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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union, the Central and Eastern European countries associated with the European Union (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia) and the associated countries (Cyprus, Malta and Turkey), as well as the EFTA country Iceland, align themselves with this statement.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General of the Conference and the Secretariat for successfully preparing this meeting and the draft Programme of Action. Our thanks also go to the Bureau for its work during the first prepcom last year and the period leading up to this second prepcom of the third UN Conference on the LDC’s.

The LDC’s are very significant partners for the EU. This is evident by the fact that with the LDC III in Mid May, the EU will for the first time ever host a UN World Conference. The EU will do its utmost in promoting good working conditions for this important conference as well as for the NGO forum which also will be organized in Brussels. This Forum is vital for the success of the Conference.

The recently concluded Cotonou agreement between the EU and the ACP states – of which the majority are LDC’s – is centred on the objective of combating poverty in a manner consistent with the objectives of sustainable development and the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy.

lI would like to start by setting the LDC process in a broader perspective, inter alia of the need for overall poverty eradication and the need to make globalization work for the poor.

The UN Millennium Declaration underpins that we all have a collective responsibility to uphold dignity, equality and equity at the global level, and to manage globalization in the interest of poor people to create faster progress towards the International Development Targets (IDTs). The Millennium Declaration particularly refers to the special needs of the LDC’s. It calls upon the industrialized countries to take action in a number of areas and it also clearly points out that elimination of poverty depends to a high degree on good governance within each country.

The LDC’s and the international community face a complex challenge. Some LDC’s have made progress in recent years. Despite this the overall LDC picture is one of increasing poverty and increasing marginalization. Social stability and peace-building must be fully considered in addressing the needs of many LDCs. HIV/AIDS is taking its toll and devastating societies in several LDCs. Concomitant with this is a serious gender imbalance – one woman out of three is illiterate. The amount of ODA (Official Development Assistance), to the LDC’s has also declined and now amounts to an average of about 0.05 percent of donor GDP for DAC members.

The LDC III is not only an event but part of a process for development through good governance, respect for human rights, managing the environment, gender equality, sound and broad-based macroeconomic policies and the like on the one hand – and on the other hand what the international community can do, inter alia in terms of ODA, trade policies and debt relief to help eradicate poverty.

It is essential that the Programme of Action applies a broad, holistic approach, and defines synergies and coherent, consistent strategies and policies. It is also necessary that the PoA reflects major issues raised in the National Programmes and that it highlights disadvantages and constraints that are specific to the LDC’s in nature, structure and extent in view of the globalization processes. A pivotal task is to link the LDC process to other main international agendas, to integrate the PoA better with the outcome of other UN World Conferences, Summits and their follow-ups – and vice versa – in order to counter-act the marginalization of the LDCs.

In addition to focusing on the common features of the LDCs the special needs and capacities of each country should be acknowledged, in order to adapt interventions to specific situations, as the differences between LDCs are sometimes greater than the similarities. It is crucial that these country-specific interventions do fit intoo recipient government-led development plans.

It is also crucial for the PoA to tie into related processes such as UNDAF and Country Assessment Strategies of the UN and with the Comprehensive Development Framework, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, the HIPC initiative as well as programmes to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; especially HIV/AIDS is a major scourge in many LDC’s. The seven international development goals should be specifically acknowledged in the introductory section of the Programme of Action and incorporated into Commitments as they are formulated.

Of paramount importance is of course also the work of the World Trade Organization as well as the ongoing Financing for Development process.

It must be acknowledged that while national governments have the main responsibility for action to be taken, a wide range of actors are partners in the process: civil society, the private sector, UN agencies, regional development banks and the Bretton Woods institutions, traditional donor countries as well as other countries. Regional integration between neighbouring states can often provide a significant instrument to integrate LDC’s into the world economy and promote their development.

Effective national, regional and international follow-up mechanisms and criteria are called for, including policy coherence and co-ordination, involving all actors significant for putting the Programme of Action to work. Benchmarks and performance indicators are essential for monitoring action after the conference, possibly also integrating an LDC element into major international reports. Existing international structures should be utilized for the follow-up.

Let me now turn to some general comments on the draft Programme of Action and on its main thrust and focus.

The EU believes that the Draft Programme of Action can usefully serve as basis for an agenda for change and is prepared to work constructively and actively with other delegations to produce a final document containing deliverables that can assist the LDCs in making headway.

