UN AGREES TO HAIKE INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE TO LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
(ABC Live) - By Dinesh Singh Rawat
Istanbul - Broad agreement emerged today during the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries concerning the responsibility of the world’s poorest countries for their own development and the need for those recipient Governments to optimize international assistance, as the meeting continued into its third day.
Discussion focused on a new 10-year plan for the advancement of the 48 poorest countries, to succeed the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action. High-level delegations from least developed nations sought to loosen the constraints on the development prospects of their economies that had long oppressed their poverty-stricken populations. Pushing back poverty, creating decent jobs, building infrastructure and attaining economic self-sufficiency topped their wish list.
Speakers today also acknowledged that the number of poorest countries had nearly doubled since the United Nations first identified a group of 48 in 1971 — two thirds of which were in Africa, with only three in all having “graduated” from the United Nations-identified list. They said it was critical for all development partners to fully meet their commitments to arrest the agonizing threat to those countries of continued marginalization.
The Conference was an opportunity to set the target of having many more countries graduate in the coming decade, said Ireland’s Minister of State for Trade and Development. Her country’s approach to development was based on partnership with the world’s poorest countries. Aid was not tied to political or strategic interests, but rather should reflect a vision of a fair global society, she said.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, noting that his country had been one of three to have “graduated” from least developed status — along with Botswana and Cape Verde — agreed that the strength of democratic institutions and sustained economic growth through wise use of resources and human capital, and not development aid alone, were the linchpin to progress in poor countries.
Appealing to those delegations, he said: “Do not continue to be crybabies. There is no one in love with us; we have to fend for ourselves.” His country’s removal from the list was not the result of international programmes, he said, asserting that the Brussels Programme had not in fact succeeded.
At the same time, he made it clear that vulnerable countries, including those who had graduated from the least developed countries category — particularly small island States — should receive appropriate consideration to offset the effects of external shocks, such as adverse weather conditions and fluctuation in the prices of their exports, to which they were prey.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary, noting that his country was a former aid recipient that had become a donor, said that the Conference should seek to narrow the huge differences in economic development among countries. In order to use available aid resources effectively, Hungary, early on, had had to create an institutional architecture specifically for that purpose.
“We must act and the action must be now!” proclaimed Liberia’s Foreign Minister. Success lay both in the hands of the poor countries and their political partners. Development partners must deliver what they promised and the least developed countries had to responsibly utilize what had been given them along with transparently mobilizing their own resources. “This would translate into effective partnership that could translate into graduation certificates for the weakest and poorest of our global community,” he said.
Similarly, China’s Vice Minister of Commerce advocated a joint responsibility: least developed countries should increase their efforts and the international community should better appreciate the practical difficulties of the countries concerned, fully respect their independent choices, listen attentively to their aspirations and meet their urgent needs with concrete action.
Other donors also pledged to maintain and even increase their aid levels, even with difficult financial circumstances, but stressed the need for accountability on the part of all partners.
The Minister for International Development of the United Kingdom, for example, said that accountability was a hallmark of all success stories, with Governments that created a “climate of confidence” and invested in public services and infrastructure. The international community had to be equally accountable in its provision of aid that delivered concrete change and create a rule-based system, including trade rules that favored development.
Also represented at the ministerial and other senior levels of government today were: Denmark, Somalia, Timor-Leste, Mali, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Rwanda, Liberia, Bhutan, Central African Republic, Sri Lanka (on behalf of the Group of 15), Austria, Togo, Russian Federation, Portugal, Gabon, Myanmar, Ukraine, Australia, Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, Cyprus, Mexico, and Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group).
The representatives of Sudan, Niger, Kyrgyzstan, Switzerland and Peru also spoke.
Additional statements were made by representatives of the International Organization of Francophonie and the World Meteorological Association.
The plenary of the Fourth United Nations Conference for Least Developed Countries will resume at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 12 May.
Background The Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries this morning continued its week-long meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. (For background, see Press Release DEV/2877 of 5 May).
Statements IB PETERSEN, State Secretary for Development Policy of Denmark, speaking also on behalf of Sweden, and aligning with the European Union, said the last 10 years had been more prosperous for least developed countries than the three previous decades.
Credit for such achievements belonged to those countries themselves, as Governments had engaged with civil society and promoted the private sector. But the challenges remained complex and mutually exacerbating, and more results were needed on the ground.
Noting that the Istanbul programme of action would provide 27 priority actions, he said: “We need to engage in a new paradigm of cooperation,” adding that aid could only be one element in the efforts to promote growth. It was clear that gender equality, freedom, democracy and human rights were essential to that end, as was a business environment that fostered entrepreneurship. That, in turn, would allow for investing in health and infrastructure, and lifting countries out of poverty.
New and more positive prospects also called for more innovative collaboration, he said, underlining that, with unprecedented high numbers of young people entering job market, it was essential to ensure good market conditions. The new rules of origin adopted by the European Union would help least developed countries in that regard. Also, developing economies had become important in the areas of trade, foreign investment and knowledge transfer, with some having already joined the ranks of donors. “We welcome this,” he said, encouraging those countries to increase their contributions in tandem with their improved economic standing.
Greater coherence was needed in policies across sectors that affected least developed countries — including agriculture, trade, investment and migration — which impacted growth potential, he continued. More coherence should ensure that Government actions supported policy goals.
The Group of 20 (G-20) must follow up and provide duty- and quota-free access to least developed country products. Also, the High-level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea, must see a renewed political commitment to effective aid. His delegation supported a “back to basics” approach in that regard. Transparency at all levels was needed, as was real accountability. People should be able to hold their Governments responsible for results in the short- and long-term.
ABDIWELI MOHAMED ALI GAAS, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Somalia, said good governance was of crucial importance because the quality of institutions could make a real difference in the quality of economic growth.
The quality of institutions varied among least developed countries, but irrespective of the political regime, it was the governance that shaped the incentive structure for increasing economic activity.
Least developed countries suffered from bad governance, he said, noting that while many, including his own, were rich in natural resources, they had done poorly with economic growth. In the absence of intellectual property rights, natural resources could be exploited by political groups. The lack of security over such rights also prevented poor countries from acquiring badly needed technology from developed countries. On the other hand, good institutions governed the enforcement of contracts, which were necessary for investments, and facilitated transactions between individuals and firms.
Another element was the relationship between growth and the stability of a regime, he said, noting that a regime’s success depended on established institutions and policies. The guarantee of freedom and stable policies and the setting up of accountable institutions determined a country’s political future. Least developed countries could make great strides, or “we could remain an economic basket case. The choice is ours.”
He said that institutional imperatives also included the rule of law, which, in any country, reflected the degree to which citizens believed in Government. Citizens often faced a poor quality of Government bureaucracy, where employees were recruited and promoted on political loyalty, rather than on merit. The quality of bureaucracy could be measured by the strength of how it conducted its policy. Perhaps the worst damage done by the military regime in Somalia was undermining State institutions. Without proper systems, no country would succeed politically or economically. It was imperative, therefore, that least developed countries establish institutions that discouraged banditry and encouraged rule of law.
