Africa: Globalisation Should Benefit the Least Developed Countries

press release

Istanbul — Former Tanzanian President Benjamin William Mkapa, has called for an overhaul of the global economic order if the poorest countries are to benefit from globalisation.

In a keynote speech to the Ministerial Conference of the 50 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Istanbul, Turkey today, Mkapa urged LDCs to be "at the forefront of bringing the UN back into the business of laying down the international cooperative framework for economic policy and development".

Mkapa, who together with the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, chaired the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation five years ago, said that the present institutions of global economic governance do not reflect the interests of the LDCs. He however, called for changes in the Least Developed Countries themselves, alongside reforms at the international level because "how governments manage the country's internal affairs determines the extent to which its people benefit from globalisation and are protected from its negative effects."

He said there must be good national political governance based on democratic political systems, respect for human rights, the rule of law and social equity. "The state must be effective, particularly in respecting and enforcing economic and social contracts, engender a vibrant civil society buttressed by a state policy of equal opportunities for all, gender equity and strong representative organisations of workers and employers," he said.

Earlier, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, the host country, Abdullah Gul, had said that ensuring the sustainable development of the Least Developed Countries was a common responsibility for the entire international community. "This responsibility, however, should not be reduced to a matter of providing financial resources. We must redress the imbalances of the international economic system," he said.

Mr. Gul announced a fund of 15 million US dollars to support development projects in the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and 5 million US dollars for small and medium scale projects in the Least Developed Countries. "Turkey will continue to do its best to be the voice of the LDCs where they are not represented to better reflect their concerns," he said.

Moussa Affolabi Okanla, Foreign Minister of Benin and Chairman of the Group of the Least Developed Countries, said that the LDCs must have a stronger voice in international negotiations, particularly at the World Trade Organisation and international financial institutions, if globalisation is to benefit them.

Valentine Rugbawiza, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, warned that failure to successfully conclude the Doha Round would jeopardize the gains made over the last five years, including duty-free and quota-free market access for LDCs and the intended reduction of agricultural subsidies by the developed countries by 2013.

The Conference on the theme "Making Globalisation for LDCs" was organised jointly by the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Harriet Schmidt, the UN-OHRLLS Director, warned that if the force of globalisation continues on the path of the last 30 years, it would completely sweep away the Least Developed Countries. "It is the moral and political imperative of the international community to ensure that the LDCs not only benefit from the opportunities created by globalisation, but that they also play their rightful role in shaping its nature. Globalisation should eliminate, not accentuate the world's challenges," she said.

UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis expressed concern at continuing declines in official development assistance. He observed that development assistance by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries declined last year and was projected to decline even further this year. He called on the LDCs to have a stronger voice and participate more in an overall reform of the international architecture, the international governance system, within the United Nations and more broadly.

Dervis stressed the importance of cooperation between Middle Income Countries and LDCs adding: "Often the problems of a middle income country are closer to the challenges that an LDC faces than the problems in a very advanced country."

(*) For further information, please contact Derrick E. Bwalya, Information Officer, United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. Tel: (917) 367-2471. Email: bwalyad@un.org. Website: http://www.un.org/ohrlls/

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