SPEECH BY H.E. ABDULLAH GÜL, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY AT THE FOURTH UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON THE LEAST DEVOLEPED COUNTRIES
(09 MAY 2011, ISTANBUL )
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all; and thank you for coming to Istanbul to attend the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. Such a high-level of attendance demonstrates the priority given to the LDCs in the development agenda of the United Nations.
The Fourth Conference on the LDCs is the only major international conference in 2011 dealing with development issues.
Drawing its strength from the global solidarity and partnership for development, I believe that the Conference will give us the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the LDCs.
I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Member States, once again, for giving Turkey the privilege to host this Conference.
In this regard, let me express my deep gratitude to Secretary General Ban ki-Moon for drawing the international community’s attention to the global challenges faced by the LDCs.
Today the LDCs account for nearly 13 % of the world population, but they receive only 1 % of the global economic output.
Even worse, despite some progress on the economic and social front, the gap between the LDCs and the rest of the world is widening; in terms of income, education, child mortality, agricultural productivity, export performance and a range of other measures.
Indeed, while there were 25 LDCs in 1971, the number increased to 48 today. Only three countries were ever able to graduate from that grouping.
This situation is simply not sustainable. While there is a bottom-billion living on less than one dollar a day, the rest of the international community cannot turn a blind eye to their sufferings. This is an alarming situation. Not only in moral terms, but also politically as well.
For the future of our world, for the future of our globe, it is an alarming situation because at the age of communications everyone can closely follow the living standards in the other corners of the world.
And given that the LDCs are falling further behind the rest of the world every other year, now is the time to break this vicious cycle.
To overcome this dismal situation, we are gathered here in Istanbul to give yet another clear and strong message that we stand ready to extend full support to the LDCs.
We should now renew the hopes in the minds of 900 million people that their aspirations will be realized.
We have a collective and shared responsibility to help the most vulnerable segment of the international community. However, this is not only a moral and ethical imperative.
The nexus between development, peace and security cannot be ignored. Therefore, as long as the increasing marginalization of the LDCs continues, no one can expect to prosper in peace and security in the world.
Nevertheless, helping the LDCs should not be seen only through a security prism either.
With their large populations and rich natural resources, investing in the LDCs is also a mutually rewarding commercial decision. By doing so, we can create a win-win situation.
The LDCs deserve particular attention and special support measures to address their needs and specific challenges on the path to sustained growth and development.
We need a new vision to help LDCs achieve this transformation. This new vision should strongly reflect both the fundamental parameters of the international development agenda and the development priorities of the LDCs.
The Fourth Conference will chart the development path for the LDCs for the next decade.
The outcome of the Conference, namely the Istanbul Program of Action, should be able to make a difference in the daily lives of one billion people living in the LDCs.
We have to make sure that this time we bring a real added value and create a new spirit for international development cooperation.
For that, we must understand that “business as usual” is not an option.
Therefore, both the LDCs and the international community, in particular the major development partners, should assume greater ownership of the process by delivering on their pledges.
We must expedite this process with ambitious yet realistic targets and a tangible set of commitments and deliverables for LDCs.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Some LDCs were able to achieve strong growth performances during the last decade due to high commodity prices.
However, more than half of the LDCs experienced modest or negative growth in this period.
This gloomy picture has further deteriorated due to civil strife and conflict, global economic crisis, climate change, epidemics, rising food and fuel prices. The LDCs are more exposed than others to those risks.
To that end, I would like to reiterate my call at the last UN General Assembly for the establishment of a “Global Rapid Reaction Capability” to effectively tackle natural and ecological disasters, food shortages and epidemics.
The largely agrarian economies of LDCs are affected by a vicious cycle of low productivity. Their share in global trade remains very low.
Therefore, enhancing productive capacities in agriculture, manufacturing and services is essential in overcoming supply constraints and diversifying their economies.
I am convinced that the Istanbul Program of Action will create a new momentum for an “accelerated”, “sustained”, “inclusive” and “equitable” economic development in LDCs.
Official development assistance (ODA) continues to play a critical role in this regard. However, I would like to emphasize that the Fourth Conference is not only about mobilizing financial resources.
As world leaders, we should be able to make major breakthrough in the following priority areas.
First and foremost, productive capacity building and diversification of economies are development multipliers. In this regard, the role of private sector is crucial.
Second, creating a conducive environment for investments in the LDCs will surely contribute to sustainable development, poverty eradication and employment generation.
To this end, there is a need for launching innovative initiatives, such as “Aid for Investment”. Through this instrument, we can provide incentives for the business communities to invest in productive sectors and infrastructure in the LDCs.
Third, Access of LDCs to the appropriate technologies and know-how as well as improving their scientific and innovative capacity are vital for their development.
Fourth, education is a catalyst for poverty eradication and sustainable development. Building comprehensive education systems is key to bringing about sustainable change in the LDCs.
Fifth, health, food security and nutrition remain as critical issues to be addressed.
Finally, progress for women is progress for all. Empowerment of women is not just a goal in itself, but central to all development goals. The youth is also a key actor in development and its potential should be properly exploited.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would also like to dwell upon South-South Cooperation, as one of the important means of international cooperation to assist the LDCs. Over the years, it has evolved from a technical cooperation scheme to an effective development strategy.
Today, it has a vital role in advancing the international development agenda, based on full partnership among developing countries.
Turkey is a strong supporter of South-South Cooperation.
As a member of the G-20 and an accession country to the European Union, Turkey has been undertaking major initiatives to share the burdens of the LDCs in their efforts to eradicate poverty.
In order to deliver our pledge to the LDC’s, we increased our Official Development Assistance in recent years. With the contribution of Turkish NGOs, our overall development assistance nears two billion Dollars annually.
As you may remember, in 2007, as the then Foreign Minister, I also had the pleasure and privilege of hosting my counterparts from the least developed countries in Istanbul for the United Nations Ministerial Conference on the LDCs.
So, for a long time we have been committed to the success of the LDC4.
We believe that the success of the 4th Conference will not be based on the immediate outcomes only. We need a systematic monitoring and follow-up mechanism for the effective implementation of commitments and targets at the national, regional and global levels.
Turkey is ready to take active part in this process to help ensure the timely achievement of the goals and commitments. Within this framework, Turkey is ready to host a Mid-Term Review Conference of the Istanbul Program of Action, in 2015, in Istanbul.
I would like to stress that Turkey will continue to advocate the cause of LDCs in the international fora to better reflect their concerns.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A world that tolerates extreme inequalities is not a world built upon shared values and objectives. Thus, we need to work together to build a more dignified future for the people of the LDCs.
To date, Istanbul has come to be known as the meeting point of continents or cradle of civilizations.
But nothing would make us more proud if, through the success of this Summit and the following process, Istanbul gets to be remembered as the place where the misfortune of almost a billion people has taken a positive turn.
Istanbul will then be the place where the first heartbeats of a new and fair world order are heard.
We believe this is possible. And Turkey will do everything in its power to make it reality.
With these thoughts, I wish you every success in the Conference.