The definition of freedom must answer questions about the extent to which citizens enjoyed individual liberties, he said. Was there freedom of association or political organization? Were citizens equal under the law, and did they have access to an independent, non-discriminatory judiciary? Was there freedom of professional organization and equality of opportunity? The Somali citizen should be given a voice in the public discourse.
Regarding economic policy, he said fiscal, monetary and trade policy would affect the environment in which economic activity took place. It was necessary to have small but effective Governments. “A Government big enough to give you what you need would be big enough to take everything you have,” he warned. The size of bureaucracy should not be a reflection of power. Openness was imperative for economic growth, and least developed countries should be more integrated into the trading system. In his country, the Somali shilling had depreciated, which had caused chaos, currency collapse and the eventual fall of the Somali Government. Indeed, speculation had been the root cause of its financial crisis.
He went on to say that least developed country Governments should be credible and transparent, by enforcing — and being bound by — their rules. They should be frugal with their discretionary powers, which would allow them to sustain their political future. Further, the State should not be concentrated in the hands of one person. Rather, the idea was to distribute State power in a way that created mutual dependence, which, in turn, would reduce the “pressure to deliver” and allow a Government to deflect criticism. His vision for the Istanbul Conference was one of peace and posterity, where engagement between the State and its citizens, as well as its partners, was mutually beneficial. With that, he encouraged constructive engagement over the next 10 years.
ZACARIAS ALBANO DA COSTA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Timor-Leste, said that to achieve the goal of graduation of half the least developed countries, development must be accelerated at all levels, with the overriding purpose being to build capacity and reduce poverty and economic vulnerabilities. Financial resources and policies must be specifically targeted to those ends. As a young, post-conflict country, Timor-Leste had weak institutions, and, thus, efforts had focused on creating strong democratic institutions and a culture of good governance and respect for human rights.
Despite the overall negative picture presented in the World Development Report, he said, the country had made some progress, reducing poverty and infant mortality rates and increasing school enrolment. Like many least developed countries, his was dependent on the export of natural resources, in its case, oil and gas. The economy thus needed to be diversified for sustainable growth and increased employment. At present, the private and public sectors in the country employed less than 20 per cent of the labour force, with the vast majority having no choice but subsistence agriculture. Key focuses included more educational opportunities, particularly for girls.
He said his country was taking ownership of its development agenda, through reforms in governance and legislation to foster transparency in its extractive industries. In working towards “graduation” from the United Nations category of least developed countries, Timor-Leste was looking for enhanced cooperation with development partners from both the North and South. There was much work to be done in the coming years, and he urged all partners to look beyond 2015.
M. SOUMEYLOU BOUBEYE MAIGA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, said that his country had established a stable democracy in order to achieve development, allowing it to implement the Brussels Programme of Action, to improve road infrastructure, to develop energy production and social solidarity, and to allow it to grow despite difficult conditions. The Government intended to accelerate growth. “Being an LDC (least developed country) should not be inevitable. We all have the potential to develop.” For that to happen, planning was essential, as was the mobilization of resources and investment in post-secondary education.
He said he had come to Istanbul with optimism. The Istanbul programme of action must be forged in harmony with the specific needs of all countries and must correct gaps in the Brussels Programme. “The decade before us needs to be a true decade of development,” he concluded.
LUCIEN MARIE NOEL BEMBAMBA, Vice-Minister for Regional Cooperation of Burkina Faso, said his country’s President had not been able to attend the Istanbul Conference due to the social crisis that had unfolded over the last three months. After 40 years of efforts to promote economic and social progress for least developed countries, their situation was still a concern, especially as the gap between rich and poor nations was increasing. The Brussels Programme of Action, which had generated hope for the future, had not fulfilled its promises. Aside from being a least developed country, Burkina Faso was also a landlocked country, dealing with drought and desertification, which restricted its efforts to create conditions for sustainable development.
He went on to say that Burkina Faso had made progress in implementing the Brussels action plan, including in the area of education, where free schooling for children aged 5 to 16 had been established. To improve the quality of health services, health infrastructure had been built and accessibility to services, especially for women, had improved. The fight against malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS had intensified, and today, there was better access to drinking water. Moreover, the national development policy outlined an accelerated growth strategy, which aimed to ensure new prospects for achieving sustainable development.
Despite such efforts, however, Burkina Faso was still a poor and vulnerable country subjected to external shocks, like climate change, which seriously threatened its stability, he explained. During February, March and April, it had faced an unprecedented social crisis marked by violent protests over the need for better living conditions. While least developed countries were the owners of their own destiny, it was difficult for them to surmount the complex challenges without the international community. Urging creation of a new partnership with donors, he said true development conditions must be established by streamlining official development aid (ODA), strengthening productive capacity, establishing a fair and equitable trading system and both regional and South-South cooperation. “In no way is this simply a question of charity or arms,” he said.
OSMAN MOHAMMED SALEH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, said the Istanbul Conference must bring a glimpse of hope to the poor. Its success was indeed a “teamwork venture” — a partnership between rich and poor countries, on the one hand, and the United Nations system on the other. Noting that crises of food, finance and climate had negatively impacted least developed country growth, he said there was no success with the Millennium Development Goals without the least developed countries and their 850 million people.
Despite the implementation of successive programmes of action, only three countries had escaped poverty and hunger, he continued. Forty-six years after the campaign to eradicate hunger had been launched, some 24,000 people still died from hunger each day, three quarters of whom were children under the age of five. The question to be asked was why. He wondered why more countries had not graduated from least developed country status and why there were more poor today than in the 1990s. The answer was “broken” multilateral cooperation.
“We cannot expect different results by doing the same thing year-in and year-out,” he stressed, calling for a paradigm shift in the way development work was undertaken. It was essential to create favourable market access for all least developed country markets, including through dismantling unjustified non-tariff barriers and other distortive trade measures. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) was an example of how to create opportunities for exchanging goods among countries in the global South.
Cooperation geared more towards trade and investment would be more effective in addressing the root causes of poverty than ODA, he said, which over the years had failed to help achieve sustainable development. The draft Istanbul text outlined that the ownership and leadership for development should be in the domain of the least developed countries, which would define their own national priorities. It was important for them to have the necessary policy space in identifying and executing their priorities.
Concluding, he said Eritrea had invested hundreds of millions of dollars and enormous human capital on food security. Domestic resource mobilization had been the real driver of its success.
