Delegates in Preparatory Meeting Express Concern about Shortage of Countries 'Graduating' from Least-Developed Status over Last Decade

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(MMD Newswire) January 12, 2011 -- Amid widespread concern that more of the world's poorest nations had not graduated to the next stage of socio-economic development in the last 10 years, officials from developing countries pressed today for the fulfilment of development assistance pledges, reform of trade policies and the transfer of technology, while urging the United Nations to help devise specially tailored strategies to help ease the transition to prosperity.

Such measures would set the stage for a successful Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, speakers said as the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for that Conference concluded its general debate. They would also solidify the principle of genuine partnership outlined in the Brussels Programme of Action, the outcome document adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in 2001. The Fourth Conference is to be held from 9 to 13 May in Istanbul, Turkey.

Many speakers said that the 48 least developed countries, grappling with low productive capacity, poor infrastructure and high unemployment, also faced a host of new socio-economic difficulties resulting from deteriorating climate conditions, growing food insecurity, rising energy prices and increasing water scarcity. Their vulnerability to such external shocks must be addressed to minimize the risks of severe economic damage, and it was essential that the action programme emerging from Istanbul place least developed countries "in the driver's seat" and reflect their specific priorities.

Haiti's representative said his country would view the Istanbul action programme as an emergency plan for those still suffering as the first anniversary of the massive earthquake that had struck the island nation last 12 January approached. Haitians were wondering whether the $10 billion in aid pledged at the 31 March International Donors' Conference would be disbursed because they had seen only a very small part of it. Haiti could not be among the 24 nations expected to graduate from the list of least developed countries in 10 years' time, as its vulnerability to natural disasters and its immense human suffering ranked it last in that category, he said.

Mali's delegate said the strategies to be devised in Istanbul must prompt a shift from the decennial conference cycle to a focus on development financing assistance, which was a powerful complement to official development assistance (ODA), especially in the areas of health, education and the environment. The current absence of regular follow-up was another shortcoming, he said, urging the creation of a mechanism for that purpose, particularly at the national and regional levels.

Pakistan's representative, noting that least developed countries had yet to benefit from enhanced market access, said their debts also remained a challenge, despite debt relief. Such inadequacies must be addressed in existing frameworks, he said, calling for an early conclusion of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations and the creation of mechanisms to manage those debt burdens.

Aslam Shakir, Minister of State for Finance and Treasury of the Maldives, said that, as one of only three nations to have graduated from least-developed status, his country considered the step a long-awaited achievement. At the same time, however, the General Assembly had largely ignored its deep social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities in deciding that it should graduate. The United Nations needed better methods to address the needs of small island developing States, he added.

Moreover, there was no clear idea what a "smooth transition" meant in practice and who would be responsible for it, he continued. The Maldives had been left to "fend for itself" and to cajole its partners to ensure that its benefits as a least developed country were not abruptly cut on 1 January. The country had received almost no support from the United Nations as it prepared for graduation, especially on the withdrawal of travel support, he said, emphasizing that such issues must be addressed to ensure that others could face their graduation on a sure footing.

Pointing one way forward, the representative of the World Tourism Organization said sustainable tourism was a key instrument for increasing participation in the world economy and an important source of employment, especially for women and youth. It was a leading source of export earnings in 46 least developed countries, he said, adding that the sector also offered huge potential for future growth, as reflected in the growing number of countries including tourism in their national development plans and strategies.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Republic of Tanzania, Benin, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Thailand, Qatar, Madagascar and Sierra Leone.

Speaking as observers were officials representing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the World Meteorological Organization.

The Meeting will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 14 January, to conclude its first session.

Background

The Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries met this morning to conclude its general debate. The Conference is scheduled for 9 to 13 May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Statements

OMBENI SEFUE (United Republic of Tanzania), associating with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, described as unconscionable the fact that the number of least developed countries had not declined. "This is against the human decency, the moral values and the human solidarity we all ascribe to," he said, underscoring the need to be more ambitious in implementing the Brussels Programme. The Tanzanian Government was clear on what must emerge from the Istanbul Conference and invited partnerships focused on obstacles to graduation. A succinct statement of renewed political commitment to partnership towards graduation was the foremost goal, he said, adding that a brief overview of the implementation of the Brussels Programme was also needed.

