Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6230
    21 July 2006

    Economic and Social Council Holds Panel Discussion on Mobilizing Resources for Poverty Eradication in Least Developed Countries

    Concludes its General Discussion on Review, Coordination of Implementation of Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 20 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this afternoon concluded its general discussion on the review and coordination of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 and then held a panel discussion on the issue of mobilizing resources and creating an enabling environment for poverty eradication in the least developed countries, including implementation of the 2004 ministerial declaration.

    Introducing the panel discussion, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Counties, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said that today the international community should revisit the Brussels Programme of Action and examine whether that Programme remained only a declaration or if real progress had been made in that regard.  Public opportunities for public-private relations had been created to bring investors to play roles as partners. 

    Mandeep Bains, Senior Policy Advisor at the United Nations Millennium Campaign, said that progress was slow and patchy, and the implementation period of the Millennium Development Goals was almost half gone, and yet half-implementation was not near.  When there was political effort, then remarkable things could be achieved. 

    Simon Scott, Principal Administrator and Head of the Statistics and Monitoring Division at the Development Assistance Committee Secretariat, said that the flow of resources to the least developed countries had been increased through international development assistance.  Only nine donor countries had met their 0.15 per cent of their gross national income (GNI) target for aid to the least developed countries in 2004.

    Seidou Imorou Mako, Director of Housing and Sanitation at the Ministry of Environment, Habitat and Urban Planning of Benin, said the World Bank had an initiative for access to secure land, with the goal of assisting land holders in rural areas with registering their land formally, in order to use the deed titles in national and international financial institutions as collateral in order to be able to invest and increase production. 

    Arjun K. Karki, President of LDC Watch, said that it was high time to mobilize resources to help the poor and to combat the situation of poverty in the least developed countries; the issue of global economic justice should be addressed on a timely basis; and a total cancellation of debt of those countries should be carried out with the view to eradicating poverty in the least developed countries.

    In the context of the interactive dialogue, speakers raised issues and asked questions on varied topics, including that least developed countries could not access domestic and external resources and put them to productive use; that productive capacity should be at the heart of development; that there was clear progress on the issue of poverty reduction and development; the fight against endemic disease, in particular HIV/AIDS; and the need to increase democracy in order to ensure that poor people could own property, hold land titles, and have access to bank services, among other things.

    Speaking in the interactive debate were the representatives of Bangladesh, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania and Benin.

    Taking the floor in the discussion on the theme of implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits and the review and coordination of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010  were the representatives of Lesotho and Haiti.  The representatives of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and the International Monetary Fund also spoke.

    The next meeting of the Council will take place at 10:15 a.m. on Friday, 21 July, when it will hold a general discussion on non-governmental organizations and then take action on draft proposals.

    General Discussion on Review and Coordination of Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010

    MOTHAE MARUPING (Lesotho) said containing and reversing disturbing trends in HIV/AIDS was the greatest challenge faced in most least developed countries and indeed developing countries as well.  An intensive international collaborative effort was called for, both from the purely humanitarian viewpoint, as well as from the development perspective.  Overcoming HIV/AIDS was a major co-requisite for the pace of development.  The international community should not neglect non-HIPC least developed countries.  Often, some least developed countries had been labelled as non-performers in the use of dwindling official development assistance (ODA) for development.  The reaction by development partners had tended to be a scaling down of ODA.  Lack of capacity, often reflected even in the inability to articulate development needs effectively, to competently draw workable strategic frameworks, action plans and implementation programmes, and to efficiently implement and review agreed policies, was often the challenge to be faced. 

    Realising the full potential in the usage of human resources was also key.  There was a need to empower women, the disabled, and other disadvantaged persons in societies.  Inclusion and fully active participation would add impetus to the development effort.  Massive migration to OECD countries was best addressed by focusing on the core cause.  Efforts at containing these flows should be aimed at redoubling efforts in promoting the development process in developing countries.  Meticulous implementation of existing programmes could go a long way towards hastening the pace of development for least developed countries.  The Brussels Programme of Action was one such existing pledge yet to be fully implemented.

    LÉO MÉRORÈS (Haiti) said that progress had been made in the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, but much remained to be done by the least developed countries.  In order to fulfil the commitments contained in the Programme, the least developed countries should still do much more.   Special attention should be given to those countries to fully meet their goals.  Because of the civil strife in Haiti, a lot of work had not been done, thus the country was unable to fulfil its commitments and achieve the desired development.  However, with the support of the international community and with the flow of external resources, Haiti would embark on the steps to achieving its development goals.

