19 September 2006

Extreme Poverty Has Deepened, General Assembly Midterm Review Told as Officials Urge Reinvigorated Global Partnership to Boost Prospects for Poorest Countries

Assembly President Cites Mixed Progress in Implementing Brussels Plan, as Deputy Secretary-General Stresses Need to Make Globalization Work for All

NEW YORK, 18 September (UN Headquarters) -- While slight increases in development aid since 2002 had raised health and education standards among the world's poorest countries, extreme poverty had actually deepened, senior United Nations officials warned today as they called for a reinvigorated global partnership of donor nations, civil society, and the private sector, working alongside the least developed countries, to improve the prospects of some 370 million people now forced to live on less than $1 a day.

"Together, we have an urgent moral imperative to eradicate abject poverty", declared General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain, as she opened that organ's High-Level Meeting on the midterm review of the Brussels Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for the Decade 2001-2010. The bulk of the 50 United Nations-identified LDCs, which include small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, are located in Africa, with the rest scattered throughout Southern Asia, and one -- Haiti -- in the Northern hemisphere.

Reporting "mixed progress" towards implementation of the five-year-old deal to help the LDCs make substantial progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015, and promoting sustainable development, she said extreme poverty was increasing in 34 LDCs, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, they remained marginalized in the world economy and continued to suffer myriad development ills, such as abject poverty and HIV/AIDS. "Only through a global partnership that brought together LDCs, donor countries, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the private sector could [the goals of the Programme of Action] be translated into measurable outcomes", she stressed.

Mark Malloch Brown, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, noted that ministers attending a conference of least developed countries in Cotonou, Benin, in June had both acknowledged the weak implementation of the Brussels plan, 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; and second, by making globalization work at least as much for the poor as for the rich", he said.

While calling for further debt relief, as well as more and better assistance, he also emphasized that, ultimately, it was from the global trading arena that many of the most durable gains would ebb or flow. "As it stands now, the global economy is an uneven playing field ... [and] 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."

Picking up that thread, Benin's President, Boni Yayi, Chairman of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the current global trading system contributed to the weakening of LDC economies, instead of helping them. As a result, urgent and exceptional needs for financing had increased. That difficult environment had also created a permanent risk for good governance and respect for human rights. There was no prospect for democracy in the LDCs unless it went hand in hand with sustained economic development.

He called on the High-Level Meeting to identify actions for rapid results in order to reach the agreed goals within the agreed timetables. And with the LDCs resolved to play a leadership role regarding implementation of the Millennium Goals, particularly through regional strategies, development partners were invited to "better and truly support" the LDCs in achieving those objectives.

Echoing that sentiment, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Foreign Minister of South Africa, declared on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China that the support received from development partners was still insufficient or sometimes completely lacking. "While the least developed countries, who constitute the most vulnerable segment of the international community, have accepted that they have the primary responsibility for their own development, the international community has a clear responsibility to support their efforts", she said, calling on development partners to expeditiously fulfil their commitments under the Brussels Programme.

Speaking on behalf of the African States, Egypt's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, cautioned that United Nations resolutions must not become a mere moral obligation or something mostly ignored and bypassed. "We do not exaggerate in saying the peoples of the world will closely follow the steps agreed upon during this Meeting, and will follow the serious and pragmatic focus of international interest in least developing countries", he said.

Finland's Labour Minister, Tarja Filatov, said on behalf of the European Union that trade could be a strong catalyst for economic growth and poverty reduction, although it would take more development finance, together with domestic reforms and better trade rules, to help the poorest countries integrate into the global trading system. The cost of a definitive breakdown of the Doha trade round would be extremely high, especially for the most vulnerable developing countries. "What we now risk losing is far more significant than just the issues on which the negotiations have foundered.  Completing the Doha Development Round would substantially help LDCs in their objective to integrate better into the world economy."

Jean Max Bellerive, Haiti's Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, expressed the hope that the midterm review would prove able to break the international community's long tradition of not fulfilling its promises and commitments. The Brussels Programme was one of the most realistically achievable action plans within the United Nations system, particularly with regard to the eradication of extreme poverty and reducing the vulnerability of small island States.  It was also being integrated into national plans for poverty reduction and sustainable development. The June meeting in Benin had adopted the Cotonou Strategy and, though some said that measure was an attempt to replace the Brussels Programme, it was not. It built on Brussels and addressed some obvious gaps.

Raising a note of caution, even as his country was set to graduate from the LDC "list", Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, said the Government was concerned that the move would be premature.  The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) indicated that Samoa had performed well on the LDC graduation criteria of gross national income and the Human Assets Index, but its performance in the Economic Vulnerability Index remained poor. It was imperative that careful consideration be given to areas of vulnerability to ensure that achievements made were sustained. The General Assembly should consider deferring Samoa's graduation until its vulnerability threshold level improved. The country's vulnerability to cyclones and floods created systemic economic and social shocks, given its heavy dependence on imports and single-product exports, as well as its limited industries.

The President of the Maldives also addressed the high-level plenary, as did senior ministers from Bhutan, Lesotho, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Vanuatu, Egypt, Luxembourg, Guyana (on behalf of the Rio Group), Mali, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea, United Republic of Tanzania, Mozambique, India, Burkina Faso, Solomon Islands, Senegal, Malaysia, Sudan, Norway, Burundi, China, Cambodia, Italy, Algeria, Turkey, Cape Verde, Indonesia, Malawi, Gambia, Lebanon, Philippines, Djibouti, Thailand, Spain, Bulgaria, Uganda, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Venezuela, Nepal, Togo and Japan.

The Vice-President of Gabon also addressed the plenary, as did the Director-General of Switzerland's Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Vice-President of Operations for the Millennium Challenge Corporation of the United States.

Also speaking were the representatives of Belgium, New Zealand, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Portugal, Guinea, Guatemala, Cuba, Nigeria, Niger and Libya.

Others addressing the high-level review included the Observer for the Holy See and representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Commission and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The Assembly's midterm review of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action will reconvene tomorrow at 9 a.m. to adopt its outcome declaration.


The General Assembly met this morning to conduct a midterm comprehensive global review on implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for the Decade 2001-2010.

Before the Assembly was the Secretary-General's report on the midterm review (document A/61/173).  In it, he says LDCs and their development partners have seen progress in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action, with LDCs having strengthened their policy and governance reform efforts while development partners have increased their development assistance, enhanced debt relief and provided some additional trade opportunities. Tangible results were the outcome. Economic growth for the group of 50 countries rose towards the target of 7 per cent, and there was progress towards a number of quantitative goals for human development.

However, the Secretary-General continues, improvement was modest in many instances and, for most inhabitants of the LDCs, the absolute levels of deprivation remain higher than in other developing countries.  Income poverty was largely unchanged.

He says the Brussels Programme should remain the framework for national and international efforts to advance development in the LDCs.  The seven commitments should be fully implemented. Those seven commitments are: fostering a people-centred policy framework; achieving good governance at national and international levels; building human and institutional capacities; building productive capacities to make globalization work for the LDCs; enhancing the role of trade in development; reducing vulnerability and protecting the environment; and mobilizing financial resources. Least developed countries should continue to improve governance, including by building human and institutional capacities, and should give greater attention to gender equality, agriculture, infrastructure and HIV/AIDS. Development partners should continue to increase their support to the LDCs, and developed countries should strive to reach the agreed quantitative and qualitative goals for their official development assistance (ODA) to the LDCs. Efforts to reduce external debt in the LDCs should be sustained. Reducing the obstacles to exports from LDCs should be translated into action. The private sector should invest in LDCs, and this should be supported by civil society in LDCs.

Also before the Assembly is a draft resolution containing the Declaration (document A/61/L.2), by which participants in the High-Level Meeting recommit themselves to meeting the special needs of the LDCs, reaffirm that the Programme of Action constitutes a fundamental framework for a strong global partnership in which the primary responsibility for development in LDCs rests with those countries with the concrete support of the international community in a spirit of shared responsibility. By the Declaration, meeting participants also express support for the smooth transition strategy for graduation of countries from the least developed list, stressing that the internationally agreed upon goals can be achieved, in particular through the timely fulfilment of the seven commitments in the Brussels Programme of Action.

Further, participants would note that, while progress has been made through the Programme, the overall socioeconomic situation in LDCs remains precarious. They would welcome the Cotonou Strategy for further implementing the Programme as an initiative owned and led by LDCs and would welcome measures to promote South-South cooperation, while calling for enhancement of resources and efforts towards capacity-building and development, including the sharing of best practices in sustainable development. Participants would call for continued international assistance in implementing the Programme by taking into account the conclusions of the midterm comprehensive review, with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) invited to continue an annual review.


Sheikha HAYA RASHED AL KHALIFA (Bahrain), President of the General Assembly, said Member States were gathered to renew and reaffirm their political determination to meet the commitments set out in the 2001 Brussels Declaration and the programme of Action by 2010. Only through a global partnership that brought together LDCs, donor countries, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the private sector could that collective endeavour be translated into measurable outcomes.

She said the LDCs remained marginalized in the world economy and continued to suffer from extreme poverty, child mortality and HIV and AIDS. In many instances, development was being set back by civil conflict, and the cost required to rebuild everyday life. Those impediments made LDCs even more vulnerable to internal and external shocks and prevented them from taking advantage of the economic opportunities of globalization. The 2001 Brussels Declaration and the Plan of Action represented a comprehensive strategy for a global partnership to lift millions of people from extreme poverty.

As the international community moved forward to implement the worthy goals of the Plan of Action, "we must always remind ourselves that poverty has a human face: the children that go without food; the young women that sacrifice the opportunity for education and empowerment, in order to work or care for their brothers and sisters; or, the dignified elderly that have no one to care for them in their old age", she said. In 2004, LDCs had been able to achieve an annual average growth rate of 6 per cent, the highest in four decades, she continued.  That commendable achievement demonstrated that, together, the obstacles to development could be overcome.

She said overall progress remained mixed, however. Thirty-four of the 50 LDCs were experiencing increases in extreme poverty. In sub-Saharan Africa, the situation was particularly acute. If that situation persisted, LDCs were not going to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. In fact, over the next decade, extreme poverty could actually increase and an additional 100 million people could join the 370 million people already living in abject poverty. "Together, we have an urgent moral imperative to eradicate abject poverty", she concluded.

Deputy Secretary-General MARK MALLOCH BROWN said this midterm review of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action was an occasion for stocktaking and sombre reflection. While some least developed countries have made significant progress over the past five years, the overall gains had been insufficient to meet the goals set in Brussels and had a minimum impact against extreme poverty.  Limited data suggested that a decline, and even some increase, in income poverty had occurred. Least developed countries were considered the least likely group of countries to meet all the Millennium Development Goals.

Governments needed to accelerate and expand their efforts, first by securing development on the stable bedrock of democracy, human rights and good governance, he said. Second, by making globalization work at least as much for the poor, as for the rich. Countries needed to mobilize their own resources, attract investment from abroad and improve the quality of their governance. Least developed countries' governments needed to improve their institutions, strengthen their rule of law and stress democratic governance as one of the main foundations of progress. As national action plans lead the way, international support must light the path.

He said the rising volume of development assistance needed to increase if the LDCs were to fight poverty and build the social, institutional and other tools necessary to compete in the global economy. And, to address the uneven playing field in the economy, the LDCs needed secure and predictable access to markets. That included duty- and quota-free access to all developed economies by 2008, the reduction and elimination of all non-tariff barriers to their exports, simplified and harmonized rules of origin and trade procedures, and a greater voice in international financial institutions and multilateral standard setting bodies.

