The lack of significant progress in reducing poverty in the world’s 50 poorest and most vulnerable countries – even as they posted sharply improved economic performance – dominated discussions at the United Nations General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown told the meeting that although the least developed countries have experienced higher economic growth, greater exports and larger investment inflows over the past five years, and despite some progress on reducing maternal and child mortality and increasing universal primary enrolment, the progress has had “minimum impact where it is most needed: in the fight against extreme poverty.”Mr. Malloch Brown said efforts to assist the least developed countries must be expanded and accelerated by further securing development on the stable bedrock of democracy, human rights and good governance and “by making globalization work at least as much for the poor as for the rich.” UN Under-Secretary-General Anwarul K. Chowdhury, who is also the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, acknowledged the economic growth but added that “the distribution at the grassroots level is not there.” He called for democratic governance to address the issue because “the poorest should have a voice in the decisions that affect them.”This year’s General Assembly meeting is reviewing progress on an agreement forged five years ago in Brussels aimed at assisting the LDCs. The meeting is expected to conclude tomorrow with a resolution reaffirming countries’ commitments toward meeting the goals that were agreed in Brussels.Mr. Chowdhury said although there had been increased support from the international community, and that assistance to the poorest countries had increased by 25 per cent, most of these countries will not be able to reach the UN-agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets for addressing a host of global ills by the year 2015.General Assembly President Haya Rashed Al Khalifa told delegates that the number of people living in extreme poverty in the least developed countries, who now number 370 million, could grow by an additional 100 million over the next decade. “But we can be encouraged, that unlike in previous centuries, we now have the know-how and the resources to make a real and long lasting difference.”According to a report of the Secretary-General prepared for the High-Level Meeting, governance has improved in the LDCs since world leaders adopted the Programme of Action for LDCs in Brussels in 2001.While conflicts in the LDCs have decreased in number since 2001, according to the report, these countries still suffer disproportionately from civil unrest, with half of the UN’s 16 active peace operations being in LDCs. The report cites poverty and underdevelopment as a breeding ground for unrest in the LDCs.The Secretary-General’s report calls for increased investment in education, health, clean water, sanitation, physical infrastructure and rural and agricultural development. It also calls for expanded international support, including greater and better aid, accelerated debt relief and better market access for LDCs coupled with support for improving export capacity.