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The Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) aims to assess the implementation of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action and reach a new agreement to continue supporting the 48 countries classified as LDCs.

9 May 2011: Over 7,000 participants, including Heads of State and government and international organizations’ representatives, are gathering in Istanbul, Turkey, to attend the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) from 9-13 May 2011. The meeting aims to assess the implementation of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action and reach a new agreement to continue supporting the 48 countries classified as LDCs.

The UN Office of the High Representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), as the coordinator of the LDC IV process, published an editorial ahead of the Conference titled “Opportunity Knocks,” authored by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and co-authored by President Abdullah Gül of the Republic of Turkey and Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. In the article, the authors underscore that climate change “poses a severe challenge” to LDCs. They note that although LDCs produce the least greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared with any other country grouping, “their agriculture-oriented economies are the most threatened by the effects of a changing climate.” The authors further list the threats they are facing, including desertification, sea-level rise, tropical storms, and receding mountain glaciers.

In a brochure prepared for the Conference, UN-Women outlines its key messages for the event. It underscores the role played by women as agents of change in relation to mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and emphasizes the specific vulnerability of LDCs and SIDS to climate change. The brochure further notes that women and men are affected by, and contribute differently to, climate change mitigation and adaptation, calling for their specific needs and roles to be considered in response.

During the opening ceremony, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that the development priority in LDCs is to build resilient economies that can survive external shocks. He stressed the need to ensure nutrition security and called for a successful conclusion to the Doha Development Round of multilateral negotiations to ensure that LDCs can trade fairly their food production and commodities in the internal market. During a press conference, Ban noted that the meeting outcome document should propose a practical and far-reaching programme of action to spur LDCs’ productive capacity through trade, improved agriculture, financing for development and addressing the consequences of climate change. He called for smart business investments in LDCs, noting their vast untapped potential.

Following his election as Conference President, Turkish President Gül welcomed participants and noted that the high level of attendance confirmed the priority given to the LDCs in the UN agenda. He noted that LDCs account for nearly 13% of the world population, but receive only 1% of its economic output. President Gül noted also that LDC’s marginalization was widening in terms of income, education, child mortality, agricultural productivity, export performance and a range of other measures. He indicated that, since 1971, only three countries have been able to ‘graduate’ from LDC status.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Bank Managing Director, highlighted that climate change will continue to pose significant dangers to economic growth, as droughts, floods, storms and heat waves become more intense. She noted that reducing the risk of disasters and adapting to the impact of climate change is a social and economic development imperative for the Pacific and the Sahel countries. [UN Press Release, 9 May 2011] [Speech by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Bank] [UN Press Release, 8 May 2011] [UN Press Release, 6 May 2011] [Opportunity Knocks] [UN Women Brochure] [LDC IV Conference Website]

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