19 September 2006

Significant Gains by some Least Developed Countries Have Had Minimum Impact where Needed most -- in Fight against Extreme Poverty, Deputy Secretary-General Says

High-level Review of Implementation of Action Programme for "LDCs" for Decade 2001-2010 Opens Today at Headquarters

NEW YORK, 18 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown at the opening of the High-level on Least Developed Countries:

On behalf of the Secretary-General, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you as the General Assembly begins a new session.

This midterm review of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action is an occasion for stocktaking and sombre reflection.  Over the past five years, least developed countries have experienced higher economic growth, greater exports and larger investment flows.  They have also made some progress towards several human development goals, including reducing maternal and child mortality and increasing universal primary enrolment.

Yet, despite significant progress by some Least Developed Countries, their gains as a group have been insufficient to meet the goals agreed to in Brussels.  And, they have had minimum impact where it is most needed:  as we just heard from the President, in the fight against extreme poverty.

The limited data available on recent poverty trends is not encouraging.  It suggests a negligible decline, and even some increases, in income poverty.  Indeed, right now, least developed countries are considered to be the least likely group of countries to meet all the Millennium Development Goals, including the goal of reducing poverty by half by 2015.

And, in an unprecedented reversal of historical trends, life expectancy is declining in several least developed countries that are most affected by HIV/AIDS and by civil strife.

This is hardly news to all of you.  After all, just this summer in Contonou, your representatives acknowledged both the weak implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, and strongly reaffirmed the need for its full implementation.

To do so we must accelerate and expand our efforts.  First, by further securing development on the stable bedrock of democracy, human rights and good governance.  Second, by making globalization work, at least as much for the poor as for the rich.

To prosper in today's competitive economy, all countries need, in the first instance, to mobilize their own resources, and attract investment from abroad.  Their ability to do that depends, in large part, on the quality of their governance.

Least developed countries must, for example, continue to improve their institutions and strengthen the rule of law.  And, if least developed countries are to eradicate poverty and promote human development, 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.

Such governance means ensuring that the poor have a real political voice.  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.

But, let us be clear:  if national action must lead the way, international support must light the path.

For if globalization is to have meaning for citizens of the least developed nations, then least developed countries must have secure, predictable market access. They must have further debt relief. And they must have more and better assistance.

Development progress on external debt relief needs to be sustained so that the debts of all least developed countries are reduced to levels that prevent their being an impediment to development.

At the same time, the rising volume of development assistance must rise further.  There is still a ways to go before all donour countries attain the 0.2 per cent of gross national income target established by the Brussels Programme of Action.  Yet, increased official development assistance remains imperative, if least developed countries are to fight poverty and build the social, institutional and other tools they need to compete in the global economy.

Ultimately, it is from the global trading arena that many of the most durable gains will ebb or flow.

As it stands now, the global economy is an uneven playing field.  Subsidies and non-tariff measures for agriculture in developed countries, for example, continue to act as a disincentive to agricultural production and exports in least developed countries, and work at cross-purposes with official development assistance.

To address this imbalance, least developed countries need secure, predictable access to markets.  They need duty- and quota-free access to all developed economies, without exception, by 2008.  They need the reduction, and elimination, of all non-tariff barriers to their exports.  They need simplified and harmonized rules of origin and trade procedures for their exports.  And they need a greater voice in International Financial Institutions and multilateral standard setting-bodies.

Until now, least developed countries have benefited from the limited outcomes of the Doha Trade Agenda.  Yet, further trade negotiations will likely erode the preferences currently available to them.  That is why, as new export opportunities are opened up, many poor countries need external assistance to make use of them.

As this happens, the United Nations, both our High Representative, Anwarul Chowdhury, and all funds and programmes and the departments of the Secretariat, will continue to help least developed countries take advantage of more open markets and more generally build the capacity for you to compete in the world of economy.  As your allies, we will do all within our capacity to contribute.  Working together with developed economies and donour nations, I hope we can make up for lost ground, and achieve the progress Brussels envisioned.

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