‘Inequality Crisis’ Thwarting Least Developed Countries’ Economic Progress, Ability to Achieve Middle-Income Status, Speakers Stress as Doha Conference Continues
DOHA, 6 March — The world is facing an “inequality crisis”, in which 46 countries comprising 14 per cent of the global population face serious impediments directly hampering their ability to progress economically and graduate from the least developed country category, world leaders warned today as the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries entered its second day in Doha.
Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, stressed that least developed countries have been victims of the pandemic of inequality — in access to vaccines, technology, finance and opportunities — and continue to be disproportionally affected by the climate crisis, with their gross domestic product (GDP) growth plummeting. Partly as a result, he noted that, over the past decade, only four countries were able to graduate from least developed country status.
Jeremiah Manele, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of the Solomon Islands, citing the multidimensional crises affecting least developed countries, noted his country is scheduled to graduate at the end of 2024. However, that process has been affected by a wave of shocks ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to natural hazards. Stressing that the containment measures taken by the Government during the pandemic led to a fiscal deficit in the last three years, he called for a three-year extension for the graduation process to be achieved.
Echoing that theme, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, Minister for Foreign Trade and Investment of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, emphasized that the process of graduation to a higher stage must be re‑evaluated to ensure the sustainability of the progress achieved in each case. It is unreasonable for those countries, once graduated, to stop receiving specific treatment when their vulnerability is evident. Graduated countries would not face this reality if developed countries fulfilled their commitment to contribute 0.7 per cent of their GDP to official development assistance (ODA) — still a mere pipe dream.
Citing manifold threats to his vulnerable country, Jean Victor Geneus, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Haiti, said it seems obvious that the scant progress made there shows it will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals within set time limits without an improvement in its situation. The New Doha Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2022-2031 is essential to Haiti — but it requires a paradigm shift, as well as support for Haiti’s graduation from the least developed country category. He called for more investment rather than more humanitarian aid.
Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister of Bhutan, noted that, this year, his country is gearing up to graduate from the category, in which it was officially included 52 years ago. He pointed to its overarching development philosophy of Gross National Happiness, pursuing a balanced growth that encapsulated not just economic progress, but carefully considered conservation of the country’s environmental and traditional values.
Yvette Sylla, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Madagascar, said graduation from the least developed country category is a global problem, requiring the international community to consider the situation of every single State. She cited Madagascar’s Emergence Plan, established to improve the living conditions of its people, noting that development should be conducted on a territorial level, accounting for intersectoral strategic needs and the international state of play. Her island State is among the most vulnerable to climate shocks, she stated, and in 2021, was recognized as the country facing the greatest level of food distress related to climate change. “Either we move forward together or we perish together,” she warned.
Addressing a serious component issue, Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, noted that, given its many development challenges, graduating from least developed country status will put further burden on its development efforts and can hinder achievement of its national development goals, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. The key concern for Tuvalu is that graduation will withdraw least-developed-country-specific international support, which includes modalities and access to certain concessional finance instruments and preferential market access for exports and allocation of aid and climate finance.
Miryan Vieira, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Cabo Verde, noted her country graduated from the least developed to the lower-middle-income country category in 2008 after meeting two criteria while having yet to meet the economic vulnerability index. Citing poverty, lack of economic diversification and structural barriers — mainly those in Africa and those with high vulnerabilities, such as small island developing States – she called for more robust graduation-monitoring mechanisms and effective financial support for all graduating countries.
Noting the possibility of advancement, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana, said that her country graduated to middle-income status in 2011. However, for other States, progress has been uneven, as they struggle with high levels of debt, with the burden increasing from $217 billion in 2010 to $744 billion in 2020 — a figure that is unsustainable. Nevertheless, she noted that least developed countries are taking leadership in the fight against climate change: Bhutan is the world’s only carbon-negative country, and Ethiopia has set a target to plant 20 billion trees by 2024.
Turning to solutions, Alexander Pulev, Minister for Innovation and Growth of Bulgaria, noted that, while his country’s economy still lags behind European Union averages, it has consistently supported least developed countries over the years with direct financing, and recently developed new economic ties and trading channels with Cambodia, Ethiopia and Nigeria. He stressed that the most efficient way to support least developed countries is not by selling them goods and services, but buying theirs, supporting them in increasing their export potential to create local value chains and establishing local production facilities.
Also speaking were Heads of State and Government, Vice-Presidents and ministers of Nigeria, Yemen, Tonga, Iran, Mali, Togo, Rwanda, Uzbekistan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Nepal, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Honduras, Liberia, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Austria, Guinea, Russian Federation, Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Singapore, Azerbaijan, Uganda, Bahamas, South Sudan, Niger, Venezuela, Oman, Morocco, Spain, Samoa (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States) and Malta.
The plenary of the Conference will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 7 March, to continue its work.
MUHAMMADU BUHARI, President of Nigeria, stated that the possibility of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals remains bleak, especially for least developed countries — often faced with developmental challenges not always of their making, posing huge obstacles and requiring urgent and robust assistance. Nigeria believes the Doha Programme of Action presents a viable framework for progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, and urges developed countries, civil society actors, the private sector and business community and others to partner with those States to advance their capacity to reach the 2030 Agenda goals. He recalled that the pandemic taught the international community that “we must all work together”, including with budgetary provisions for vaccines for poor and rich alike, working pharmaceutical companies to produce test kits, vaccines and treatments.
Turning to finance, he stressed that least developed countries continue to need enormous support to reduce poverty, create jobs, combat hunger and ensure quality education. He noted the nature of the global financial system weighs down least developed countries with an unsustainable external debt burden, agreeing with Secretary-General António Guterres’s charge that it represents an unfair debt architecture — as those States are charged more money to borrow on markets, and downgraded when they even think of restructuring their debt or applying for relief. He called for adoption of a global mechanism to monitor illicit financial flows and a United Nations international convention on tax matters to eliminate of profit-shifting and base erosion, tax evasion, capital gains tax and other abuses. He expressed hope that at end of the Conference, the Programme of Action will lead to increased exports for those countries through improved access to foreign markets in line with the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade facilitation agreement. His Government is canvasing for duty-free and quota-free market access to ensure the least developed countries’ integration in regional and global value chains. Similarly, modalities are needed for transfer of technology transfer and access to global ecommerce platforms. Least developed countries suffer disproportionately from climate change, he stressed, with deaths due to crises predicted to continue rising.
