“This Conference must be different than those which preceded it,” the Secretary-General told the inaugural ceremony of the Third UN Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs). He said the gathering must produce an agreement not only on goals to be attained but also on the mechanisms needed to reach them, and to measure progress along the way. Later, opening a special event focused on the challenge of eradicating poverty for sustainable development, Mr. Annan stressed the role of trade in achieving this end. He pointed out that “more than any other group of countries, the Least Developed need open markets in which their goods can compete.”The Secretary-General emphasized that the benefits of open markets would accrue to all States, not only the poorest ones. Consumers in more fortunate countries would benefit from wider choices and lower prices, while industries would benefit from competition, he noted.Lauding Europe’s “everything but arms” initiative — which will give full duty and quota-free access to the continent’s markets for all products from the least developed States, other than weapons — the Secretary-General urged other countries to follow suit. He called for a new “development round” of trade negotiations which would aim to eliminate all tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in agricultural goods, textiles and other products of special interest to the LDCs.In addition to trade measures, the Secretary-General also advocated debt relief, while urging developed countries to meet their stated target of devoting 0.7 per cent of gross national product to development aid.”I urge all developed countries to meet the 0.7 per cent target — and within that, to allocate at least 0.15 per cent of their gross national product to helping the LDCs, as they promised to do at the last LDC conference in Paris, 10 years ago,” Mr. Annan said. He called on those present to ensure “that this Conference, unlike its predecessors, marks a real turning-point in the everyday life of poor people in the poorest countries.” Later in the day, the Secretary-General told the participants of a forum of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which is running parallel to the Conference, that they were “fighting the battle for human dignity against poverty, ignorance and disease every day.”He expressed support for the proposed “Jubilee 2010” campaign aimed at encouraging open markets in the manner that the Jubilee 2000 campaign had focused on debt cancellation. “I urge you to bring your wonderful energies and campaigning skills to bear on this issue,” Mr. Annan said.Also today, the Secretary-General attended a number of diplomatic functions and held discussions in the margins of the Conference. According to a spokesman for Mr. Annan, during a midday meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, the two leaders discussed the “worrying” situation in West Africa, especially the current conflict involving Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. They also touched on the “encouraging” trends in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the latest efforts to fight the AIDS, the spokesman said.