Also required was an Istanbul action programme focused on what least developed countries had determined they needed to graduate, what they would undertake to achieve that goal, and the type of support they needed, he said. Financing for development was critical, as was capacity-building for good governance and the delivery of basic social services. Infrastructure, especially for unlocking productive capacities in agriculture, was also required. Underscoring the importance of markets that would guarantee expanded preferential trade access for least developed countries, he also said South-South cooperation, supported by industrialized countries, held the key to prosperity.

THIERRY ALIA ( Benin) said the Conference would occur in a "very worrying" context for least developed countries. Noting that much remained to be done on implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, he stressed the need to overcome obstacles to formulating a new action programme that would ensure that least developed countries joined the ranks of prosperous nations. Despite the good intentions stated in 2001 during the Brussels Conference and the efforts made by least developed countries, few of them had graduated to middle-income status or were in transition to it, he said, noting that their major challenges had been compounded by climate change and the constraints of globalization. More than 800 million people in least developed countries lived on less than $2 a day and over 300 million people in Africa were food insecure, he said, pointing out that the continent accounted for 33 of the 48 least developed countries.

He went on to note that least developed countries were virtually dependent on outside sources of financing like official development assistance (ODA), adding that such dependency exposed them to outside shocks like the world financial and economic crisis, which had had major repercussions. Pointing out that his country had been engaged in all stages of the preparatory process for the upcoming Conference, he said it was timely to emphasize the need to learn from the Brussels Programme of Action and to adopt a realistic new 10-year programme with a clearly established follow-up mechanism to assess progress. He underlined the need to build productive capacity in least developed countries and to reduce their vulnerability to outside pressure. Expressing hope that the Meeting would be able to arrive at a new action programme that would enable more of the least developed countries to graduate, he requested that the documents for discussion be made available in French.

SALEUMXAY KOMMASITH (Lao People's Democratic Republic), associating with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the global picture did not appear optimistic with only two countries recommended for graduation in the last 10 years. That limited number reflected the ineffective implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action. He said that his country, which enjoyed one of the highest regional growth rates, had reduced poverty between 1990 and last year, but despite that progress, the maternal mortality rate remained high while HIV/AIDS and malaria were ongoing challenges. Strongly committed to realizing the goals of the Brussels Programme, the Government must mobilize all its domestic potential to graduate from least-developed status by 2020, he said.

Enormous financial resources would be needed in that pursuit, he continued, underscoring the need to chart medium- and long-term targets for the next decade so as to ensure that more countries would graduate by 2020. Success required renewed political commitment on the part of all stakeholders, including least developed countries, developed-country partners and the United Nations system. Indeed, the Organization played a significant role and should mainstream activities relating to least developed countries into its policies and work plans, in addition to focusing assistance on national priorities. An effective system-wide approach by the world body, including through "Delivering as One", was crucial, he stressed, adding that his country was ready to work with all partners to attain the targets to be set at the Istanbul Conference.

SAMBU WAGUÉ (Mali), endorsing the statements made on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of 77 and China, said the promises made to the world's poorest nations had not been fully honoured. The goals outlined at the 2001 Brussels Conference were to have been achieved by 2010, including the establishment of a good governance system at national and international levels, the creation of production capacities, the enhancement of the role of trade in development, and the mobilization of financial resources, the last of which was heavily dependent on others.

Despite the goals, least developed countries were not a preferred investment destination, he said. Mali, for its part, had reduced malnutrition, increased school enrolment and decreased the mortality rate for children under the age of five years, he said, adding that the country would work to strengthen small- and medium-sized enterprises, especially those involved in agricultural processing. Mali had great hopes that the outcome document of the Istanbul Conference would fulfil expectations. Strategies were needed to allow a shift from the decennial conference cycle to a focus on development financing assistance, which was a powerful complement to ODA, especially in the areas of health, education and the environment. The current absence of regular follow-up was a shortcoming, he said, stressing the need for such a mechanism, particularly at the national and regional levels.