AHMED NASEEM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, noting that his country was one of the few countries to graduate from the category of least developed countries, said that domestic economic growth and strength of democratic institutions were the critical issues for progress in poor countries rather than development aid. Growth and human development were mutually reinforcing. Maldives had experienced growth in its fishery sector through the determination of young entrepreneurs who seized the opportunities of a globalized market. Eight of the Millennium Development Goals had thus been achieved ahead of deadline.
He said that although economic growth was important, it was only sustainable through good governance, which must be transparent and ensure that economic benefits were equitable. People-centric policies, expanded choices and freedoms and the engagement of the private sector also were crucial. Public/private partnerships were particularly important in building infrastructure.
He said Small island States were among the least likely to graduate from the poorest status, however, noting that there was still much poverty in Maldives. Shocks had been experienced, from the Indian Ocean tsunami to the food, fuel and financial crises, which had contracted the tourism and fisheries industries. It was integral to seriously consider the permanent vulnerabilities of small island States when contemplating their graduation, in order to ensure that their progress was not reversed. His country had graduated, not because of international plans, but because of its hard work.
“Do not continue to be crybabies,” he stressed. “There is no one in love with us; we have to fend for ourselves,” he added, urging poor countries to get to work on reforms and facilitating economic growth. Indeed, the Brussels Programme had not been a success. In the next plan, concrete goals must be set and all partnerships and other tools must be utilized to the maximum extent possible. In addition, in the next action plan, graduation must not mean losing all benefits, which could cause countries to backslide.
JÁNOS MARTONYI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary, said that many countries were facing dire economic and environmental conditions. His country was a former aid recipient that was now a member of the donor community, aiming to narrow the huge differences in economic development among countries. Hungary’s path had not been easy, however, as it had had to create an architecture for effective aid use.
His country was willing to share its experiences with others, he offered. In its aid programmes, Hungary was focused on helping countries to adapt to climate change, even in times of financial austerity. It was also intent on raising awareness of the importance of access to clean water and sanitation in sustainable development. Agriculture and rural development were also critical. He reconfirmed his country’s commitments in those areas and affirmed that lifting the prospects of least developed countries was a challenge that must be faced by the entire global community.
JOSEPH BANDABLA DAUDA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, said while the implementation period of the Brussels action plan had yielded mixed results across all 48 of the world’s least developed countries, it was also no secret that the developed countries had failed to meet their commitments to provide 0.7 per cent of their gross national income in the form of ODA. As a result, new donors had stepped forward from among the emerging economies by participation in South-South or triangular cooperation initiatives.
Yet, he said least developed countries, already suffering because of high food and fuel prices, had also been impacted by a decline in the remittances that were so crucial to their weak economies. “The uncertainties in production, volatility in international prices and exchange rates, vulnerability in climate change and unfavourable terms of trade often make the debt burden of the LDCs unsustainable,” he added.
Against that backdrop, as delegations gathered in Istanbul to adopt a new programme of action with the objective of graduating at least half of the 48 least developed countries from the list by the end of the decade, he called on development partners to contribute to those efforts by “making a significant breakthrough” towards increased ODA and foreign direct investment, and in addressing trade distortions.
He said the tough lessons of the past decade should not be lost and should influence the efforts to craft — and implement — a new action plan in Istanbul. That plan, among other things, should pull the least developed countries towards middle-income status. “This is possible if we, as LDCs, show resolve and stand up to our responsibilities, and you, our development partners, honour the commitments that are contained in the outcome document of this Conference,” he said. The text must also contain the right mix of domestic policies and global support measures that would help ensure that the countries achieved the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and successfully met development challenges beyond that deadline.
SAMIR YOUSSEF ALI EL-SAYYAD, Minister of Trade and Industry of Egypt, aligning with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the goal of the 25 January revolution was a comprehensive development project to build a “new Egypt”, that included protection of community through “rule of order”, which would guarantee economic and social justice. Its most important goal was to regain Egypt’s role in Africa and the Arab region, based on common interest for all. As Egypt supported cooperation with African countries, its membership in African organizations, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), was important and the regime would push for cooperation in all fields.
Indeed, Africa again would be a main priority of Egyptian external policy, he said, adding that his country’s internal difficulties were only temporary. Once the economy recovered, Egypt would reach the economic status it deserved. As for discussions today, they should consider both the scarcity of production capacity and the agricultural sector in least developed countries. Egypt would continue to urge developed nations to honour their commitments, not only for assistance, but for participation in a real development partnership. The Istanbul action plan should add value and achieve what Brussels failed to do.
Egypt understood the importance of achieving sustainable growth, he explained, stressing that the serious issue of surging food prices could lead to an international food crisis. As such, advanced countries must stop practices that led to higher prices. Initiatives undertaken by Egypt aimed at realizing food security for least developed countries, which should receive preferential treatment in the face of regulations that banned food exports. He also appealed to international financial institutions, among others, to assist in technology transfer to least developed countries, and to the international community to write off debts.
Supporting good governance, he underlined the importance of South-South and triangular cooperation, explaining that Egypt would provide technological assistance and send experts to African least developed countries. In other areas, he said investments had been directed towards natural resource extraction, which had not enhanced the relationship between foreign and local companies or facilitated the spread of technology. Poor countries should be supported in order to diversify and develop their export bases. The construction of roads and ports, for example, was an area in which foreign direct investment would allow for transferring technology and knowledge.
On trade, he noted a “backwardness” in the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations on the issue of market access, saying that least developed countries were worried that their development ambitions would not be realized. He called for entering into “sub-subjects” required for redefining the development structure. All efforts should be made to maximize the benefit of what had been agreed at previous international summits. Least developed countries must also have increased representation in economic and financial governance institutions.
LOUISE MUSHIKIWABO, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda, said her country had advanced its development agenda, and while it had a long way to go, she was confident of the people’s determination to improve their lives. The Istanbul outcome should focus on four areas, the first of which was country ownership, the foundation principle for sustainable development, for which the Government was not the sole actor in that regard. It was only through socio-economic inclusiveness and the active involvement of citizens, the private sector, civil society and others that national development plans would be realized.
Indeed, she said, those plans would not achieve their desired results if they were not underpinned by effective and accountable national leadership, which was a challenge for many least developed countries. That leadership must enable the creation of a vibrant private sector as an engine for growth, by conducting ambitious legal, administrative and tax reforms. On that note, in 2009 and 2010, the World Bank had named Rwanda one of the “world’s best reformers”.
Next, in the area of enhanced productive capacity, she said more investment was needed in energy and information and communications technology projects, which would diversify economies, increase production and export capacities. In addition, increased investment in the “enablers” of growth was needed. For its part, Rwanda had worked hard to provide universal health-care coverage and free primary education for all, which, in turn, had increased productivity and allowed for re-investment in those areas.
Moreover, “we can no longer pay lip services to inclusion,” she said, asserting that it was only common sense to include women in national development strategies. Rwanda’s progress to date was due, in part, to its strong belief in gender equality. Such efforts must be underpinned by real partnerships among countries, especially between least developed countries and emerging markets. Least developed countries required a “mindset change” that strove for self-sufficiency, and not dependence.
