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7879: Poorest nations' conference (mention of Haiti) (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By PAUL GEITNER
BRUSSELS, May 14 (AP) -- A U.N. conference on how to lift the world's
most destitute countries out of crushing poverty opened Monday with
promises of solidarity from rich nations and proposals to make better use
of aid, trade and private investment.
Joining leaders from the poorest countries at the weeklong meeting were
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and French President Jacques Chirac, who
decried "growing inequalities" among people and nations as a "fundamental
Despite decades of global growth and development aid, the number of
countries the United Nations calls "least developed" -- those with per
capita income of less than $900 a year and scarce investment in health,
nutrition and education -- has nearly doubled since 1971, from 25 to 49.
More than half of the 630 million people in those countries, which are
mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia but also include Haiti and
some Pacific island nations, live on less than a dollar a day.
"It is more and more self-evident that the duty of solidarity has become
the political and moral imperative of our time," Chirac said. "The
international community has no right to just write off 600 million human
Two previous conferences, in 1981 and 1990, ended with wealthier nations
pledging to devote 0.7 percent of gross national product to the
least-developed countries. Yet most have reduced their foreign aid budgets
over the past decade.
"The last two programs of action have unfortunately been missed
opportunities," said Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh. "We must
not let that happen again."
Annan said this time, the aim of the conference is to produce not only
aid targets but also a "built-in monitoring system" for achieving them.
Impoverished countries at the conference are also looking for access to
rich export markets for their goods and a real commitment to relief from
often staggering foreign debt.
While praising moves to lower trade barriers, Annan said during a
working session that technical barriers still pose formidable hurdles.
He cited a World Bank study that calculated EU regulations on aflatoxins
-- a carcinogenic fungus -- cost Africa $670 million annually in lost
exports of cereals, dried fruit and nuts.
The controls "may possibly save the life" of one European every two
years, Annan said.
"I am the last person to undervalue even one human life. But here many
African lives are at stake. ... Surely these regulations need to be
reviewed with a sense of proportion," he said.
Chirac warned that ignoring the poor causes social and environmental
problems that affect everyone.
"Poverty and insecurity drive drug production and the proliferation of
organized crime and illegal immigration networks," he said. "The struggle
for survival accelerates deterioration of soil, depletion of water
resources, deforestation and pillaging of natural resources."
He called for increased foreign aid and better coordination, as well as
mobilizing the private sector to help. But he also said the recipients need
to demonstrate "responsibility and determination" and stressed that
democracy, peace, rule of law and market-oriented economies are vital for
"The international community cannot assist corrupt, oppressive and
predatory regimes," Chirac said.
On the Net:
Conference Web site: http://www.un.org/events/ldc3/conference
The NGO Forum: