The United Nations has asked oil-rich countries around the world to help poor nations with their development. It says 34 of the world?s 50 poorest nations are in Africa. At a recent meeting in Geneva, Awarul Chowdhury, the UN under secretary general and high representative for least developed countries (LDCs), proposed that oil-producing nations earmark 10 cents per barrel to develop the infrastructure in poor countries. He spoke with Voice of America reporter Cole Mallard about this suggestion.   

He says after conferring with colleagues and searching for new resources, he thought it was a good idea to ask oil-rich countries to help the poorer countries of the world. He says the rich nations have greater incomes because of the rise in oil prices.

Chowdhury mentions Sudan and the DRC as examples of least developed countries that have been engaged in conflicts. Among the LDCs emerging from conflict he mentions Angola, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. 

The under secretary says some of the recipient countries, such as Sudan, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Mauritania, have a good reserve of oil in their own right, ?but, [that] these countries continue to be poor. They have the oil reserves but the benefits of the oil resources have not yet reached a point where Sudan, or other oil-producing LDCs, can come out of the least [developed category.]?

He says the UN is assisting in the process so that the benefits from oil resources will help eliminate poverty. He adds that it will also help establish infrastructure and a governance system that will remove them from the LDC list. 

Chowdhury explained that oil-rich LDCs still need UN assistance. He compared the situation of these LDCs to that of a poor person coming into great wealth. He says that person would not be able to change his/her life overnight, meaning the money would not immediately make the person?s life more productive. Chowdhury says the person would have to, over time, prepare to use the money wisely and effectively, and that is how the UN comes into play with these suddenly rich countries; it helps prepare them to use the money for the benefit of their people.

But the under secretary says a key concern is using effective measures against corruption in these situations. He says companies and governments should collaborate to develop a strong and valuable legal framework for dealing with these resources so the oil revenue helps reduce poverty. Chowdhury says both the United Nations and the World Bank support these efforts.

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