FAID MUJLI, Vice-President of the Presidential Leadership Council of Yemen, welcomed the adoption of the Doha Programme of Action as an important achievement and vision to address the issues faced by least developed countries, including the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Urging that priority be given to States facing conflict, he said that his country is “undergoing exceptional circumstances” as a result of the coup and wars waged by terrorist Houthi militias, trained and funded by the Iranian regime. While humanitarian suffering and economic deterioration have continued in Yemen since the Houthi coup in 2014, the Government has been working to promote resilience, early recovery and reconstruction in partnership with Saudi Arabia.
He stressed, however, that while the Government works towards recovery, Houthi militias are looting State resources to wage war on Yemeni citizens, pushing them into poverty by imposing protection levies in areas under Houthi control. Further, Houthi militias have targeted vital economic facilities and infrastructure with ballistic missiles and drones, along with halting the export of crude oil. The State depends on such oil to provide salaries to almost 1 million civil servants and fund services, such as electricity, water, health and education. The loss of such revenue, therefore, will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis, poverty and food insecurity; slow trade; impede the import of basic goods; and contribute to currency depreciation and inflation. Against that backdrop, he called on the international community to support the Government in addressing the economic consequences and alleviating the suffering caused by this war.
MIAN MUHAMMAD SHEHBAZ SHARIF, Prime Minister of Pakistan, stressed that, despite progress in some areas, implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action remains widely insufficient. Over the past decade, only four countries were able to graduate from least developed country status. Least developed countries have been victims of the pandemic of inequality: in access to vaccines, technology, finance and opportunities, he said. And they continue to be disproportionally affected by the climate crisis, with cascading effects of different shocks. These multiple crises have taken a heavy toll on the least developed countries. Their gross domestic product (GDP) growth has plummeted; international trade has shrunk; poverty and food insecurity have risen; and inequality has been exacerbated. Developing countries like Pakistan have also experienced a severe setback to their developmental goals.
Achieving sustainable development will require reinvigorated global partnerships, based on effective means of implementation in several priority areas, he said, emphasizing that vaccine inequity must be addressed through adequate access to quality vaccines for least developed countries. Moreover, the international community must address the increasingly unsustainable debt burden of many least developed countries. It is a matter of great concern that six of these countries are classified as in debt distress, while 17 are at high risk of debt distress. He further stressed the need to reform the unequal international financial architecture, designed to address these countries’ special needs and vulnerabilities.
KAUSEA NATANO, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, noted the geographical isolation of his country from the international market creates a barrier for trading and service delivery. Emerging technology and the rapid growth of information and communications technology (ICT) have brought about efficiency and new opportunities, while increased Internet coverage for the outer islands will improve service quality and reduce service delivery and business costs. Addressing climate change, Tuvalu is developing a long-term adaptation plan envisaged to: accommodate its population safely beyond worse-case sea-level rise beyond 2100; offer solutions to pre-existing development and resource-constraint issues; and offer hope for the future of the island State. In addition, together with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, Tuvalu established the Commission of Small Island States that focuses on promoting international law principles that hold States responsible for climate change impacts affecting the marine environment. The Rising Nations Initiative is another effort aimed at pressing forward efforts towards protecting the statehood of Pacific atoll countries, preserving their sovereignty and safeguarding the rights and heritage of affected populations.
He noted that gross national income does not fully reflect the reality of problems and challenges that Tuvalu faces, such as aid fragmentation. The accessibility of Tuvalu to international funds and donor-funded programmes are to be properly analysed to capture the true picture of the current aid situation in the country. Given Tuvalu’s many development challenges, graduating from least developed country status will put further burden on its development efforts and can hinder achievement of its national development goals, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. He strongly advocated for adding more indexes that can capture vulnerabilities of small island developing States — as they constantly face cyclones, droughts and outbreaks of diseases, all of which are not fully captured in economic vulnerability index indicators. The key concern for Tuvalu is that graduation will withdraw least-developed-country-specific international support, which includes modalities and access to certain concessional finance instruments and preferential market access for exports and allocation of aid and climate finance.
SIAOSI 'OFAKIVAHAFOLAU SOVALENI, Prime Minister of Tonga, noting that “we are at a turning point on our planet”, urged the Member States that adopted the Doha Programme of Action to achieve the goals and targets endorsed therein. Asking those present to reflect on whether commitments have been delivered and whether more can be done to lift least developed countries out of poverty, he said that this is the moment for least developed States to take ownership and show leadership in moving the promise of sustainable, inclusive development and security from words to deeds. Further, he called on development partners and other relevant stakeholders to continue delivering on their commitments.
He went on to underscore that, for countries in the Pacific region, climate change is the greatest security threat today, recalling that Vanuatu was recently hit by two severe tropical cyclones within three days. The Doha Programme of Action prioritizes climate change and seeks to build resilience against future environmental shocks, but funding gaps must be closed. “Time is not on our side,” he observed, urging that financial resources be scaled-up to achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation. Additionally, climate finance must be increased, particularly for least developed and other vulnerable countries, as this will provide such States space to invest in health, education and social-protection schemes. Adding that several Pacific small island developing States that are also least developed countries are close to or have met the criteria for graduation, he underlined the need to ensure that post-graduation development maintains momentum.
LOTAY TSHERING, Prime Minister of Bhutan, noted that this year, his country is gearing up to graduate from the least developed country category, in which it was officially included 52 years ago. Guided by the overarching development philosophy of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan pursued balanced growth that encapsulated not just economic progress, but carefully considered conservation of the country’s environmental and traditional values. Turning to the COVID-19 pandemic, he drew attention to Bhutan’s transformation initiatives which represent the ultimate runway that will propel the country to sustainably graduate from the least developed country category and secure lasting progress and economic stability. As a small landlocked economy with a limited resource base of a few vulnerable sectors such as agriculture and hydropower, Bhutan’s landlocked status will continue to remain a challenge in accessing international markets and participation in global trade and investment opportunities.
