22 May 2006

Deputy Secretary-General, at Launch of Report on Least Developed Countries, Urges to Share Ideas, Best Practices on that Work

South-South Cooperation Need not Be Limited to Economic Realm; It Can Help Strengthen Governance, He says

NEW YORK, 19 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown's remarks at the launch of the report, Governance for the Future:  Democracy and Development in the Least Developed Countries, in New York today, 19 May:

Thank you, Anwarul and Kemal, for those warm words of introduction.

And thank you, Pippa [Norris] and Zahra [Nuru] for your presentation.

It is an honour indeed to have President Kikwete with us here today for the launch of this major report on democracy and development in the least developed countries.

I would also like to welcome the Chairman of the LDCs Group, Mr. Oussou Edouard Aho-Glele.

The report we are launching today marks a significant step in our efforts to implement the Brussels Programme of Action and to help the LDCs achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Its central message is simple:  If we are to eradicate poverty and promote human development in the LDCs, we need to do there what we do anywhere else, and that is to stress democratic governance as one of the main foundations of progress.

Democratic governance means ensuring that the poor have a real political voice.  It means meaningful participation in the decisions affecting their lives.  And it means strong, transparent institutions that are capable of providing the services and protections people need most -- not just health care and education, but also personal security and access to justice.

World leaders supported this vision of democracy at last September's World Summit.  They also reaffirmed their commitment to address the special needs of the LDCs, which continue to face serious and persistent challenges in their quest for human development.

We are now fast approaching, later this year, the midterm review of the Brussels Programme.  This new report rightly feeds into that effort, and should help us to examine where we stand.

It paints a mixed picture in terms of progress on democratization.  And it reiterates one of the central observations made by the Secretary-General in a related report last year:  that despite significant progress by some LDCs at an individual level, their progress as a group has been insufficient to meet the goals set out in Brussels.  The main weaknesses, said the Secretary-General, were in three areas:  country ownership, national capacity and resources.

But let me stress that this new report is not solely a negative narrative.  It shows that many LDCs have made progress in taking ownership and responsibility for democratic reforms.  And it illustrates that best practices do exist.  States need to do a better job of sharing their ideas on what works, and on how best to ensure that democratic principles take hold.  In this regard, let me stress that South-South cooperation need not be limited to the economic realm; it can be valuable in strengthening governance, too.

As we move ahead, we must also pay heed to another key message of the report:  that no single model of democracy can or should be applied to all LDCs or, indeed, all countries.  But let us be clear:  while democratic governance takes many forms, reflecting our world's great cultural, historical, religious, social, and economic diversity, certain core principles, as set out in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other formative documents, must be upheld.

World leaders have agreed that where LDCs implement domestic reforms, practise good governance and combat corruption, such efforts merit more international support.  Indeed, a dynamic and enabling global economic environment is essential if poorer countries are to democratize and grow.  That means scaling up official development assistance, providing debt relief, increasing market access, addressing unequal investment patterns, and offering more technical assistance.  States have pledged to take such steps on many occasions, including in the Brussels Programme.  It is time to follow through, not piecemeal but in full.

The UN family, for its part, does a tremendous amount to help countries build a culture of democracy, create the conditions for credible elections, promote the rule of law, and mobilize Governments around issues of accountability and transparency.  Under the guidance of the UN Focal Point for Electoral Activities, the Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs, the UN Development Programme, and the electoral components of several peacekeeping operations support an election, on average, every two weeks somewhere in the world.  We are also doing our utmost to ensure strong support for LDCs, in particular through the Office of the High Representative.  And just as we seek to ensure that, in each and every nation, the least powerful person still gets to place his or her vote in the ballot box, we are also trying to look close to home and to strengthen our own "internal" democracy at the United Nations itself.

I congratulate everyone involved in making this report possible, and recommend it to a wide global audience.  And I look forward to continuing our close partnership in our work to usher in an era of sustained growth and sustainable development for the most vulnerable members of the human family.

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