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Helping least developed countries such as Haiti

A United Nations (UN) conference was held last week in Istanbul focusing on the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs). Delegates discussed a new action plan drawn up by the UN to help raise these countries out of poverty.

The plan looks at areas such as energy, infrastructure and agriculture, as well as social issues, health and education. In addition, the new plan emphasises the importance of foreign investment and the private sector in helping LDCs to “modernise and diversify economies, create jobs and engage sustainable means to eventually eradicate poverty”.

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon spoke to delegates at the start of the conference. He said that he was addressing them with a “single simple message”, that in the recovery of the global economy, “the LDCs will be the most important wave of the development”. The Secretary General said that “success for LDCs is success for all”. In his speech at the conference, the UK’s international development minister, Stephen O’Brien, also raised the importance of opening up trade barriers. He stressed that successful outcomes in the Doha trade negotiations were vital, because of the “central role economic growth and free trade must play” in helping poor countries to develop.

Some civil society groups were critical of the way the conference focused on the role of the private sector, noting the exploitation of many poor countries by private firms. However, some of the LDC delegates and representatives seemed to take a more pragmatic view, expressing the view that private companies brought much-needed employment as long as adequate regulation was also in place to prevent exploitation.

Haiti is the only nation among the 48 countries classed as LDCs which is situated in the Western Hemisphere. A Guardian reporter spoke to the executive director of Haiti’s association of industries during the conference week. Gregor Avril had been invited by the UN Global Compact, a division which spearheads the involvement of the private sector in developing countries. Mr Avril said he had received much interest from private sector businesses in the manufacturing companies of Haiti and exports such as Haitian rum. One firm had also talked of extracting granite in Haiti. Mr Avril was clear that Haiti must attract more foreign buyers and investors to further his nation’s development. He also felt it was important to show people “that Haiti still has a thriving industry and is still standing up”.

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