Highlighting the specific nature of his country’s needs, he turned towards the United Nations platform to redesign the formula of assistance that is accurate and effective. He described climate change as “the single biggest threat to sustainable development”, noting that least developed countries bear the disproportionate brunt of its impact. The world is witnessing the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers, flash floods and other extreme weather events, which are increasingly threatening Bhutan’s vital infrastructure and livelihoods. Every second day, there are news reports of floods and landslides in the region, he warned, stressing that Bhutan does not have the means to adapt to such disasters. He underscored that the focus of least developed countries should be in capitalizing on the potential of science, technology and innovation.
MOHSEN MANSOURI, Vice-President for Executive Affairs of Iran, said equality among all nations regardless of their development level can lead to a better future for all. As the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the structural weaknesses of developing States during a global crisis, he urged developed countries to fulfil their historical, moral and political commitments without politicization, providing official development assistance (ODA) among other priorities. The United Nations system, World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) should increase their support to help least developed countries graduate from the category. He noted that Iran, due to its geographical position, can help landlocked least developed countries in creating transit corridors to help facilitate trade and access global markets. He cited decisive steps taken to help Afghanistan access global waters, noting Iran has hosted millions of Afghan citizens for the last four decades despite a lack of meaningful international community assistance.
Calling for due attention to be paid to impediments including unilateral coercive measures which infringe on international law and the Charter of the United Nations, he stressed that those measures deny nations their inherent human rights and prevent Governments from pursuing sustainable economic growth. Noting that least developed countries enjoy special capacities in human and natural resources, including use of local technologies and internal capacities which offer the path to progress, he offered to share Iran’s successful experience. In that domain, the international community must renew its commitment to multilateralism and depoliticization of technological issues. Rejecting the baseless and irresponsible statements by the representative of Yemen — an unfortunate attempt to divert and delay the attention of the Conference — he nonetheless wished that country prosperity and a lack of intervention by foreigners.
CHOGUEL KOKALLA MAÏGA, Prime Minister of Mali, expressed hope that the Doha Programme of Action will not face a fate similar to those of the previous four conferences on least developed countries. Most such countries are stagnating for reasons including imbalance and inequity in the global economic system. Noting that there are 33 African countries — including his own — in this category, he underscored that this conference should not result in simply a “catalogue of good intentions”. Least developed countries do not need assistance that leaves them in continuous need; rather, they require robust partnerships, solidarity and justice in international trade and global economic governance. This will help improve human development, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and create conditions conducive for shared well-being.
He went on to stress that, if the international community truly wishes to address the vulnerabilities preventing countries from attaining the Sustainable Development Goals, “we must change the paradigm” of the struggle against climate change, and additionally, establish robust, adapted tools for post-pandemic recovery. Underlining the urgency of the fight against terrorism, he stressed that addressing this challenge should be at the core of collective action. For its part, Mali has undertaken significant efforts to eliminate terrorism, insecurity and illicit trafficking. These efforts are part of structural change, and the Government is also working to combat poverty, support economic growth and implement national development strategies. He added that Mali’s current priorities are restoring State authority across the country, improving the lives of its citizens and organizing transparent elections.
VICTOIRE TOMEGAH DOGBÉ, Prime Minister of Togo, stressed that the Doha Programme of Action will only be meaningful if it contributes in the long term to tangibly reduce the major gap separating least developed from developed countries. Highlighting the importance of structural transformation and developed international trade, she called for support for least developed countries to help them better adapt to climate change and environmental degradation. Moreover, the Doha Programme of Action aspires to mobilize international solidarity with the revitalization of global partnerships and innovative tools. However, she cautioned, the will of least developed countries will not be enough for the full implementation of these actions. Least developed countries possess natural and human resources to promote their economic growth, global well-being and prosperity. To this end, the international community has formulated a vision with the aim of supporting sustainable development of these countries by prioritizing the development of their productive capacities.
Only four countries have been able to graduate from the least developed countries category since 2011, she observed, noting that the African continent faces persistent inequality and a high degree of insecurity. Given this reality, eradicating poverty is the most pressing challenge for least developed countries today. She underscored that inequalities do not correct themselves — on the contrary, they are perpetuated over generations. Therefore, efforts to address extreme poverty and promote socioeconomic development and safeguard the interests of future generations should vigorously address the reduction of these inequalities. She called for further commitment of all parties to allocate more resources and fully leverage the potential of science and technology for sustainable development. Highlighting numerous challenges related to climate change facing least developed countries, she pointed to the establishment of the international investment support centre. The pandemic has reminded the international community of the inequality resulting from the lack of shared knowledge and the urgent need for strong international solidarity. She also drew attention to the growing security threat in Western Africa which undermines Togo´s development ambition.
ÉDOUARD NGIRENTE, Prime Minister of Rwanda, cited the underutilized or misused potential of least developed countries. Since 1971, more countries have regressed into that category than have graduated out of it. Lessons to be learned on the factors of regression include weak governance, conflict, shocks of various types, including health and climate sectors, unfair international trade practices and biased global financial architecture. However, there are also cases of countries that have graduated recently, as well as projections for the next couple of years. The least developed countries cannot afford to be in that category forever, and no Government or populations should accept continued suffering due to poverty, deprivation or vulnerabilities — not even achieving the minimum standard of living that a human being would hope for.
He noted that Rwanda has made more progress over the last 25 years than ever before, recording over 80 per cent growth, and more than tripling income per capita — although it is still low. The State has invested heavily in health, education and the well-being of its people, reducing maternal and childbirth mortality and increasing life expectancy at birth, and hopes to reach the middle-income living standard bracket towards the end of the decade. Therefore, adoption of the Doha Programme of Action is a giant step in the right direction, but not sufficient on its own. Citing potential return on investing in people, fair global trade and regional integration, and sustainable urbanization, he voiced for the possibility of graduating many more countries — if not all of them.