Up until now, LDCs had generally benefited form the limited outcomes of the Doha Trade agenda, he said. Yet, further trade talks will probably erode the preferences now available to them. That was why many poor countries needed external assistance to make use of new export opportunities. As that happened, the United Nations would continue to help LDCs tap into more open markets. Working with developed economies and donor nations, the international community could make up for lost ground and achieve the progress outlined in Brussels.

BONI YAYI, President of Benin, Chairman of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the 2001 Plan of Action was an instrument of development that, were it to be properly implemented, would enable the countries concerned to construct a sound foundation for development. It had, indeed, enabled several LDCs to make clear-cut progress in several areas.  Least developed countries had achieved a national annual growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) that was better than in the past, even if it fell short of the 7 per cent projected by the Plan of Action. Inflation was under control. Quantitative progress had been noted in the area of official development assistance. There had also been a number of initiatives to cancel indebtedness, such as the Group of Eight (G-8) initiative.

He said that, overall, the Plan of Action had not been implemented to the degree that everyone had hoped. Many of the LDCs were still facing problems, such as deterioration in trade, as LDC economies were suffering from practices prevalent in several developed countries. Regarding cotton exports, for instance, some partner countries of LDCs subsidized cotton production, which had a "dramatic impact" on the LDCs.  International trade contributed to weakening the LDCs economies, instead of helping them. As a result, urgent and exceptional needs for financing had increased. The difficult environment had created a permanent risk for good governance and respect for human rights. There was no prospect for democracy in the LDCs unless it went hand in hand with sustained economic development.

The current Meeting must identify actions for rapid results in order to reach the agreed goals within the agreed timetables, he continued. The LDCs had already embarked on the task of identifying obstacles.  They were aware that, in order to ensure that their action was sustainable, they had to improve democracy and good governance, reform institutions and combat corruption. The LDCs were resolved to play a leadership role regarding implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, in particular through regional strategies. It was crucial that LDCs reduce their strong dependence on the cost of commodities. The goals of the Plan of Action were the Millennium Development Goals specific to the LDCs. He invited development partners to better and truly support the LDCs in achieving those objectives.

MAUMOON ABDUL GAYOOM, President of Maldives, said the national action of the LDCs was only one half of the work needed towards achieving the goals of the Brussels Programme of Action agreed to six years ago to advance the social and economic development of the poorest and weakest segment of the international community. The other half of the work was the support of the donor community, which was crucial for the implementation of the Brussels Programme.

The Maldives would graduate from the list of LDCs in 2011, despite the significant obstacles to development, and had already attained many of the Millennium Development Goals. Extreme poverty had been halved, universal primary education had been reached, and the Maldives was moving towards the targets on child mortality, greater gender equality and maternal health, he said.

But, the Maldives was still a small and vulnerable economy with a fragile environment. Increased aid and rapid growth in trade and greater market access for goods were crucial for its sustainable economic development, he said. Any failure in the current round of trade talks would undermine the backbone of the Brussels programme by crippling the possibilities of accelerated LDC growth. The gap between North and South was increasing with the high speed of globalization and now was the best time to "redeem the commitment" laid down at Brussels.

TUILA'EPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Samoa, said the midterm review provided an excellent opportunity to appraise the progress made to date in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action. It was important to identify the remaining challenges and create appropriate recommendations for full implementation. He welcomed the elaboration of the Cotonou Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Brussels Programme. Samoa's ties with its development partners were needs-focused, actively executed towards national ownership and managed well to enhance effectiveness. The integrated process had involved non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and Samoa, as an LDC, was determined to meet the remaining challenges.

However, as the country was being considered for graduation from the LDC list, the Government was concerned that the move would be premature, he continued.  Data before ECOSOC indicated that Samoa had performed well on the LDC graduation criteria of the Gross National Income and the Human Assets Indices, but that its performance in the Economic Vulnerability Index remained poor, as also noted in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development's (UNCTAD) vulnerability profile report of Samoa. It was imperative to give careful consideration to the areas of vulnerability, in order to ensure achievements were sustained.  He requested that the General Assembly consider deferring Samoa's graduation from the list until its vulnerability level improved. Samoa's vulnerability to cyclones and floods created systemic economic and social shocks, as the country depended heavily on imports, single-product exports, and had limited industries. Achievements had resulted from using assistance afforded to Samoa by virtue of its LDC status, prudent planning and people-centred financial and economic policies.  He asked Member States to make the Economic Vulnerability Index a key criterion for meeting graduation requirements.

LYONPO KHANDU WANGCHUK, Prime Minister of Bhutan, said the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action was unsatisfactory so far, and reaching its objectives by the target date could be beyond reach without greater efforts.  Too much of the increase in ODA was concentrated in a few countries, and aid had declined in real terms for half of the LDCs. Development aid was a lifeline for Bhutan and other countries, he said, and also the primary resource for development. He added that development partners had over-concentrated on the Millennium Development Goals in their provision of resources, and that the Goals should be implemented in a complementary manner with the Brussels commitments.

He noted that the seven broad commitments in the Brussels Programme were consistent with Bhutan's development philosophy of Gross National Happiness. That philosophy placed people at the centre of development. He described a number of concrete steps taken by Bhutan in the areas of good governance, economic development and environmental protection.

He concluded by warning that the lack of adequate and predictable funding to finance development goals presented persistent challenges to Bhutan. The country was in a critical political transition, and its success depended on maintaining and enhancing current levels of socio-economic development.

PAKALITHA BETHUEL MOSISILI, Prime Minister of Lesotho, said that, 35 years ago, at the establishment of the group of LDCs, there had been 24 countries classified as such. Today, that number had increased to 50.  That increase might point towards the failure of the international community to take urgent action in order to stop and reverse the deterioration in the socio-economic situation of the LDCs. For their part, the LDCs had undertaken to reform their economies, while their development partners had undertaken to substantially increase their external support. The war on poverty and inequality was far from being won. Sub-Saharan Africa, home to 34 LDCs, was the only region of the world where poverty had, in fact, deepened in recent years. 

He said the single greatest obstacle to the development of Lesotho was the scourge of HIV and AIDS.  The country was being overwhelmed by the high levels of morbidity and mortality, especially among the working population. HIV and AIDS had reversed all the gains made and ushered in the new socio-economic phenomenon of orphans on an unprecedented scale. He reiterated his country's call for increased support to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), which was the framework for achieving both the Brussels Plan of Action and the Millennium Development Goals in Africa. He also appealed to the developed countries to abide by their commitments to help developing countries in all relevant areas. Without new inflows of external resources, the pace of development in Africa would forever remain elusive. He further appealed for debt cancellation for all LDCs.

Both the Millennium Development Goals and the Brussels Plan of Action were intertwined, he said.  He was, therefore, deeply concerned that the 2005 Millennium Review Summit Outcome document had not focused on progress relating to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals or issues of development that were the main concerns for Africa, and the LDCs in particular. In order for the LDCs to eradicate poverty, the international community should give the development agenda the attention it deserved. Without their special needs being addressed by all concerned, least developed countries would not be able to achieve the objectives of the Plan of Action and the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

DIDJOB DIVUNGI DI NDINGI, Vice President of Gabon, said the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals was a milestone in the Organization's history and showed an overall commitment to attack the problems of peace, development and human rights. The Goals were a cornerstone of development strategy at the global and national levels and he noted that Millennium Development Goals referred to the special needs of the LDCs.

Since the Brussels declaration was drafted in May 2001, progress had been reached by some nations, but most were falling into deeper poverty. Other goals, such as access to basic sanitation equipment, women serving at high levels in government and female mortality rates during birth, were not being reached. Sub-Saharan Africa was the epicentre of those problems, he said.

He said the average 6 per cent economic growth for LDCs had not led to a reduction in poverty.  Instead, it had even increased in some cases. The LDCS were working to eradicate that problem by creating focal points, for example. He said the Secretary-General's decision to create a Special Representative for Landlocked and Small Island Developing Countries would provide better coordination of international efforts. To reach the goals of the Brussels declaration, the countries needed massive jumps in public investment and ODA, debt cancellation and innovative financial mechanisms. There was a need for international solidarity. The international community should not take the easy way out and reduce debt as it removed assistance.  Gabon was not among the LDCs, but some of its experiences were the same and its concerns were the same.

THOUNGLOUN SISOULITH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Lao People's Democratic Republic, said his country shared LDCs concerns over the lack of progress made in the implementation of the Brussels Plan of Action. He said the Secretary-General's annual progress report on implementation had indicated that progress in economic growth and human development had been modest, absolute levels of deprivation for most LDCs remained high and income poverty largely unchanged. To reverse those trends, the international community needed to provide LDCs with overdue pledged resources in order to fulfil commitments set out at Brussels and in the Millennium Development Goals. The declaration to be endorsed at the end of the session would call for increased efforts to be undertaken by all stakeholders to implement them.

He said his country had integrated the Brussels Programme into its 10-Year Socio-Economic Strategy (2001-2010), particularly in promoting rapid economic growth, poverty reduction and environmental protection.  In 2003, the Government had launched the National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy to sustain economic growth in 72 poor districts in key areas of agriculture, health, education and infrastructure. Gross domestic product had steadily increased, averaging 6.3 per cent for the past five years. Overall investment had risen to 26.6 per cent in 2005 from 19.7 per cent in 2000.  Per capita GDP had improved by $500 for the same period and poverty had fallen to 32 per cent in 2005 from 39 per cent in 1997.  Outstanding challenges remained, including those stemming from underdevelopment and geographic disadvantage. To further implement strategies, improved financial and technical support was needed from the international community in the form of ODA.

SATO KILMAN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu, said his country's performance on the implementation of the Programme had been a mixed one, with some progress in implementation and achievement of agreed commitments and goals, while some were yet to be realized.  Although it was already obvious that some of those would not be achieved within the agreed time frame, Vanuatu would continue to pursue them over the medium to long term.  His Government considered the Committee for Development Policy's recommendation that Vanuatu was eligible for graduation status from the list of LDCs to be premature.

Measuring one's eligibility status based on the major criteria of the Gross National Index, Human Asset Index and the Economic Vulnerability Index, was highly inappropriate for Vanuatu, he said. Vanuatu, because of its geographical location on the Pacific "rim of fire" remained highly vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and hurricanes, all of which occurred on a regular basis and each of which could destroy in a matter of a few hours or days the nation's economic mainstay of agriculture.

Furthermore, using gross national income failed to highlight the problem of high income inequality which persisted between the urban and rural dwellers, as well as between highly paid expatriates and lowly paid natives of Vanuatu living in the urban areas. "My Government strongly believes that by using an indicator like the GNI per capita conceals the hardships and difficulties which prevail in the rural communities which one cannot see through reading numbers." After also questioning the accuracy of the statistics on the Human Asset Index of Vanuatu, he said forming conclusions on mere statistics might be at best informative, but certainly not conclusive. Citing issues of remoteness, instability in agricultural production capacities due to natural disasters and international price fluctuations, instability in the export of goods and services, market access and statistical data inaccuracies, he recommended that Vanuatu be immediately removed from the list of countries eligible for graduation.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said the eradication of poverty and achieving sustainable development for all was a joint responsibility of both North and South countries, on an equal basis. It required that all strive during the remaining period to achieve the effective implementation of the Programme of Action by 2010, through serious work and a genuine partnership to support LDCs.  Those countries faced a number of challenges, such as a lack of resources to finance infrastructure projects and the primary service sectors, namely, education and health, as well as the need for environment-suitable technology transfer. Least developed countries needed to be swiftly integrated into the international economy and all custom and non-custom barriers that prevented access of their exports to the markets of developed countries should be terminated. Countries not now members of the World Trade Organization should be helped to join.

United Nations resolutions must not become a mere moral obligation that may or may not be implemented, or mostly ignored and bypassed, he continued. "We do not exaggerate in saying the peoples of the world will closely follow the steps agreed upon during this meeting, and will follow the serious and pragmatic focus of international interest in least developing countries", he said.