LAWRENCE LUKWIYA ( Uganda) said the key objectives in Istanbul must be to carry forward the efforts made under the Brussels Programme by addressing gaps and challenges in implementation. That required the collective effort of least developed countries and their partners, the international community's constructive engagement and the full cooperation of international financial institutions. The new action programme should take into account the core interests of least developed countries, notably economic diversification, he said. That required long-term policies on trade, agriculture, industrial development and other areas, as well as appropriate roles for the State and the market. The action programme must also focus on alleviating the financial shortfalls of least developed countries as a matter of priority, and list concrete measures to address their specific vulnerabilities, notably climate change.

The adaptation needs of least developed countries must be mainstreamed into the broader development agenda, and appropriate action by the international community must be part of the Conference outcome, he said. Moreover, the Istanbul action programme must make a real difference by promoting the graduation of least developed countries and placing them on a path to high, sustainable growth and economic diversification. There should be a particular focus on building productive capacities to increase their ability to efficiently and competitively produce a wide range of goods and services with high added value, leading them to economic diversification and structural transformation. The graduation criteria should not be based on a narrow set of characteristics like per capita income, he stressed, but on a comprehensive assessment of characteristics reflecting significant socio-economic transformation.

PAUL ROBERT TIENDREBEOGO ( Burkina Faso) said that although the conclusions from national and regional preparatory meetings pointed to achievements in implementing the Brussels Programme, the progress was limited from one country to another and from one industry to another. According to the 2001 report of the Secretary-General on implementing the Brussels Programme of Action, the lack of results was due to economic sluggishness, financial shortfalls, climate change and other factors. Least developed countries, which were already fragile, had seen their precarious situations exacerbated by the multiple crises, and the Secretary-General had recommended that they develop viable statistics systems, mobilize additional financial resources and become more involved in global governance.

Expressing hope that the Secretary-General's recommendations would be taken into account during the negotiation process, he urged delegates to use the outcomes of the preparatory meetings as the main negotiating documents. They must highlight the major concerns of least developed countries and their need for ownership of the development process. He emphasized the need to facilitate access to global markets, food security, more financial resources, capacity-building, local industry development, information and communications technology, energy production and basic social services. He also underscored the need to develop transport, energy and communication infrastructure, and to increase ODA. The Conference should begin a new era for least developed countries, building on progress and identifying challenges to realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

PAUL LOSOKO EFAMBE EMPOLE (Democratic Republic of the Congo), endorsing the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that during the first phase of implementation of the Brussels Programme, his country had been divided by political and military factions following civil war, a situation that eventually had led to the establishment of a transitional Government. The second half of that period had been more fortunate as the country had worked with the international community to enhance resources, with a view to rationalizing public spending.

Such efforts, he said, had led to improvements in the business climate, governance and the rule of law, allowing the country to reach the completion point for eligibility for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative process. It would now be desirable for assistance no longer to be confined to emergency humanitarian aid, and eventually to cover the job-creating sectors. Priority should be given to agriculture and tourism, both of which could create small enterprises, he said. More generally, partners should remove their trade barriers as a way to ensure that least developed countries did not "stand on the sidelines" of the global economy. A good system of technology transfer to least developed countries must also be established, he said, stressing the importance of respecting the principles of the Paris Declaration in that regard.

AMJAD HUSSAIN SIAL ( Pakistan) said that despite the gains that some least developed countries had made in improving socio-economic conditions since the 2001 Brussels Conference, many still faced formidable challenges and had a long way to go to realize the Millennium Goals. In addition to traditional challenges, they faced new socio-economic difficulties caused be deteriorating climate conditions, growing food insecurity, rising energy prices and increasing water scarcity, which had exacerbated development challenges.

It was essential that the Istanbul action programme include the development priorities proposed by least developed countries, which must themselves lead and drive development strategies, he stressed. It must focus on sustainable economic growth, and should support national efforts to build and maintain the institutional capacity to achieve development, while enhancing and developing their productive capacities. As those countries were predominantly dependent on agriculture, the action plan must aim to enhance agricultural productivity and promote agro-industry, he said.

Noting that least developed countries were yet to benefit from enhanced market access, he said their debts also remained a challenge, despite debt relief. Such inadequacies must be addressed in the existing frameworks, he said, calling for an early conclusion of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations and for the creation of mechanisms to manage those debt burdens. The action programme must include strong international support, particularly from development partners, as well as adequate and predictable financial flows. It must be designed to allow maximum flexibility and policy space for development programmes in least developed countries.

ADWELL ZENNBELLE (Malawi), associating with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the aspiration of the Malawian people was to graduate from the least-developed list and become a middle-income economy by 2020, a vision articulated in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy. Implementation of that plan had yielded various positive outcomes, including an average annual gross domestic product of 7.5 per cent over the last five years. Malawi had also set ambitious targets for realizing the Millennium Development Goals through medium-term national development strategies, among other efforts.

The negotiation process for a new action programme would provide numerous opportunities for least developed countries, notably to review implementation of the Brussels Programme, he said. The upcoming Istanbul Conference would offer a chance to revitalize the global partnership, appeal to development partners to open their markets to goods from least developed countries, attract meaningful investment, and appeal to developed nations to live up to their financial pledges, he said. Annual reviews of the new action programme could be made easier by setting annual targets for various indicators, he added.

JEAN CLAUDY PIERRE ( Haiti), noting that this week's Meeting coincided with the first anniversary of the massive earthquake that had struck his country last 12 January, said Haiti was the only least developed country in the Americas to experience such an event, which had led to a 50 per cent drop in gross domestic product. The situation in Haiti prior to one of the most devastating disasters in history had also been very difficult, with the country having experienced four hurricanes in one year. They had caused a 12 per cent reduction in gross domestic product, the largest such drop for any country in the region.

He pointed out that more than 1 million Haitians remained in tents and camps for the displaced, and the cholera epidemic was causing deaths every day, a burden that Haiti could no longer bear. The country could not be among the 24 expected to graduate from the list of least developed countries in 10 years, he said, adding that it could not expect even a partial realization of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Haiti had significant individual characteristics that made it the least developed of all least developed countries, he said, pointing to its natural disasters and immense human suffering. The international community must be reminded of the suffering endured by the people of one of its members.

Describing the Istanbul action programme as an emergency plan for those who suffered, he said that even though Governments were mainly responsible for improving the welfare of their people, their lack of resources meant they needed the help of development partners to tackle challenges. Haiti was working to ensure good governance and social policies, but it needed substantial aid from development partners to make that happen. During the 31 March International Donors' Conference, the international community had pledged $10 billion in reconstruction, but today the country was wondering whether such pledges would be disbursed because it saw only a very small part of that aid reaching Haiti.

JAKKRIT SRIVALI ( Thailand), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said the Istanbul action programme should emphasize three key areas, the first being the need to enhance productive capacity, which was fundamental to growth and structural transformation. In that context, greater priority should be given to balanced, sustainable agricultural development, with primary goals focused on poverty eradication and food security. In some countries, it might even be desirable to bypass industrialization with the aim instead of building a creative economy, with value generated by intellectual capital.

Turning to the second key area, he said the vulnerabilities of least developed countries must be addressed in order to minimize the risks of severe economic damage from external shocks. Least developed countries needed continued to need ODA, FDI and preferential trade arrangements. Infrastructure development was a pressing need and better networks for transport, telecommunications and renewable energy would allow them to make the most of their own potential. The third key area was regional integration, which could also play a vital strategic role, he said. Done right, it could narrow regional development gaps and promote intra-regional trade. Regional connectivity could also help integrate the poorest nations into markets.

ALYA AHMED S. AL-THANI ( Qatar) said creating the Istanbul action programme was important as it related to the main global challenges that greatly impacted least developed countries. It was important to implement the Brussels Programme and translate it into tangible results, in line with the national development frameworks of least developed countries, she said, stressing the need for commitments to foster their economic, environmental and social development. She recalled that the international community had committed to make globalization more comprehensive, inclusive and just, sparing least developed countries the risk of marginalization from the global economy.

International cooperation, free trade, and economic liberalization were the best way to achieve economic development in least developed countries, she said. Calling for the resumption of the suspended Doha trade talks, she called for their resumption as soon as possible, and emphasized that serious measures must be taken to conclude the negotiations by year's end. Qatar had always been a supportive partner of efforts by developed countries to eradicate poverty in a more just way that would have a positive effect on stability and international peace and security, she said, adding that the country was committed to the preparatory process and looked forward to a comprehensive outcome document.

