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Upcoming global conferences can help world's poorest countries, Annan says

Upcoming global conferences can help world's poorest countries, Annan says

Pledging United Nations support for the world's poorest countries, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today pointed to two upcoming global conferences as opportunities to help those nations develop a plan for progress towards a more promising economic future.

In a message to a ceremony marking the turnover of the coordinatorship of the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) from Bangladesh to Benin, the Secretary-General said life for most people in the poorest countries was a constant struggle for basic nutrition, shelter and health. Economic and social infrastructures were so weak that the prospect of joining the global market and reaping the benefits of globalization was, at least for the moment, but a distant dream.

"Our challenge is to improve upon this deplorable state of affairs," the Secretary-General said in his message, which was delivered on his behalf by Gillian Sorensen, Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations.

The International Conference on Financing for Development next month in Monterrey, Mexico, should be seen as a beginning, not an end, Mr. Annan said. The early consensus achieved on the draft outcome document demonstrated a new spirit of partnership but even stronger efforts will be needed if long-held goals for official development assistance, debt relief and trade access were to be met.

Meanwhile, the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in August offered a chance to renew global commitment to Agenda 21, the blueprint adopted 10 years ago at the landmark UN Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit, and to address new issues that have emerged since then, such as globalization, the Secretary-General stressed.

The Johannesburg forum could also help LDCs in particular to surmount many of their formidable developmental obstacles and environmental constraints, by focusing on initiatives in key areas such as energy access, transport, rural poverty, freshwater and technology transfer.

"The United Nations is committed to working closely with LDCs on these and many other issues of common concern, so that your priorities and your voices find a central place on the UN agenda," Mr. Annan said.