Noting that Africa comprised the largest number of least developed countries, he said that Egypt had offered, over the past few years, numerous technical assistance projects to support capacity-building in those countries. Furthermore, Egypt was very keen on using its membership in the Peacebuilding Commission to focus special attention on peace and security in LDCs and to assist those countries in creating an environment that allowed them to concentrate on long-term peacebuilding and avoid the repeated outbreak of armed conflict, while moving forward with development in all fields.

TARJA FILATOV, Minister of Labour of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, reaffirmed the Union's "full commitment" to the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, calling it a "crucial element" in improving the situation of LDCs. Human rights, the rule of law, "solid democratic institutions responsive to the needs of the people", good governance, sound economic policies and better infrastructure were the basis for sustainable economic growth, she said.  Since 2001, economic growth in the LDCs as a group had reached almost 7 per cent thanks to "courageous economic reforms" in LDCs, where macroeconomic stabilization has been accompanied by privatization, less business regulation and trade liberalization.

Trade could be a strong catalyst for economic growth and poverty reduction and it should thus be integrated into national development plans, although it would take more development finance, together with domestic reforms and better trade rules, to help the poorest countries to integrate into the global trading system, she said. The cost of a definitive breakdown of the Doha Round would be extremely high, she continued, especially for the most vulnerable developing countries. "What we now risk losing is far more significant than just the issues on which the negotiations have foundered.  Completing the Doha Development Round would substantially help LDCs in their objective to integrate better into the world economy."  While doing its utmost to secure an early resumption of negotiations, the European Union was calling on its trading partners -- "in particular the major players" -- to make the necessary moves for the talks to get going again and to reach a positive outcome.

Despite good overall economic growth, she said, poverty and deprivation remained high in most of the LDCs.  It was, therefore, necessary to support better governance, anti-corruption efforts, the rule of law and more equitable social development. Economic wealth and development should also help the most vulnerable parts of the population; to that end, education, health and gender equality programmes were vital elements of the Programme of Action and that was especially important in countries jeopardized by HIV/AIDS.  Regarding education, some figures have been "really encouraging", such as a 90 per cent enrolment rate for primary schooling, but improvements in the quality of education have not kept pace with higher enrolment. It was alarming that, in 2004, almost 15 per cent of girls in LDCs were not even enrolled in primary schools. That was why the European Union remained very concerned about the slow progress in gender equality, and felt that LDCs should put gender at the heart of their development plans.

She recalled that the environment was a core part of the Brussels Programme, and that the Union was very active in such areas as climate change and desertification. It had also promoted regional integration and cooperation. It had noted with satisfaction an increase in official development aid from 10 billion euros in 2001 to 19 billion euros by 2004; if the trend were to continue, such aid would reach more than 40 billion euros by 2010, with Union member states and the European Community together representing the biggest net provider of ODA. The Union was also a supporter and financier of efforts to help Heavily Indebted Poor Countries and welcomed the initiative to cancel all of the outstanding debt of eligible countries. She concluded by saying that "poverty is not invincible", and that positive trends -- such as improvements in many LDCs and the graduation of Cape Verde and the Maldives from the list of LDCs -- "must keep us from the temptation of resignation". Such trends reflected the first results of the Brussels Programme of Action and "we should continue its firm implementation until 2010".

JEAN ASSELBORN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Luxembourg, said his Government had been implementing a consistent development policy. Since 2000, Luxembourg had been among the too few developed countries that had devoted 0.7 per cent of their gross national income to ODA.  Luxembourg had even done better than that, with .82 per cent dedicated to such assistance and would increase that amount to 1 per cent of gross national income. With its LDCs partners, his country had had a daily dialogue to define priorities. "Partnership" was not an empty word. Only relations among peers could possibly create the type of understanding and respect crucial to a relationship between development partners.  Projects had to be identified with a strong sense of ownership by the target communities.

He said that, halfway down the road, not all objectives had been attained and a number of LDCs were not yet on target. Therefore, additional efforts were indispensable. However, progress over the past five years had been encouraging. The Member States of the European Union, under the presidency of Luxembourg, had decided in 2005 to raise assistance to .56 per cent of gross national income and to .7 per cent in 2015. That commitment had been constructed on a foundation of the March 2005 Paris Declaration on effectiveness for assistance. Luxembourg had earmarked more than the required .25 per cent of gross national income for LDCs in reliable and predictable assistance. His country was confident that sectoral targeting would contribute to progress in the areas of governance, gender parity and combating HIV and AIDS.

NKOSAZANA DIAMINI ZUMA, Foreign Minister of South Africa, speaking as Chair of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that insufficient progress had been achieved in the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action and, as indicated, very few LDCs were expected to be able to meet the Programme's objectives, goals and targets if current trends continued.  In spite of appropriate measures taken and tremendous efforts made by the LDCs themselves to build enabling national environments to pursue much-needed development, the support received from development partners was still insufficient, or sometimes, even completely lacking. The Group of 77 and China called on development partners to expeditiously fulfil their commitments as outlined in the Programme of Action, so that the objectives, goals and targets of the Programme could be achieved in a timely and expeditious manner.

"While the least developed countries, who constitute the most vulnerable segment of the international community, have accepted that they have the primary responsibility for their own development, the international community has a clear responsibility to support their efforts", he continued. Achieving the Programme's goals and targets called for a continued and renewed commitment from both the LDCs and development partners.  It was vital that the partnership be reinvigorated and enhanced. He agreed with the midterm review's conclusion that special attention be given to gender equality, agriculture infrastructure and HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

S.R. INSANALLY, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, noted a series of positive developments including the doubling of ODA to LDCs since 1999, substantial debt reduction for the poorest countries, increased duty-free and quota-free market access for most LDC products, more systematized flows of untied aid and increases in private capital flows. Despite those encouraging signs, LDCs remained in a tenuous situation, he said. At present rates and trends, even the minimal threshold of expected achievement could not be guaranteed. The report card at the current stage showed that greater effort was needed and much more could be done.

The urgent situation of LDCs required more intensive cooperation to accelerate progress and development, especially to counter the "crippling incoherence of global trade rules", he said. The Rio Group called attention to the recommendations made by the LDCs in the Cotonou Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action. He suggested that Member States give greater consideration to proposals advanced by countries of the Rio Group, including Guyana's call for the establishment of a New Global Human Order, the initiative for Action Against Hunger and Poverty launched by Brazil and joined by Chile, and the International Humanitarian Fund put forward by Venezuela.

MOCTAR OUANA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mali, said the midterm meeting was being held at an appropriate time and would help the countries move towards implementation of the seven commitments of the Brussels Programme. The results of the Programme were not in line with the meeting's expectations and both the LDCs and their development partners needed to work harder at every level, from the global to the regional.

Mali had actively participated in the Brussels talks and, in 2002, adopted a strategy against poverty for the years of 2002 to 2006.  Some improvement had been made during that period in basic social services, he said. For example, access to basic education had increased from 64 per cent in 2002 to 74 per cent in 2005; the proportion of the population living within five kilometres of a health clinic had increased from 44 per cent to 50 per cent during that time; and the percentage of people with access to safe drinking water had moved up from 57 per cent to 66.1 per cent. Improvements in basic infrastructure were made, as the number of telephone lines moved from 1 per 100 inhabitants in 2002, to 7 lines per 10 in 2005. And in the area of good governance, major progress had been made with the adoption of a plan to modernize the administration.

But, poverty could not be reduced without sustainable economic growth that equitably distributed the benefits of that growth to everyone, he said. Mali had drafted a second strategy against poverty for the years 2007 to 2011 that focused on economic development, structural reform and access to basic services. To cut poverty by 2010, the poorest nations needed more international aid as their economies meshed into the global economy. Those countries also needed foreign investment and technology transfers.

M. MORSHED KHAN, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, said this midterm review was extremely important in understanding why the LDCs had not achieved many targets outlined in the Brussels Programme. One of the primary constraints was the lack of capital. Net capital injections into the LDCs were less than $5 billion annually, or only 2 cents per day for every LDC citizen.  That amount was not enough to reduce the perpetual savings-investment gap in the poorest countries of the world.

Another constraint to LDC development was their lack of access to world markets, he continued. Yet, the Doha Round of global trade talks had reached a gridlock, without any consensus on special and differential market access for the poorest countries. Their exports faced limited growth, because of the presence of substantial non-tariff barriers. A third problem was the volatility in income. The LDCs had no effective insulation against the so-called "contagion effects", as an economic downturn in one country negatively impacted its trading partners. Other external shocks, such as oil price hikes, also disproportionately impacted the LDCs.

To boost investment and growth in those nations, the global community needed innovative solutions to deal with the burden of foreign exchange reserves on LDCs; ensure that capital flows to the LDCs were upped during an economic downturn; and create new strategies to help those countries manage their weather-related risks. The international community also needed to restart the Doha Round of trade talks and eliminate supply-side constraints that hindered the LDC private sector from competing globally. He also urged the creation of a monitoring mechanism, under the auspices of the United Nations, to ensure implementation of the Brussels Programme and that developed nations met their commitments.

BAN KI-MOON, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea said the midterm review was a valuable opportunity to assess achievements in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action. The average rate of economic growth of LDCs had reached some 6.5 per cent over the past five years, the highest rate in the last two decades. Their economic performance, however, had been insufficient for significantly reducing poverty and hunger. As a whole, the group lagged far behind the goals set in Brussels.

Outlining priorities, he said greater efforts were needed to adopt and implement national development strategies.  While many international agreements related to LDCs were in place, the recommendations had not yet been fully incorporated into national policies.  Capacity-building should be the central focus of the efforts of LDCs and their partners. The role of women in development should also be fully recognized. Least developed countries should strive continuously to strengthen good governance. It was disheartening to see many LDCs struggle in the face of conflict and civil unrest. While it was true that no single model of democratic governance existed, governance could be improved by sharing best practices.

He also stressed the need for development partners to deliver on their commitments, especially in the areas of ODA, debt relief, market access and technical assistance. His Government would double its ODA by 2009 and further triple it to around $3 billion by 2015.  Aid alone, however, was not enough.  History showed that promoting trade was the most effective means of achieving sustained growth. That was why his Government supported "Aid for Trade", and would expand duty-free and quota-free access for LDCs. The midterm review was a moment to strengthen global partnerships for the development of LDCs.

JUMA NGASONGWA, Minister for Planning, Economy and Empowerment of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that though the international community was halfway through implementing the Brussels Programme of Action, it was very far behind in achieving half of the targets and commitments set out in that Programme. Though there had been achievements such as increased participation in global trade, as well as the implementation of good governance practices and human rights principles, the majority of LDCs were still lagging behind in terms of progress.

He said his country had been named among the top 10 performers in the world in 2005-2006 by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.  Inflation had decreased, FDI had increased and the country's per capita income increased by 12.9 per cent from 2004 to 2005.  In regard to governance, a zero-tolerance policy to fight corruption had been instituted in both the public and private sectors.

ANTONIO FERNANDO, Minister of Industry and Trade of Mozambique, enumerated crucial issues addressed in Mozambique to date. On good governance, the country had successfully promoted gender balance in institutions at all levels. As a result of the last general elections in 2004, the number of women in parliament had grown to 35 per cent of a total 250 delegates; further, some 24 per cent of Government ministers and 26.6 per cent of deputy ministers were women. 2004 also saw the adoption of a law that fought corruption. In education, the Government had aimed to improve access to education and had trained school directors and managers at the provincial and district levels.  In the area of health, the Government had aimed to improve access to, and the quality of, primary health care.

