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UN conference adopts action plan to help world's least developed countries

UN conference adopts action plan to help world's least developed countries

Nearly 200 governments participating in a just-concluded United Nations conference in Brussels have committed themselves to fighting poverty in the world's poorest countries while improving the lives of the 600 million people there.

The Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which wrapped up on Sunday, adopted a political declaration and a decade-long programme of action spelling out specific measures that address development assistance, debt cancellation, and private investment in the 49 LDCs.

By the Brussels Declaration on LDCs, governments stressed the need for a "transparent, non-discriminatory and rules-based" multilateral trading system in helping poor countries to reap the benefits of globalization. They called for facilitating the accession of LDCs to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and decided that the WTO's November meeting in Doha, Qatar, should be used "to advance the development dimension of trade."

Governments also committed themselves to seizing the opportunity of the UN Conference on Financing for Development in March 2002 to mobilize resources. They further pledged to reverse declining levels of official development assistance (ODA) and to provide special debt-relief initiatives to the world's poorest States.

The 60-page Programme of Action for the Decade 2001-2010 calls halting the marginalization of the world's LDCs an "ethical imperative." It outlines a broad range of measures to be taken by the developed nations and the LDCs themselves in such areas as good governance, trade and mobilizing financial resources.

Rubens Ricupero, the forum's Secretary-General who also heads the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said the Brussels meeting had made important progress possible in vital areas, but he added that the results had unfortunately not been satisfactory. For example, there had been no major breakthroughs on such issues as debt relief, trade or ODA.

At the same time, he observed that UNCTAD had brought in companies, women and young entrepreneurs to discuss specific issues with a view to producing what Mr. Ricupero termed "deliverables" -- concrete achievements which created momentum for those who no longer had hope.

The Conference, which opened on 14 May, attracted the participation of more than 6,500 representatives of from governments, UN specialized agencies and civil society. It followed on two earlier conferences on LDCs -- in 1981 and 1990 -- both held in Paris.