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Commission underlines its commitment to helping world's least developed countries out of poverty

Commission Européenne - MEMO/11/277   06/05/2011

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MEMO/11/277

Brussels, 6 May 2011

Commission underlines its commitment to helping world's least developed countries out of poverty

From 9-13 May 2011, the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC) will take place in Istanbul, Turkey. The European Commission will be represented by European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs and Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht.

The Conference will be a key opportunity to follow-up on previous commitments and proposals made regarding development for the LDCs and to see what more can be done to help the world's poorest countries move out of poverty and reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

On the 9th May President Barroso will speak at the opening session of the UN Conference. On 10th and 11th Commissioners Piebalgs and De Gucht will make their keynote speeches to the Conference.

What are LDCs?

Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are the poorest and weakest countries in the world, held back by weak economies and weak capacity for growth. They are also countries which are particularly vulnerable to man-made and natural disasters, climate change, economic shocks and diseases.

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) category was established in 1971 by the UN. LDCs are today assessed on three criteria: per capita income (GNI), human assets and economic vulnerability.

The total population living in LDCs is 817 million (2008).

How many countries are classed as LDCs?

There are now 48 LDCs - 33 in Africa, 14 in Asia and the Pacific and one in Latin America.

You can see a full list of them at http://www.unohrlls.org/en/ldc/related/62/

How does an LDC country reach graduation?

To become eligible for graduation, a country must reach meet at least two of the aforementioned three criteria, or its GNI per capita must exceed at least twice the threshold level, and this must be seen as being sustainable.

So far, three countries have succeeded in graduating from LDC status: Botswana in 1994, Cape Verde in 2007, and Maldives in 2011.

On average, progress on the LDCs is mixed, with 50% of the population still living on less than $1.25 a day and 78% on less than $2 a day.

Progress has been achieved in several LDCs. For instance, Ethiopia, Laos and Nepal are classified as best Human Development Index performers (levels of life expectancy, literacy, education and living standards) for 2010, and service exporters like Rwanda, and agriculture exporters like Kiribati and Liberia have managed to substantially increase their GDP growth in 2008, despite the repeated crises.

A large number of LDCs could possibly graduate within the next decade: two LDCs are already about to graduate (Equatorial Guinea and Samoa); ten have already met one graduation threshold and could meet a second one in the near future (Angola, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Kiribati, Lesotho, Myanmar, Nepal, Sao Tome and Principe, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) and seven LDCs are likely to meet one to two graduation thresholds in the long run (Cambodia, Comoros, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mauritania, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Yemen).

What is the United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries?

LDC Conferences have taken place every ten years since 1981. The last one (LDC-III) was hosted by the EU in 2001 in Brussels. The Conference in Istanbul will be an occasion to follow up and build on previous commitments and proposals regarding development for the LDCs and to adopt a new Programme of Action.

LDC-IV is the main United Nations' development event of 2011 and will be attended by Heads of State and Government, Ministers and other high-level representatives from the UN Member States and observers.

What will be on the agenda?

The Conference will follow up on the LDC-III Conference held in 2001 in Brussels. The Conference will adopt an Istanbul Programme of Action for the LDCs as well as a political declaration, and provide a forum to discuss issues of importance to the LDCs. The new 10 year Istanbul Programme of Action aims to reaffirm the global commitment to address the special needs of the LDCs, identify effective policies and mobilize additional support measures in a renewed partnership for the LDCs.

What has the Commission done to help lift the LDCs out of poverty so far?

EU development policies are already geared towards supporting the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries. The EU is the biggest donor to the LDCs. It has tripled its aid to the LDCs in last decade in dollar terms. The share of Commission-managed aid going to the LDCs rose from 21.6% in 2000 to 29.9% in 2009.

The EU has been the most successful development partner in fulfilling its commitments relating to LDCs, notably in terms of market access, rules of origin and debt alleviation

a) Helping LDCs meet Official Development Assistance (ODA) targets

In 2008 the EU undertook in 2008 to provide 0.15-0.20% of Gross National Product (GNP) to LDCs. The EU has made significant progress on ODA as well as on policy coherence for development. Currently 0.13% of EU Gross National Income (GNI) goes as aid to LDCs.

EU ODA to LDCs increased by 78% from €8.3 billion in 2000 to €15 billion in 2010 (in $ terms it almost tripled); the share of GNI spent on ODA to LDCs rose from 0.09% in 2000 to 0.13% in 2009; and 8 EU countries were already above the 0.15% threshold in 2009.

b) Brussels Programme of Action (BPoA)

The Brussels Programme of Action (BPoA) was the main outcome of the third LDC Conference, which took place in Brussels in 2001.