He said 80 per cent of the labour force had worked in the agriculture sector, primarily dedicated to improving related infrastructure, such as roads, ports and irrigation systems.  With regard to trade, he said Mozambique had undertaken reforms, including a progressive tax cut on international trade, a reduction of barriers to the import and export of goods and services and the establishment of a "one stop shop" concept to support business. Mozambique's external trade policies were designed to create an environment conducive to promoting its products in international markets. He said many LDCs were unlikely to realize internationally agreed economic development goals, including the Millennium Developed Goals, and called for fruitful deliberations during the High-Level Meeting to reverse that trend.

ARNAND SHARMA, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, said LDCs have been making "major efforts" on economic development. Studies showed that many LDCs had relatively high economic growth rates, although their ability to sustain accelerated growth depended, in good part, on commodity prices. For LDCs, the key to sustained economic growth was the development of productive capacities and, for that, development partners needed to move vigorously to support the LDCs' efforts. International organizations, meanwhile, had an important role to play by providing "replicable models and information" for LDCs to build upon.

Debt had been a critical issue for many LDCs.  India welcomed the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative and looked forward to seeing the G-8's intentions turned into "unqualified commitment". India itself has written off the debt owed to it by seven heavily indebted poor countries. But, debt relief through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative or the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative would be insufficient without improved debt capacity management and a proactive approach towards encouraging higher growth, more exports and increased revenue through better market access and enhanced trade-related opportunities. The launching of the third round of talks for the Global System of Trade Preferences held promise for both LDCs and other developing countries, he said.

Regarding aid, he said disbursements of overseas development aid to LDCs was more than one third short of the agreed target, and there was an urgent need for developed countries to make further commitments in order to meet the target of 0.15-0.20 per cent. Where appropriate, aid should help promote private investment, consistent with national priorities for sustainable development.  But, it was not practical to have a "one size fits all" approach for all LDCs, and increased aid should not be tied to prescribed development modes or policies. India had been a "strong votary" of South-South cooperation, helping for instance Afghanistan with infrastructure and capacity-building projects, as well as a school-feeding scheme.  India also considered Africa a "high priority" with lines of credit and other financial help adding up to nearly $1 billion.

SEYDOU BOUDA, Minister of Economy Development of Burkina Faso, said that implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action had been mixed, with most people in the least developed countries continuing to live in extreme poverty, owing most notably to the economic effects of rising oil prices and falling prices of raw materials. Implementation of the Programme in Burkina Faso was proceeding in a satisfactory manner.  The country's last elections had taken place in an atmosphere of respect for international norms and the country's human indicators showed an overall improvement.

He stressed the need for better and more equitable integration of LDC trade into world markets and the elimination of the massive subsidies paid by developed countries to their farmers. Burkina Faso had become eligible for the forgiveness of multilateral debt, which was a sign of the country's efforts towards economic stability. However, significantly reducing poverty remained the biggest challenge. It was necessary to improve access to basic social services, economic infrastructure and external markets. The international community must engage more strongly since the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals remained problematic.  Efforts towards debt cancellation must also be pursued.

PATTERSON OTI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Solomon Islands, said there were a number of gaps within the system that deals with LDCs. The Pacific subregion was host to five LDCs geographically scattered in the world's largest ocean.  Development in those island nations had been hampered by high communication and transportation costs, an inadequate infrastructure and vulnerability to environmental disaster. He noted some progress, as four of the Pacific LDCs were being considered for graduation from the list. Solomon Islands believed that the system for determining graduation must be reviewed and revised to take into account the special challenges facing small island developing States.

Solomon Islands, with 80 per cent of its population living in rural areas, considered rural development a priority for people-centred development.  His country had undertaken a number of reforms to strengthen legal and provincial institutions. The Government was committed to making universal primary education compulsory. However, that goal had not yet been achieved. The Government also had introduced a new investment act aimed at reducing administrative and regulatory bottlenecks. Solomon Islands was considering ending monopolies in the telecommunications and aviation industries.

The world's most vulnerable States depended on a framework of cooperation to free them from want and fear, and to enable them to live in human dignity, he said.

CHEIKH TDIANE GADIO, Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs of Senegal, said that, five years on, it remained unclear whether the Programme's goals could be attained.  There had been genuine dynamism for several LDCs that had initiated major economic reforms, consolidated their political stability, improved their macroeconomic performance and developed their exports. Partner countries had, meanwhile, shown a willingness to help through aid and debt alleviation.  However, as the Secretary-General reported, the overall situation of LDCs had not substantially improved, because progress so far had not been reflected in the living standards of the people and because development aid from partner countries had fallen short of expectations.

The role of LDCs in world trade had remained "very marginal", representing an average of 0.5 per cent of exports, against 0.7 per cent of imports. Senegal was strongly hoping for World Trade Organization negotiations to resume; that would overcome the worries of LDCs who otherwise would be facing a more precarious situation. Senegal also felt that other key issues needed to be addressed: the LDCs' dependence on external financing; the debt burden; instability in the world market for raw materials (which represent 67 per cent of LDCs' exports); infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS; infrastructure development; and, above all, the "dizzying rise" in oil prices, which risked wiping out all the gains made by LDCs that were not oil producers.

JEAN MAX BELLERIVE, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Haiti, said he hoped the midterm review would prove to be a break with the long tradition of not fulfilling promises and commitments.  The Brussels Programme of Action was one of the most realistically achievable programmes in the United Nations system, particularly with regard to eradication of extreme poverty and reducing the vulnerability of small island States. The Brussels Programme was the instrument that was being integrated in national plans for poverty reduction and for sustainable development.

He said the Brussels Programme had served as the basis for meetings in Addis Ababa, Bangkok and Cotonou.  Some were claiming that the Cotonou Strategy was an attempt to replace the Brussels Programme.  It was not. It built on the Brussels Programme to address some obvious facts. The LDCs still faced enormous challenges with regard to commitments that had been made in Brussels. The Strategy addressed the gaps in meeting those commitments. It was an essential instrument for implementing the Brussels Programme and would be worked into national development plans.

SYED HAMID ALBAR, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, highlighted the conclusion of the Secretary-General in his report that, despite progress made since the adoption of the Brussels Programme of Action, the possibility of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 remained small. Creativity, innovation and determination were required to face the complexity of the issues involved. In an unprecedented reversal of historical trends, life expectancy had declined in several countries, especially those experiencing AIDS and civil strife.In addition, rapid population growth, urbanization and environmental degradation all posed further difficulties for LDCs. The 50 countries categorized as LDCs contained roughly 600 million people, or one tenth of humanity. The human family possessed the resources, expertise and technology to ensure that each and every one of its members could be saved from life-threatening poverty.

There was a need to ensure that the global economic architecture supported development efforts in the LDCs, he continued. To that end, it was essential that stalled talks on the WTO were revived. In the meantime, the developed world should continue to assist the LDCs in their efforts to integrate more fully into the global trading system, including by offering assistance to improve physical infrastructure, such as ports and roads and technical support to improve business processes. He also expressed concern that accession to the WTO remained a long, cumbersome and expensive undertaking. The current global economic imbalances, based on the twin deficits faced by the United States economy, also cast a long shadow on the economies of the LDCs, which were particularly vulnerable to volatile swings in commodity prices. Assistance should be given to LDCs to diversify their productive capacities.

In the spirit of South-South cooperation, his country launched the Malaysia Technical Cooperation Programme in 1980, which had provided training courses to more than 11,000 individuals from 133 countries, including the vast majority of LDCs. Malaysia, which believed in harnessing the power of information and communication technology, hosted the first meeting of the Global Alliance for ICT (information and communication technology) for Development in June 2006. Technology transfer and technical assistance from the developed countries were essential, but developing countries also should look into ways to foster greater cooperation among themselves, particularly on programmes to advance information and communication technology, such as the creation of a Cyber Peace Corps or a global virtual resource centre. Malaysia also believed that involvement of the private sector in capacity-building programmes for LDCs was a promising avenue for assistance.

ELTIGANI SALIH FIDAIL, Minister of International Cooperation of the Sudan, said that poverty levels among the LDCs continued to be on the rise, despite the fact that many of them, notably those exporting oil, had achieved progress. He pointed out that the progress did not mean those countries could no longer be considered poor, as inadequacies and weaknesses in economic infrastructure were still present. 

He said that the Sudan was alarmed by the rising spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics in Africa, all of which served to aggravate the poverty situation. He called upon the LDCs and their development partners to reinforce their commitment to the Brussels Programme of Action by mobilizing all the human and financial resources necessary. Development partners would have to meet their obligations in the areas of assistance, debt forgiveness and capacity-building, he said.

He also said that LDCs had made considerable progress in the fields of human rights, conflict resolution, democratization and the rule of law. Many had developed Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, he noted.  However, obstacles still remained in the form of scarcity of development finance and infrastructural inadequacies, he said. It was vital that developing countries enable LDCs to join the world trade system and allow their agricultural products access to markets, he noted.

The Sudan was currently working to finalize the first phase of the National Plan to Reduce Severe Poverty, yet the debt problem still hampered the country's progress, he noted. The Sudan was one of the few countries unable to benefit from the initiatives on debt relief, despite meeting its obligations and requirements, he said. That had further hindered the implementation of Peace Agreements (the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Darfur Peace Agreement), already signed to law. He renewed the Sudan's appeal to the international community to fulfil its obligation under the Oslo conference and be included on the list of countries whose debts were to be relieved.

JENS STOLTENBERG, Prime Minister of Norway, said a most haunting challenge of the present time was to narrow the gap between the rapidly developing world and the parts that lagged behind. Billions of people were moving towards a brighter future, but hundreds of millions were not. The challenge was to radically reduce poverty and end the long night of underdevelopment. The poor countries did not need to be lectured about what it took to break out of the trap.  They had taken the leadership in the midterm review process and needed long-term partnerships with countries who understood that fortunate ones had a compelling obligation to care.

His country had been among the first to reach the goal of 40 per cent bilateral development assistance to LDCs, he said. It had reached the 0.7 target decades ago and the 0.9 target years ago, moving ever closer to donating 1 per cent of its income as development assistance. This year Norway was co-chairing the High-Level Panel on system-wide coherence, along with Mozambique and Pakistan. The report would be released later this fall once recommendations are finalized, based on meeting with a great number of stakeholders and country representatives.

He said his country had made a commitment towards achieving the fourth Millennium goal of reducing the child mortality rate by two thirds by 2015. The means were available. Only finances and organization were needed to deliver, beginning with the first step of providing vaccines for all children of the world.  Norway's annual budget for immunization and child survival had been increased from $75 million to $125 million. All were invited to take part in the global campaign. As the fifth largest donor to the operational activities of the United Nations, Norway couldn't do everything, but it had set out with high ambition to save the lives of millions of little children.

MARIE GORETH NIZIGAMA, Minister of Planning in Transportation, Post and Telecommunications of Burundi, said the Brussels Programme was being implemented during a very difficult time in her country's history. The challenges were enormous even in LDCs where the political environment was stable. Under conditions of emergence from conflict, it was very difficult to address such problems as poverty by taking steps to reduce unemployment or increase production.

She said it was difficult to evaluate implementation of the Brussels Programme in her country, but it was committed to achieving the goals set for 2010, if the international community helped to face the difficulties. Burundi, in particular, wanted to develop the infrastructure to expand commercial relations with partners in the North. She also wanted to help find durable solutions to problems involved with multilateral commercial undertakings, such as the opening of developed country markets and the dropping of farm subsidies, to allow developing countries to make their products competitive.

ZHAOXING LI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, noted that, while some progress had been achieved, there was no fundamental change in the state of the LDCs.  He recommended a series of steps that the international community must take. First, he said, all parties should deliver on the commitments made under the Brussels Programme of Action. Second, developed countries should meet the target of committing 0.7 per cent of their gross national product to official development assistance. They also should ensure the sustainability and predictability of such financing, expand the scale of grants and continue efforts to reduce the debt of the least developed countries. Third, developed countries should extend tariff- and quota-free access to markets to LDCs, so that they could be fully integrated into and benefit from the global trade regime. Fourth, the international community should help LDCs improve management in various fields to strengthen their development capacity.

