Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you and the other members of the Bureau for organizing this preparatory meeting and for inviting Member States to contribute their visions for how best to achieve a successful Fourth UN Conference on Least Developed Countries. The United States commends the work of Under Secretary General Diarra and his team at UN- OHRLLS for ensuring that all stakeholders -- from the Least Developed Countries and other Member States, to multilateral organizations, to parliamentarians, to civil society and the private sector -- have a voice and a stake in a practical and results-oriented Program of Action for LDCs in the coming decade.
The United States firmly believes that development of the world’s poorest countries is a moral, strategic, and economic imperative – one which we all share. The United States disbursed $8.1 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA) to LDCs in 2009 and we anticipate more in 2010. U.S. food security programs benefit a number of LDCs, and in 2011 we plan to expand our $3.5 billion Feed the Future program. This program, together with the Global Health Initiative, is a cornerstone of President Obama’s Global Development Policy.
As we work toward LDC IV, our approach to the Least Developed Countries is guided by our broader agreements and commitments from the September 2010 Millennium Development Goals High-Level Meeting, the 2008 Doha Declaration on Financing for Development, and the 2002 Monterrey Consensus.
There is significant diversity that exists within the LDC group along a number of dimensions, including: degree of fragility and instability, quality of governance, population size, geographic advantages and disadvantages, economic structure, and key development challenges. This diversity means there can be no “one size fits all” approach for tackling the development challenges of LDCs. Therefore, the next Program of Action should be narrowly focused, selective, and realistic, advancing proven policies and best practices.
The process leading up to LDC IV should be based on an objective, rigorous assessment of the results and impacts of the Brussels Program of Action (BPOA). We have seen strong growth in many LDCs, particularly in Africa, and prospects for growth remain good. However, many LDCs are still struggling to meet their Millennium Development Goals.
LDCs that experienced growth are 1) reasonably stable and 2) maintained sound policy performance. And rapid growth has typically been associated with sharp declines in poverty. In fragile and failing states, performance and prospects for development remain discouraging. They face their own distinct development challenges, including basic security, political stability, respect for human rights and democratic governance, and thus demand targeted strategies.
As we discuss LDC challenges and paths to development, we are reminded that responsibility for development lies at the national level. The Program of Action should endorse sustained and inclusive economic growth rooted in an enabling business environment as the proven method for development, through objectively analyzing and eliminating existing constraints to growth and advancing good governance, human rights, economic empowerment, democracy, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Boosting productive capacity through enhanced infrastructure development, and the continued diversification of exports, can boost growth in LDCs.
Science and technology are also essential if developing countries are to make sustained and rapid progress in reducing poverty. Attention should be given to investment in research and development, as well as diffusion of promising innovations, on mutually agreed terms.
Agriculture plays a crucial role in almost all LDCs, both in the form of promoting food security and as the major economic activity for much of the population – women as well as men -- of a large percentage of LDCs. Growth of the agricultural sector is a key means to reduce poverty.
At the global level, an ambitious and balanced conclusion in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Agenda would boost prospects for growth in LDCs. There is enormous untapped potential for expanded regional and South-South trade.
In an era of shrinking budgets, donors and LDCs will be judged on the results and effectiveness of their efforts to bring development and alleviate poverty, and these benchmarks must feature prominently in the LDC IV process and the Program of Action. We cannot measure just aid as an input, but instead must focus on outputs. ODA can help achieve the MDGs, but the purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed.
The decade since LDC III also saw tremendous growth in other sources of development finance beyond ODA, to the point that it is a modest contributor to available development financing. These sources include, but are not limited to: domestic resource mobilization, domestic and foreign investment, responsible lending and sustainable debt, remittances and diaspora returnees, contributions of civil society organizations and foundations, and burgeoning South-South cooperation. Each of these can be expanded on as a promising source of development financing or assistance.
LDC IV should focus on aid effectiveness and emerging sources of finance rather than setting volume targets for ODA. It should also recognize the work being done in other international fora, such as the G20 and international financial institutions, to help the world’s poorest countries meet their MDGs.
Mr. Chairman, The LDC IV process is an opportunity to review the progress of LDCs in terms of what works and what does not. And more importantly, it provides an opportunity for LDCs, with support from their international partners, to recommit to proven policies and best practices to spur sustainable economic growth, reduce poverty and achieve the MDGs in the coming decade.
I thank you.
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