The draft is too long. It would benefit from some editing in order to focus more on major strategic issues rather than listing a mix of policies and technical and project-oriented activities in the sections dealing with commitments.

The overarching focus for the Programme of Action should be to eradicate poverty and secure long-term sustainable development and livelihoods in the LDC’s. Poverty eradication should thus impact forcefully throughout the draft. The UN conferences and the Millennium Assembly all provide goals that the Programme of Action will have to reflect. The PoA should also state clearly that improving accessibility of energy in a reliable, affordable, environmentally sound, economically and socially viable and acceptable manner is crucial to the eradication of poverty.

Broadly speaking the Programme of Action should address the social and economic vulnerability of the LDC’s and the need to strengthen their institutional and human capacity and enhance their productive capacity. Those LDC’s that have been less successful in achieving the International Development Targets should be helped to do so.

Gender equality is yet another dimension that will have to be featured throughout the programme, as the full participation of women in national development is essential for sustainable development and progress.

One key issue on the Conference agenda is good governance. To create or enhance a legal framework of transparent, democratic, non-discriminatory and accountable institutions is an essential prerequisite for the eradication of poverty as well as for sustainable development in general. This includes the adoption of measures to consolidate the rule of law, democracy, participation, accountability and gender equality, to combat corruption and to build the capacity of the state to fulfil its functions. The need to protect and promote human rights should be stressed in the Programme of Action.

The draft should moreover expressly address the need for establishing and reinforcing mechanisms and institutions in those of the LDC’s where such action is required for consolidating peace and dealing with the root causes of conflicts as peace-building, post-conflict challenges and limits to arms expenditure.

The EU also wishes to see that issues relating to the environment and sustainable livelihoods feature more prominently in the Programme of Action than in the present draft. They are treated in a commitment, but such concerns enter into many different areas and should be adequately reflected throughout the document.

Improved market access for products originated in LDC’s is an important dimension of economic development. The EU already grants duty-free and quota-free market access for essentially all products originating in LDC’s. Other developed and more advanced developing countries should follow this example. The European Commission has taken a new initiative to provide duty-free and quota-free access for all products except arms from all LDC’s into the EU. The accession of the LDC’s that are not already members of the WTO and the effective participation of all of them to its work will contribute to their effective integration into the world economy. This conference can provide impetus for effective trade-related capacity-building including the Integrated Framework.

An increase of the low share of ODA to the LDC’s is called for in order to honour the commitments by UN member states. As demonstrated by recent DAC statistics, in 1998 the share of donor’s GNP provided to LDC’s was only 0,05 per cent, compared to the goal set out by the UN which was three times that share: 0,15% of GNP. The quality and effectiveness of aid provision is crucial, and measures to shift the balance of ownership and direction from donors to LDC governments. Additionally it is important to build up the absorptive and procurement capacity of LDC’s and to recognize the catalytic role that ODA plays for Foreign Direct Investment and domestic resource mobilisation.

Many LDC’s, although not all of them as a group, suffer from unsustainable foreign debt. This concern is being addressed within the framework of the enhanced HIPC initiative. The challenge is now to ensure that this initiative is financed and implemented.

The EU would like to see clear, balanced, mutual commitments in the text as regards major issues such as democracy, good governance, respect for human rights, rule of law, gender, transparency, conflict prevention, environmental issues, market economy, ODA, debt and market access for LDC’s.

It is essential to respect the right and duty of Governments to determine their national priorities, to ensure ownership in the development process and to respect partnership between nations. We thus also need to look carefully at the drafting of the Programme of Action so that it does not run into detailed recommendations.

In the interest of transparency the European Union’s position on substantive issues facing the Conference is outlined in the EU Guidelines for the Third International Conference on the LDCs that have been submitted to the Conference Secretariat and are available here. They will define EU positions in the negotiations ahead.

Let me conclude by reiterating that the EU remains committed to working together with its LDC partners in a mutual effort to accelerate their development in the areas and in the way I have indicated. Coming to grips with the plight of the LDC’s is a joint undertaking because, in an increasingly interdependent and shrinking world, the progress of the LDC’s is very much a common concern. Poverty is something that nobody can accept. What affects people in one part of the globe soon makes its effects felt in others. We have a shared destiny. This fact is in itself a clarion call for action.

I thank you, Mr. President.

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