Press Releases

    5 February 2002


    NEW YORK, 4 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the ceremony marking the turnover of the coordinatorship of the group of least developed countries delivered today in New York by Gillian Sorensen, Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations:

    It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to this ceremony, at which Bangladesh transfers responsibility for coordinating the Group of Least Developed Countries to Benin. Bangladesh has led the group since it was formed, and worked tirelessly to protect and promote the interests of the world’s poorest countries. Benin has always been a strong advocate of the group’s ideals. The coordinatorship now rests in good hands.

    Life for most people in the least developed countries is a constant struggle for basic nutrition, shelter and health. Economic and social infrastructures are so weak that the prospect of joining the global market and reaping the benefits of globalization is, at least for the moment, but a distant dream.

    Our challenge is to improve upon this deplorable state of affairs. Last year’s Third Conference on the Least Developed Countries reaffirmed that it is in everyone’s interest that the least developed countries make the transition to a more promising economic future. Two major United Nations conferences are approaching -- next month in Monterrey and this September in Johannesburg -- that give us an opportunity to make tangible progress towards that goal.

    It is good news that governments have reached agreement on all paragraphs of the draft outcome document for the International Conference on Financing for Development. Indeed, the early achievement of a consensus demonstrates a new spirit of partnership. But even stronger efforts are required if we are to realize our long-held goals for official development assistance, debt relief and trade access, and if we are to breathe life into new initiatives such as New Economic Partnerships for Africa’s Development. We should see Monterrey not as an end, but as a beginning.

    The World Summit on Sustainable Development, meanwhile, offers a chance to renew global commitment to Agenda 21, the blueprint for sustainable development adopted 10 years ago at the Earth Summit, and to address new issues that have emerged since then, such as globalization. The Summit can also help least developed countries in particular to surmount many of their formidable developmental obstacles and environmental constraints, by focusing on initiatives in key areas such as energy access, transport, rural poverty, freshwater and technology transfer.

    The United Nations is committed to working closely with least developed countries on these and many other issues of common concern, so that your priorities and your voices find a central place on the United Nations agenda. In that spirit of partnership, I know you join me in wishing Benin every success as it assumes its important responsibilities.

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