62nd General Assembly
Groups of countries in special situations
New York, 5 November
57 (a) Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries
57 (b) Specific actions related to the particular needs and problems of landlocked developing countries: outcome of the International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries and Donor Countries and International Financial and Development Institutions on Transit Transport Cooperation
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
The European Union would like to take the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to the implementation of both the Brussels and Almaty Programmes of Action.
Last year we gathered for the midterm comprehensive global review on the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action 2001-2010 for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in which we all concluded that there had been good progress on the implementation of some commitments. We also noticed, with satisfaction, the fact that some LDCs had almost reached the 7% target of economic growth. Since then, these growth trends have continued. As mentioned in the fifth results-oriented annual progress report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (document A/62/79-E/2007/63), there has been a continued strong economic performance in LDCs, with a few countries lagging behind. It concludes, as well, that, even though population growth has been very high, particularly in African LDCs, there have been a few improvements in the social indicators.
Highlighting progress that has been achieved, such as in the health sector, the Report of the Secretary General also calls our attention to some areas of concern and to the negative impacts of environmental degradation and climate change, namely on the agricultural sector, leading to increased food shortages, disruption of food supplies and food crisis situations, scarcity of water resources, reduced drinking water availability and spreading of infectious diseases. Furthermore, climate change is likely to increase the costs of providing public infrastructure and services, and to affect State revenues. Therefore, the State’s ability to adapt to climate change itself is even further decreased. In this respect, appropriate development cooperation should be revisited with a view to enhancing adaptation capacity of LDCs to climate change.
The European Union is entirely conscious of the importance of each and every commitment taken to fully implement the Programme of Action approved in Brussels, in May 2001. However and for our reflection here today, we would like to highlight just some key points on Commitments 5 and 7 of the Brussels Programme of Action.
Concerning Commitment number 5 – enhancing the role of trade in development, the European Union as a major donor in trade-related infrastructure and productive capacity has recently approved the EU Strategy on Aid for Trade: Enhancing support for trade-related needs in developing countries that will help EU member States and the European Commission support developing countries, including LDCs, to better integrate into the rules-based world trading system and to use trade more effectively in promoting the overarching objective of poverty eradication.
This strategy will ensure the quality of Aid for Trade and that our pledges are duly implemented and maintained over time. In this context, the European Union is striving to increase its collective expenditures on Trade-Related Assistance to Euro 2 billion per year from 2010. This will surely be a complement to other initiatives which the European Union has under way to promote trade as a tool for economic growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction, like for instance the “Everything But Arms” initiative that provides duty-free and quota-free market access to all LDCs exports.
Also, the European Union continues to support and consider extremely useful the instrument of Integrated Framework for LDCs. In this respect, we would like to emphasise the importance of the High-Level Donor Pledging Conference organized by the Government of Sweden, last 25th September, with a view to mobilizing financial support for the “Enhanced Integrated Framework”. The outcome of this Conference leaves us very optimistic as the pledges made therein represent around 75% of the total target of USD 250 million for the period 2007-2011.
Regarding Commitment number 7 – mobilization of financial resources, the European Union, in line with commitments made in the context of the Monterrey Conference and in the Declaration on Aid Harmonization and Increasing Aid Effectiveness, continues to be the world’s major source of development assistance, providing around EUR 46.9 billion of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to developing countries, including LDCs, which represents more than half of total ODA provided in 2006. In terms of ODA performance, and taking into consideration the Monterrey targets set in 2002, the European Union Member States exceeded the collective target of 0.39% of GNI, reaching 0.42% in 2006. The European Union takes this opportunity to stress that it is important to dedicate 0.15-0.20% of GNI to ODA for LDCs.
Further efforts by the European Union in relation to the implementation of the "Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness" include the recently approved EU Code of Conduct for Development Cooperation that seeks to increase complementarity and division of labour in development policy. The European Union intends to implement it immediately in all partner countries, in particular, in fragile states. The European Union hopes to contribute with this new instrument to the reduction of transaction costs, better complementarity among donors, better synchronisation of programming calendars and national planning and budget cycle of partner countries.
Similarly, the European Union has been deeply committed to debt relief. Apart from numerous bilateral debt relief initiatives, European Union Member States were involved in the launching of both, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) which have resulted in very significant debt relief. We have been witnessing important progress in increasing debt relief to the poorest countries through the implementation of the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) by the African Development Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Development Association (IDA) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). All these efforts to debt relief are designed to free national resources for other development related purposes.
Furthermore, the identification of innovative sources of financing for development has been a consistent effort carried out by some of the Member States of the European Union. The European Union welcomes innovative sources of financing introduced and supported on a voluntary basis by some Member States, especially the health initiatives already under way such as UNITAID, the International Finance Facility for Immunisation and the Advanced Market Commitments (AMC’s) initiative. Innovative financing mechanisms and solutions should also be further explored to finance environmental activities, particularly climate change related activities in developing countries, including those related to the carbon market.
As agreed in the Monterrey Consensus, and reaffirmed in the World Summit Outcome, every country has the primary responsibility for its own development and the role of good governance, sound policies and national development strategies cannot be overemphasized in the achievement of sustainable development. It is particularly relevant that these strategies aim towards the achievement of the MDGs.
