UN Economic and Social Council looks to lift poorest nations out of poverty

17 February 2004

Top United Nations officials, donors and heads of international institutions convened at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today to examine worldwide efforts to lift the 50 poorest nations - home to 600 million people - out of poverty and instability.

During a daylong meeting in preparation for its high-level segment in June, ECOSOC reviewed progress in mobilizing resources and creating an enabling environment for poverty eradication for the least-developed countries (LDCs) since an action plan was drawn up at an international conference on the issue held in Brussels in 2001.

The Brussels Programme of Action - a set of key commitments for implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - includes seven specific commitments made by the LDCs and their development partners, including mobilization of financial resources as well as governance, trade and sustainable development.

In his opening remarks, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Jose Antonio Ocampo said despite the best efforts of the countries themselves and the international community, most LDCs are in serious danger of falling short of the millennium targets and the Brussels Programme of Action. In many small countries, the very serious obstacles to providing public services and human resources are exacerbated by heavy debt loads.

Mr. Ocampo also warned that in extreme cases, the lack of access to resources can undermine the basic mechanisms of governance and lead to political disintegration and open social conflicts. "Armed conflicts are on the rise and many are taking place in poor countries," he noted. "Such instability, in turn, is a major obstacle to making the business climate attractive to both domestic and foreign investors. The efforts to mobilize resources should therefore be closely integrated with the efforts to achieve peace and security."

During the discussions that followed, a range of participants - including finance ministers, UN agency chiefs and officials from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) - offered recommendations to remedy the economic woes of poor countries. These included widening the tax base, focusing on the middle class, investing in infrastructure, giving priority to education and providing LDCs with fair access to international markets.


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