In the spirit of South-South cooperation, China had undertaken a number of initiatives to provide assistance to LDCs and would increase such assistance in the coming years.

CHHAY THAN, Senior Minister of Planning of Cambodia, said that his country had undertaken a number of cross-cutting national strategies to build a society that was socially cohesive, educationally advanced, culturally vibrant and free from hunger, disease, inequality, vulnerability and exclusion.  Robust economic growth, improvements in agriculture, expansion of infrastructure and enhanced social services were evidence of the progress made under those development plans.

He described some particular reforms undertaken, including the country's participatory system for grass-roots involvement in governance.  Accession to the World Trade Organization posed challenges, but also offered benefits. He explained that Cambodia had strengthened domestic enterprises and infrastructure, developed human resources and technological capabilities, diversified the external sector and created market access, in order to facilitate the domestic economy's ability to take advantage of new trade opportunities.

To meet the objectives of the Brussels Programme, he called on the international community to continue and enhance support, including external development partners and donor agencies. Although Cambodia was working to make its economic development domestically driven, it still depended critically on greater global support and resource flows. He noted that better and more favourable access to the markets of developed countries was particularly important.

PATRIZIA SENTINELLI, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister Delegate for Development Cooperation of Italy, said development cooperation was a reciprocal exchange of what each country might have to offer in order to identify together a way forward that would involve all countries and that was able to protect the things all shared. Cooperation should take place among equals and efforts should be made to eliminate the persistent distinction between donor countries and beneficiaries by fostering regional partnerships. Development was a long-lasting process that could only be achieved if women could participate fully. The gender dimension should be considered in all discussions and deliberations. The unique contribution of local institutions, non-governmental organizations and civil society in shaping cooperation should not be forgotten.

She said the fight against poverty and the achievement of prosperity were fundamental to building peace. Politics and economics should be reconciled and the latter should not prevail over the former. The framework for action should be improved governance, to ensure that national and international efforts to reduce poverty were not hampered by bad practices. Italy had traditionally paid special attention to the least developed countries in allocating development assistance. That policy would be continued in bilateral and multilateral cooperation. The goals to be reached had been set out in the seven commitments of the Brussels plan of action.  While strategies and some priorities might have to be revised, a real effort must be made to come close to those agreed objectives.

MOHAMMED BEDJAOUI, Minister of State, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, supported the statement made by the Group of 77 and China and recommended the Cotonou strategy proposed by the LDCs for achieving the goals of the Brussels Programme of Action. He was concerned by the low implementation rate of the programme so far. 

He noted that LDCs were particularly vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the international economy and praised them for the progress they had made so far under difficult circumstances. As most LDCs were in Africa, the continent deserved greater international support. The economic vulnerability of the region had been further exacerbated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and ongoing conflict.  Least developed countries were making laudable efforts towards political and economic reform, he said, including through NEPAD. He was convinced that reforms implemented by the LDCs, working with the support of the international community, would lead to sustained development.

ABDULLAH GUL, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for Turkey, aligned himself with the statement of the European Union, and welcomed all efforts made by the least developed countries and the contributions of their development partners, the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations in the process. He noted that the midterm review of the Brussels Programme of Action had helped with the assessment of progress that had been achieved with the least developed countries and, while it was clear that the Cotonou Strategy contributed to further implementation of the Programme, he cautioned that serious challenges and obstacles were ahead.

After Turkey redressed the wounds of the 1999 earthquake and the impact of the economic turbulence in 2001, he said, his country was in better position to be a development partner to least developed countries and was determined to play a role. For example, his country supported international efforts to eradicate poverty and provided $600 million in ODA in 2005, almost .017 percent of Turkey's gross domestic product. These monies did not include private sector contributions. In their framework, Turkey was working to address the needs of the African continent and opened local offices of the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency in Addis Ababa and Khartoum, and continued to be one of the major food donors to the area.  Furthermore, Turkey promoted the idea of establishing joint business councils or chambers of commerce to attract investors to least developed countries. As a manifestation of its interest, he said, Turkey had offered to host a major meeting in 2007 and hoped that such a meeting would generate further interest and support in Turkey and the region.

VICTOR MANUEL BARBOSA BORGES, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Communities of Cape Verde, said that apprehensiveness and scepticism of the achievements of the Brussels Programme was the appropriate reaction. Disappointment was the likely outcome in 2010 and 2015, based on the current pace of implementation. He called for more consistent and persistent action from the least developed countries, as well as their development partners.

He said his country entered the group of LDCs in 1977, two years after independence and had come a long way in 30 years. In the sectors of health and education, targets had been achieved.  Because of those achievements and other reforms, Cape Verde had been a graduate from least developed country status by the General Assembly. That deserved special attention from the United Nations system, because, while Cape Verde had met two of the criteria required for graduation -- per capita income and human asset index -- it was far from meeting the third criteria, that of economic vulnerability. He described the measures taken by Cape Verde to experience a smooth transition as it left the group of the least developed countries in January 2008.

He concluded by describing Cape Verde's dire need for external financial resources. Foreign direct investment was comparable to migrant remittances and was not a substitute for official development assistance. He said that the role of these various resources for development needed to be balanced.

N. HASSAN WIRAJUDA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, associating his statement with that made by the Group of 77 and China, said that implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action could and should be made more effective. Developed countries must do more to enable LDCs to achieve truly significant progress, including by opening up markets, increasing ODA and foreign direct investment (FDI), enhancing debt management, and promoting private sector development, access to technology and global governance.  While some LDCs had achieved 7 per cent growth and attained select targets of the Millennium Development Goals, those gains could vanish in the face of spiralling oil prices and bad weather, he warned, urging that preventive policy measures be taken now.  Recent events had not been encouraging, he said, including the collapse of the Doha Round of talks on the WTO. Least developed countries urgently needed an international trading system with a strong preference programme that would allow them duty-free and quota-free access to developed markets.

One way to help LDCs was through South-South cooperation, especially in the area of capacity-building in trade, investment and the financial sector. Indonesia had participated in a programme to promote Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC), particularly in the areas of microfinance, family planning, agriculture and economic policy development. His country sponsored scholarships for studies in Indonesia for individuals from a number of LDCs. Indonesia also provided technical assistance to Asian and African countries in the spirit of the New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership launched in Jakarta in April 2005. The Non-Aligned Movement Centre for South-South Technical Cooperation was based in Jakarta, he noted, with the aim of assisting developing countries to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable socio-economic growth.  Changes were finally taking place, but too slowly. Member States must find the political will to help LDCs rise out of their severe predicament.

GEORGE CHAPONDA, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development of Malawi, said that his country was both a least developed country and landlocked.  Malawi had experienced impressive growth rates and notable achievements under the Brussels Programme in the areas of good political governance, economic governance and socio-economic development. His country desired to graduate from LDC status as soon as possible.

He described its medium-term strategy as home-grown and people-centred, with provisions for agricultural and food security, infrastructure development, energy generation and supply, irrigation, roadways and responding to HIV and AIDS. It had also received overwhelming support from its development partners, particularly in the area of debt cancellation. But, more must be done, he noted, and support in particular was needed for infrastructure development for a waterway to ease Malawi's access to the sea.

He said that Malawi supported the Brussels Programme's declaration that development is the responsibility of the LDCs themselves, while acknowledging that development partners have their part of the bargain. He concluded by describing the Cotonou Strategy as a consensus document that should put new life in the Brussels Programme and enhance the likelihood of its achievement by 2010.

LAMIN KABA BAJO, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for the Gambia, said the high levels of poverty in the LDCs, spread among so large a proportion of humanity, were unsustainable and constituted a threat to global peace and security. Even with the best efforts in the world, those countries would not be able to break free from extreme poverty without the necessary help from the international community. That should include increased official development assistance and foreign direct investment, debt forgiveness, a favourable trade regime and assistance in better managing their environment.

Five years after the adoption of the action plan, the expected level of support for the LDCs, to which the international community had committed itself, had not been forthcoming, nor had the promised partnership been fulfilled. The LDCs had done their part in carrying out reforms and, in some cases, those reforms had translated into higher levels of growth.  By and large, however, the growth levels envisaged had not been attained, thus further compounding the situation of poverty in those countries.

Attaining the Millennium Development Goals was the topmost priority in Gambia's development strategy and it sought to do so through appropriate interventions in the economy and through a massive investment programme in the social sector. That had produced very positive results in the areas of primary school enrolment, reduction of infant and maternal mortality, the reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS, gender parity in education, access to potable water and sanitation and halting environmental degradation. The Government of the Gambia was relentless in its efforts, but needed the increased support of its development partners.

Although the Gambia's economy had maintained macroeconomic stability in the last several years, major challenges in the fight against poverty remained, including the burden of debt and debt servicing which took away far too much of the resources that would otherwise have been channelled towards poverty reduction programmes. Although the Gambia had been included among countries that might be considered for debt cancellation, it had not been easy to reach the completion point to effectively benefit from the programme.  For many LDCs, the criteria were too stringent and, at times, beyond their capacity to meet. The conditions for benefiting from debt relief should be reviewed.

FAWZI SALLOUKH, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, said the Programme represented a global commitment towards sustainable development, economic growth, poverty eradication and environmental protection in LDCs, whose concerns and needs should be given due attention.  Meeting the Millennium Development Goals could best be realized through full implementation of the seven commitments set out in the Programme.  Lebanon strongly encouraged the facilitation of the accession of LDCs to the World Trade Organization and emphasized the need for developed countries to give duty-free and quota-free access to goods from the LDCS.  Debt relief could help boost LDCs' economies and, therefore, "more important initiatives" towards additional debt relief were called for.  All concerned parties should "strictly" observe the 0.15 per cent and 0.2 per cent targets set in the Programme for official development assistance.

He said Lebanon was "deeply concerned" by the impact of HIV/AIDS; the human and social consequences were quite alarming and, therefore, there needed to be a concerted global effort to combat HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria.  Everyone should work in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity to help LDCs achieve sustainable economic growth.

ALBERTO G. ROMULO, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, said Member States had a collective responsibility to guarantee the rightful place of LDCs in global growth.  In the march to globalization, the interests of vulnerable LDCs must not be trampled upon, he said, urging special attention be given to their serious concerns.  He noted some improvement in the performance of several LDCs, in part due to increases in global commodity prices and the opening of export markets in developed countries.  Those short-term opportunities must be made sustainable in order to make an impact on the extreme poverty, structural weaknesses and constraints in human and institutional capacities in LDCs, he said.

The Philippines endorsed the strategy proposed by the Group of 77 and China for further development of the Brussels Programme of Action for LDCs, he said.  Structural impediments, weak governance, supply-side constraints and prevailing export market barriers faced by LDCs had to be overcome if those countries were to reap the benefits promised by globalization.  Strong partnerships between developed and developing countries were essential, he said, offering as examples several initiatives by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which the Philippines was chair.  The Initiative for ASEAN Integration was launched when the group expanded to include four fewer developed countries, including two LDCs, as part of a strategy to reduce the gap in economic growth among member countries.  The group applied differentiated timelines for complying with tariff reductions under the ASEAN Free Trade Area regime to enable members to set up implementing legislative and policy frameworks and allow their industries to adjust to the liberalization process.  The group also adopted the Vientiane Plan of Action for social and economic development.