TANZILA NARBAEVA, Chairperson of the Senate of Uzbekistan, noting that the biggest challenge that least developed countries face is poverty, reported that her Government has set a goal of reducing poverty by half in the coming years. To do so, it is providing targeted assistance to families in need, those with disabilities, women and youth through specific social-protection measures, along with supporting agriculture and enhancing training for unemployed persons. As a result, 1 million people were able to emerge from poverty in 2022. She went on to stress the need to increase investment in manufacturing in least developed countries and to provide practical assistance in bringing goods produced in such countries to external markets. She also spotlighted the complex socioeconomic situation in neighbouring Afghanistan, stating that, the more isolated that country becomes, the worse its crisis will be.
SALEUMXAY KOMMASITH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, warned that least developed countries have been severely affected by the unprecedented impacts of the pandemic, as well as financial difficulties, food and energy crises and armed conflicts, which have further exacerbated their already existing structural vulnerabilities. Against this backdrop, the adoption of the Doha Programme of Action marks an important milestone for the international community to help least developed countries achieve rapid recovery from the pandemic, build resilience against future shocks, eradicate extreme poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
He recalled that in 2000, his country set its goal for graduation from the least developed countries category by 2020. Since then, it has been pursuing this ultimate objective through integrating least developed countries programmes of action into its national socioeconomic development strategy. As a result of two consecutive reviews in 2018 and 2021, his country was recommended for graduation despite the setback caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 that undermined its progress. Given the negative impact posed by the pandemic, he said that his county has extended its transitional period to 2026. To this end, it has been working closely with the United Nations country team to formulate the Smooth Transition Strategy that lays out policies and priority actions critical to its sustainable graduation. Graduating from the least developed country status requires not only strong commitments and concrete actions by the national Government, but also by the international community as a whole, he said, calling for international support during graduation, transition and beyond graduation.
NTHOMENG MAJARA, Prime Minister of Lesotho, said least developed countries face skyrocketing inflation, economic stagnation, worsening poverty and escalating climate catastrophes — painting a bleak future for those countries and risking the loss of a decade’s hard-won gains. Lesotho has, however, embarked on efforts to work towards meeting graduation criteria. The gross national income per capita for 2021 was $1,270, a 4.96 per cent increase from 2020 — above the graduation threshold of $1,242, but far below the income-only graduation threshold. The country’s gross national income per capita is lower than the average for least developed countries. To improve the level of income in Lesotho and achieve sustainable economic growth, the Government is working to boost private-sector-led employment creation. She cited poor performance in the agricultural sector resulting in food insecurity. Although some of the priority areas of the Istanbul Programme of Action were not met in the last decade, notable advances have been made in several key areas such as access to ICT, sustainable energy, health, education, gender and governance.
Her newly elected Government has incorporated a proactive policy stance for graduation from the least developed countries category into the country’s long-term development plan as the primary premise for the effective response to propel the country into middle-income status, she said. Lesotho has huge potential for increasing productivity and enhancing economic growth through prioritized development of such sectors as natural resources, tourism, agriculture, technology, infrastructure and hydropower. Given the major task ahead to ensure that the necessary international support and partnerships are in place for countries to achieve the Doha Programme of Action goals and targets, she therefore urged donor countries to honour their ODA commitments. Recalling that the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated an already fragile situation by causing severe impacts on societies and economies, reversing years of hard-won progress, she called for support to keep least developed countries on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. It is equally important to note that debt burdens and increasing debt servicing costs are becoming more challenging, placing those States at a higher risk of debt distress — requiring urgent debt relief, restructuring and debt cancelation.
NARAYAN KAJI SHRESTHA, Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal, aligning himself with the Group of Least Developed Countries and the statement to be delivered by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, pointed out that only six States have graduated from the least developed category since its creation in 1971. Progress has been “agonizingly slow”, he emphasized, and such countries cannot wait another half century just to leave this status. He therefore called on development partners to effectively implement the Doha Programme of Action in tandem with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For its part, Nepal is committed to graduating by 2026, despite profound economic setbacks resulting from the pandemic, earthquakes and climate change.
Spotlighting Nepal’s transformation from autocracy to democracy — institutionalized in its Constitution promulgated in 2015 — he stressed that political gains cannot be consolidated without providing economic dividends to the people. He went on to call for continued support for graduating and graduated least developed countries so that graduation is irreversible. To accelerate the structural transformation of such countries, he called on development partners to fulfil their ODA commitments. Turning to climate change, he welcomed the decision at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference to establish a loss and damage fund, stressing that the same must have sufficient resources. He added that meeting the $100 billion climate-finance promise stands as a “test case” for the future, also calling for comprehensive debt relief for debt-distressed least developed countries.
HOJAMYRAT GELDIMYRADOV, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan, highlighted challenges to economic development stemming from the pandemic and other risks which are affecting investment relations among countries. The pandemic and other political and economic events have affected all States and have had a negative impact on international links, including transportation. He emphasized that the transportation issue should be at the heart of the United Nations agenda as a separate area of activity. Turkmenistan initiated the first global conference of sustainable transportation and was at the source of key General Assembly resolutions on sustainable transportation, adopted in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2021.
He went on to underscore the role of least developed countries in strengthening global transportation cooperation. Turkmenistan’s economic efforts are focused on economic integration, he said, noting that his country is cooperating with numerous States around the world on a bilateral basis. In this context, he drew attention to the energy connection among Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan which will create opportunities for other countries in the region to access reliable sources of energy to meet their needs. This conference will have a decisive impact on developing common decisions and actions to improve the lives of populations of least developed countries, he said.