    MASOUMED SAHAMI, of United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said UNCTAD, as a long-time development partner of the least developed countries, shouldered special responsibility, relating to substantive and technical implementation of actions and commitments of the Programme of Action that were within its mandate and competence.  At the institutional and inter-governmental levels, UNCTAD had mainstreamed the Programme into its work programmes and in the work of the inter-governmental machinery.  This had included country-case studies and meetings where experiences had been shared.  The progress achieved so far in implementing the Programme of Action was mixed.  On the positive front, there was the strong engagement of least developed countries and their development partners to fulfil their commitments and make a difference to the lives of the poor.

    Growth and investment in the least developed countries over 2002-2004 had been better than during the 1990s.  There had been a significant increase in aid and progress with regards to debt relief.  However, the growth and investment targets showed that there were increasing gaps between the least developed countries themselves.  Half of the least developed countries were on track to reach their infrastructure target, whilst the others were far behind with consequent impact on their economy and trade.  UNCTAD had recently launched efforts on developing productive capacities, which were linked to employment increase and poverty reduction.  The critical challenge should be to accelerate economic growth and inclusive development, and there should be more coherence between national strategies and global processes.

    INGEBORG BREINES, of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said UNESCO had a special focus on least developed countries  as a cross-cutting issue in all its fields of competence.  The Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity was a UNESCO action programme that supported the emergence or strengthening of cultural industries in developing countries and countries in transition, in order to enable the creation or growth of local markets and access to worldwide markets, which was favourable to sustainable development.  The originality of the approach lay in the creation of a new kind of partnership, associating the public sector, the private sector and civil society.  Launched in 2002, the Global Alliance today had a network of 500 members and many other partners.  In had set up around fifty projects and created tools for decision-makers.  On a global level, cultural products currently represented more than 7 per cent of gross world product.  Even though creative cultural resources abound in developing countries, the world map of cultural industries revealed a major gap between the North and the South.

    REINHARD MUNZBERG, of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said on the Monterrey Conference and the Council, for the IMF, according to the Consensus, the dialogue in April between the Bretton Woods Institutions and the Council had been one of the main parts of follow-up and dialogue on cross-cutting policy issues that were on the Monterrey agenda.  It had focused on a number of issues that were on the agenda.  The IMF was committed to making the dialogue productive, as it was a major element of the Monterrey follow-up.  There were a number of aspects which could be taken into account, and these included timing, which was derived from the original purpose of providing an occasion for dialogue immediately after the spring meetings; who the dialogue was with, as it was necessary to determine whether it was a dialogue with Ministers or with the Executive Board; and the type of topics which were discussed, and this last was the most important issue.

    The issue was Monterrey, combined with current issues.  The topic of results and impact was also important.  With regards to least developed countries follow-up, the IMF was actively engaged with them, as it was with many countries, and was trying to support least developed countries in all areas covered by the Brussels Programme of Action through a wide range of activities.  The main focus was on country-born strategies, and the support that could be given to that in order to encourage the growth of a sound domestic environment.  The IMF had a problem regarding the September conference in New York, which coincided with annual meetings in Singapore, and this would affect the type of attendance. 

    Panel Discussion on Mobilizing Resources and Creating an Enabling Environment for Poverty Eradication in Least Developed Countries

    ANWARUL K. CHOWDHURY, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Counties, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, in a brief introductory remark, said that in 2003, for the first time, the Council had received the report of the Secretary-General on the issue of mobilizing resources and delegates started to think about it.  In 2004, the Council held a high-level discussion on the issue, with the representative of Benin participating, representing the least developed countries.  Today, the international community should revisit the Brussels Programme of Action and examine whether that Programme remained only a declaration or if real progress had been made in that regard.  Public opportunities for public-private relations had been created to bring investors to play roles as partners. 

    In 2003, the Council's high-level segment had been devoted to rural development.  Some delegations had talked of promoting small-scale industries through South-South cooperation.  Other participants such as the World Metrological Organization had helped the least developed countries to establish their metrological infrastructures for development purposes.  The increase in ODA should also be kept in mind during the current discussion.

