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Talks focus on world’s poorest countries

International talks starting in Turkey this week will focus on how the global community can help the world’s poorest countries.

The United Nations backed debate in the Turkish capital, Istanbul centres on the world’s 48 ‘least developed countries’, or LDCs.

Thirty-three of these 48 countries are in Africa. Four are in Asia and one — Haiti — is in the Americas.

Talks aimed at sketching out new ways to ease poverty and hunger opened yesterday with a serious warning about how spiraling food and fuel prices threaten the world’s poorest children and families most.

“Investing in LDCs is not charity. It’s an opportunity for all,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Investing in LDCs can provide the stimulus that can help to propel and sustain global economic recovery.

“By helping these next-wave economies increase their productive capacities, we can create tangible opportunities for businesses across a spectrum of industries, sectors and issues,” he said.

As many as 10,000 delegates are expected to take part including the European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Jhalnath Khanal was among several speakers who said soaring food and fuel costs were hurting the world’s poorest people, and that the impact of climate change through droughts and floods was putting them under even more pressure.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul said that modern communications meant people everywhere were far more aware of the gap between rich and poor countries. “The wide gap between the countries is more visible today to people across the world," he said.

"It's also a big ethical and moral mistake, to have such a wide gap, and therefore unsustainable for political and security reasons," said Gul.

The last talks about LDCs was hosted by the European Union in Brussels in 2001, and Ban Ki-moon said it was vital to chase up promises of funding from developed and emerging economies.

“We have received a lot of very generous pledges in the past, but not all of them have been delivered,” he said. “Therefore accountability will be very important.”

Turkey donates more than half a billion a year in aid to poor nations in the Balkans, South and Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, a ten times more than it did in the last 10 years, the Turkish government said. The country is also paying for up to 11 delegates from each of the 48 poor nations to travel to Istanbul for the talks which will also bring in aid organisations, politicians, academics and business people.

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