HAWA AHMED YOUSSOUF, Vice-Minister in-charge of the Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Djibouti, aligned her country's statement with those made by Benin on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and South Africa on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

She said that, while there was a new world order that had emphasized the values of political and economic liberalism, interdependence seemed problematic because of an economic gap that resisted all efforts to bridge it.  For 700 million people, the standard of living was still falling.  She said that made the overall results of the Brussels Programme very modest, and warned that, without marked acceleration, few of the world development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, could be achieved.

She described access to markets as the most important need of LDCs, and that preferential treatment remained the main way to improve trading potential.  Unfortunately, debt relief was a mirage for many countries, and an increase in official development assistance in real terms was needed.  But, she believed the will to change existed.  She then noted that much remained to be done, and few States would halve poverty by 2015 given the HIV/AIDS pandemic's effect on development.  She also described the problems of environmental stress in countries with severe climates like her own, which lacked fertile soil and clean water, and had enormous needs for agriculture and food security.

SORAJAK KASEMSUVAN, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, noted that, while the overall economic growth of 50 LDC nations had risen towards the target of 7 per cent growth established in the Brussels Programme of Action, malnutrition and extreme poverty were still acute in most LDCs.  Unified action needed to be taken by both LDCs and their development partners for more effective implementation of the programme.   Thailand supported the recommendation made by the Secretary-General that ODA to LDCs be allocated more effectively to ensure that it help fulfil internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

Thailand, for its part, had extended technical assistance and development cooperation to LDC partners in its fields of expertise, he said.  His country provided official development assistance to other developing countries and LDCs at the rate of .13 per cent of its gross national income in 2003, which was a substantial contribution, in light of Thailand's own level of economic development.   Thailand had played an active role in promoting regional cooperation and integration, which was vital for the economies of LDCs in South-East Asia.  His country also extended assistance to LDCs in other parts of the world.   Thailand pursued technical cooperation with countries in Africa to share experiences and best practices in areas including agriculture and rural development, education, and health care, including HIV/AIDS prevention and care.

LEIRE PAJIN, Secretary of State for International Cooperation of Spain, said everyone had an ethical obligation to support the efforts of people to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, in part by partnership under the Brussels Programme, which was a road map for the LDCs entering the global economy.  The resources must be mobilized towards that end, particularly for sub-Saharan Africa, where most LDCs were located.

She said her country was making every effort to increase its allocations for Africa, both directly and through initiatives such as NEPAD.  The multilateral initiatives were particularly important in sensitive areas such as health and education.  Eradication of disease was also a priority, along with the alleviation of hunger and poverty.  A centre would be set up to coordinate the distribution of vaccines.  Primary education would also be targeted as a special priority.  Least developed countries were not the only ones responsible for their development.  The developed countries were responsible for helping in their efforts, with the Brussels Programme as the framework for going forward.

TODOR CHUROV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, said that, in its capacity as an acceding country to the European Union, Bulgaria subscribed to the European Consensus on Development, which included targets for increasing the volume of ODA.  However, besides the volume of aid, success in development also depended on the quality and effectiveness of development assistance.  Bulgaria was building up national capacity for providing multilateral and bilateral development assistance, including the least developed countries.

He said sound financial and macroeconomic policies were effective tools for achieving long-term financial stability, and that, as exemplified by South-Eastern Europe, active regional and bilateral transborder cooperation, aimed at achieving modernized transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructure, provided a strong incentive for development.  For that reason, Bulgaria believed that South-South cooperation could be effective in helping the least developed countries achieve their goals.  There were also links between security, conflict prevention and development because a stable and predictable environment acted like a magnet for trade and growth.  As such, Bulgaria emphasized the importance of the Brussels Programme of Action's call for conflict-prevention policies in the strategies of nations, along with the promotion of democracy, good governance, rule of law and protection of human rights.

SEMAKULA KIWANUKA, Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development of Uganda, said the findings of the midterm review suggested mixed success regarding implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action.  While Uganda's overall GDP growth had averaged over 5 per cent annually, from 2001 to 2005, the country's national planning framework, the Poverty Eradication Action Plan, would achieve results by empowering stakeholders to own the priority actions of the plan.

Regarding good governance, he said his country had continued to deepen its decentralization strategy, with the latest undertaking being that of implementing fiscal decentralization.  Uganda had also stepped up the profile of vocational training, as well as adopting a universal education programme.  It was imperative that United Nations efforts evolve away from managing conflict to preventing conflict and disasters.

ISHRAT HUSAIN, Federal Minister and Chairman of the National Commission for Government Reforms of Pakistan, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the Brussels Programme had sensitized the international community to the economic and development challenges of the least developed countries.  Unfortunately, the actual results so far did not deserve the optimism and euphoria it had received at its adoption.  Most LDCs were unlikely to achieve the halving of poverty by 2015.

Calling the Cotonou Strategy a means to overcome the problem of "implementation paralysis" in international development cooperation, he said concerted efforts were needed to achieve its goals, including good governance; ensuring financial resources for LDCs through debt relief and cancellation, enhanced aid and investment; improving market access for LDC exports; and facilitating access to technology.  Pakistan contributed technical, economic and humanitarian assistance to LDCs where it could.

IBRAHIM M. SESAY, Deputy Minister of Development and Economic Planning of Sierra Leone, aligned his statement with those of Benin on behalf of the least developed countries and South Africa on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

He said that countries that had experienced conflict faced enormous challenges that needed to be overcome if international development goals were to be achieved.  Gradual improvement of statistics in areas like school enrolment rates and health indicators were evidence of Sierra Leone's efforts to implement urgent priority areas in its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.  But, he said, poverty remained endemic, infrastructure was inadequate, civil society was still weak, the number of people living below the poverty line was staggering and unemployment was high among young people.

He noted that, to overcome these problems and achieve the Brussels Programme's goals, least developed countries needed to develop productive capacities.  Growth rates had not translated into effective poverty reduction.  He called the issue the area that should be the focus of international efforts in the next five years.  He also called on development partners to support debt cancellation, as well as capacity development for trade, governance, and infrastructure investment.

NICOLAS MADURO MOROS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, said that the history of the LDCs was marked by colonization, exploitation, intervention and domination.  In light of that, the Government of Venezuela called for the fulfilment of the commitment of 0.7 per cent of developed countries' GDP to ODA, without establishing conditions.

Regarding African countries, he said his country had established close ties in terms of cooperation, thereby strengthening South-South relationships.  New cooperation agreements had been prompted by Venezuela in the political, economic, social, scientific, cultural and energy fields in Africa, Latin America and Asia.  In cooperation with several African countries, Venezuela had specifically helped with the food crisis in the Niger Basin through the Global Food Programme in 2005.  Those actions had been taken without demanding conditions that ultimately threatened a country's sovereignty and impeded the elimination of poverty.

BHAGIRATH BASNET, Acting Foreign Secretary of Nepal, said there had been little progress in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action, and many countries would be unable to achieve the Millennium Development Goals without serious additional implementation efforts.  Socio-economic conditions had deteriorated in many LDCs due to conflicts, disasters and macroeconomic imbalances.  Most LDCs had been further marginalized in the last five years.

He noted that few wealthy countries had met their obligations, particularly in the areas of ODA targets, debt relief and duty- and quota-free market access for LDC products.  Other barriers to trade had also been imposed where market access had been achieved, and investment had skipped the least developed countries.  Development partners should change the situation and focus support on capacity-building so least developed countries could stand on their own feet soon.  Nepal was profoundly concerned about the stalling of the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations.

Describing his country's critical political transition as it worked to achieve lasting peace internally through negotiations with the Maoists, he said Nepal had implemented a poverty reduction strategy and promoted the institutionalization of democratic policies and priorities, the development of infrastructure, an improved investment climate and broad pro-poor growth.  Post-conflict reconstruction would depend on the availability of resources from development partners.

BOROZE TCHAA LASIGAISI, Councillor, Ministry of Development and Rural Management of Togo, called on delegations to seek effective and efficient means by which LDCs could address the myriad challenges they faced.  There was a particular need to ensure sustained financial resources to ensure the Brussels Programme was fully implemented.  It was also necessary to recognize that lack of funding affected even those countries to draw up necessary plans to address their needs.  Togo's poverty reduction strategy would be based on the Brussels outcome and the country would also rely on its donor partners as it began to press ahead with implementation over the next five years.  That strategy featured initiatives addressing the full scope of national development challenges, from capacity-building to environmental degradation.

At the same time, he noted that Togo faced many challenges.  Many projects had been started, but, because of a lack of funding, had not been completed.  That had partly been due to the ongoing socio-political crisis, the suspension of international assistance cooperation and the lack of a real relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  Still, the Government had undertaken a broad plan to promote reconciliation within the country and cooperation with international community partners.  Democracy had no future if it did not go hand in hand with economic growth.  With that in mind, Togo's partners should stand by the commitments they had made in Brussels.  It was to be hoped that the midterm review would re-launch sustained international commitment and cooperation on the part of all countries.

HIDEKI ITO, Deputy Director-General, Economic Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, said that, in five years, efforts by the least developed countries and development partners had resulted in improvements in growth and other socio-economic indices.  Nevertheless, many people in the least developed countries were still mired in poverty.  Japan knew from its own experience how important the roles of ownership and partnership were in development, as it had achieved its current prosperity thanks to the efforts made by each of its citizens.  The driving force in nation-building was the commitment of individual citizens and their strong belief in the future of their country.

He said to provide useful assistance to the LDCs, it was important to take a human centred point of view aimed at protecting people against such threats as poverty, hunger and infectious diseases.  From the perspective of "human security", Japan supported basic social services.  It had shouldered one fifth of the entire volume of ODA through the 1990s.  It would increase its ODA volume by $10 billion in aggregate over the course of five years, and double its ODA to Africa in the course of three years.  Japan had also launched the "Development Initiative for Trade".  It was going to provide duty-free and quota-free market access to essentially all products originating from the LDCs as soon as fiscal year 2007.

As excessive debt was a major obstacle to achieving sustainable development, his country provided $2.6 billion in debt relief to 29 highly indebted poor countries, one fourth of the total volume of assistance from the G-7 countries, he said.  In Africa, Japan assisted development mainly in the areas of consolidation of peace, poverty reduction through economic growth, and "human-centred development" through the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, focusing on the ownership of Africa and the partnership of the international community.

PIERRE CHEVALIER (Belgium) said the concerted action of the LDCs themselves had begun to bear fruit, largely due to the implementation of economic reforms, slight increases in ODA and a reduction in conflict in many of them.  At the same time, with the target date of the Brussels Programme fast approaching, many challenges remained.  For its part, Belgium had increased its ODA and its assistance to LDCs was almost entirely without conditions.

He said his country would also continue to support integrated technical assistance programmes and, to that end, had set up a public/private partnership initiative with African countries.   Belgium called on the international community to promote education, women's rights and job creation, among others things, to end the marginalization of LDCs.  It also called for increased efforts to ensure good governance.  The Brussels goals were within reach, but all stakeholders must work with the LDCs to ensure that those commitments were met.

WALTER FUST, Director General of the Agency for Development and Cooperation of Switzerland, said that funds allocated to LDCs by his country had risen from $243 million in 2001 to $388 million in 2005.  He emphasized that the Governments of LDCs had a crucial role to play in integrating the key elements of the Brussels Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals in national poverty reduction strategies.  Furthermore, they would have to make certain that those strategies were the overarching reference for all their development partners, internal and external alike, he said.

He said that it was essential that the Governments of LDCs succeed in instituting equitable and transparent fiscal policies, which could ensure a better redistribution of resources.  The necessary principle of good governance would require strong support for national capacity-building, he noted.  As the United Nations monitoring system for the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action was bureaucratic, he said cooperation between the relevant administrative units required substantial improvement.  Efficiency in giving LDCs the support they needed would only be attained when a broad consensus and better division of labour among international financial institutions, United Nations agencies and bilateral cooperation agencies had been achieved.

