Ahead of a major United Nations conference on the world’s poorest countries in Turkey next week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the international community to step up efforts to help the nearly one billion people who in those nations lift themselves out of poverty.
World leaders will gather in Istanbul on Monday for the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), during which they will assess the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action – the outcome document adopted at the 2001 LDC conference – and to reach agreement on a new set of support measures for the world’s 48 nations classified as LDCs.
“Investing in LDCs is a classic win-win for all: traditional donors, emerging economies, the private sector and – most important – nearly 1 billion people who deserve to enjoy their rights to social progress and better standards of life. Opportunity knocks in Istanbul on 9 May. Let us seize it,” the Secretary-General said in an opinion column co-authored with the Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Jhala Nath Khanal, the Prime Minister of Nepal.
In the article, published in Today’s Zaman newspaper in Istanbul, Mr. Ban pointed out that most measures under negotiation by governments at the five-day conference are well within the capacities of the world’s nations.
Development assistance from developed countries to LDCs – there are 33 in Africa, 14 in Asia and one (Haiti) in the Americas – has been rising over the last decade, although it still stands at a quarter of total Official Development Assistance (ODA), and could be increased further, with considerable returns on investment to all parties, the three officials wrote.
“It can help to improve basic infrastructure, train the abundant human capital and ensure the transfer of adapted know-how. All these are important for attracting greater foreign direct investment. And indeed, productive capacity-building will be the main focus of the LDC conference in Istanbul,” they said.
They called for incentives for investors seeking to build industries in LDCs to utilize their primary commodities to diversify economies. The incentives include removing trade barriers to LDC exports.
“Studies have shown that 100 per cent duty-free quota-free access to markets would have only a negligible impact on domestic producers in host countries, but could bring profound benefits to LDCs. Equally, relieving LDCs of their debt burden would free up resources for improving infrastructure and productive capacity.”
They noted that challenges to LDCs’ efforts to lift the living standards of their people included climate change, stressing that those countries produced the least greenhouse gas emissions compared with any other country categories, and yet their agriculture-based economies are the most threatened. Rising food prices were another hindrance, with most LDCs being net food importers.
A report released by the Secretary-General in March warned that continuing the economic marginalization of LDCs could have serious security implications for the international community.
Cheick Sidi Diarra, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, noted that there has been significant economic growth in many LDCs over the past decade, but stressed that the majority of the people have not reaped the benefits due mainly to poor governance.
“It has benefited small elites [and] this has to change,” Mr. Diarra told UN Radio in an interview. “We need more participation of the average people in decision-making. We need to monitor how governance is exercised in these countries,” he said.
More than 20 heads of State and government, and as many heads of UN agencies and other international organizations, are expected to attend the Istanbul gathering.