had not allowed the full implementation of the Programme of Action.  The least developed countries had always expressed their will to implement the Programme of Action; however they received little support for their efforts from their developing partners.  In the context of the Millennium Development Goals, the appropriate tool should be drawn by the least developed countries in the manner to achieve those goals.  As regards Millennium Development Goals, it was important to underline that all developing countries, even if they fully adhered to the goals, might not fully implement them. 

    There had been a low involvement on the ground on the implementation of the Millennium Development Gaols.  The United Nations should change that situation to ensure implementation at the grass-root level.  In addition, there had been a lack of mutual understanding among the developing partners, leading to mistrust among them.  The least developed countries were sincere in their efforts to implement the Programme of Action.  The regular budget of the United Nations should be used to help the least developed countries in their efforts instead of depending on extra-budgetary resources.  The least developed countries expressed their sincere appreciation to those developed States that continued to help them.  Benin paid tribute to Norway, Republic of Korea, Switzerland and Turkey for their contribution to the development of least developed countries.   

    TUNC UGDUL ( Turkey) said full, effective and timely implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals was vital to address the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states.  The promotion of sustained economic growth, sustainable development, poverty eradication and good governance were imperative for the improvement of the living conditions of over 600 million people in the 50 least developed countries faced with extreme poverty.  The role of the developed partners was essential in providing the latter with adequate resources and technical assistance to enhance their productive capacities and to remedy their structural weaknesses in order to build the basis for their sustainable development.  The contribution of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector was also indispensable in this context.

    The international community should also fulfil the commitments and objectives of the Monterrey Consensus with respect to official development assistance for the least developed countries and to other financial measures including the cancellation of bilateral and multilateral debts of the least developed countries.  As international trade was vital for the development of the least developed countries and the eradication of poverty, great importance was attached to the development of bilateral commercial relations with the least developed countries.  As Turkey had an accumulation of technology, know-how and experience in fields needed by almost all least developed countries, it had already taken some initiatives aimed at developing relations with those countries. 

    TOUFIQ ALI ( Bangladesh) said the least developing countries were the world's underprivileged whose populations confronted such structural impediments that they were by themselves unable to break the claptrap of poverty and confront the challenging contemporary world.  Their economies remained vulnerable and their institutions and human capacities fragile.  They continued to be so because of their inabilities to mobilize external and domestic resources and put them to productive use.  Unable to integrate themselves into the world economy in a meaningful way, they were threatened with marginalization.  A number of them were slowly but inexorably sliding into a state of regress.  The Brussels Programme of Action was designed to halt that process, lift them up from the morass of despair and put them on the path of sustainable development.

    For the achievement of those goals, Bangladesh believed that each of those countries should be in the driver's seat of the vehicle of progress.  Development was only achieved through a prudent mix of strategies, sound macro-economic management and use of external support, all within a culture of pluralism, democracy, good governance, human rights, gender justice and women's empowerment.  The international community should assist the process. 

    AUGUSTINE MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said the discussion was taking place against the background of the national, regional and least developed countries ministerial preparatory meetings for the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on the Mid-Term Global Comprehensive Review of the Brussels Programme of Action.  The preparatory meetings presented a mixed picture on the status of implementation of the latter.  Some least developed countries, particularly the oil-producing countries, had made great strides in their commitments, while others were lagging behind.  It was evident from the preparatory meetings that least developed countries had already embarked upon economic, political and social reforms, including macroeconomic, governance, and institutional reforms.  They had intensified their efforts to adhere to the rule of law, respect of human rights, proper management of resources and Government budgets, and to democratic practices as well as in the fight against corruption.  As a result, many had qualified for interim debt relief and full debt relief.

    Development of any country should be the primary responsibility of the Government and people of that country.  Sound policies, good governance, credible management and a democratic disposition were the bedrock of sustainable development.  These domestic policies and practices were necessary but not sufficient conditions for the least developed countries to achieve sustainable development.  A fair global economic system, just international trading system, and equitable representation in the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were equally necessary components of the development equation.  For progress and positive achievements to be sustained, the continuing support of the developed countries, the United Nations system, and the international financial and trade institutions was of critical importance.

    CHEN JING ( China) said the results of development by the least developed countries were limited because of the lack of external resources and support.  They were holding a very vulnerable and disadvantageous position in development.  Their domestic capacity in production and development was also very limited.  In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the least developed countries should be supported in their efforts.  The next five years, in matters of achieving development goals, would be crucial for the least developed countries.  Although those countries attempted to mobilize their domestic resources towards their development, their capacities were restricted.  External resources should encourage the social and economic development of those countries.  China on its part had been helping least development countries to develop their social and economic sectors through financing. 

