On 14 May, world leaders will meet in Brussels in a conference on ''Least Developed Countries'' (LDCs). They will focus on the 49 poorest countries including the bottom 10% of the world’s population in terms of income and well being.

UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan will be a key speaker at the conference which will be opened by the King of Belgium. Other participants are President of France, Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister of Sweden, Mr Goran Persson, President of the European Commission, Mr. Romano Prodi, World Bank Group President James Wolfensohn and Ted Turner.

The President of IFAD, Lennart Båge, a national of Sweden, and a participant in the conference, warns of the risk of increasing marginalisation of the rural poor in the least developed countries mainly because many development efforts neglect the rural sector. Of the 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty, three-quarters live and work in rural areas; poverty reduction programmes therefore need to have more focus on rural people and agriculture. Båge will be speaking on Tuesday, 15 May at the Conference session on ‘Enhancing Productive Capacities: The Agricultural Sector and Food Security’.

LDCs are the poorest countries in the world, particularly ill equipped to develop their domestic economies and to ensure an adequate standard of living for their populations. The original list of LDCs included the following countries: Afghanistan, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Samoa and the Yemen Arab Republic. Subsequently the following countries were added to the list: Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Democratic Yemen, and the Gambia in 1975; Cape Verde and the Comoros in 1977; Guinea-Bissau in 1981; Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone and Togo in 1982; Vanuatu in 1985; Kiribati, Mauritania and Tuvalu in 1986; Myanmar in 1987; Mozambique in 1988; Liberia in 1990; Cambodia, Madagascar, Solomon Islands, Zaire and Zambia in 1991 and Eritrea and Angola in 1994. Botswana is the only country that graduated from the list of the LDCs in 1994.

The LDC-III Programme of Action characterises the lack of food security as the most typical face of poverty. IFAD has a unique mandate, to help eradicate rural poverty, create economic opportunities for the rural poor, and ensure food security. LDCs host 258 IFAD projects amounting to almost US$2.6 billion and consistently receive about 40% of IFAD’s annual lending.

 

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