RODRIGO MALMIERCA DÍAZ, Minister for Foreign Trade and Investment of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said it is totally unacceptable that least developed States, which are among the most vulnerable, continue to have the most limited productive capacity, insufficient fiscal space and face a widening macroeconomic imbalance and rising levels of external debt. Half of those States underwent continuous food emergencies for at least 13 consecutive years over a period of 42 years from 1981 to 2022. It is inconceivable that, although they account for less than 4 per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions, they are at the forefront of the climate crisis: over the last 50 years, 69 per cent of deaths from climate-related disasters occurred in least developed countries. “We are facing an inequality crisis” he stressed, in which 46 countries comprising 14 per cent of the world’s population, risk being left behind, while, in the last 10 years, the richest 1 per cent of humanity has cornered more than half of all new global wealth. “This is simply unacceptable,” he stressed.
He stressed the need to confront the unsustainable debt burden in many least developed countries and take urgent and necessary measures to reduce the debt situation if they are to return to normalcy. Immediate actions, such as debt relief and restructuring, reallocation of unutilized special drawing rights and a of new allocation of such rights are necessary. It is further imperative for developed countries to meet their ODA commitments. Those States must fulfil their historic commitment to allocate between 0.15 per cent and 0.20 per cent of their GDP to ODA for the least developed countries. The process of graduation to a higher stage must be re-evaluated to ensure the sustainability of the progress achieved in each case. It is unreasonable for those countries, once graduated, to stop receiving specific treatment when their vulnerability is evident. Graduated countries would not face this reality if developed countries fulfilled their commitment to contribute 0.7 per cent of their GDP to ODA — still a mere pipe dream today. Speaking in his national capacity, he called for an end to unilateral coercive measures, including the illegal blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States for six decades.
RANIA EL MASHAAT, Minister for International Cooperation of Egypt, called on the international community to unite in facing economic, social and environmental challenges and to build on regional and international partnerships to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially for least developed countries. Noting that 71 per cent of such countries are in Africa, she said they face many development challenges relating to food security and malnutrition. To address these and other challenges, Egypt will enhance cooperation with African States through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) programme to increase financing for certain projects, including the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Project and the Cairo-Cape Town Highway. In addition to regional efforts, she also detailed relevant national initiatives, including measures to eradicate poverty, promote rural development, invest in human resources, support green transformation and develop the health and education sectors.
EDUARDO ENRIQUE REINA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Honduras, noted that climate change and the pandemic have prevented least developed countries from developing. He recalled the coup d’état that occurred in Honduras in 2009 and hampered his country’s ability to advance and emerge from this unfortunate list of least developed States. Honduras’ economy shrank to such an extent that its public dept grew from $3 billion in 2009 to $20 billion in 2021. “This is impossible to repay,” he declared, noting that no country has the ability to develop with 75 per cent poverty, 40 per cent extreme poverty and regrettable social indicators. The economic system is unjust and limits his country’s ability to develop, he stressed, describing underprivileged States as victims, permanently seeking a way out of this unjust system. Emphasizing that the current system of myriad of injustices is unsustainable, he noted that it is impossible for Honduras to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals under conditions of poverty that have been imposed upon it. His country is making countless efforts in logistics, development and preventing exploitation of its natural resources, he underscored. Honduras is not responsible for the pollution which has resulted in climate change, he said, adding that most underprivileged countries are victims of complex systems that is no longer serving humanity.
DEE-MAXWELL SAAH KEMAYAH, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Dean of the Cabinet of Liberia, recalled that since the inception of the Doha Programme of Action, the development aspirations of least developed countries continue to be stifled amidst multifaceted challenges. The pathway to prosperity and development must begin with scaled-up ODA, as well as access to development finance to boost the attainment of the six key focus areas. On the national level, Liberia has continued to make strides towards national development and prosperity, launching a five-year flagship national development plan, known as the “Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development”. His Government continues to commit resources in critical sectors such as health, education, agriculture and infrastructure; however, the need for development partners to coordinate resources in these critical areas cannot be overemphasized.
His country has also initiated the “Liberia Economic Recovery Plan” to protect economic recovery, by minimizing revenue collapse arising from the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic — and has further established policy frameworks and interventions to address the impacts of climate change and protect the environment, including the National Climate Change Policy and Response Strategy, the completion of the revised nationally determined contributions, and the formulation of the first and second National Biodiversity and Strategy Action Plans. His Government will continue to forge partnerships with international, multilateral, bilateral and local stakeholders to encourage new economic engagement, strengthen regional and global health, promote food security and advance peace and security. He noted the Programme of Action provides the platform for strengthening partnerships, supporting achievement of full potential in raising the standard of living of the more than 1.1 billion women, men, youth and children, who live in those 46 States.
MAMADOU TANGARA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Gambia, detailed national successes in accessing energy, developing infrastructure and tourism and promoting science, technology and innovation. Further, following its emergence in 2016 from cycles of poor governance, the Gambia has strengthened democratic governance and respect for human rights and the rule of law. Despite these successes, however, the Gambia — like other least developed countries — still faces significant challenges including the pandemic, the impact of the war in Europe, limited access to external markets, inability to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and high energy costs. He stated, therefore, that the Gambia’s main priority in implementing the Doha Programme of Action will be overcoming these issues to realize its potential for development and growth. To that end, he detailed the Government’s green-focused national development plan, the core pillar of which is private-sector development that leverages the Gambia’s comparative advantages — such as its proximity to African and European Union markets.
OLIVIA RAGNAGHNEWENDÉ ROUAMBA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation of Burkina Faso, associating herself with the Group of 77, spotlighted positive developments in her country, including a decrease in child mortality, improved access to electricity and safe drinking water, as well as green production, positively affecting food security. She noted that her Government adopted a humanitarian-development-security nexus approach by strengthening stability and security. The phenomenon of terrorism in Burkina Faso has led to numerous losses of human life and significant material damage, she cautioned, also drawing attention to the security crisis which had led to the displacement of over 1.8 million people. She stressed that this situation limits the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. In its recovery and resilience process, Burkina Faso has adopted an action plan for stabilization and development for the period 2023-2025. This ambitious plan is aligned with the Doha Programme of Action and focuses on the following: restoring the integrity of the country´s territory; responding to the humanitarian crisis; and improving governance and national reconciliation.