    During the high level discussion in UNCTAD, the situation of middle-income countries had been raised.  It was hoped that the discussion would continue concerning the financing of development efforts of those countries.  The international trade should also assist those countries to be able to have access to their products. The Doha Round should work in favour of those developing countries. The multitude challenges and difficulties faced by the least developing countries were impeding the development of those countries.

    NADIA OSMAN ( Sudan) said the annual report of the Secretary-General was appreciated.  There was concern about the propagation of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in African countries, and the degradation of social conditions which seriously complicated the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action and increased poverty.  There was a need to renew the commitments of the least developed countries and their developmental partners in many areas in this regard in order to achieve the objectives of the Programme of Action.  Commitments should be adhered to, and donors should adhere to debt relief.  Sudan was politically committed to the Programme of Action, and had set up a Committee to do so, examining the seven commitments within the Programme, with a number of subsidiary bodies organised to show the progress made.  An overall report with regards to the progress made in Sudan had been issued.

    Following the signing of the peace agreements, Sudan was doing its best to reach out for peace in the context of the global peace agreements.  This was a very heavy burden, and the Government was encountering a number of stumbling blocks, in particular debt, as Sudan was one of the few countries not to benefit from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.  The international community should respect its own commitments, and integrate Sudan into the list of countries whose debt had been cancelled.  Peace and development depended very much on this problem of the debt.

    SALEUMXAY KOMMASITH (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said the global picture of the least developed countries over the past five years did not seem to be optimistic.  Despite improved economic performance, extreme poverty appeared to be widespread across the least developed countries.  Most of them failed to meet the target of 7 per cent in their annual economic growth.  That had reflected a slow increase in per capita gross domestic product (GDP).  As a result, only two least developed countries had been recommended for graduation, and they were in the transition period, while several other non-least developed countries were expected to be included in the group.  A lack of least developed country graduation and an inclusion of a new least developed country was a reflection of the poor implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action.  Such a state of affairs in the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action was indeed a cause of concern, whereby the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals was impossible. 

    At the review of the Millennium Development Goals at the High-Level Plenary Meeting held in New York last September, it was reiterated that one should exert greater efforts if one was to attain the Goals by 2015.  That was a clear recognition that Millennium Development Goals would not be attained as scheduled.  Therefore, the Ministerial Meeting of least developed countries held from 5-8 June 2006 in Cotonou, had reaffirmed once again the principles and the commitments prescribed in the Brussels Programme of Action and had stressed the need for effective and full implementation in the next five years.

    V.I. FEDORCHENKO ( Russian Federation) said the implementation of the main provisions of the Monterrey Consensus since the end of the international conference on financing for development until the end of 2006, with the exception of international trade issues, had progressed significantly.  The formation of a clear framework for the discussion of further international measures to implement the Monterrey Consensus had been accomplished.  There had been enhancement and mutual support between the United Nations and the international financial organizations by way of promoting development.  One of the key aims identified was ensuring the agreed aims of development aid between donors and recipients. 

    On the review of the Programme of Action for least developed countries, a detailed analysis of its implementation should take place at the forthcoming General Assembly, and to this end, the inter-governmental mechanism represented by the UNCTAD board should be employed.  The situation of the least developed countries, given the increasing support of the international community, was starting to change for the better, with record levels achieved for economic growth, export of goods, and for official development aid.  Russia had also contributed towards alleviating the burden upon least developed countries through the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.  However, the sustainability of the indicators achieved by the least developed countries was not yet sure, as they lacked support from governmental infrastructure, among others.  To fill these gaps, the Governments and development partners should focus their attention closely. 

    DMITRI FOMCHENKO ( Belarus) said that the Council should continue holding regular high-level meetings with the Bretton Woods financial institutions with the view to helping developing countries to achieve their internationally agreed development goals.  While the national strategies of development should be focused on achieving national development goals, they should reject a one-sided external strategy of development.   Particular attention should be given to matters of international trade.  In the context of the Doha Round, appropriate space should be given to the developing countries.  The effectiveness of the participation of the trade partners should be enhanced for the benefit of national developments.   The Council should also continue its discussion with the international financial institutions.

    TERRY MILLER ( United States) said a lot of very serious statements had been made, to which close attention would be paid, in particular to the emphasis on the implementation of the commitments made in all the Conferences.  Unless all commitments made by all parties were respected, then it would not be clear if the development strategies laid out were effective or not, as they were only words on a piece of paper until they were thoroughly implemented.  There was regret that there was a combined debate, as the two Conferences under discussion were very different, and might therefore suffer from the joint discussion.  On the report of the Secretary-General on the high-level meeting of the Council with the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, this had had a record number of participants, but it was not clear that the meeting itself was particularly useful, and that any action had or could come from it.  There should be a survey on what concrete results participants saw as the outcome of the meeting, and consideration should be given as to whether it should continue in the future.