Finally, there could be no development without peace and security, she stressed, encouraging regional and subregional organizations to take the lead in conflict resolution on the continent to ensure that settlements were in line with peoples’ genuine aspirations. For countries emerging from conflict to consolidate peace, the Istanbul action plan should note the need for actions between the Peacebuilding Commission and the office handling least developed countries.
TOGA GAYEWEA MCINTOSH, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liberia, said it was difficult to be hopeful when faced with the current tapestry of daunting difficulties that challenged the stability of the whole world, and not just the poorest countries. “We must act and the action must be now!” he said. Success lay both in the hands of the poor countries and their political partners. A shared, harmonized political will was critical to organize and mobilize requisite resources to move the development process forward on a sustained basis. “It is now imperative for both LDCs and partners to think outside the box and seek and embark upon unconventional measures.”
Most important in the Istanbul programme of action, he said, was targeting the use of the limited available resources. Development partners must deliver what had been promised and the least developed countries themselves must optimally utilize what had been given. That was the only way to build effective partnerships that could translate into “graduation certificates to the poorest and weakest segments” of the global community.
KHANDU WANGCHUK, Minister for Economic Affairs of Bhutan, said that the world’s resources must be shared for mutual peace and prosperity. No nation was insulated from the problems of others, and all nations must work together on global problems. He urged the Conference to strengthen cooperation on inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. Peace and justice were prerequisites for such development, and for that purpose, the support of richer nations was required. It was inconceivable that, in a time of the production of immense riches, so many continued to suffer abject poverty.
His country had been following a balanced approach to development under the policy of “gross national happiness”, which emphasized governance, environment, and economic progress, but placed the well-being of people as priority. It had succeeded in reaching its goals. He had proposed making poverty the ninth voluntary Millennium Development Goal, as the other goals were completely in conformity with the gross national happiness programme. His country was extremely vulnerable to climate change and had committed to being carbon neutral, but regional and global support was critical in the context of equitable sustainable development.
The Istanbul programme of action should aim for halving the number of least developed countries, with all nations playing their part. Bhutan’s mountainous and landlocked situations presented extreme challenges, but with the help of development partners, the country had been able to make much progress. The substantial development gains it had achieved were dependent on the commitment of those partners. He expressed concern that the traditional donors had signalled a phase-out of their support, coming at a time when the country was at a critical phase of its democracy. He, thus, appealed for continued support so that its democratization would continue and a prosperous and happy world would be created for the future.
ANTOINE GAMBI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Central African Republic, noted that crises in finance, energy, food and real estate had impacted implementation of the Brussels Programme, and his country, which was landlocked, was among the poorest of the least developed. Its socio-economic structure had been destroyed by political and military crises over the last decade, a stark contrast to the potential offered by its rich mining, energy and forestry resources.
Against that backdrop, he said his Government had decided to reduce the poverty rate by 10 points in 2010 by increasing the economic growth rate from 8.5 per cent to 11.4 per cent. Unfortunately, the 2001-2010 strategy had led only to a 2 per cent average annual growth. The investment rate — set at 11 per cent — also was insufficient for meeting the 25 per cent target set for least developed countries. Nonetheless, thanks to development partners, such as China and the European Union, obstacles to service provision had been surmounted.
Discussing other actions taken, he said his Government had implemented an economic reform programme. Efforts to implement the poverty reduction strategy had been designed to enhance institutional procedures in health and education. Since 2003, the Government had promoted good governance, enhanced the rule of law and made progress in implementing priority actions to achieve Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative conditions.
Other priorities were political, judicial and economic in nature, he said. In the fight against corruption, the Government had improved its classification by Transparency International, started reforms called for by United Nations instruments and, in 2008, established a committee to combat corruption. A national strategy also was being finalized. “Mitigated” results would be achieved by 2015 in terms of health, especially as related to malaria, the main cause of infant and child mortality. A plan had been devised that aimed at improving the health of mothers and the elderly.
In the area of technology, the Government was designing a plan to build an information and communications society and ensure full telecommunications coverage, he said, noting that in the area of trade, the Central African Republic had a policy of community tariff-setting and, with others, was negotiating a partnership agreement with the European Union. It also had harmonized its trade code, in line with international commitments. The forestry sector, the main source of export revenue, was threatened by poaching and deforestation, and, thus, the Government was creating a deforestation strategy. A regulatory structure for rural areas and a development fund for rural electrification were also being formulated.
NEOMAL PERERA, Deputy Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka, speaking first on behalf of the Group of 15 (G-15), a summit-level group of developing countries for South-South and North-South consultations and cooperation, said his delegation had consistently recognized the vulnerability of least developed countries. At its last summit in May 2010, in Tehran, Iran, it had urged donors to achieve the target of allocating 0.7 per cent of their gross national incomes for ODA by 2015.
Expressing deep concern that growth in many developing countries continued to fall, he urged that a more workable road map for achieving internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, be devised and include targeted assistance to least developed countries.
Emphasizing the need for a timely conclusion of the stalled Doha Round of international trade negotiations, he said it was imperative to achieve a balanced outcome in all areas of negotiations and recognized the need for more efficiency in the Aid for Trade initiative to improve trade competitiveness.
Speaking next in his national capacity, he recalled that Sri Lanka had “graduated from the status of a least developed country to a middle-income economy several years ago”. Much work remained to enable least developed countries to place themselves on track with the rest of the world, but their national priorities and unique challenges must be taken into account.
In his country, people were enjoying peace, stability and high economic growth following a nearly three-decade struggle against terrorism, he said, noting that the Government had started reconstruction and rehabilitation of the war-torn north and east, among other areas. It also was working to promote justice and reconciliation among its people. In such work, Sri Lanka valued a home-grown solution that fit into its own socio-cultural parameters. Given that, he was pleased that several key principles, like national ownership and leadership, had been reflected in the Istanbul action plan. Sri Lanka also had secured enhanced market access and better trading opportunities. Its 8 per cent growth rate was the second-highest in its post-independence history.
WOLFGANG WALDNER, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Austria, aligning himself with the statement of the European Union, said that, given the mixed results of development assistance in the past decades, and declining resources, donors now needed to focus even more on attaining goals in regions where progress lagged. There was a priority to better include the most vulnerable in the development process, particularly women and girls. Austria’s prioritization of the gender dimension in development was illustrated by its co-organization at this Conference of an event on “Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment through Financial Inclusion and Agricultural Development”.
His country, he said, had also been advocating for a greater recognition of energy in the context of sustainable development and it was a key focus in its development cooperation in Western Africa, Central America, Bhutan and the Balkans. Strongly supporting universal access to energy by 2030, he informed participants that Austria would co-host the Vienna Energy Forum 2011 in June on the overall theme “Energy for All — Time for Action”. He was convinced that a collective effort on a global scale by all actors — partner and donor countries, organizations of the United Nations system and other international stakeholders — would contribute to bring all the least developed countries into the path of sustainable economic and social development and out of poverty.