The overarching goal of the BPoA was to make substantial progress towards halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and suffering from hunger by 2015. This required significant and steady increases in GDP growth and investment rates in the LDCs.

The BPoA identifies effective policies and helps mobilize additional support measures for enabling the LDCs to graduate.

Crucially, it set up a framework for partnership between LDCs and their development partners. The Programme of Action agreed on contains 30 international development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration. It focused on a three-track approach as being crucial to follow up: implementation, monitoring and review at national, regional and global levels.

Under the BPoA, LDCs and their development partners focused on ten priority issues: poverty eradication, gender equality, employment, governance at national and international levels, capacity-building, sustainable development, special problems of landlocked and small island LDCs, and challenges faced by LDCs affected by conflict.

c) Everything but Arms

Another initiative which specifically targets the LDCs is the Everything but Arms (EBA) scheme.

The EU committed itself to implementing full duty-free, quota-free access for all imports from LDCs – through the Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative. All LDCs have therefore enjoyed 100% duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market since 1 October 2009, except for arms and ammunition.

d) Making extractive industries in LDCs transparent

Enhanced transparency and improved corporate governance will help developing countries optimise revenue collection and maximise their resources to deliver public goods and services to their citizens. It will also allow companies to benefit from a more predictable and stable environment for responsible private sector investment.

The EU supports the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a global standard for transparency in the oil, gas and mining industry – committing companies to publish what they pay and governments to disclose what they receive. It is considered to be an important instrument for development cooperation as it promotes transparency, domestic accountability and better governance in the extractive sector of our partner countries.

As a complement to the EITI, to further strengthen transparency in the extractive sector, the European Commission is currently assessing the possibility of requiring EU-listed companies to disclose financial data, and notably revenue payments, on a country-by-country basis. We hope to adopt a Communication on this soon.

The EITI is supported by 10 Member States and the Commission, and could have a major impact on ensuring the sustainability of oil, gas and mining activities, as well as a balanced distribution of their revenues in LDCs.

e) Helping LDCs adapt to climate change

Many LDCs will be among the countries which will be hit the earliest and the hardest by climate change. That is why the Commission is providing assistance to increase their capacity to adapt to climate change.

In particular, the Commission is helping the Commission is helping LDCs and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to cope with the impact of climate change through the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA). The programme provides capacity building assistance and financial support for a range of activities in the areas of disaster risk reduction, water, agriculture and forest management.

The EU's climate fast start financing, which it committed to in 2010 (2.4 billion and 7.2 billion in total from 2010-2012), is another climate-specific programme designed to help developing countries adapting to climate change and moving to low-carbon development.

Helping to preserve the countries' forests by preventing deforestation and illegal logging is intrinsically linked with helping them to mitigate and also adapt to climate change. The Commission is therefore linking its Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), which addresses the problem of illegal logging through improved forest management and governance structures, with Reduced Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) actions. REDD+ activities also build on good environmental governance and appropriate monitoring, verification and reporting systems being in place.

Finally, the commission is integrating climate change into all sectors of its aid cooperation in order to maximise climate compatible development aid.

f) Aid for Trade - Helping reduce trade barriers for LDCs

One vital way in which the Commission has been helping to break down the barriers to trade and help LDCs to trade more is through its Aid for Trade strategy which commits the EU as a whole to increase Aid for Trade and enhance its impact. In 2009 the EU and its Member States committed €2.3 billion to support LDCs in their efforts to better integrate into the world trading system and to use trade more effectively, promoting the objective of eradicating poverty in the context of sustainable development and inclusive growth.

ANNEX 1

Highlights of the programme of President Barroso

Monday 9 May

9:00 - 10:30 Inaugural Ceremony of the UN LDC Conference: Speech of President Barroso

Highlights of the programme of Commissioner Piebalgs

Monday 9 May

16:00-18:00 Special side event: "Innovative Sources of Financing for the LDCs" Organised by France, World Bank and Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development

Tuesday, 10 May

8:00-10:00 Special side event - Private sector track: Dialogue Workshop on Engaging the Private Sector in Development of LDCs –How Governments and the Private Sector Collaborate to Pursue Inclusive Growth

10:00-13:00 High Level Interactive Thematic Debate: "Resource Mobilization for LDCs' Development and Global Partnership"

16:30-18:00 Istanbul Trade and Development Symposium on LDCs: Tackling structural vulnerabilities and enhancing resilience of LDCs to crisis

Related Links:

IP/11/546

Website of EuropeAid Development and Cooperation Directorate-General

http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/index_en.htm

Website of Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/piebalgs/index_en.htm

Website of the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States:

http://www.unohrlls.org/en/home/


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