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UN summit on least developed countries to open in Turkey

Leaders of 48 least developed countries, donor countries and institutions gather in Istanbul on Monday for a UN conference to discuss a new 10-year-long development plan for the world's poorest nations.

world Updated: May 08, 2011 08:13 IST

Leaders of 48 least developed countries, donor countries and institutions gather in Istanbul on Monday for a UN conference to discuss a new 10-year-long development plan for the world's poorest nations.

The Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC) will last for five days, with the attendance of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will chair the conference.

The Brussels Plan that had been implemented in the previous 10 years to support the LDCs, countries with a per capita income of less than $745, will be assessed comprehensively during the conference, according to a UN statement released Thursday.

Negotiators for the LDCs (33 in Africa, 14 in Asia plus Haiti) "are looking to put in place measures for building infrastructure to attain economic self-sufficiency, push back poverty and create decent jobs", the UN said.

"The most economically vulnerable countries in the world are looking for the world's larger economies to open up market access for LDC exports, to continue to increase development aid and better target it toward infrastructure and leveraging new investment, and to provide incentives for companies thinking of investing in LDCs", it added.

The European Commission underlined its commitment to help the LDCs out of poverty, in a press statement on Friday.

"As the largest donor to the least developed countries, with 15 billion euros of aid in 2010, the EU will urge other partners to match its pledge to provide from 0.15 to 0.20% of its gross national income to LDCs," it said.

The LDCs are home to a total of 645 million people living below the poverty line, and their total populations are expected to double by 2050.

Economically vulnerable and socially weak, they account together for only 1% of world trade.

The topic of rising food prices also needs to be adressed, the UN said.

"Rising food prices pose a severe challenge and an opportunity. Most LDCs are net food importers and one third of their populations are chronically malnourished. But if modern infrastructure is in place and local farmers have access to necessary support, they might benefit from firm prices and launch a turnaround in low-productivity agriculture", according to the UN statement.

An NGO from Sierra Leone underlined the issue of food crisis for its country, one of the LDCs.

"The issue of rising food prices is of fundamental importance to a country like Sierra Leone with a glutted economy which is donor driven. Our hopes are with delegates attending the conference to work out a road map through which food prices will be stabilised," said Christine Webber, from the NGO People for Sustainable Living.

Sorie Conteh, secretary-general of the organization Food for Survival, said the conference should produce action, rather than mere talk.

"People here are just barely living from hour to hour, battered by poverty and unemployment. The call is that the conference should not be reduced to a talking shop but an action-oriented movement," Conteh said.

The conference is held every 10 years. France staged the first two, in 1981 and 1990, while Brussels was the venue for the third in 2001.