ALEXANDER SCHALLENBERG, Federal Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Austria, noted the Russian Federation attack on Ukraine is not a European war, but a direct assault on the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. If “might makes right”, the security of nations all over the world is at risk. Food and energy shortages, price increases and disruptions of global supply chains have hit least developed countries particularly hard, and in such difficult times, the European Union has stood by its partners as the biggest donors of development cooperation and humanitarian aid. He further cited the work of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which has also been providing critical support to the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
As a long-standing partner of the least developed countries, Austria spends more on bilateral development cooperation and on humanitarian aid than ever before, which is bearing fruit. Bhutan, one of its priority countries, will graduate out of least developed country status this year, and he expressed confidence that many more countries can soon be on a similar track. Multilateral cooperation and international law have been at the core of Austria’s foreign policy for decades, and by running for a seat on the Security Council in 2026, the country is determined to expand that commitment. In an era of heightened international competition, he affirmed that dialogue and diplomacy are not a luxury, but a necessity. The pandemic, the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, and the food and energy crisis have taught that “we are more flexible and resilient when we cooperate closely within a rules-based system”, he stressed.
ROSE POLA PRICEMOU, Minister for Planning and International Cooperation of Guinea, expressed concern over the devastating consequences of the pandemic and climate change. Guinea is rebuilding itself, implementing social reforms, fighting corruption and eradicating illicit capital flows. The implementation of the 10-year least developed countries plan has been useful as it allowed her country to develop its economic planning, she stressed. The goals of Guinea´s national development plan will comprise the goals of the Doha Programme of Action. Many of these objectives are proactively reflected in the interim plan 2022-2025, which is being implemented in Guinea. She highlighted a key initiative put forward by her Government to improve South-South and triangular cooperation. Guinea is currently preparing a development conference, she said, also drawing attention to an institute created for South-South and triangular cooperation. She further spotlighted strategic tools to support her Government’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, improving living conditions and the well-being of the people of Guinea.
SERGEY VERSHININ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, noted that least developed countries are particularly vulnerable to the shocks of the economic crisis, ecological problems and the complications of post-COVID recovery. Highlighting the challenges posed by colonial exploitation and raw material dependence, he added that top priority should be to infrastructure diversification and access to innovative technologies. Stressing the importance of eradicating poverty, he said $1 trillion is needed for fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal 9. That is twice the current investment, he said, pointing out that many developed countries are cutting ODA at this time. Urging international donors to support recipient countries, he also called for the removal of procedural obstacles hampering Russian Federation technological assistance programmes. Since 2013, his country has written off $380 million in debt, he said. Rejecting attempts to blame his country for the worsening economic crisis, he also condemned the illegal sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation’s products, which have caused global shortages.
FREDERICK SHAVA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Zimbabwe, said least developed countries are the battleground on which the 2030 Agenda will be won or lost — as they are the litmus test against which history will judge the effectiveness of the international community’s efforts on the cardinal principle of “leaving no one behind”. The most vulnerable nations are facing multifaceted obstacles, including soaring debt, export marginalization, energy poverty and the adverse effects of climate change and natural hazards, and landlocked least developed and small island developing States are more vulnerable to these shocks, as they bear higher costs of production, transportation and low comparative advantage of their exports. The international community should come forward to ensure market access, remove tariff and non-tariff barriers, and enhance capacity-building and technology transfer. As the world continues to show signs of pandemic recovery, it will take even longer for least developed countries to return to the pre-pandemic levels of GDP per capita. Those States also lack the kind of diversification needed to boost resilience to shocks and thus, firmly integrate them into the global economy. He noted the 46 least developed countries are part of the family of 91 countries in vulnerable situations, together with the landlocked developing and small island developing States. He noted that the Doha Programme of Action makes a commitment to address challenges faced by landlocked least developed countries. The development path should not remain slow, long and vague, he stressed, calling on development partner countries to step up and honour their commitments, as they strive to confront the greatest challenge: the resource gap.
DANIYAR AMANGELDIEV, Minister for Economy and Commerce of Kyrgyzstan, said the pandemic has brought about changes and exacerbated vulnerabilities of least developed countries due to their underdeveloped health-care and education system, low level of domestic production capacity and severe dependence on foreign markets and financing. The United Nations is a crucial partner for least developed countries in the area of development. In this regard, he stressed the importance of assistance to least developed countries in combating climate change and improving health care and education. In full support of the Doha Programme of Action, he stressed that reforms in Kyrgyzstan have been implemented to privatize State property and to introduce the national currency. Moreover, his Government has set a liberal tax regime for enterprises and investors. Kyrgyzstan has a good climate to attract foreign investments. As part of the high-level political forum — under the Economic and Social Council — his country has been discussing these issues. He stressed the importance of managing the negative impacts of climate change on his country, implementing the principle of the green economy and achieving sustainable economic growth.
GUNDA REIRE (Latvia) stressed the importance of promoting food security and addressing climate change, sustainable agriculture, gender equality and the digital transformation. Since regaining independence in 1991, Latvia has been a keen supporter of rules-based international order, she said, adding that countries who struggled to recover from the pandemic now face food scarcity, shortage of fertilizers and rising energy costs because of the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine. Her country stands ready to offer its know-how and smart solutions, she said. Reaffirming commitment to gender equality, she noted her country’s contributions to enhancing the entrepreneurial skills of women and girls in Zambia. Further, the development of digital skills should go hand in hand with a sustainable connectivity infrastructure, she stressed, pointing to the European Union’s Global Gateway strategy.
YVETTE SYLLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Madagascar, aligning herself with the Group of 77, said graduation from the least developed countries category is a global problem, requiring the international community consider the situation of every single State. She cited Madagascar’s Emergence Plan, established to improve the living conditions of its people, noting that development should be conducted on a territorial level, accounting for intersectoral strategic needs and the international state of play. The Plan is part of a dynamic seeking to interlock value chains and eradicate extreme poverty and inequalities. Although the digital world is “invading our universe”, she asserted that the Doha Programme of Action underscores the importance of continuity. Her island State is among the most vulnerable to climate shocks, she stated, and in 2021 was recognized as the country facing the greatest level of food distress related to climate change. Calling for actions on environmental protection and preserving biodiversity and resources, she stated that Madagascar is one of last remaining earthly paradises, and must be protected for future generations. Her country seeks to become the great food producer of its region, establishing a national pact for food and agriculture, and among other initiatives, has reduced the school dropout rate by 30 per cent. Stressing that food trade must not be used a means of war, she called on the international community to pool resources to ensure the implementation of the Programme of Action with renewed, finance, investments and new partnerships. “Either we move forward together or we perish together,” she stressed.
VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, Minister for Foreign Affair and National Development of Singapore, warned that the viability of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is at risk. Least developed countries are facing the greatest difficulties as they have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions and the triple crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. Against this backdrop, she stressed the importance of fulfilling the commitment to least developed countries through concrete and collective action. While being least responsible for climate change, these countries are the hardest hit. Underscoring the need to significantly scale up the financial support, she advocated for allocating 50 per cent of climate financing to climate adaptation. On closing the financing gap, she stressed that increased debt burden is hampering the ability of least developed countries to eradicate poverty, invest in external shocks and build inclusive societies. “We must reform the global financial architecture,” she declared, also stressing the need to accelerate digital transformation and promote universal connectivity. She strongly supported the Doha Programme of Action´s call for renewed global partnership with South-South cooperation as an important pillar.
JEREMIAH MANELE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of the Solomon Islands, said the Doha Programme of Action is a forward-looking document. Acknowledging Qatar’s $60 million contribution for its implementation, he also endorsed the Secretary-General’s call for a global revolution. Noting the multidimensional crises that are affecting least developed countries, he noted that the growth in their number is stark evidence that poverty has increased. His country is scheduled to graduate at the end of 2024, but that process has been affected by a wave of shocks ranging from the pandemic to natural hazards. The containment measures taken by the Government during the pandemic has led to a fiscal deficit in the last three years, he said, calling for a three-year extension for his country to graduate. Solomon Islands is a post-conflict country, he said, and the underlying issues that led to the conflict are not fully resolved. The country is also located in a climate change hotspot, he said, calling for the operationalization of the loss and damage fund.
JEAN VICTOR GENEUS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Haiti, noted this fifth Conference takes place while his country is amidst a difficult situation marked by political instability, insecurity, the collapse of the economic model and multiple challenges making it extremely vulnerable. Combined with this, armed gangs are undermining the gains made over the past decade in the fight for poverty reduction and socioeconomic development, resulting in increased food insecurity. As with many countries, it seems obvious that the scant progress made in Haiti shows it will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals within set time limits without an improvement in its situation. He cited the first assessment of fragility, a study adopting the vision of the countries of the South, hearing from actors across the territory on proposals to break the cycle of crisis. The Doha Programme of Action is essential to Haiti — but it calls for a paradigm shift towards tangible initiatives including strengthening of solid partnerships, as well support for Haiti’s graduation from the least developed country category. He called for development of a more robust and inclusive multilateral system, underpinned by solidarity and mutual trust, and building and bolstering the productive capacities of the least developed countries, with more investment rather than more humanitarian aid.
JEYHUN BAYRAMOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, recalled that, since the early years of its independence, his country has been faced with foreign aggression and illegal occupation of its sovereign territories. This caused devastating effects on its social and economic situation. Being closely involved in the global development process, Azerbaijan carries out its donor mission with great success, delivering aid to people affected by natural and human-made disasters across the world, as well as to the countries facing economic difficulties, including those least developed. Azerbaijan has provided extensive international assistance to more than 130 States, he said, noting that 43 of the 46 least developed countries have received educational, technical, financial, health care and humanitarian assistance. To support their fight against the pandemic, Azerbaijan has provided financial and humanitarian assistance to more than 80 countries, including 25 least developed. It also offered 1 million doses of vaccines to 14 countries, half of which were least developed countries.
HAJI ABUBAKER JEJE ODONGO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda, said that, currently, his country is implementing its third national development plan in order to pursue socioeconomic transformation. The goal is to increase household incomes and improve living standards, he said, noting that these goals are in line with the African Union Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda. His Government has prioritized universal primary and secondary education, he said, adding that science, technology and information are enablers for achieving the country’s goals. Also stressing the importance of implementing trade-related investment measures, he called on the international community to review how investment regimes can guarantee adequate policy space for science and technology. Highlighting the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, he emphasized the need for partnerships between private and public sector, as well as civil society.
ALEXANDER PULEV, Minister for Innovation and Growth of Bulgaria, said his ancient State has weathered a series of political and economic crises. The Bulgarian economy still lags behind European Union averages, but, despite limited financial resources, has consistently supported least developed countries over the years with direct financing, and recently developed new economic ties and trading channels with Cambodia, Ethiopia and Nigeria. He stressed that the most efficient way to support least developed countries is not by selling them goods and services, but buying theirs, supporting them in increasing their export potential to create local value chains and establish local production facilities. Bulgarian fintech companies are investing in Africa and South-East Asia, setting up offices and employing local talent — extremely relevant investments as many States still lack access to traditional banking services. He cited Bulgarian nanosatellite companies that partner with least developed countries’ Governments to provide early natural disaster detection, to minimize economic impact and to save lives, and up-and-coming Bulgarian cargo drone companies looking to provide logistic services in Africa and in other regions with underdeveloped road infrastructure. These businesses will set up local production facilities to support the economies of those States.
GLENYS HANNA-MARTIN, Minister for Education, Technical and Vocational Training of the Bahamas, said that her country — a small island developing State — is labelled as “middle-income”. Despite its label, the Bahamas is experiencing the same challenges as least developed countries, including debt burden, difficulty in accessing concessional financing for development, the restrictive consequences of economic graduation, vulnerabilities to external shocks and the disruption of the supply chains due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The global landscape has changed and challenges shifted, she said, noting that the compounded threat of food and finance crises risks rolling back the many years of hard-won progress. Aligning herself with the Doha Programme of Action — in particular its focus on climate change — she drew attention to the global commitment to climate financing. Moreover, she reaffirmed the importance of the South-South and triangular cooperation, including its renewed focus of global partnerships.
