Russian foreign policy
Russian policy in Africa
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     30-06-2004

Statement by Yuri Fedotov, Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Russia, Within the Framework of the High-Level Segment of the 2004 Substantive Session of ECOSOC on the Theme "Resources Mobilization and Enabling Environment for Poverty Eradication in the Context of the Implementation of the Program of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010", New York, June 29, 2004

Esteemed Madam Chairman,

The complex processes of globalization raise most acutely before the international community the problem of overcoming the poverty and marginalization of the least developed countries. Not only the fate of the peoples of individual states and regions depends on the solution of this task. The issue is about the search of an answer to one of the largest challenges to global stability and the world order of the 21st century. And this concerns everybody.

To eradicate poverty and alienation, to draw all countries into the process of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, into broad and mutually beneficial international cooperation is impossible without the pooling of efforts by the world community, by the organizations of the UN system and by other international structures, in particular the Bretton Woods Institutions and the World Trade Organization. The United Nations as the most universal and representative international organization has one of the key roles in shaping policies and priorities in this sphere.

The submission of this theme to the high-level segment of the present session of ECOSOC is not only justified, but also extremely timely. We hope that our discussion not only will help carry out a kind of medium-term review of the progress in implementing the Brussels Program of Action for the Least Developed Countries, but also will become a weighty contribution to shaping a coherent blueprint for responding to new challenges and threats, with the United Nations playing the central role.

Russia is ready to build up its participation in international partner cooperation in the interests of the least developed countries. We consider that in the conditions, when most of them are still not in a position to achieve the pace of development necessary for attaining the internationally elaborated goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, this cooperation needs to be given new impetus. Furthermore, much will depend on the mobilization of additional external and internal resources and the creation of favorable conditions for achieving the development goals at all levels - global, regional and national.

Of fundamental importance in the international community's efforts to solve the problems of the least developed countries is an optimal combination of external assistance with their own measures, taken at the national level. In this context it is highly important for the countries of the group in accordance with the recommendations of the UN Secretary General's report to concentrate on the introduction of the Millennium Development Goals in national plans and strategies, the ensuring of the inclusion in them of the tasks of poverty reduction, the enhancement of the effectiveness of taxation systems, the increase of the share of direct taxes, and the overcoming of the administrative inefficiency in the field of management as a whole, as well as on the strengthening of national financial markets, expansion of micro credit schemes, reduction of the scale of capital outflow, ensuring of property rights and attraction of investments in the sectors of education and health care. Simultaneously it is necessary to seek a more complete and effective putting of the already available funds to use.

A priority task is to ensure coordinated donor assistance to the least developed countries in the elaboration of development and potential creation policies, as well as in support of reforms and transformation. Such support by the international community, including under the auspices of international financial institutions, should be provided in a flexible manner and should take into account the socioeconomic features of each country.

One of the most serious obstacles in the path of overcoming backwardness is the debt burden. Russia, having from the outset backed the well-known HIPC Initiative, has been carrying out purposeful steps to alleviate the debt burden of the least developed countries. The total sum of the debt of the HIPC countries to the Russian Federation, constituting about 26 billion dollars, after the application of the terms of the Paris Club must be reduced to 600 million. In volume of write-off Russia is the fourth largest donor, and in its ratio to GDP, the first under the HIPC Initiative.

At the same time we consider that the debt initiative and the new strategy for ensuring the stability of external debt are only instruments, but by no means a guarantee that the poorest countries will be able to solve the problem of debt burden. A simple write-off of the debt without a reasonable financial, economic and budgetary policy, structural reforms, the strengthening of state institutions and improvement of the investment climate in the poorest countries will not make it possible to achieve the desired results.

Overcoming the poverty and marginalization of the least developed countries to a significant extent depends on their further drawing into world trade, which is a major resource source for economic and social development. We support the well-known initiatives for improving access to world markets for the poorest countries, including the General System of Preferences.

In this regard Russia is taking specific measures: current Russian law envisages that traditional export commodities of the least developed countries shall not be charged import customs duties. In respect of these commodities no quantitative import restrictions shall be applied and no antidumping, compensatory or special protective measures shall be introduced. More than 80 percent of the Russian imports from Africa are given preferential treatment.

The most acute problems related to trade should be considered within the framework of the Doha Round of WTO Negotiations. Among them: abolition of export subsidies, reduction of agricultural subsidies and support in the developed countries, improvement of the mechanisms and predictability of preferential access to the developed states' markets for poor countries, reduction or abolition of tariffs and of nontariff barriers, and so on. Russia is for the successful completion of these negotiations with due consideration for the interests of the least developed countries.

We fully share the priority nature of the tasks of rendering assistance to conflict-affected countries. Ad hoc consultative groups of ECOSOC are called upon to be a useful mechanism for organizing comprehensive assistance to states at the initial stage of getting out of a crisis. We positive assess the experience of the first two such groups for African countries - Guinea Bissau and Burundi.

On the whole it is necessary to continue the elaboration, with the UN's leading role, of a comprehensive approach to post-conflict situations that provides for the complementarity of political, peacekeeping, humanitarian and operational efforts. Such an approach corresponds to the task of considering the priorities of reconstruction and development while carrying out peacekeeping operations. Where the UN has an appropriate mandate, the question is actually one of strengthening the humanitarian and operational components of the structures of the peacekeeping missions. We are convinced that, despite the objective difficulties of post-conflict situations, the efforts of UN institutions should be built in close coordination with the host government in the work of determining the strategic priorities and requirements of the country, as well as with an eye on the creation and building up of national potential for these purposes. What's needed here is pragmatic and flexible approaches to the elaboration of programs in the conditions of emergency situations, the carrying out of evaluations of requirements, and cooperation with the Bretton Woods Institutions. We are ready for the continuation of dialogue on these problems within the framework of ECOSOC.

In conclusion, Madam Chairman, I would like to give a positive assessment to the activities of the High Representative of the UN Secretary General in promoting the themes of the least developed countries in the activities of the institutions of the UN system.

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