ANDRY RAHARINOMENA (Madagascar), associating with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the need for new initiatives to address development matters was well known. Practical strategies must be devised to muster much-needed cooperation to promote growth and sustainable development. With that in mind, action should be taken to "reshape the development cooperation landscape" to drive long-lasting change, he said.

The success of a new action programme would depend on the coherence, coordination and complementarity of development partners, which would impact the economic and political dynamics of least developed countries, he said. New energy must be injected into partnerships to address significant challenges. "Business as usual" was not an option and there was cause for optimism that future challenges could be tackled through development-oriented, coherent national policies, coupled with strong and predictable international development cooperation targeted to meet specific country needs. "We must do better than in the past," he emphasized.

ASLAM SHAKIR, Minister of State for Finance and Treasury of the Maldives, recalled that his country had graduated from the list of least developed countries on 1 January. Graduation should be seen, first and foremost, as an achievement, he noted. Indeed, it was an opportunity to move to the next level of socio-economic development, a step that the Maldives must take while remaining aware of the new challenges posed by the loss of benefits due to a least developed country. With that in mind, the Maldives must speed its private sector-led reforms, he said, adding that with its world-class tourism sector, it had nothing to fear from full integration into the world economy.

However, graduation must not happen in a haphazard way, but rather as part of a calibrated process of "smooth transition", he emphasized. At the same time, the well-documented vulnerabilities of small island developing States had not disappeared, he cautioned, pointing out that the General Assembly had largely ignored his country's deep social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities in deciding that it should graduate. Efforts were required to ensure that the Maldives was as resilient as possible in order to deal with the environmental shocks that would surely come its way, he said. The United Nations needed better methods to address the needs of small island developing States, he said, expressing support for the establishment of an officially recognized category for them.

He went on to say that although "smooth transition" was endorsed by Assembly resolutions 46/206 (1991) and 59/209 (2004), the concept had not been implemented, since there was no clear idea of what it meant and who was responsible for it. That had left the Maldives to "fend for itself" by cajoling its partners to ensure that its benefits were not abruptly cut on 1 January. Moreover, the country had enjoyed almost no support from the United Nations in its preparation for graduation, especially on the withdrawal of travel support. Since it was only the third country to graduate, it was important to learn from mistakes and work to improve the system so that others would not face such challenges, he emphasized. Thanking partners for their support, he said measures had been taken in an ad hoc manner and had not been mirrored by the United Nations. Such experiences showed the need for the Organization to clarify what "smooth transition" meant in practice.

Citing operative paragraph 4 of resolution 59/209, he said the Government of the Maldives believed it to mean that "smooth transition" was supposed to take place immediately after graduation and did not refer to a three-year grace period. A "smooth transition mechanism" should have assessed the Maldives as being closer to its graduation date. Graduation was not meant to threaten countries, he stressed, calling for assurances that transition plans really were in the best interests of the country involved, its partners and the United Nations. Had that been done, the Maldives would have been better prepared to deal with the situation. The concept of smooth transition must be institutionalized so that others could face graduation on a sure footing, he said.

BANIE EILLAH SEISAY ( Sierra Leone) said that 10 years since Brussels, huge challenges and most of the least developed countries' structural constraints remained, despite some progress. Most of the least developed countries were largely underdeveloped, as evidenced by the fact that only two of them had been able to graduate from least-developed status. They grappled with low productive capacity, poor road networks and other infrastructure, high unemployment, particularly among youth, as well as high maternal mortality, among other challenges.

However, some commendable progress had been made, he said, noting that his own country had emerged from a decade of conflict into an era of stability. It was now investing in road networks, water supply and the agriculture sector. Sierra Leone had developed, with support from development partners, its agenda for change - a second-generation poverty reduction strategy paper. It had also made meaningful progress on electricity, feeder roads, development in agriculture, health, education and water services, he said.

He went on to point out that investment in feeder roads was opening up areas for cultivation and connecting rural communities to basic services. The installation of a small commercialization programme was beginning to show positive results in agricultural production, including rice to bolster food security, he said, adding that there had also been progress in the health care sector. In 2010, the Government had begun providing free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under the age of five to reduce high infant and maternal mortality rates. Positive results were already evident, he said, adding that it was encouraging that, for the first time in 10 years, Sierra Leone was ranked above the bottom 10 least developed countries.

