We welcome the Secretary General’s report to this meeting on the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action to achieve the MDGs in the least developed countries.
We note with satisfaction that since the last stocktaking there has been an increase in the number of LDCs where economic growth is on the rise. It is particularly satisfactory to see that there are now several African countries with a GDP growth close to the 7 per cent target we set in the Action Programme. It is, however, in this context not so encouraging to note that some Asian and Pacific countries are lagging behind and that the benefits from the encouraging growth we see in Africa are being partly offset by the rapid population growth in the region. We would have had less cause for worry had the high population growth been due to success in achieving the MDG targets on maternal health and on deaths of infants. This is not the case, however. The figures presented in the report bear little evidence of major improvements in these fields.
This means that a greater effort is needed. We here are all party to the global bargain and we have a shared responsibility for making progress in eradicating poverty and securing a decent living for poor people in the world, not least in the LDCs. According to the latest poverty figures the global number as well as the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has fallen since 2002. The reduction is not big however, and in Sub Saharan Africa there has even been a small increase due to the high population growth rates. This shows that we need to reinforce our efforts if the Millennium Development Goals are to be realised, especially in Africa where most LDCs are located.
The main responsibility for development lies of course with the LDCs themselves. This is has been emphasized on numerous occasions and it is also clearly stated in the Brussels Programme of Action. Sound policies and good governance at all levels are of crucial importance. Based on the fact that 8 out of 10 of the worst performers in the world regarding corruption are LDCs, better anti-corruption policies in these countries are essential. It is encouraging therefore to note that more LDCs are now pledging to adhere to the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Inititative as well as to the Kimberly process. But more progress is needed if we are to succeed in combatting corruption and economic fraud on a broad basis.
We note with encouragement that investment rates are going up in many of the LDCs. But while optimism seems to be strong in the private sector and among officials in countries such as Tanzania and Ethiopia, there is also a large group of LDCs where investment rates continue to be low and the business climate unfavourable. Whereas in many LDCs there has been clear progress on improving political stability, corruption, the rule of law and human security, all crucial for a good investment climate, we also note that the performance regarding accountability and government effectiveness has become weakened in the group as a whole. Added to this, the development of infrastructure such as railways, roads, energy supply and telecommunications has been slow. These are all serious obstacles to the vibrant development of the private sector in these countries.
Norway is ready to assist in alleviating this situation in the countries where we are present and to help create a better environment for growth and development with the expertise we can muster in relevant sectors while adhering to the principles of the Paris Declaration.
According to the Secretary General’s report, our joint effort in building human and institutional capacities has yielded too few positive results. Life expectancy at birth is still very low in LDCs and is even declining in some African countries. There is also negative news regarding maternal mortality. Sub standard hygiene and poor nutrition are partly to blame for this along with HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases. It is therefore welcoming to note from the report that mortality in both the under fives and infants is improving in more and more countries while there is still a way to go in the LDCs to improve the gender situation and adult literacy.
The report shows that there is an urgent need for action. The LDCs need more and better aid. The commitments that most developed countries have made to increase official development assistance should be honoured and we are pleased to note that commitments to reach the agreed UN target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) are now adhered to by a great many countries. More donors need to join in, however, to actively make the Commission for Africa and the G8 countries’ scaling up initiative a success. Norway has tabled a development budget for 2008 amounting to 0.98 per cent of GNI and we are aiming for 1 per cent and beyond in the next few years. LDCs are large beneficiaries of Norwegian aid.
The LDCs need targeted debt relief. Norway is a strong supporter of this and of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative which has for several years provided the main framework and means for assisting the poorest and most indebted countries. Beyond the HIPC initiative Norway has actively supported the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative and we have also pledged to support the new IMF Exogenous Shock Facility to help deepen and consolidate debt relief. From a Norwegian point of view it is important to ensure that debt relief to the poorest is additional, and that it delivers to those who need it most. Norwegian debt relief is genuinely additional. It is not taken from the development assistance budget but is provided over and above this.
Developing countries need more investment and trade in order to develop jobs and industries that can create wealth and build societies. We are encouraged by the fact that the developing countries’ share of foreign direct investment (FDI) has risen. However, there are major differences between as well as within regions. Disappointingly Africa seems to have benefited only marginally from the increases in FDI to developing countries we have seen over the last few years.
Trade is an important vehicle for promoting economic growth and development. The LDCs as a group have not succeeded in improving their exports very much over the last few years. They are still in strong need of better market access and further integration into the international trading system. Norway is doing its part in these efforts, and has granted the LDCs duty- and quota-free access to the Norwegian market since 2002. We encourage all other developed countries to follow suit. Advanced developing countries should also contribute to improved market access for the LDCs’ exports.
In this respect, the current WTO negotiations provide the framework for improving the LDCs’ position in multilateral trade. Norway stands ready to deliver on the development promise of the Doha Ministerial Declaration. We are willing to make Doha a “round for free” for the poorest countries. And we recognise that the link between trade and development is not automatic; developing countries need our support to overcome supply-side constraints on their participation in international markets.
We need to develop production and trade capacity. We need to increase employment opportunities in the LDCs. If they are to benefit from improved market access, we need to address capacity constraints on the supply side, in particular those related to productivity and quality, logistics and infrastructure. A coherent approach is vital to optimise the effect of such financial and technical assistance. Norway is a major supporter of the Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to LDCs (IF). We have participated actively in the development of the IF and will support the newly enhanced framework. In addition we support the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme for African countries, and the various trust funds for technical assistance in UNCTAD, the ITC and the WTO.
Between us we have the knowledge and the means we need to reduce poverty and create sustainable economic and social development in LDCs. What we need is the will to really put our plans into action and turn promises into deeds. This goes for us all – LDC governments and development partners alike. Norway stands ready to shoulder its responsibilities and do its part.