    The global landscape for development cooperation showed that there had been positive results in 2004 and 2005, but there had been insufficient progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  It would be inappropriate for the Council or the General Assembly to interfere in decision-making by the Bretton Woods Institutions.  United Nations development activities had been on an upward trend over the last few years, providing a buffer in changes in contributions from a small number of donors.  The United States did not see a role for the Council in this regard.  The United States had called for a gradual elimination of agricultural tariffs, and was committed to increasing its funding for Aid for Trade.  The United Nations should take into account the needs of middle-income countries, but international financial support was not necessary.

    ALFREDO CABRAL (Guinea Bissau) said the Secretary-General's report was objective and clear.  The official development assistance (ODA) to the least developed countries had more than doubled, increasing by five-fold, but the share of the donors was not increasing. Ambitious development programmes by the developing countries were not moving forward, due to the drop in assistance to the recipient countries.  The objective reasons for not attaining the development goals were multiple.  The least developed countries had to make efforts but it was not right to blame them for not attaining their goals.  The least developed countries were responsible for their own development and did not expect others to come and do in their places.  It should be stressed that in least developed countries the lack of popular participation in development and the lack of democracy was partially the reasons affecting the full implementation of development strategies. 

    The efforts by those countries in dealing with their external debt had been a positive sign.  The developed countries that were doing well in increasing their ODA should be appreciated.  At the national levels of the 34 least developed countries, further efforts should be made to enhance their development programmes.

    ROY MICKEY JOY ( Vanuatu ) said the state of play in the 49 least developed countries was reflected in the statement.  It was believed that the least developed countries would continue to progress.  The overarching socio-economic desires of the least developed countries had been reflected in the statements, in particular with regards to the challenges they faced in such difficult times.  The sentiments raised by most least developed countries present in the Council were reflected.  Progress towards the General Assembly session in September should be made.  Vanuatu was the only least developed country in the Pacific to take the floor, and it looked forward to making progress in terms of implementing the Brussels Programme of Action.

    MADHYU RAMAN ACHARYA ( Nepal) said Nepal attached great important to the Brussels Programme of Action and the Secretary-General's report which provided statistical analysis.  However, the recommendations in the report were far from suggesting concrete issues to be dealt with.  The lack of resources and unfriendly debt burdens were not addressed in the recommendations of the report.  In countries emerging out of conflicts, such as Nepal, there had been opportunities of development assistance as explained in the report.  In the last five years, Nepal had succeeded in reducing poverty by 10 per cent.  Further resources should be made available to the representation of the least developed countries in the Council.

    MAHMOUD ABUSEIF (Libya) said on the report of the Secretary-General on the period 2001-2010, two main summits had been held in 2002, the Monterrey Conference, and the Sustainable Development Conference in South Africa, and these two had moved the world into a new phase.  The goals of the international community were stressed in order to achieve development, and the results achieved at the conferences had highlighted that there was an international consensus for the programmes and measures that should be used to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development. These goals still stood.  The management of sustainable resources and the environment were particularly critical throughout the world, as they were linked.  Gender equality and social justice were also very important.  Other elements, such as HIV/AIDS and natural disasters, were very important, as they affected millions and claimed increasing numbers of victims.  There was a need, recognised by the Secretary-General, to increase capacities throughout the world to better respond to these issues.

    By 2015, it would maybe not be possible to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  A crisis was being experienced in the south of the Sahara, with a very serious situation.   Investment had to be increased with regards to and in those countries.  The current economic situation had improved somewhat, but this was something that should be extended and extrapolated to all areas of the world, as economic growth had reversed in some least developed countries.  There was also a drop in economic assistance to those countries, and they were forced to face difficulties in trade arrangements, with their indebtedness increasing.  On the other hand, there was some degree of enthusiasm from the least developed countries, and a true willingness to change things, but legitimate support for the least developed countries was required for this or the trend would reverse.  The international system had not reached levels that were expected, and it was vital to meet the goals of poverty reduction. 

    BOUBACAR DIALLO ( Guinea) said Guinea had been made some progress in the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action.  However, the lack of funding and the institutional weakness in the least developed countries did not allow the full implementation of the programme.  Although the Hong Kong ministerial meeting recognized the particularity of the least developed countries, the situation remained the same in the implementation of the programme.  The effectiveness of the Brussels Programme of Action should be revisited with regard to the least developed countries.

    CLAUDIA URIBE ( Colombia) said that the document was about consistency, about the Bretton Woods Institutions and the World Trade Organization, and the main reason for this was that the work required that countries themselves generate a development strategy allowing them to become part of the multilateral trade area.  It was a great contribution, not only because it showed that development was an endogenous process, and went through several levels.

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