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UN conference on 'least developed countries' to open next week in Brussels

UN conference on 'least developed countries' to open next week in Brussels

Global policy-makers will confront the economic isolation and severe poverty of the world's poorest states when a major United Nations Conference on the "least developed countries" (LDCs) opens next week in Brussels, Belgium.

The Conference, which will run from 14 to 20 May, is expected to be results-oriented and to reach agreement on concrete steps that will allow LDCs to reverse their slide into marginalization and extreme poverty.

In a message issued for the event, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has called for a "Global New Deal" to help disadvantaged regions catch up with the developed world, says, "At stake, quite simply, in the future of these poorest of the poor, is the well-being of the entire human community."

In addition to elaborating a programme of action for LDCs for the current decade, Conference participants will hold a special event on "The Challenge of Eradicating Poverty" and engage in a series of interactive thematic sessions throughout the week on such subjects as governance, agriculture, transport and energy.

Briefing correspondents on the Conference at UN Headquarters today, Yvette Stevens, the Special Coordinator for Africa and the LDCs of the UN Economic and Social Affairs Department, noted that because the status of many LDCs had not changed despite two previous UN conferences (Paris 1981, 1990), there was now a general consensus that concrete action was needed to remedy their plight.

Much had been done in advance of the Brussels' event to ensure that there would be tangible results, she stressed.

LDCs are designated "least developed" by the UN General Assembly on the basis of a per capita annual gross domestic product of less than $800, weak human resources, and a low level of economic diversification. The combined population of the 49 LDCs is 610.5 million - equivalent to 10.5 per cent of world population.