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UN: World's Poorest Nations Need Technological Know-How to Reduce Poverty

A new United Nations report says the world's 50 poorest nations will not be able to reduce poverty unless they acquire the knowledge and technology needed to catch up with the economic achievements of the rest of the world. The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development or UNCTAD says the Least Developed Countries can reduce poverty by narrowing the technology gap. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The report says science, technology, and innovation are necessities, not luxuries. It says the world's 50 least developed countries will not emerge from poverty until they learn to use the technologies that have enriched industrialized nations.

UNCTAD economists say most of the poor countries are economically integrated with the rest of the world. But they note their economies remain locked into low-value added commodity production and low-skill manufacturing, which does not do much to improve their situation.

To break out of this cycle, UNCTAD Secretary-General, Supachai Panitchpakdi, says the least developed countries, sometimes referred to as LDCs, must gear their policy-making toward the business sector and make the right investments in areas such as education.

"And, also the infrastructural investment, particularly in the areas which are really basic like electricity," Supachai said. "We are informed that, of course, with a lack of electricity, you can not even think of doing any basic research work. So, some basic infrastructural investments must be done."

The report says the LDCs must innovate their way out of poverty. It says if the poor countries do not upgrade their skills, they will continue to lose out in the global marketplace.

Supachai says UNCTAD is not suggesting that the poor countries delve into basic research.

"We are talking about the research and development and technologies and innovations that could be commercialized, that could have some implications for the production lines that would enhance the quality, the makeup of the products and the skill of the people who worked on the production line," Supachai said.

The study finds agricultural productivity very low in most of the poor countries and with expanding populations and declining farm sizes, more people are looking for work outside agriculture. It says these countries will not be able to work their way out of poverty without the creation of non-farm jobs through technological upgrading.

UNCTAD says more foreign aid is needed to support science, technology and innovation in the world's poorest countries.

Between 2003 and 2005, it says $1.3 billion in Overseas Development Assistance was given for improving governance in LDCs. During the same period, only $12 million was given for improving agricultural production.