JOHN HEWKO, Vice-President of Operations for the Millennium Challenge Corporation of the United States, said that desperate poverty was a challenge for everyone.  "Without hope, opportunity and freedom, unchecked poverty breaks trusts, impedes effective action and breeds anger and despair," he said.  The people and Government of the United States were clear that it was in the country's national interest to help lift people in the LDCs from poverty.  To that end, Washington had tripled ODA since 2000 to nearly $27.5 billion.  Aid to Africa, in particular, where growth and other positive in many places, had been increased more than three and a half times over 2000 levels.  He added that private citizens in the United States also gave millions of dollars each year to assist those in the developing world devastated by tsunamis, floods, famines and other tragic events.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, which had been announced by President Bush at the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development (2002), had been mandated to reduce poverty through sustainable growth.  The Millennium Challenge Corporation was already engaged with 23 countries -- some 12 of which were least developed -- which were already creating conditions for progress.  One of the partners, Cape Verde, was actually about to graduate from least developed status.  The United States required the Governments of all its Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact countries to identify the poverty impacts and economic benefits, including specific beneficiaries and particular development outcomes -- not just budget costs and kilometres of roads paved -- so that, together, "we can make headway on concrete development goals".

He went on to say that country ownership, capacity-building, just and inclusive governance, effective institutions and rule of law, open markets, trade and productive investment, environmental sustainability and mobilization must all be a part of the mix.  The Millennium Challenge Corporation approach embodied those ingredients, in its performance incentives, in its partnership with developing countries, in the substantial resources it made available to them and in the measurable results it expected from them.

ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) said modest progress had been made in the past five years, but it was unacceptable that there was still so much poverty and hunger in the LDCs.  The Government of New Zealand had contributed approximately 29 per cent of its ODA bilateral budget through its international aid agency, NZAID, which, though its core focus was the Pacific ( Vanuatu, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati), also had programmes in South-East Asia and Africa.

She noted that New Zealand had played a key role in unifying donors to the education sector in the Pacific, citing a joint project linking New Zealand, the European Union and the Solomon Islands.  All mechanisms, including international fora such as the World Trade Organization, should be put to use in support of LDCs' development.  New Zealand had already provided duty-free and quota-free access for all LDC products.

YOUSSEF AMRANI, Director-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said that, if the least developed countries had the primary responsibility for development, it was up to the international community to provide technical assistance, which was necessary for the development of productive capacity and the stimulation of economic growth.  Such a course would result in job creation, the eradication of poverty and sustainable development.

Describing the concrete steps taken by Morocco within the Brussels Programme framework, he said that it had, for instance, cancelled the debt of all African LDCs, granted free access to the Moroccan market for export commodities and cooperated on development in areas like locust control, health, agriculture and management of water resources.  Morocco also cooperated with the West African Economic and Monetary Union, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  The country had helped with the formation of Air Senegal, evidence of its commitment to regional economic integration, and had given 5,000 grants to African students so they could continue their studies in Moroccan training centres.  Hosting the June 2003 Special Ministerial Conference on Least Developed Countries in Rabat, Morocco had promoted the linkage between economic development and political stability and peace.  The international community must step up its efforts in the implementation of the Cotonou Strategy and the Brussels Programme.

AHMED ALYAHYA, Director of Research for the Development Fund of Saudi Arabia, said that, though progress achieved in programme implementation had been great, more intensive and collective efforts were necessary in the future.  Regarding development partners, ODA had increased by 75 per cent over the period 2001-2004.  Saudi Arabia had spent more than 4 per cent of its country's GDP (over $84 billion) in assistance to more than 87 developing countries.

Saudi Arabia had also taken the initiative in writing off more than $6 billion in debt owed by least developed countries, while it ranked second internationally in labour remittance volume, he said.  The country's accession to the World Trade Organization in December 2005 would boost trade exchange and help support development and poverty alleviation.  The Saudi Fund for Development had placed special importance on supporting the building of infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools, for developing countries.

FRANCISCUS ANTONIUS MARIA MAJOOR (Netherlands), aligning himself with the European Union, said his country had allocated more than the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to ODA for several decades, including 0.25 per cent to least developed countries -- also significantly above the United Nations target of 0.15 per cent.  Unfortunately, the low volume of aid during the 1990s had made it doubtful that the least developed countries would reach their development goals by 2015.  Although that trend had recently been reversed, an additional $50-60 billion would be needed annually to catch up.  All developed countries, as well as non-traditional donors, were, therefore, called upon to step in and increase their assistance.

He said integration into the world economy was essential for economic development and poverty reduction.  For that reason, the Netherlands supported an open, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory trade system; progressive trade liberalization; and elimination of distorting subsidies and trade barriers.  Preferential treatment for the least development countries, through programmes such as "Everything but arms", could also play a part in improving trade opportunities.  At the same time, the LDCs must strengthen their investment climates by, among others things, promoting a competitive private sector, as well as using their resources more effectively.  Finally, in countries where capacity was low, the United Nations must streamline its country-level programmes on the basis of "one programme, one budget and one financing mechanism".

NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) said the Cotonou Declaration and Strategy on the further implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, issued by the June ministerial conference of LDCs in Benin, was a comprehensive review of the Brussels process and addressed the shortcomings in the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action.  Progress on most of the Programme's goals had been so slow and uneven that it had fallen short of attaining the goals of eliminating poverty and achieving sustainable development.  There were some data that indicated a trend of rising income poverty in the LDCs.

He said that, while the flow of ODA to the LDCs had improved and initiatives to enhance access to global markets had been taken, improvement would remain limited because of the small share of the LDCs in the world's trade, the weak flow of foreign direct investment and the excessive reliance on commodities.  Implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, the 2005 World Summit Outcome, the Millennium Declaration, the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Round were, therefore, important.

His country had always sought to support the LDCs in their efforts to combat poverty and distribute the fruits of growth more justly and equitably.  His Head of State had announced an initiative to establish a "South Fund for Development and Humanitarian Affairs", of which the LDCs would be the greatest beneficiaries.   Qatar was also committed to providing the target percentage of the GDP for development assistance, while earmarking 15 per cent of it for LDCs.

NIKOLAY CHULKOV (Russian Federation), stressing the need to support the development efforts of the least developed countries, said that the Cotonou Strategy adopted at the Least Developed Countries Ministerial Conference in June was important because it reflected the different approaches those countries had taken in implementing the Brussels Programme of Action.  At the same time, combating poverty and marginalization in those countries could not be resolved without a united effort from all countries and international organizations under United Nations auspices.

He said his country was assisting the least developed countries by promoting trade liberalization through the reduction of import duties and the application of a special preferential regime to imports from many LDCs.  Comparative preferable trade regimes from other countries were welcomed.  Also, Russia participated actively in the World Bank and IMF programmes to cancel the debt owed by HIPC members.  However, in providing debt relief to the poorest countries, effective financial and economic policies must be in place, along with strengthened institutions and an improved investment climate.  For that, the Russian Federation underscored the importance of an effective monitoring and assessment mechanism to be attached to the Brussels Programme of Action, and the need for concerted action by the international community directed towards its implementation.

ANDERS LIDÉN ( Sweden), aligning himself with the European Union, said his country had just released the second report on its efforts to support the achievement of international development goals.  According to the report, Sweden's development assistance in 2006 would amount to 1 per cent of gross national income, most of it allocated to the least developed countries as a matter of priority.  Also, Sweden would continue to contribute to the activities of the High-level Panel on United Nations System-Wide Coherence because it was through effective action at the country level that resources could best reach the least developed countries.

He said income inequity -- which had become deeper and more widespread over the past 10 years -- was morally unjust.  "Pro-poor growth" was needed to combat it, and the focus should be on establishing an environment that was conducive to the creation of decent and productive jobs for poor people.  Migration should also be discussed as a way to improve the situation of the least developed countries, keeping in mind that remittances was private money and not a substitute for ODA.

SAUZYA MOORE, Senior Adviser, International Development Agency of Canada, said Canadians cared about bridging the enormous gaps in income, health, education and quality of life that exists in an interdependent world.  An unprecedented level of Canada's development assistance now was going to LDCs, its imports from LDCs had tripled and accelerated debt relief had been put into place.  Canada was continuing to focus its assistance on good governance, basic education, health (including HIV/AIDS), private sector development, environmental sustainability and gender equality.

Canadians had contributed to all the commitments set out in the Programme. They had supported "people-centred development" and had been "working, and sometimes dying, beside our brothers and sisters in particularly fragile countries -- Afghanistan and Haiti, for example".  Canada regretted the suspension of the Doha talks, but looked forward to their speedy resumption as the best way to promote trade as a tool for development.

The Canadian Government was particularly concerned with aid effectiveness in order to get "the best possible bang for the development buck", and felt that further progress depended on "the right governance structures" to make it easier for the private sector to develop, and on "sufficient respect" for human rights and democracy.  Since the Programme had been adopted, much had been done, but, while there had been progress in some LDCs, many others remained in grave difficulty.  Overall, while results from the Programme had not been as rapid or predictable as they could have been, "they will come with determined implementation".

ROBERT HILL (Australia) said that 22 per cent of his country's total ODA had gone to the least developed countries, especially because it had long had ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, which contained more than a quarter of those countries.  Australia's objectives were to help accelerate economic growth, foster functioning and effective States, invest in people and promote regional stability and cooperation.  The country emphasized supporting its partners' efforts in conducting their own sustainable development efforts.  Current projects included strengthening public-sector management in Kiribati, increasing the income of the rural poor in Cambodia and improving food security in Bangladesh.

He said his country also provided duty-free and quota-free access for all imports from the least developed countries, with no phase-in periods or exceptions.  Australia encouraged other countries to match that level of access and was working within the World Trade Organization to help LDCs implement trade agreements.  Finally, 136.2 million Australian dollars in international development assistance would be provided in 2006-2007 as part of Australia's share of the first 10 years of the G-8's "Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative" to help further the world's development aims.

LUCIA MARIA MAIERÁ (Brazil), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Rio Group, said no international order could be called fair and just as long as the situation of the least developed countries was not significantly improved.  Brazil's 30 million citizens living below the poverty line allowed it to understand the problems of LDCs.

To that end, she said the country had completed cooperation agreements with Haiti, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan and others in the areas of institutional capacity-building, justice, governance, education, health, agriculture, science and technology, and professional training.  Brazil had also participated in many international initiatives in support of least developed countries throughout the United Nations system, and provided debt relief to seven African LDCs.

She added that long-lasting economic growth depended on structural changes in international trade.  Duty- and quota-free market access for the least developed countries must be made operational, and Brazil was making efforts to facilitate that goal.  But, deeper action was necessary and Brazil deeply regretted the suspension of the Doha Development agenda.

MANUELA FERRERIA of the Institute of Development Assistance of Portugal said that she welcomed the fact that economic growth in LDCs had almost reached the target of 7 per cent.  However, it was important to point out that the results achieved were uneven, both between countries and within countries.  Further efforts would require increased coordination and it was important that approaches underscored the differences among LDCs.  She gave particular attention to fragile States, noting that the donor community would have to help them meet their needs by improving flexibility and providing adequate responses through diplomatic, defence and development dimensions.

Sje congratulated Cape Verde and Maldives for having graduated from the list of LDCs and said that Portugal fully supported multilateral initiatives such as the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative.

ALY DIANÉ (Guinea), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that, in the past five years, the least developed countries had become poorer, despite the world's efforts to combat poverty, necessitating renewed action on the part of the international community to halt that trend.  Developing countries, in turn, must strengthen their efforts to act more efficiently.  Indeed, in the context of shared responsibility, the least developed countries should strive to achieve concrete results by practising good governance, engaging in institution-building, fighting corruption, promoting the participation of citizens in decision-making, encouraging gender equality, bolstering the agricultural sector, improving infrastructure and continuing to fight AIDS.

