Sommaire: EU Presidency Statement - High-level Meeting on Least Developed Countries (18 September 2006: Brussels)
Statement by H.E. Ms. Tarja Filatov, Minister of Labour, Finland, on behalf of the European Union, at the High-level Meeting on the Mid-term Comprehensive Global Review of the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010; New York
1. I am honoured to speak on behalf of the European Union on this very important issue. The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, 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, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area as well as the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration. The EU thanks the Secretary-General for the report on the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action until 2006 and other materials produced for this Mid-Term Comprehensive Global Review.
2. The EU, as a major development partner of the LDC, takes this opportunity to reaffirm its full commitment to the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action as a part of its wider commitment to the global development agenda. The Brussels Programme of Action is a crucial element in the global strategy to improve the situation of the LDCs and the EU's participation in this high level meeting is a reaffirmation of its strong partnership with the LDCs.
3. Respect for human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, the rule of law, solid democratic institutions responsive to the needs of the people, good governance, sound economic policies and improved infrastructure are the basis for sustainable economic growth, poverty eradication and employment creation. As recognized in the final outcome of the 2005 World Summit, development, peace and security and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.
4. We welcome the fact that from 2001 the economic growth in the LDCs as a group has almost reached the 7% target. This has been a result of LDC governments' courageous macroeconomic reforms and consequent reduced fiscal deficits, lower inflation and reduced external imbalances. Macroeconomic stabilization has been successfully accompanied by structural reforms like privatisation, easing of regulations on businesses and trade liberalisation.
5. Trade can be a strong catalyst for economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries. It should be integrated into the national development plans, such as PRPSs, of all LDCs. Therefore trade is one central element in the international agenda to support the Millennium Development Goals, the World Summit Outcome and the Brussels Programme of Action. Market access alone is not enough to improve poorest countries successful integration into world trade. This requires increased development finance for trade and productive capacities, combined with domestic reforms and improved international trade rules.
6. The cost of a definitive breakdown of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations would be extremely high, especially for the most vulnerable of the developing countries. What we now risk losing is far more significant than just the issues on which the negotiations have foundered. Completing the DDA would substantially help LDCs in their objective to integrate better into the world economy. The EU, for its part, will do its utmost to secure an early resumption of negotiations and call on its trading partners, in particular the major players, to make the necessary moves to enable negotiations to restart and reach a positive outcome.
7. It is important that improved market access for LDCs should be supported by appropriate trade-related technical assistance. The EU strongly supports initiatives like Aid for Trade. In this context it underlines the importance of contributing to the Enhanced Integrated Framework. Such initiatives should not lose their impetus with the current situation of the negotiations on Doha Development Agenda, the international community should support their rapid execution. In December 2005, the EU Member States committed themselves, within the framework of their future development assistance commitments, to strive to increase their spending on trade-related assistance to EUR 1 billion per year by 2010. This would bring the contribution of the EU as a whole, including the Community contribution, to EUR 2 billion per year by 2010. The Economic Partnership Agreements under negotiation complement our trade-related technical assistance.
8. Strengthening and expanding the productive capacities and infrastructure of the LDCs is necessary for regional integration, increased internal and international trade and economic growth and development. To meet these challenges the EU has for example adopted the Strategy for Africa which includes an initiative on EU-Africa Partnership for Infrastructure. This Partnership should encompass investments in trans-boundary and regional infrastructure and their regulatory frameworks in the wide sense, including transport networks, water and energy infrastructure and connections as well as electronic communications infrastructure and services.
9. Despite the good overall economic growth, poverty and deprivation remain high in most of the LDCs. This underlines the need to support improved overall governance, the fight against corruption, the rule of law and more equal social development in the LDCs. Economic wealth and development should benefit also the most vulnerable parts of the population. To this end, education, health and gender equality programmes are vital elements of our Programme of Action in order to reach better functioning, more equal and environmentally more sustainable economies in LDCs. This is especially important in those countries where the whole society is jeopardized by threats like HIV/AIDS.
10. In education, some figures are really encouraging (for example the enrolment rates for primary education have reached 90%), although improvements in the quality of education have not kept pace with increased enrolment. It is still alarming that in 2004 almost 15% of girls living in LDCs were not even enrolled in primary education. This is why the EU still remains very concerned about the slow progress made in promoting gender equality. The LDCs should fully mainstream gender into all of their development plans.
11. Reducing vulnerabilities and managing the environment sustainably in the LDCs is at the heart of the Brussels Programme of Action as well as the broader development agenda, particularly in our endeavour to fully implement the commitments of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. To achieve our common goals the EU is very active in environmental issues, like in the field of Multilateral Environmental Agreements on climate change, biodiversity, desertification and chemicals. The EU has large development programmes on water and energy as well as on sustainable rural development and natural resources management. It also strongly supports the strengthening of the current system of international environmental governance.
12. The EU has been promoting regional integration and cooperation not only inside its borders but also among other regions of the world. We find it only natural that countries should benefit from regional cooperation opportunities. This is why we have supported, and will continue supporting, regional and South-South Cooperation.
13. We note with satisfaction the increase in Official Development Aid from donor countries to the LDCs: In 2001, the year when the Brussels Programme of Action was adopted, the yearly ODA to LDCs was approximately 10 billion EUR. By 2004 the amount had almost doubled to 19 billion EUR and if the trend continues, ODA to LDCs will still double to over 40 billion EUR by the year 2010. The EU has put itself in the forefront of this evolution, through the decisions of the European Councils of Barcelona (2002) and Brussels (2005) to considerably increase its ODA by 2010 and beyond. Together the Member States of the EU and the European Community already are by far the biggest net ODA provider to developing countries and especially to the LDC´s. In 2004, of the EU Member States' total bilateral ODA, 50% went to LDCs. While having been the most generous in the past, the current trends indicate that the share of the EU's share will be even larger in the future.
14. The European Union is a supporter and financier of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative and welcomes and supports the MDRI initiative to cancel 100% of outstanding debt of eligible HIPCs. The EU also underlines the importance of smooth transition from the list of LDCs and is ready to help the countries which have graduated from the list.
15. The EU is very attentive to the quality of aid. Major commitments for a more coordinated and complimentary development policy have been made by the larger development community in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness - which was adopted in March 2005 and to which we are fully committed. The "European Consensus for Development" sets the principles for increased aid effectiveness and coherence. The effectiveness of aid should be improved through better donor coordination, complementarity and delegation of work. Donors' overall policy coherence with regard to development objectives is also essential for ensuring effective aid.
16. As expressed in the European Consensus, it is necessary to support and strengthen credible institutions not only at central and regional but also at local level. In this context, the principle of subsidiarity has to be mentioned together with the need for effective policies on decentralisation and accountability, capacity development and empowerment of civil society, especially at grassroots level. Progress in all these aspects will result in bringing about more equity and equality of opportunity.
17. We can clearly state that poverty is not invincible. Relatively new positive trends, such as the improvement of the situation in many LDCs and the graduation of Cape Verde and Maldives from the list of LDCs, must keep us from the temptation of resignation. Those trends reflect the first results of the Brussels Programme of Action. We should continue its firm implementation until 2010. The goals are demanding, but with growing resources and even more attention from every partner we should be able to realise challenges during the remaining five years of the Programme of Action.
Thank you, Madame President
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.