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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2610

U.N. Ties Prosperity to Good Governance

By Thalif Deen - Inter Press Service

United Nations,20 September, (IPS) : The economic success stories of the world's 50 poorest nations are also predicated on "good governance", including multi-party democracy, rule of law, gender empowerment, respect for human rights and transparency and accountability, according to the United Nations.

"Such governance means ensuring that the poor have a real political voice," says U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown.

If the world's 50 least developed countries (LDCs) are to eradicate poverty and promote human development, Malloch Brown told delegates at a two-day ministerial meeting on LDCs which concluded Tuesday, "we need to do there what we do anywhere else -- and that is to stress democratic governance as one of the main foundations of progress."

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one of 34 LDCs in Africa, recently held its first multiparty elections in nearly 45 years -- at a cost of over 400 million dollars.

The Indian Ocean nation of Maldives, along with several Pacific Island LDCs, including Vanuatu, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, have established the concept of "roving judges" who bring law and justice to the doorsteps of citizens living in outlying areas.

In Rwanda, which suffered the horrors of the 1994 genocide, a unique community-based judicial system emphasises public involvement in rendering justice at the grassroots level.

Of the 50 LDCs, 26 have ratified all eight international labour rights conventions while 23 have signed and four have ratified the U.N. Convention Against Corruption. Additionally, 28 LDCs have signed and 15 ratified the U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime.

Since 1990, the number of women in the Mozambique parliament has doubled, while Rwanda has the world's largest representation of women in its legislature, at 48.8 percent.

This figure, according to the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), is substantially ahead of the United States, at 14.8 percent, and Britain, at 17.9 percent.

Moreover, in elections in Afghanistan, women gained 27 percent in the Upper House and 22 percent in the Lower House of Parliament.

However, "much more needs to be done at the national level to build on these successes," says Kemal Dervis, head of UNDP, the lead U.N. agency promoting good governance among LDCs and developing nations.

"We must spare no effort in supporting LDCs in building the governance institutions needed to bring peace, economic growth and human development to their citizens," says Dervis, a former World Bank vice president for Middle East and North Africa.

In a report to the high level meeting on LDCs, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan points out that since 2001, there has been a diminution of conflicts in LDCs -- particularly in Africa -- "and this has been a critical factor in improving development prospects."

"Neverthless," he warns, "the LDCs continue to suffer disproportionately from conflict, which suggests that poverty and underdevelopment, in combination with other factors, could provide a breeding ground for unrest."

Of the 16 U.N. peacekeeping operations, nearly half are in LDCs, while civil unrest has erupted or festers in a number of other LDCs. Current U.N. missions in LDCs include Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Haiti and Burundi.

In his study Annan also says: "Most LDCs have taken steps to improve domestic governance. Elections are now almost universal, with numerous presidential and legislative elections and referendums in LDCs since 2001."

The positive developments include the return of the transitional federal government to Somalia; national elections in Burundi; a return to peace in the Central African Republic; the constitutional referendum in the DRC; presidential and parliamentary elections in Haiti; and presidential elections in Liberia which resulted in the first female African head of state, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a former senior official of UNDP.

Voter participation has generally been high and female participation and representation in elected bodies has increased. There has also been judicial and legal reform and more attention to the rule of law and human rights, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the central message in a study titled "Governance for the Future: Democracy and Development in the LDCs" -- commissioned jointly by UNDP and the U.N. Office for LDCs -- is that "good governance is indispensable for countries to sustain progress over the longer term."

"Despite the fact that most LDCs are now multi-party democracies and have made important advances in electoral processes, effective checks and balances between the different powers of the state still need to be strengthened," the study notes.

- Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency –

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