While Making Measured Progress, Least Developed Countries Still Need Help Building Productive Capacities, High Representative Tells Economic and Social Council
Economic and Social Council
2012 Substantive Session
42nd & 43rd Meetings (AM & PM)
Reviewing 2011 Istanbul Action Plan, Council also Discusses Haiti, South Sudan;
Adopts Texts on Coherence in Tobacco Control; Science, Technology for Development
A prosperous future for the world’s 48 poorest nations hinged on continued support for building their productive capacities, improving their access to technology and integrating into their national development plans the Istanbul Programme of Action, which aimed to see at least half of those countries graduate from their “least developed” status by 2030, the Economic and Social Council heard today, as it examined those challenges with a focus on Haiti and South Sudan.
Those issues took centre stage as the Council, in day two of its general segment, grappled with how the United Nations followed up on the outcomes of its major summits and conferences, and coordinated efforts to support disaster- or conflict-affected countries. The Istanbul Programme of Action, adopted in May 2011 at the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, in Istanbul, Turkey, laid out a 10-year plan to help the most vulnerable nations overcome poverty.
Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s first report on the implementation of the Programme of Action, which had, over the past year, become the benchmark against which all future progress in those countries would be measured.
He emphasized that economic activity in the least developed countries was still very vulnerable to exogenous shocks. To be sure, poverty had only declined slowly and most countries had not seen meaningful structural changes during the period under review. Progress in building infrastructure had been mixed, while agriculture had not expanded much in most of those nations.
Despite those hurdles, he said that for the first time, a growing number of least developed countries — though still very few — had met the graduation criteria or were likely to do so in the coming years, he said. Samoa was expected to graduate in 2014, while Equatorial Guinea, Tuvalu and Vanuatu had met graduation criteria for at least the third time, and both Kiribati and Angola had met them for the first time.
Thanks to a strong political commitment, broader visions of the Istanbul Programme of Action were being echoed in national development plans. What was needed now, he said, was for international financial institutions to better recognize the “least developed” category of nations, which would mark an important step towards realizing the priorities agreed in Istanbul.
Striking a similar chord, Guillermo Rishchynski ( Canada) introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, providing the latest overview of the country’s reconstruction following the devastating 2010 earthquake. The report made a number of recommendations to the United Nations, Haiti’s development partners and the Haitian Government. It pressed the Government to establish national priorities and take responsibility for national programmes. Partners needed to step up financial resources, as there had been a downward trend in payouts. It also highlighted the need to continue coordination with United Nations bodies, including the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
During and after its May visit to Haiti, the Group had seen evidence of progress over the last year, he said. A new Government was in place and there was newfound institutional capacity. There also had been a notable shift in the transfer of responsibility of programmes and projects to Haitian partners. A long-term vision for development must ensure a more prosperous future. The challenges were manifold. Donors should be mobilized to assist in stabilization efforts and the Government must show the aptitude and determination to shoulder its responsibilities. “The only thing we cannot envisage is failure,” he concluded.
Josefa Raymond Gauthier, Minister of Planning and External Cooperation of Haiti, agreed, saying that Haiti was a “harbinger of great hope”, but was also fragile. Its status would worsen if international partners failed to help improve its governance and attract foreign investment. Haiti had made gains in the area of education and did have documentation to prove it, contrary to what was stated in the Group’s report. In addition, a budget forecast now anticipated project needs, and other efforts were under way to decentralize decision making to each of the country’s 10 regions. The strategic development plan was a “realistic” programme that sought to make Haiti an emerging country by 2030.
In the afternoon, the Council’s review of the United Nations work moved to South Sudan, with Shamshad Akhtar, Assistant Secretary-General for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introducing the first-ever report on the implementation of integrated, coherent and coordinated support to a country that faced “formidable” human and physical capacity challenges. Despite its oil wealth, South Sudan ranked among the least developed countries with some of the harshest living conditions.
Amid “daunting and multiple challenges”, the United Nations had made South Sudan’s transition from relief to development its highest priority, he said, noting it had worked with partners to develop an approach that envisioned a gradual shift from providing life-saving services to working under the leadership of national authorities. Through the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), the United Nations was aligning its plans with national priorities. It also was coordinating efforts between the country team and Resident Coordinator’s office to establish “common operational systems” to streamline programme delivery.
In its interactive discussion on the same theme, Mary Jarvas Yak, Deputy Minister of Finance of South Sudan, said: “We are starting with very little, building institutions of governance from scratch.” The transition was “overwhelming in both scale and complexity”. The main objective — as laid out in the 2011-2013 development plan — was to build a democratic, transparent and accountable Government, managed by a professional and committed public service, and with an effective balance of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. With the support of its partners, including the United Nations, South Sudan was rapidly ensuring that State structures could manage core governance functions.
In final business today, the Council, acting on the recommendation of its Commission on Science and Technology for Development, adopted two resolutions and a decision contained in the Commission’s report of its fiftieth session. By the first resolution — “Assessment of the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society” — the Council urged United Nations entities still not cooperating in the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit and its follow-up to commit to a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society.
By the second resolution — on “science and technology for development” — the Council decided to make the several recommendations for consideration by national Governments, the Commission and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In a related decision, the Council took note of the Commission’s report and approved the provisional agenda for its sixtieth session.
The Council also adopted a consensus resolution on United Nations system-wide coherence on tobacco control, which recognized the fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health, including in the work of the United Nations.
Also speaking today was Abulkalam Abdul Momen ( Bangladesh), Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission, who briefed the Council on the economic and social challenges of peacebuilding in African countries emerging from conflict.
Amanda Serumaga, Team Leader of the Democratic Governance Unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Sudan, participated on the South Sudan panel.
Mongi Hamdi, of the Science, Technology and ICT Branch of the Technology and Logistics Division of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on Progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, 25 July, to continue the general segment of its 2012 substantive session.