He also called upon countries involved in South-South cooperation to intensify their actions and for donor countries to honour their agreement to increase the volume and quality of aid to the developing world.  Creditor countries were also urged to eliminate as much of the poor countries' ruinous external debt as possible, as it hindered their economic development.  To reduce the marginalization of poor countries in the global economy, barriers to export should be removed.  Meanwhile, the United Nations should play a part in coordinating the world's development efforts, particularly in helping to create national strategies to combat poverty.  Guinea had developed a poverty reduction strategy in 2002 through a broadly participatory process, but success depended on more and better aid, as well as the elimination of the external debt that currently absorbed 56 per cent of the country's revenues.

JOSÉ ALBERTO BRIZ GUTIÉRREZ (Guatemala) congratulated the LDCs for all their efforts and achievements in the first five years of the Brussels Program of Action, but said there was still much left to do.  The fulfilment of the seven commitments of the Brussels Program of Action was the best way for the LDCs to reach their goals.  The collaboration of the international community with the Plan's objective was urgent, as was the improvement of statistical data and indicators, which would serve as a starting point for improving the remaining work.  It was important to maintain a constant dialogue between the LDCs and their associates in the development effort, and not to underestimate the value added by national plans for development.  Continuing financial resources, technical assistance and capacity-building, as well as support from the international community and the reduction or condoning of external public debt, were all important.

He said Guatemala had many areas of common interest with the LDCs.  After the devastation brought on by hurricanes and landslides, the Central American region understood environmental risks all too well.  Given the special vulnerability of some of the LDCs, the international community should support them in their efforts to adapt to climate change.  In the area of agriculture, the value of technology transfer to the LDCs was also important, as was South-South cooperation and the improvement of infrastructure and productive capacities.  Guatemala was concerned about the subsidies that developed countries provided to their farmers and continued to fight to eliminate trade obstacles at the international level.  As a country that had endured a long conflict, Guatemala urged the LDCs that suffered internal conflicts to continue in their efforts to build a culture of peace and reconciliation and to resolve such conflicts.

Fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, especially the eradication of poverty and hunger, was a big challenge and must continue to be relevant in the world's agenda.  While each country was responsible for working for its own development and the welfare of its people, the international community must not close its eyes to the needs of brothers and sisters in the LDCs.

LLANIO GONZALEZ PEREZ (Cuba), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the least developed countries had become increasingly marginalized since 1971, and their capacity to draw up and implement their own development policies had decreased.  Amounting to a little over 11 per cent of the world's population, those countries generated barely 0.6 per cent of the world's commodities export.  Their external debt burden, meanwhile, continued to grow, reaching $158.9 billion, according to data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  Their actual per capita growth, meanwhile, had grown less than 1 per cent between 1980 and 2003, which was too low to reduce poverty.

He said that the developed countries showed a lack of political will in fulfilling their commitments and in imposing conditions for the implementation of aid initiatives.  They tried to convince the world that underdevelopment and poverty were the fault of developing countries themselves, due to the weakness of their markets, development policies and institutions, while at the same time compelling those countries to give up their sovereign right to decide their own economic and development policies.  Cuba, though subject to a brutal blockade by the world's largest Power, had managed to carry out cooperation programmes with several LDCs in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, in health care, education, sports, agriculture, fisheries and others.  Notable, Cuba helped combat AIDS in Africa by providing 4,000 doctors and health personnel, 20 medical-school professors and the free supply of medical equipment and antiretroviral treatment reaching 30,000 patients.

SALIHU AHMED-SAMBO ( Nigeria) said that, while his delegation recognized the progress made since 2001, it also recognized the enormous challenges that the LDCs still faced.  Nigeria, therefore, called on development partners to move quickly to address the special needs of the LDCs, particularly to fill resource gaps through targeted action to significantly increase both the volume and quality of ODA, the provision of market access and capacity-building.  Further, considering that agriculture was the mainstay of most LDC economies, efforts should also be made to support rural and agricultural development.  Without such steps, the UNCTAD projection that the number of people living in poverty in the LDCs would increase by more than 100 million by 2010 might well come true.

He said his country supported LDCs in Africa through regional and sub-regional mechanisms such as ECOWAS and NEPAD. Nigeria also had ongoing energy and infrastructure development projects with its immediate West African neighbours to fast-track regional integration and enhance national capacities.  Among other things, most of the beneficiaries of Nigeria's bilaterally administered technical AID CORPS programme were LDCs.  Nigeria reiterated its call on the international community to show greater political will and commitment to the goals of the Brussels Programme.

ABOUBACAR IBRAHIM ABANI (Niger) said that the inhabitants of the LDCs were the world's most vulnerable people.  They often faced grinding poverty, geological obstacles to trade and, among other things, bore the brunt of harsh weather conditions.  Since those countries were still facing marginalization, the midterm review had been convened just in time.

The Niger had based its development objectives on the outcomes of the Millennium Summit and Brussels, among other United Nations conferences and meetings, he said.  But many of the country's efforts had been hampered by a lack of resources and little political will on the part of the wider international community to initiate partnerships for development.  Partnerships were at the heart of all efforts to implement globally agreed development goals, and the Niger called on the international community to recommit itself to the attainment of the Brussels objectives, as well as the Millennium Development Goals for all.

MOHAMED EL-MABRUK (Libya) said the majority of LDCs in Africa were still far from reaching the Millennium Development Goals, and that was reason for concern and preoccupation.  It was the international community's responsibility to support LDCs national priorities by increasing official development aid.  Libya emphasized the importance of obtaining technology, training opportunities and the transfer of know-how for the achievement of economic growth and sustainable development.

He cited the expansion of trade opportunities, dealing with foreign debt and reducing the fluctuations in the prices of basic agricultural products as pillars in achieving development.  Libya had organized a number of high-level meetings on agriculture and water resources, as well as establishing vigorous joint agricultural/industrial projects with other African countries.

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said there was a consensus that growth remained extremely vulnerable due to its dependence on raw-material exports, the lack of overall progress in poverty reduction or the improvement human well-being to date.  Serious consideration must be given to the grave underlying problems that remained unresolved, including war, ecological degradation, desertification, persistent hunger and child malnutrition, AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases associated with poverty, as well as unstoppable human flight from impoverished regions.  There was an urgent need to remedy that situation because of the intolerable damage suffered by the least developed countries, which could cause permanent instability.

Describing the Brussels Programme's objectives as inseparable and mutually dependent, he said the Cotonou Strategy identified responsibilities for both the LDCs and their international partners.  Favourable conditions must be maintained where they existed, and created where they did not, in such areas as market access, debt cancellation and provision of external aid, as well as a massive investment in research and development for medical and pharmacological purposes.  The LDCs must guarantee the honesty of Government officials, the vitality of democratic institutions and the strength of the rule of law.  Citizens of the developed world who benefited from corruption in the least developed countries must be punished.

He said the Catholic Church's initiatives to encourage its members to be aware of and share responsibility for problems deriving from international trade and finance included providing support in the area of health care to many LDCs.  A surge of solidarity was needed in favour of the least developed countries, or else a large social burden would result for the very same developed countries that ignored them.

LUCA DALL'OGLIO, Observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that within its mandate, the Organization was committed to helping LDCs achieve the goals set out at Brussels.  In 2001, it had launched the Migration for Development in Africa programme, an institutional capacity-building initiative aimed at transferring the vital skills and resources of the African diaspora to their countries of origin.  That plan offered options for reinvestment of human capital, including temporary, long-term or virtual return.  Responding to the growing importance of remittances and their development potential for LCDs, IOM, in coordination with the Government of Benin and the United Nations envoy for the world's poorest countries, among others, had organized a two-day conference on those transfers in February, an event that had brought together representatives of some 32 least developed countries.

He went on to say that the IOM's Employment Assistance Services had been developed as an intervention tool to enhance employment opportunities in a specific country or region, when those had been severely affected as a result of either conflict and/or neglect of social and economic infrastructures.  IOM's efforts to mobilize financial resources stressed the inclusion of migration in poverty reduction strategy papers.  While the impacts of migration on development were complex, the phenomenon could bring great benefits if it was managed properly.

FLORENCE MUGASHA, Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, said the Commonwealth LDCs formed a sizable part of the overall number of LDCs in the world.  They were the most deprived countries of the world.  The Programme of Action provided the framework in which to achieve the commitments made in the Millennium Development Goals by supporting pro-poor policies for economic growth and sustainable development.  The Commonwealth was pursuing a number of initiatives covering the seven interlinked areas of commitment and the 10 cross-cutting issues of the Programme.

She detailed those initiatives, which focused on enabling the LDCs to enter the information age, promoting good corporate governance, providing technical assistance and building productive capacity to take advantage of initiatives making them attractive for foreign investment and making them competitive in the global marketplace.  Other initiatives were aimed at achieving sustainable development objectives in line with the 2002 World Summit on Development and mobilizing the financial resources to alleviate the debt burden of LDCs.  Finally, small States made up 60 per cent of the Commonwealth membership and 25 per cent of small States were also LDCs.  The Commonwealth had an active political agenda to address economic, social and environmental vulnerabilities in the context of small States and LDCs.

ANGEL CARRO CASTRILLO, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy of the European Commission, said, on behalf of the European Community, that international trade was vital for the development of LDCs and for the eradication of poverty.  Trade relations with LDCs was particularly important for the European Community, which had been the first major trading block to commit to duty- and quota-free access for LDC exports.  The Community was also fully supporting LDCs in Doha and in implementing the LDCs agenda work programme in the World Trade Organization.

He said he deeply regretted suspension of the Doha negotiations.  The situation could have been avoided if Members had shown sufficient commitment and flexibility.  The gaps between members were not unbridgeable.  A recalibration of the United States position would enable a fruitful resumption of the talks.  The latest round had offered more than ever before, such as real cuts in tariffs, greater investment and choice in providing services, an ambitious agreement on trade facilitation and fundamental reform of farm subsidies in developed countries.  Beyond that, there were important political and systematic implications for the multilateral trading system and the cause of multilateralism at large.  The poorest developing countries must not fall victim to the current impasse.  The Aid-for-Trade package should be pushed forward, an integrated framework for technical assistance to trade for the LDCs should be put in place and the Hong Kong agreement on duty- and quota-free market access should be implemented outside the Round, and possibly improved.

ANNE S. MAKINDA, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania, spoke on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and offered suggestions on how the Brussels Programme of Action could be advanced at the parliamentary level.  The Inter-Parliamentary Union, a political organization devoted to strengthening democracy and good governance, believed that parliaments must assume their rightful roles in the development process for LDCs to achieve their targets. Parliaments of LDCs were still very far from being able to exercise effective oversight of Government action or carry out their legislative and budgetary roles.  Distortions in the political process helped explain why poverty remained basically the same as five years ago in most LDCs, despite higher economic growth.  Foremost among the difficulties faced by parliaments of LDCs was the overbearing attitude of the executive branch, sometimes backed by the military.  Many parliaments of LDCs functioned as rubber-stamp bodies.  Other problems included inefficient practices, lack of cooperation with civil society, a disconnect between the people and their representatives, and a shortage of independent media organizations properly acquainted with parliamentary procedures.

She said that the Inter-Parliamentary Union had devoted time and effort to improve governance and build capacity in the spirit of commitments II and III of the Brussels Programme of Action, including through technical assistance projects in Afghanistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea and Rwanda.  There were three practical steps for urgent consideration: the international community should increase its technical assistance to parliaments as a share of total funding; work to ensure that national development strategies were truly owned and driven by people through the parliamentary process; and recognize parliaments as important actors in building South-South, as well as North-South, cooperation.

* *** *