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Remembering the humans that have been forgotten:
The Informal Interactive Hearings with Civil Society, NGOs, and the Private Sector at UN Headquarters
June 22, 2006


by Jeanene MITCHELL
Youth Representative for the UN/DPI of the Light Millennium                 


The Informal Interactive Hearings with Civil Society, NGOs, and the Private Sector took place at the United Nations headquarters in New York on June 22, 2006.  The hearings were part of the preparation process for the High-level Meeting on the midterm comprehensive global review of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010, also known as the Brussels Programme. 

At the Hearings, representatives of the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and civil society organizations from around the world participated in a dialogue with UN member states on the Brussels Programme of Action.  The success of this programme, which compels all partners to “improving the human condition of over 600 million people in the 50 Least Developed Countries confronted by extreme poverty,” [1] requires the involvement and input of civil society—in advocacy, review processes, and implementation. 

The meeting opened with a statement by the President of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson, who stated that “lively and constructive discussions on how to bring about a more effective implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action” was something owed to “the millions of people trapped in extreme poverty in the LDCs.” [2]

Mr. Anwul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, clearly summarized the purpose of the meeting:

While a number of milestones have been reached in the efforts to reduce poverty in the world’s 50 most vulnerable countries, the future remains far from bright.   Between 2000 and 2001, the LDCs achieved an average annual growth rate of 5.5 percent, an improvement over the 4.4 percent registered between 1996 and 2000 and the 2.2 percent recorded between 1991 and 1995.  This is, of course, encouraging news.  It should be noted, however, that it falls short of the target of 7 percent annual growth set in the Brussels Programme.  Poverty remains on the rise, with 100 million more people forecast to join in the next decade the ranks of the 370 million—nearly half the population—already living in abject poverty in the LDCs.  Not only will these countries, by the current trends, miss the target of the Millennium Development Goals to halve the proportion of people living in absolute poverty by 2015, but the proportion of poor people will, in fact, increase…While other developing countries make progress, the LDCs are sinking deeper into poverty. [3]

Mr. Chowdhury noted that the LDCs cannot make as much progress as other developing countries because they are hindered by structural weaknesses such as “pervasive poverty and weak institutional, technical, and human capacities.” [4]   As a result, LDCs remain more susceptible to internal and external shocks, and are less able to take advantage of economic opportunities like trade and attracting foreign direct investment.  Based on the midterm review process of the Brussels Programme, Mr. Chowdhury stated that the areas needing more emphasis include rural development and agriculture, development of infrastructure (including information and communication technology), promotion of good governance, including the local level, empowerment of women, energy, and conflict resolution. [5]   These are areas in which the private sector and civil society are already involved, and must become even more engaged, according to Mr. Chowdhury.

The representatives of NGOs, civil society, and the private sector gave compelling short speeches on what their respective groups were doing, and what more needed to be done in order to achieve the goals and objectives outlined by the Brussels Programme.  Many echoed the same themes as Mr. Chowdhury.  Mr. Richard Malinda-Kavouma, a representative from the Weekly Observer newspaper in Uganda, noted in his statement that “The human being has been forgotten,” and that civil society needs to advance the interests of its members in the face of the state as the voice of the poor.  Another representative from Nepal stated that “only civil society can make poverty a historical wrong.”  Patricia Cisse of AfIBA commented that mutual distrust between NGOs and government results in inefficiencies, while Helen Grace Akwii’s discussion of the WTO’s effect on LDCs included the point that LDCs suffer from policy contradictions and trade demands, and the WTO is “a level playing field where LDCs are ants wrestling with elephants.”

The need for microcredit and development opportunities, especially for women, was discussed numerous times, as was the necessity for LDCs to have better market access and entry into the economic system, as stated by the representative of Norway.  Promotion of education, healthcare, and good governance was also stressed, and Filipo Veglio of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development made the compelling remark that “Business cannot succeed in societies that fail.”

Overall, the hearings emphasized the importance of civil society, NGOs, and the private sector in promoting advancements in education, economic opportunities, governance, healthcare, and environmental protection in the LDCs.  With their continued involvement and commitment to improving the standard of living in the LDCs, it is our hope that the Brussels Programme will be successful in improving, and eventually eradicating, the plight of the poorest of the poor.


[1] Statement by H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson, President of the United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters, 22 June 2006.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Statement by Mr. Anwul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, United Nations Headquarters, 22 June 2006.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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