JAN O’SULLIVAN, Minister of State for Trade and Development of Ireland, said her country’s approach to development was based on partnership with the world’s poorest countries. Aid was not tied to political or strategic interests, but rather reflected Ireland’s vision of a fair global society. The Conference was an opportunity to set the target of having many more countries graduate in the coming decade. For its part, Ireland had allocated the highest percentage of overall ODA to least developed countries among individual international donors.
But there was cause to re-examine more effective action, she said, noting that the issues involved would be central to the High-level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan later this year. Nationally, a review had been launched of Ireland’s development cooperation policy, which would involve consultations with partner countries and ensure that the least developed remained at the heart of the programme.
She went on to say that a number of areas required a more effective international approach, including the hunger crisis, which was not just about food prices; it carried serious implications for poor countries that were net food importers and constituted a systemic development crisis. The new action plan must feature increased investment in agriculture. Ireland also strongly supported working with small-scale farmers to increase food production.
In addition, women’s role in development must be addressed with greater urgency, she said, commending partner countries for taking the lead in adopting legislation to combat gender-based violence. Trade and investment also were “absolutely vital” for economic development and poverty reduction. Ireland strongly supported efforts that prioritized least developed country needs, including the “Everything but Arms” initiative.
The important role to be played by the full range of actors and funding sources must be recognized, she said, citing foreign direct investment, trade between developing countries and regional trade, domestic resources and the private sector. They were not substitutes for aid, but rather essential to an effective strategy to end poverty and generate sustainable economic development.
DEDE AHOEFA EKOUE, Minister of Planning and Development of Togo, said her country had invested much energy in implementing the Brussels Programme, especially through its poverty reduction strategy paper. Togo had a broad governance structure, which included the largest opposition party and the diaspora. Recent elections, a major step forward, had fostered a peaceful climate, which was a precondition for development.
At the social level, she noted, Togo had registered tremendous progress. It was among the 20 countries that had made greatest efforts in absolute terms vis-à-vis two Millennium Development Goals: primary school education and the combat of major diseases, like HIV/AIDS and malaria. Nonetheless, “we need to go further and faster,” she said, which required stronger growth and intensified international cooperation. Jointly with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Togo had devised a framework to speed achievement of the Goals, and in June would organize a partners’ round table on water, sanitation and the environment.
Togo, she continued, had intensified investments in agriculture, which constituted more than 40 per cent of its GDP and it had implemented major reforms enabling it to reach the “completion point” of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative. Additionally, it had improved its business environment to attract foreign direct investment. Overall budget support provided by partners like the European Union and the World Bank also had played an important role in Togo’s success.
Urging that such support continue, she said resources must be increased and geared towards growth that was inclusive, environmentally friendly and job-creating. With that in mind, she called for an international programme for youth employability in sub-Saharan Africa that would mobilize African Governments, private sector, civil society, and the education and financial sectors, as well as development partners. To address climate change, existing mechanisms must be used — such as climate investment funds — which must be disbursed to countries most in need. “Together we can do more, and better,” she said. “Long live international cooperation.”
ANDREY DENISOV, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, anticipated with welcome the approval of the Istanbul programme of action, which singled out priority activities that would help both poor countries and their development partners to build sustainable productive capacity and withstand financial shocks. As an emerging donor, the Russian Federation was focused on bringing together the private sector and civil society for the purpose of poverty alleviation. In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, anti-crisis efforts must be fully integrated into all United Nations programmes. His country had continually increased food assistance, in particular, to mitigate crises in food security.
The Russian Federation, he said, also supported traditional crafts and food and agricultural production, as well as the efforts of the world financial institutions, along with transportation programmes in the Eurasian areas. He stressed that the world must come together to allow nascent economies to weather crises and continue to progress sustainably, in the interest of world stability. He pledged his country’s continued collaborative engagement with all partners towards those objectives.
FU ZIYING, Vice Minister of Commerce of China, said due to the need for much more progress in the next decade, least developed countries should increase their efforts and the international community should give more support. “The international community should better appreciate the practical difficulties of the countries concerned, fully respect their independent choices, listen attentively to their aspirations and meet their urgent needs with concrete action,” he said. That had been the guiding principle of China’s policy, particularly in the past 10 years, in providing assistance without preconditions to 46 of the countries in the category, with nearly 1,000 projects in sectors in infrastructure, social services and industrial capacity, along with debt relief and trade facilitation. Central to that effort was training, to boost local capabilities.
In regard to the private sector, he said his Government had supported Chinese companies in investing in poor countries and developing overseas trade and economic zones, which had provided jobs, tax revenue and other benefits. As a developing country, China still faced many challenges, but he pledged that it would never lose sight of its international responsibilities. In the years to come, it would engage in South-South cooperation in a more substantial way, tilting foreign aid even more towards the poorest countries, strengthening cooperation in food security and other areas vital to people’s livelihoods, boosting training to reach 80,000 people and expediting tariff reductions, debt relief, trade facilitation and the setting up of trade zones.
STEPHEN O’BRIEN, Minister for International Development of the United Kingdom, noting that great progress had been made globally in reducing poverty, said: “We should learn from these successes,” by pressing for clear accountability in reaching the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring that promises made at the review of those targets in New York were honoured. The Istanbul Conference was a chance to agree on how to speed progress in the run-up to 2015.
Among the lessons learned, he said, was that no country had achieved sustainable poverty reductions in the absence of clear Government leadership. The best thing a Government could do was to create a “climate of confidence” that would free the private sector to create jobs and incomes. Free trade and open markets were other catalysts for growth. Successful countries had invested in education, health and infrastructure. They had focused especially on opportunities for women and girls and laid the foundations for improving governance, including by building systems to manage public resources.
“This is a framework, not a plan,” he said, adding that the focus should be on growth and using the proceeds to invest in social progress. The other vital agreement was the international community’s role in offering aid and creating a rule-based system to ensure it was effective. Without the opportunity to export, countries could not reach their potential to grow. Given that, he urged a successful conclusion to the Doha round of trade negotiations, adding that the ongoing Conference must signal that the opportunity to advance that agenda could not be missed. The United Kingdom would do its utmost to press for a trade settlement that placed development at its core.
He went on to say that his country would honour its G-20 commitment to ensure that support delivered concrete change. It would help poor countries prepare and negotiate trade agreements that reflected their interests and shaped global trade rules. At the same time, successful developing countries must recognize their duty to those nations that had yet to benefit, and he called for all G-20 members to extend 100 per cent duty- and quota-free access to least developed countries. That would equal a 44 per cent rise in those nations’ exports and lift at least 33 million people out of poverty, at very low cost to the G-20.