SARBULAND KHAN, World Tourism Organization, said sustainable tourism had emerged as a unique opportunity to break down the barriers facing least developed countries. It was a key instrument for increasing their participation in the world economy and an important source of employment, especially for women and youth. It was the leading export sector and source of exchange for all non-oil exporting least developed countries. In 46 of the 48 least developed countries, it was a leading source of export earnings. The sector also offered huge potential for future growth, reflected in the growing number of countries including it in their national development plans and strategies.

Tourism was linked to infrastructure, services, agriculture and manufacturing, making it a significant driver of diversification, he said, adding that sustainable tourism aimed to generate income and employment while preserving the environment and culture of local communities. It required an integrated approach, supported by the coordination of relevant United Nations agencies. A group of the Organization's agencies, led by the World Tourism Organization, had created a steering committee on tourism development, which was open to other agencies of the world body and would work towards a coherent approach to developing tourism. For the Istanbul Conference, the committee had agreed to various deliverables, including the presentation of a joint position paper intended to lead to the creation of a multilateral trust fund for tourism, he said.

MELCHIADE BUKURU, Chief, Liaison Office, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said efforts to address climate change in least developed countries must focus on implementing plans for the sustainable management of land in addition to combating desertification, land degradation and drought. The loss of fertile topsoil and arable land had caused water scarcity and recurring droughts that fuelled food insecurity and poverty, threatening the very existence of those living in least developed countries. The Convention and its 10-year strategy, adopted in September 2007, aimed to forge a global coalition and partnerships to combat those ills, and to use proven sustainable-management land practices to improve the living conditions of affected populations and affected ecosystems.

He urged development partners to provide least developed countries with adequate funding to conserve the land, which was their most valuable asset, and to protect it from the consequences of climate change. Doing so in most of those countries would help eradicate poverty and hunger, which often resulted in land degradation. Addressing desertification, land degradation and drought deserved a prominent place in the Istanbul outcome documents, he said, calling for a policy shift that would place sustainable land management at the core of investment. Such a shift was needed to enable more countries to graduate from least-developed status, he said. Preventing land degradation and improving soil productivity would prove crucial in alleviating poverty and spurring sustainable growth.

PHILIPPE KRIDELKA, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), outlined five main priorities as the agency looked forward to the Istanbul Conference. Quality education was a primary driver in reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development, he said adding that the link between education and higher growth was well established. In the agriculture sector, more education was strongly associated with higher wages, income and productivity. Science, technology and innovation were the foundations of sustainable development, he stressed.

Indeed, the effects of low scientific literacy and the poor quality of scientific education in least developed countries had been compounded by brain drain and a lack of awareness about the importance of such foundations, he said. A third priority centred on information and communication technology for development, he said, noting that UNESCO looked forward to participating in the Istanbul discussions in the Broadband Commission. Culture was also a vehicle for economic development, a point that should be reflected in the Istanbul process, he said. Finally, climate change was affecting everything in least developed countries, from sea levels to food security, to migration, an issue that must be addressed.

KALIBA KONARE, Director, Office for the Least Developed Countries, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said the reported capacity of least developed countries in tourism, energy and other areas had been negatively affected by extreme weather events due to climate change. They must be provided with sound data and climate services to help them manage climate risk. By any standard, the science of water and climate had made outstanding progress in the last decade, but only a few least developed countries had benefited from it because they lacked the capacity to exploit climate knowledge and its potential benefits. To support the Brussels Programme, the WMO had set up a programme in 2003 to provide least developed countries with relevant and timely water services and climate information, he said.

In that context, the agency had helped several of those countries prepare development and modernization plans for meteorological services, he said, adding that it had also set up forums on climate forecasting. In September 2009, the WMO and its partners had organized World Climate Conference 3, which had established a global framework for climate services, taking into account the special needs of least developed countries. The WMO was committed to ensuring that weather and climate information services reached those who needed them most, particularly smallholder farmers. Climate change was a priority area for least developed countries to address, yet only 10 per cent of them were able to provide essential national climate services, he noted, stressing that the WMO's goal was to increase that to 50 per cent by 2020.

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