    MANDEEP BAINS, Senior Policy Advisor, United Nations Millennium Campaign, said the discussion would examine the measures under the Brussels Programme of Action, and the implementation of the 2004 Ministerial Declaration.  Her preoccupation was with the Millennium Development Goals, as progress was slow and patchy, and the implementation period was almost half gone, and yet half-implementation was not near.  When there was political effort, then remarkable things could be achieved.  The Programme of Action was a much more impressive to-do list, and progress was also lagging.  Hopefully the September review would encourage all to move forwards.  Very few least developed countries would reach the goals if the current situation continued. 

    There was a need to create an enabling environment, both national and international, within the least developed countries for business and to ensure that there was an adequate legal environment.  ODA needed to be increased in the form of grants, and the effectiveness of aid had to be increased.  There should be an international global policy framework, and funding provisions for countries in conflict and post-conflict should be ensured.  The challenge laid down today was to review progress towards the goals, to identify challenges and opportunities, and determine ways in which further progress could be made.

    SIMON SCOTT, Principal Administrator and Head, Statistics and Monitoring Division, Development Assistance Committee Secretariat, said that the follow of resources to the least developed countries had been increased through international development assistance.  The smaller donors gave higher shares of their aid to the least developed countries in Africa.  Only nine donor countries had met their 0.15 per cent of their gross national income (GNI) target for aid to the least developed countries in 2004.  The least developed countries received almost a third of all aid in 2004.  Per capita aid to the least developed countries was far higher than to other income groups.  In 2004, the quality of aid to the least developed countries had improved.  All aid to the least developed countries was now in the form of grants, which could be used to procure goods and services at the lowest price available.  Aid was destined to social and basic services in education and health, particularly to sanitation systems. 

    Further rise in ODA would be projected to 2010.  Part of aid was going to debt relief.  The Group of Eight and the Millennium Summit had promised to double aid to Africa, where most least developed countries were found.  However, there was budget support to Ethiopia and Uganda showing problems, and governance and security concerns impeding aid to many other least developed countries, including outside Africa, such as Timor Leste.

    SEIDOU IMOROU MAKO, Director of Housing and Sanitation, Ministry of Environment, Habitat and Urban Planning of Benin, said the World Bank had an initiative for access to secure land, with the goal of assisting land holders in rural areas with registering their land formally, in order to use the deed titles in national and international financial institutions as collateral in order to be able to invest and increase production.  This programme recognised land rights on the ground, and increased access to capital markets, and the capacity of the poor.  Benin had been selected as the pilot country to try out this initiative because it was experiencing a special set of circumstances with regards to land.  Benin was a country where political stability prevailed, and was a cradle of democracy in Africa.  Banks worked well in the country, and it had an excellent geographic situation, but there was an issue with regards to land tenure and security of land. 

    When the initiative was launched, Benin had already begun land reforms, as the real estate situation in the country was characterised by a deplorable lack of security, and this was because many owners did not have reliable title to their land.  Expected results of the programme were to transform or change the conversion of all residence permits into title deeds; to equip rural areas with title deeds; and to provide districts and townships with land registers.  The investment expected were approximately 42 billion CFA francs over three years.  In order to cover the reform process, an institutional framework was set up, bringing registration processes closer to the people.  This reform process was currently being implemented, and a number of steps had been taken, with a number of titles already been issued.  The Millennium Challenge Account had the same goals as the real estate reform, improving the access to titles, improvement of constitutional framework, support for the conversion of assets into usable capital, and support for good governance from a resources point of view. 

    ARJUN K. KARKI, President, LDC Watch, said that the ministerial declaration on the mobilizing of resources had recognized the urgent need to assist the least developed countries.  It was high time to mobilize the resources to help the poor and to combat the situation of poverty in those countries.  The issue of global economic justice should be addressed on a timely basis.  A total cancellation of debt should be done with the view to eradicating poverty in the least developed countries.  The impact of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) should be stressed in promoting the quality life; in those countries failing to increase the ODA would be tantamount to allowing development regression.  Words to help the least developed countries should be translated into action.  Trade justice should be established through the opening of international markets to the products of the least developed countries.  Acts of protectionism by the developing countries would affect the developments in the least developed countries because of the fact that their income derived from trade and exchange would decrease. 

    The income the least developed countries received from trade would add to their mobilization of resources for their development.  Governments should combat corruption, which curbed resources which otherwise would have gone to development.  Good governance at the national and international level only exacerbated the living conditions of the population.  If people were prevented from participating in the development efforts of a nation, the development goals might not be attained. People should be encouraged to participate in public affairs.  The political will of nations should not only focus on resources mobilization but also to renew partnership and popular participation.  

    Interactive Debate

    In the context of the interactive debate, speakers raised issues and asked questions on varied topics, including that least developed countries could not access domestic and external resources and put them to productive use; that productive capacity should be at the heart of development; that there was clear progress on the issue of poverty reduction and development; the fight against endemic disease, in particular HIV/AIDS; the need to increase democracy in order to ensure that poor people could own property, hold land titles, and have access to bank services; the move towards a strategy where donors sat down with Governments of least developed countries in order to see how resources could be directed in a more effective manner; the need for strategies to be home-grown; that economic growth without social services could not eradicate poverty; and that resource mobilisation was required to implement the Brussels Programme of Action, in particular specific objectives and the commitment to infrastructure for agriculture and energy.

    Speaking in the interactive debate were the representatives of Bangladesh, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania, and Benin.

    SIMON SCOTT, Principal Administrator and Head, Statistics and Monitoring Division, Development Assistance Committee Secretariat, said there was a gap in financing the least developed; however, the percentage of the ODA target had gone up, mainly financing debt.  The first pillar of funding required that domestic resources be used for development.  Prominent importance had been given to domestic resources.  Some speakers had said that resources were short and even not available to those countries.  However, that situation depended on the economic dynamism of the countries in building the economic structure to produce resources.  They should use their countries' wealth as resources.  There was an important potential in public-private partnership, which would generate resources

    SEIDOU IMOUROU MAKO, Director of Housing and Sanitation, Ministry of Environment, Habitat and Urban Planning of Benin, responding to the questions and comments, said that in order for the experiment in Benin to be successful, pilot tests had been held first, subsequent to which it was extrapolated.  There had been support from partners, including France, the United States, and Germany.  The Council could perhaps highlight that this was an experiment which worked well and could be thought of as a possible avenue for least developed countries, as land could be used and transformed into a usable resource at many different levels. 

    ARJUN K. KARKI, President, LDC Watch, said the increase in the volume of resources to the least developed countries should be identified sector by sector.  There were resources, even plenty of them sleeping without being exploited, that countries should use.  With regard to partnership, there should be a real and genuine partnership between the poor countries and the donors to ensure the ownership of the least developed countries.  The political interests of the donor countries should focus on their commitments to generate or to provide resources to the benefit of those countries.

    ANWARUL CHOWDHURY, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Counties, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said it was clear that performance was very important.  Development assistance and others, all depended on performance, and how the country, over all sectors, was performing.  Experience had shown that any country performing well according to generally accepted standards, focusing on poverty-reduction and other programmes, had not seen their assistance reduced.  With regards to budget support, there was a need to be continuously watchful as to how things were going.  Performance addressed both traditional and non-traditional sources, and there was a need to show creativity, entrepreneurship, and attractiveness.  Even the multi-lateral assistance could be influenced by these.  All least developed countries had a round-table system to bring donors together, and there was not much transparency with regards to discussions there, and how the country defended its position and donors reviewed this.  It would be in the best interest of least developed countries, donors, the international community, and the people to have more knowledge about what transpired during those discussions.

    On resource-gaps, with regards to the 20/20 initiative, it had been said that donors should provide 20 per cent of ODA, and the recipients should devote 20 per cent to social services, and this had proved a success.  Revenue collection needed to improve, as it could add tremendously to the situation, and was also relevant to good governance.  While much of the ODA increase was in debt relief and humanitarian assistance, in any case, debt servicing was a major obligation of the least developed countries, and many of them were spending more money on that than on their exports.  If there was debt relief, then that money would be released, and could be used for programmes on poverty alleviation, for example, as it would then be a new resource.  There was also a need to focus on post-conflict countries.  At the end of the day, the aim should be to avoid aid dependence, and to ensure that countries could stand on their own two feet. 

    MANDEEP BAINS, Senior Policy Advisor, United Nations Millennium Campaign, said the situation of generating resources had been discussed widely. The development of partnership between the developed and the developing countries had been given prominence in mobilizing resources.  The effective use of resources had also been raised.  Partnership between the public and private sector in mobilizing resources had been emphasized.  The issue of aid had also been stressed from the point of view of financing development efforts.  Improved performance in development needed a transparent overall development agenda of Governments.

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