On climate change, he supported the liberalization of climate-friendly goods and encouraged donors to meet aid commitments. His Government, despite its economic difficulties, refused to “balance the books on the backs of the poor” and would meet the target of allocating 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to ODA by 2013, and as pledged, enshrine that commitment in law. The United Kingdom was among the nine Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries to have met the 0.15 per cent of gross national income requirement, but the caveat was that accountability for the impact of aid must be enhanced through scrutiny.
Finally, poverty would not be eradicated until conflict was more effectively addressed, he said, noting that 30 per cent of the United Kingdom’s aid through 2014 would focus on fragile and conflict-affected countries. There was a tendency to work around conflict and fragility, but events in the Middle East showed why it was critical to help Governments build responsible systems and empower citizens to hold their Governments to account.
JOÃO GOMES CRAVINHO, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal, fully aligning with the European Union, said “we must all play our part in responding to the needs of LDCs.” It was in that spirit of renewed partnership that his Government had organized a ministerial meeting in Lisbon on mobilizing financial resources for those nations. A turning point for real change had been reached; now a new paradigm for development cooperation must be sought.
The central lesson to be learned was that the quality of the aid architecture must be improved, he said, urging that marginalization of such an important part of humanity come to an end. Lessons about “what went wrong” must be examined in order to respond early to major challenges in the next decade. Portugal had joined those countries wishing to incorporate in the Istanbul programme of action a wider notion of global partnership to include all relevant stakeholders. Emerging economies were playing a major and increasing role and it made little sense to continue shaping multilateral arrangements as though nothing had changed. He called for thinking creatively and exploring new avenues of action, especially those that included the voice of poorer countries.
Moreover, new multilateral mechanisms geared towards meeting global problems in a global manner were needed, he said. Only in that way would “virtuous cycles” be created in the global development architecture. Finding the right avenues for responding to least developed country needs required new thinking about development cooperation as a whole. A rejuvenated model for international cooperation must be based on the principles of national ownership and leadership, and multi-stakeholder consultation, among other things.
RAPHAEL NGAZOUZE, Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs of Gabon, said that this Conference showed the renewed intention of the international community to end extreme poverty and integrate the least developed countries into the world economy. The Brussels Programme was a major milestone, resulting in a growth in aid over the past decade. Significant progress in governance and education access also had been made, but great obstacles persisted.
He said his country wanted a total review of methods of poverty alleviation and a harnessing of the synergies of all partners and all resources for the next decade. The application of better technologies and good governance by poor countries was important, but it was clear that those countries could not emerge out of poverty alone; true partnerships were needed to make that happen. Development partners must be fully involved to reach the goals set by the Istanbul programme.
KAN ZAW, Deputy Minister of Economic Planning and Economic Development of Myanmar, describing national development plans in the areas of agriculture, democratization, education, health, development zones, water, social protection, productive capacity, energy, communications and a broad range of other sectors, said that his country was endeavoring to fight poverty, relying mainly on its own resources. However, it was also participating in regional and subregional initiatives, and had been cooperating with United Nations agencies and other partners to support the basic needs of its people.
He added that the country had adopted market-oriented reforms to encourage investment in the private sector and had passed legislation to encourage foreign investment, which had totaled more than $16 billion in 2010. Development partners, international organizations and the private sector must work hand-in-hand with the least developed countries to implement the Istanbul programme of action over the next decade.
KOSTYANTYN GRYSHCHENKO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, expressed his Government’s strong willingness to increase its participation in the United Nations work to respond to emergency situations. It had assisted in Haiti and, in 2009, despite its own problems, had become a donor with the World Food Programme (WFP). New opportunities for involvement in the United Nations work were under consideration. The next task was to devise a practical plan for implementing the outcome of the Millennium Development Goals Summit.
He said that the Istanbul action plan would be an indispensable tool for such work. Access to food supply was the key goal of poverty reduction strategies. Least developed countries’ capacity must be enhanced in that regard through training in the agricultural sector and, with that in mind, his Government had allocated 300 scholarships in that field to African States for 2010-2012.
Conflict settlement in least developed countries also was exceptionally important and he welcomed the appropriate reflection on that issue in the Istanbul outcome. For their part, Ukrainian police and military were involved in seven United Nations peacekeeping operations, notably in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Côte d’Ivoire.
BOB MCMULLAN, Minister and Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Australia, said the vulnerability faced by least developed countries must be redefined to include the concept of climate vulnerability. A renewed commitment was crucial to meet the needs of the most poor. In that regard, South-South cooperation and effective coordination among all development actors was key and, with that in mind, Australia was increasingly working in partnership with poor countries. “We do what we say,” he asserted, noting that Australia, as pledged, had doubled its ODA between 2005 and 2010 and was on track to double it again between 2010 and 2015.
He said the average growth rate of Australian public spending was around 1 per cent. As promised at the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Summit to focus on least developed countries, Australian funding would increase by 20 per cent and account for one third of its ODA. In December 2010, the Government had increased its contribution to debt relief, pledging $830 million, 20 per cent higher than its previous contribution. It also had substantially increased its engagement with United Nations funds and programmes.
Most important, however, was Australia’s partnership with individual countries, he said, citing climate change and food insecurity as priorities. Climate change had the potential to affect food and water supplies, and existentially impact societies. Australia had committed $600 million to “fast start” financing in the 2010-2012 period, not less than half of which would go towards adaption. With food insecurity impacting low-income, food deficit countries, Australia had committed $100 million to an African food initiative and would look to expand that work on a bilateral basis.
Finally, he said there was no path out of poverty without trade, noting that Australia had been among the first to give unilateral non-reciprocal access to least developed country exports. His Government felt the Istanbul action plan should have an accountability mechanism. In sum, he looked forward to the day when there was no longer a need for action plans.
AURELIA FRICK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said that the least developed countries must be at the centre of international attention in order for the world to reach the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in the context of multiple crises. A strengthened global partnership must help the poorest countries become more resilient in the face of such crises and to achieve sustained growth. Aid commitments must be fulfilled and aid effectiveness must be increased. Good governance and the rule of law were essential, and corruption and organized crime must be addressed. Her country’s international development agency strongly supported initiatives to recover assets stolen by such crime.
She advocated for a holistic approach to development that integrated all pillars of the United Nations Charter, including peace and security and respect for human rights. Armed violence and crimes against humanity were a major impediment to sustainable development. Gender equality and an active civil society were necessary. She also supported social protection schemes and youth development. An increased focus on the needs of the young was particularly important as youth under 25 made up a majority of the population in most least developed countries. Hers respected the goal of 0.7 per cent for ODA, with a particular focus on the poorest countries. She pledged that her country would maintain that focus.