The European Union would also like to take this occasion to, once again, emphasize that the graduation from the LDCs’ list should be considered as a positive achievement in a country's economic development. However, we are conscious at the same time of the need to ensure a smooth transition from the LDC status, allowing graduating countries to prepare themselves for full integration in the global economy and to avoid disruption of their development plans and programmes. Therefore, the European Union remains ready to work on measures to help graduated countries to adjust to the phasing out of the LDC status, within the framework of the smooth transition strategy.
In this context, the European Union would like, as well, to take this opportunity to congratulate Samoa for its graduation from the LDCs’ List and to express its full support to three-year period of the smooth transition. The improvement of the situation in many LDCs and the graduation of Cape Verde, Maldives and now Samoa from the list of LDCs strengthens the credibility of the list of LDCs and also give us more enthusiasm and determination to keep fighting poverty.
Despite the progress achieved in the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, and in the path towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), we note however that there is still much more to accomplish in the endeavour of helping LDCs to overcome the vicious cycle of poverty and misery. In this regard the European Union considers the advocacy strategy on the effective and timely implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 extremely important and reiterates its willingness to be involved and participate in the actions proposed, as an active stakeholder. A final mention in this section to briefly refer the Istanbul Declaration on LDC (“Time for Action”) which the European Union perceives as a valuable instrument in the context of sharing of experiences among LDCs, exchanging good practices, and comparing situations and assessment of difficulties felt during the implementation of their respective commitments under the Brussels Programme of Action.
Regarding the landlocked and transit developing countries (LLDCs), the European Union acknowledges the specific vulnerabilities of this group of countries, which go well beyond the lack of territorial access to sea and geographical isolation. Inadequate infrastructures, inefficient administrative mechanisms, insufficient foreign direct investment, long customs procedures, lack of public sector control and of trade competitiveness are just a few of the constraints faced by LLDCs and transit developing countries that have adverse impacts in their socio-economic development.
At the same time, the European Union expresses its firm commitment to the holistic implementation of the five priorities of the Almaty Programme of Action of 2003, conscious that the response to the transit problems of LLDCs requires a multidimensional approach to their geographical realities. Such an approach implies the development of adequate national transport networks and efficient transit systems, the promotion of regional or sub-regional economic integration, and the encouragement of foreign direct investment in economic activities that are not distance-sensitive, in a way that is sustainable from an economic, social, financial and institutional point of view, as well as being environmentally sound, consistent with the WSSD implementation plan, taking into account gender issues as well as health aspects.
The European Union considers that regional integration and cooperation, sustainable transit transport systems and trade should be at the core of actions to support these countries. Indeed, the provision of an efficient transport infrastructure is a key element underpinning competitiveness, economic growth and social development. The European Union has been very sensitive to this issue and, in 2000, adopted a communication on Promoting sustainable transport in developing countries which was later endorsed by the EU Council, in June 2001.
Another major challenge for many of the LLDCs is the creation of affordable, reliable and sustainable transit transport systems. The European Union already plays an important role as a donor here as well, providing financial and technical assistance for the development of sustainable policies and strategies, transport infrastructure and services, such as roads, railways, waterways, and multimodal regional network systems. Recently, the European Union has approved the EU-Africa Partnership on Infrastructure, with the aim of supporting programmes that facilitate interconnectivity at regional and continental level in Africa and, consequently, strengthening regional integration. In fact, regional integration and cooperation are important elements to be taken into account when addressing the problems of LLDCs since a solution can only be achieved jointly with neighboring transit developing countries at regional level, in particular via regional integration measures. In addition to continued support for institutional and capacity building, there is also need for an enhanced and strengthened political dialogue at the regional level.
If it is worth reiterating that the European Union is the most important trading partner for the LLDC block. Yet, and although trade can be a powerful engine for growth and development, the trading system alone cannot solve the multiplicity of development problems the landlocked countries are facing. This is one of the reasons why the European Union is working closely on issues related to Aid for Trade and, in this framework, on mechanisms for the beneficial integration of LLDCs into the world trading system. Likewise, the European Union is currently funding several projects in LLDCs related to trade facilitation and customs modernisation. Trade related assistance will continue to be an important part of our development cooperation.
We also believe that it is necessary to promote fair competition between operators and transportation modes in order to improve efficiency of services, and cost effectiveness. A sectoral approach with enhanced focus on strategic networks and regional transport corridors and increased financing of sector development programmes rather than of individual projects is a vital element.
We are ready to do our part to continue supporting landlocked and transit developing countries. It is clear however that these developing countries themselves have to assume ownership of appropriately designed poverty reduction strategies and national policies that take into account trade and the modernization of their transport sector, complementing regional initiatives in order to create conditions conducive to development. Only then will all our efforts be successful.
To conclude, the European Union would like to welcome the progress already achieved in implementing the Almaty Programme of Action and thank the Secretary General for his Report on the Status of preparations for the midterm review of the implementation of this programme (document A/62/226), which will be taking place next year during the 63rd General Assembly. It is with appreciation that we recognise the arrangements already undertaken for this on-going process and, with the same spirit, acknowledge the organisation of the two thematic meetings held this year: the first one in Burkina Faso, last June, on transport infrastructure development; and the other in Mongolia, at the end of August, on trade and trade facilitation.
Thank you Madam Chairperson
* Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.