- agriculture - food aid - poverty - Turkey - United Nations
Summit seeks aid plan for world's poorest economies
A five-day UN summit for leaders of the world's least-developed countries kicked off in Istanbul on Monday to devise a new 10-year plan to end poverty. UN chief Ban Ki-moon described a new aid plan as a “smart investment”.
AFP - A five-day UN summit with 48 leaders of the world's Least Developed Countries (LDCs) began in Istanbul Monday to discuss a new 10-year aid plan to help lift nations out of poverty.
"Investing in the LDCs can provide the stimulus that will help to propel and sustain global economic recovery and stability," said Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, in his opening remarks.
"This is not a charity, it is smart investment," he added.
"It is time to change our mindset, instead of seeing LDC's as the poor and weak, let us recognize these 48 countries as best reservoir of untouched potential. Investing in LDCs is an opportunity for all."
Ban stressed the need to support agriculture in LDCs, in which 70 percent of the population is employed.
"The LDCs are facing a real prospect of a new crisis in food and nutrition security," he said.
The summit was being chaired by Turkish President Abdullah Gul while the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, was also present at the opening.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also expected in Istanbul.
"The Istanbul Programme of Action should be able to make a difference in lives of one billion people living in LDCs," said Gul, calling for a mid-term conference in 2015 to monitor the implementation of the new programme.
The new Istanbul Action Programme is being negotiated in the conference after the expiry of the former Brussels plan in 2010.
The LDC countries are defined as those with a per capita income of less than 745 dollars. The LDC includes 33 states from Africa, 14 from Asia plus Haiti.
A rise in food prices in recent months, which has sparked both economic and social turmoil in several poorer countries, is key issue facing the assembled leaders.
"The increase in food prices is a serious challenge, and also an opportunity," the UN said.
World Bank Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, attending the conference as an observer, told AFP that supporting long-term agricultural production and developing food stocks for "humanitarian purposes" is crucial to fostering stablity in poorer nations.
She also urged countries to "not impose restrictions on imports."
Assistance must also be targetted to countries emerging from conflict, by helping them "create jobs...and rebuild their private sector," she said.
Citizens of these countries contribute only one percent to commercial activity world-wide.
The UN-backed conference takes place every ten years. France hosted the first two in 1981 and 1990. The third was held in Brussels in 2001.