SVEN ALKALAJ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the international community should not rest until the number of countries in the least developed category was greatly reduced. For that to happen, methods must be improved to match the challenges. In that regard, development partners should increase their aid to the poorest countries and forge an active partnership. His country was fully devoted to the fulfillment of the Brussels Programme.
As a country that recently managed to rebuild from the devastation of war, with the generous help of the international community, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s aim was sustainability and economic growth through the coordination and support of the entire international community, he said. In that context, the current meeting was an opportunity for new ideas and valuable exchange of experiences to come up with global solutions and lend globalization “a sense of solidarity and a more human face”.
NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, aligning with the European Union, welcomed the progress made by some countries in improving certain health indicators, which showed what was possible with genuine will and international cooperation. That only three countries had graduated, however, showed that efforts were far from satisfactory. Least developed countries were vulnerable to global crises in food, finance and fuel, which, taken together, had impeded achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Indeed, the need for better partnership was stronger than ever, he said, citing the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, among others. Least developed countries, for their part, should redouble their efforts to fight corruption, and advance good governance, inclusive growth, gender equality and women’s empowerment. On the other side, development partners — traditional and emerging donors, civil society and the private sector included — should better target their assistance pledges.
He went on to say that Bulgaria, for more than 20 years, had neglected its partnerships, having given priority to full membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union. It wished to return to its partnerships, notably with the least developed countries, which it hoped to consider its “new friends”. It would rejoin the donor community and had created opportunities to do so.
His country aimed to shoulder its duty to assist them in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and tackling humanitarian crises, he said, noting Bulgaria’s recent provision of transport for Sudanese nationals fleeing fighting in Libya. Bulgaria was building its capacity as a development aid donor and was finalizing a programme to provide both bilateral and multilateral funding. It would add value to the understanding of development issues, especially in communications between donors and recipients, with a focus on democratizing that process.
EVALDAS IGNATAVICIUS, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, noting that his country had transformed quickly from recipient to donor country since obtaining its independence 20 years ago, said that, being a comparatively small donor, its bilateral assistance focused on a few priority countries, from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, in which Lithuania had a comparative advantage arising from its own State-building experience. Describing in particular, the country’s efforts in Afghanistan, he affirmed the importance of women’s empowerment in efforts to end extreme poverty.
He said that mutual accountability, aid effectiveness, a targeted, results-oriented investment of development money, as well as mobilization of domestic policies and resources were the key to overcoming the problems facing the least developed countries. The Conference should be an important step towards a renewed and strengthened global partnership to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
KRZYSZTOF STANOWSKI, Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, aligning with the European Union, said the outcome of the Istanbul Conference would strengthen the global partnership for all stakeholders. Solidarity should remain the main focus, as a broad consensus was key to bringing equality to common endeavours. International efforts should create a favourable internal and external environment for inclusive economic growth.
He said that the fragility of least developed countries must be addressed and it was essential to underline that the responsibility for development lay with each country. The principles of national ownership and leadership were of prime importance for the implementation of development strategies, as were those of freedom, democracy and good governance. Human rights and rule of law must be respected. Such aims would be fulfilled only when coupled with gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The successful implementation of development strategies also depended on civil society and the private sector, he said, urging authorities to create partnerships with those actors. Civil society had helped to build a sense of social community, while entrepreneurship was needed for enhancing productive capacities. The international community had the tools to support maintenance of peace and security, which must be integrated with development goals aimed at national reconstruction.
For its part, Poland was promoting global cooperation for development, he said, and since 2004, had committed to providing assistance in line with European Union regulations. Its multilateral and bilateral aid reached least developed countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The country also had contributed 40 million euros to the European Development Fund and had provided its fair share of climate change support to least developed countries for the 2010-2012 period, as “fast start” financing could encourage countries to move towards a low-emission development path.
FRANCES-GALATIA LANITOU WILLIAMS, Director of Development Cooperation, Humanitarian Assistance and International Financial Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, also aligning with the European Union, said progress in reaching human and social goals had been visible, but also varied and slow, with large imbalances persisting among least developed countries. Structural transformation had been very limited and kept countries vulnerable to external shocks.
She said that national development cooperation for Cyprus, as a new European Union member and donor, was evolving. A substantial amount of its bilateral aid was dedicated to least developed countries. Its “fast start” contribution would be made through the Union’s Climate Change Alliance. The new development partnership should focus on traditional as well as new and emerging challenges that increased countries’ vulnerability, and redefine priorities to address them.
While ODA was still the principal source of development financing, she said a rebalancing was required. What was needed was not just a scaling up of development aid, but also a qualitative increase, and with that in mind, private financial flows should be explored. As new players had emerged on the international scene, she also underscored the importance of harnessing the benefits of South-South and triangular cooperation, with graduation the ultimate aim.
DAFFA-ALLA ELHAG ALI OSMAN of Sudan said that current economic conditions presented a major problem for least developed countries, due to crises, scarce aid resources and slowed trade. In that urgent situation, review and assessment mechanisms were needed to monitor implementation of the new action programme. Reduction of debt was important, particularly for those countries emerging from crisis. Assistance in creating an agricultural renaissance also could help overall development in each country.
Sudan, he said, was also interested in South-South and regional cooperation, and was attempting to implement common programmes in those relationships. The international community should help provide resources, technology and other tools to advance that goal. His country was engaged in establishing peace and an equitable distribution of resources, but continued to face many difficulties in stabilizing the economy, owing to such global challenges as climate change, for which a national mitigation programme had been established.
He said his Government was endeavoring to honour all of its commitments in establishing peace and transparency, but it had not obtained debt relief, improved trade status or other benefits. He called for an end to all discrimination in regard to foreign debt. Commitments to eradicating poverty through sustainable development must be maintained, without political discrimination. He stressed the importance of the international community’s responsibility for inclusive development and the need to deepen international cooperation for that purpose.
ABOUBACAR IBRAHIM ABANI ( Niger) said that the Conference was an optimal opportunity to strengthen international partnership in improving the situation for the least developed countries. In that context, he welcomed the excellent results obtained in negotiating the outcome document. He looked for greater commitment from donors, both traditional and new. He also recognized the responsibilities of the countries themselves to improve governance and mobilize domestic resources.
The Government and people of his country, he said, would work together to overcome the problems of his drought-plagued, landlocked country, which was currently focused on achieving food self-sufficiency. That required water projects, along with considerable financial resources. Other projects envisioned included an agricultural development bank and food processing infrastructure. He described efforts in Government and financial reform also being undertaken by his country, along with women’s empowerment. All those endeavours required considerable support, and he hoped that the Conference would result in strengthened international solidarity.
LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA, Special Envoy for Climate Change of Mexico, aligning with the forthcoming statement to be made on behalf of the Rio Group, said solidarity and cooperation with least developed countries was an economic and political obligation of the international community. The draft Istanbul action plan was well-oriented to achieve the goal of seeing half of the least developed countries graduate by 2020. Indeed, its relevance should be measured by the graduation rate, and with that in mind, he called for donors to fulfil their obligations to increase ODA.
It was also important that the least developed countries include in the Istanbul plan their own national development programmes, he said, lamenting that the Brussels action plan had not been achieved. The populations most affected by the food crisis and rising food prices were in least developed countries and the same applied to climate change. The Cancún agreement, adopted last December, had been a unique opportunity to strengthen actions to improve their conditions, and he called for its full and immediate implementation.
Mexico, for its part, had contributed to least developed country development through South-South and triangular cooperation, he asserted. In Haiti, for example, Mexico had set up a transport system for delivering humanitarian assistance for 1,300 people, while Mexican doctors had provided help to many others. It also had provided $800 million to Haiti for both institutional strengthening and social programmes. The use of South-South cooperation, however, did not mean that donors could postpone their obligation to allocate 0.7 per cent of their GDP to ODA.
JORGE DÍAZ, Vice Minister of Health of Chile, on behalf of the Rio Group, said he supported the goal of seeing half the least developed countries graduate in the next decade. For that to happen, strong political will was needed, especially by developed countries and international organizations. Expressing concern that ODA had been affected by a lack of resources in developed countries, he called on traditional donors to increase or at least maintain ODA levels.
Reiterating the need to avoid protectionism, he stressed that developing countries must reap the most benefit from the Doha Round of global trade talks, and in that context, called for flexibility towards the least developed countries, which must be integrated into the global trade system. Foreign debt also required attention. Cancelling that debt would help least developed countries integrate into the global economic system.
He went on to say that South-South cooperation was an expression of solidarity among developing countries, and the Group, which was composed of middle-income countries, had made tremendous efforts to drive initiatives for the least developed. In no case should it replace North-South cooperation or be understood as a way for donors to dilute or postpone pledges to provide 0.7 per cent of their GDP to development assistance. The right to development was a priority. There were shared but differentiated responsibilities, but also a common objective to create a more just world.
Speaking next in his national capacity, he said Chile prioritized cooperation with least developed countries, citing among its efforts its South-South cooperation programme with countries of equal or lesser development and involvement in triangular cooperation. Moreover, in 2004, Chile had sponsored the initiative against hunger and poverty, and participated in the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Continuing, he recalled that, in 2006, Chile had become the first country to apply an airport tax, contributing those funds to UNITAID (the International Drug Purchase Facility), to which it had contributed more than $20 million. Reaffirming its solidarity with Haiti, Chile had undertaken several cooperation programmes with small- and medium-sized enterprises and supported United Nations activities in that country. His Government was convinced that the Istanbul action plan would be a significant step forward for least developed countries and he expressed hope that it be implemented as soon as possible.
RUSLAN KAZAKBAEV, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, maintained that a primary reason for the failure of least developed countries to advance significantly in the past decade was their weak participation in international affairs. To help better represent them before “the giants of world politics” and to promote international peace and security, his country had put forth its candidacy for membership in the Security Council for the period 2012-2013. The country strongly supported expanding international cooperation for solving global problems and was ready to make its contributions towards that end.
He described reform initiatives undertaken by his country in conformity with the Brussels Programme of Action — in governance, economic facilitation, the financial sector and provision of social services — and he called for international support in the form of debt relief, which he said was the main obstacle to his country’s rapid development. Despite political and economic problems, his country was working persistently to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. He urged the international community to take special account of problems faced by a mountainous, landlocked country such as his own. Offering to share best practices in development, he called for open discussion of the best international support measures for the least developed countries.
PAUL SEGER ( Switzerland) said that, in order to achieve better results in the next 10 years than the past 10, least developed countries must be made more resilient and significant changes must be made in development strategies. All partners must assume their responsibilities and seriously address the specific problems facing poor countries, including armed conflict. His country was committed to partnerships between traditional donors and their counterparts, but he acknowledged that countries such as Turkey were establishing new partnerships that could prove very effective.
The role of the private sector also was becoming increasingly important, he said, as represented by the growth in the Global Compact programme of the United Nations. Civil society as well was playing a more transformative role, as shown by recent developments in North Africa and the Middle East. In regard to conflict-plagued countries, he said that classical development strategies did not work there, and measures specifically adapted to them must be applied, which prioritized re-establishment of security and rule of law, and prevention of a relapse into conflict. In conclusion, he said his country was ready to face all the specific difficulties of poor countries and to support an approved Istanbul programme of action.
JORGE ENRIQUE ABARCA DEL CARPIO ( Peru) said the structural transformation of least developed countries required the renewed commitment of all. International assistance was an important part of that work for those nations to overcome structural vulnerabilities. Financial support must come in the form of trade liberalization and the development of science and technology capacities. Least developed countries must obtain the greatest possible benefits from world trade, and protectionism must be avoided. The successful outcome of the Doha Round should take into account the existing asymmetries.
He said that South-South and triangular cooperation were signs of solidarity, and such efforts must be encouraged. North-South cooperation also must be strengthened. The General Assembly, in December 2010, had adopted a resolution on culture and development, which was particularly relevant. It contained a call for promoting “cultural tourism”, among other sectors, at a time when employment opportunities could be strengthened through such activities.
Also, there had been recognition of the links between cultural and biological diversity, notably seen in indigenous practices, which were a vehicle for cultural sustainability. With that, he voiced hope that the results of the Conference would lead to the provision of resources needed to achieve least developed country objectives, which aligned with those desired by the entire world.
ETIENNE ALINGUE, Director of Sustainable Development and Solidarity, International Organization of Francophonie, said lack of public investments, poor infrastructure — especially in trade and transportation — inefficient labour markets, poor diversification and competitiveness, as well as low savings rates, all limited least developed countries’ potential. Those factors also directly impacted their ability to achieve good governance, the rule of law and democracy. “We must break this vicious cycle of inefficiency,” he said, urging that least developed countries be given human and other resources to ensure their regional and international integration.
Providing background, he said the Brussels plan had been adopted at a time when the problems to emerge in the new century were as yet unknown and, therefore, could not be measured. The Istanbul Conference now could not ignore those challenges. The proposals contained in the next 10-year programme would directly impact whether country transformations would succeed and bring about a “new civilization”, based on universal principles and values. It was essential to ensure that the new programme was implemented. In that way, new levels of equality, liberty and wealth-sharing would be created.
KALIBA KONARE, Director of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said the least developed countries still had a long road ahead towards sustainable development. That road was becoming even more difficult as new challenges, such as climate change, were emerging. The international community must leave its old ideas behind and pursue new avenues and tools, chiefly through implementation of the proposed Istanbul action plan.
He said that the plan should emphasize the need for increased investment in upgrading the meteorological and astrological equipment of those countries to aid in climate change adaptation, disaster management and early warning. “We have to invest in this area and the WMO will be a real partner for the least developed countries to this end,” he said.