BARNABA MARIAL BENJAMIN (South Sudan), noting that this Conference was preceded by four conferences, including in Paris, Brussels and Istanbul, said the international community fell short of many of the goals set by those meetings. Calling on least developed countries to take ownership of their development, he noted that many of them have unique circumstances that don’t lend themselves to templates imported from elsewhere. Policies designed to uplift poor countries must consider the long-lasting impact of natural hazards, he said. No global partner has shown a willingness to support long-term development and humanitarian programming at the same time, he pointed out, adding that his country is an example of that. More attention should be paid to contingency plans, he said, calling for support for his country’s efforts in climate change mitigation and transition of humanitarian programming to development. Highlighting the progress achieved since the 2018 peace agreement, he said targeted sanctions regimes imposed on his country have weakened its ability to provide security, as well as its credibility to attract investors. “How do we guarantee political security if we cannot arm our forces to ensure rule of law?”, he asked. Also noting that his 12-year-old country has become number one in basketball in all of Africa, he said it has also qualified for the World Cup in Japan. “We will be competing with some members of the Security Council, unless they sanction us,” he added.
ABDOU RABIOU, Minister for Planning of Niger, noted that, since the creation of the least developed countries category in 1971, of the 46 countries — most of them in Africa — and despite all efforts, only 7 countries have been able to graduate. A lack of economic diversification and new challenges have delayed or hampered graduation, along with financial crises, conflicts and climate change. He noted that the Doha Programme of Action offers new hope as it is focused on results. He cited the importance of promoting online learning, expressing hope for more investment and accelerated access to ICT and the Internet, contributing to the structural transformation of least developed countries’ economies. There is a need to mobilize global partnerships to ensure that interlinked components of the Programme are implemented. Niger has established a 2022-2026 development programme, and is promoting good governance, democracy, human rights and fighting corruption. The country further established a free trade area in 2019, which is absolutely crucial in promoting involvement in African and global trade. Stressing that human capital is the cornerstone of all transformation, he noted his Government is reworking the education system, increasing skills and promoting entrepreneurship, and focusing on bringing girls into schools.
YVAN GIL PINTO, Minister of the People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, said that the pandemic unleashed a series of challenges which have worsened the multifaceted global crisis and widened the gap between the Global North and Global South, affecting least developed countries. However, he noted, the pandemic is not the only challenge the international community faces, pointing to other global crises that need to be overcome, including climate change caused by developed States. To overcome such challenges, leaders must continue to build on the Doha Programme of Action. This offers a unique opportunity to tackle the vulnerabilities that the least developed countries face. At the same time, it serves as a blueprint for priorities such as equitable access to vaccines, debt relief and technology transfer. Moreover, he expressed grave concern over the growing food insecurity crisis that is particularly acute in least developed countries, directly impacting the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Least developed countries require immediate attention from the international community, he said, noting the pivotal importance of financial support provided by developed States. He further warned against illegally imposed unilateral coercive measures on several least developed countries, posing an obstacle to their development. On debt relief and forgiveness, he stressed that the international community must increase financing to least developed countries.
SAID BIN MOHAMED BIN AHMED AL SAQRI, Minister for Economy of Oman, noting that partnerships are essential to achieve sustainable development, said exchange of expertise is necessary to enable least developed countries to graduate and contribute to the global economy. All States, including developed ones, are suffering from the current compounded crises, he said, adding that the accumulated debt burden and financial stress have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Many least developed countries also need help in addressing conflict, he pointed out, adding that financial institutions and developed countries must participate in debt relief and restructuring. Peace and development depend on each other, he said, calling on States to promote international solidarity.
SHIRLEY AYORKOR BOTCHWEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana, noted that her country graduated to middle-income status in 2011. She further noted that people living in extreme poverty in least developed countries decreased from 1.02 billion in 2000 to 613 million in 2019. However, progress has been uneven. Least developed countries are especially vulnerable to climate change, many being low-lying islands; over the past 50 years, they have experienced 69 per cent of deaths due to climate disasters. Those States struggle with high levels of debt, with the burden increasing from $217 billion in 2010 to $744 billion in 2020 — a figure that is unsustainable. They require assistance through debt relief, restructuring and access to concessional finance, and face trade barriers and subsidies in developed countries, and the digital divide means as of 2021 on 27 per cent of the populations have Internet access. She called for assistance in building infrastructure and promoting digital literacy. However, least developed countries are taking leadership in the fight against climate change: Bhutan is the world’s only carbon negative country, and Ethiopia has set a target to plant 20 billion trees by 2024. There is a critical need to assist least developed countries in building resistance to future shocks, she stated.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), pointing to a series of intertwined crises that have had a negative impact on least developed countries, said they highlight the need to develop international cooperation mechanisms to support these countries. In this regard, the international community is called upon to adopt an initiative of solidarity, in line with the Doha Programme of Action to guarantee sustainable development. Supporting these countries is important in terms of alleviating their debt burdens and diversifying their economies. These countries also need to be empowered to access modern technology and be capable of dealing with climate change and natural disasters. Morocco is keen to support the least developed countries through a series of initiatives. He also stressed the importance of supporting food security in Africa, noting that Morocco took a series of steps to include the facilitation of exports of African least developed countries to Moroccan markets, in addition to providing scholarships for African students. Turning to climate and food security, he spotlighted his Government’s initiatives such as its climate centre and African youth initiative.
PILAR CANCELA RODRIGUEZ (Spain), noting that her country’s support for least developed countries is a hallmark of its foreign policy, said a recently adopted Spanish law calls for solidarity with those countries. It obliges her country to set aside a certain percentage of its gross national income to ODA. Further, Spain is working to strengthen institutions in least developed countries, she said, noting the establishment of country partnership frameworks, including with Senegal and Ethiopia. “What we are doing is not enough,” she said, highlighting the erosion of gains following the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. Spain will champion an increase in concessional financing and it will contribute to initiatives for debt relief. The time has come to reform debt frameworks, she said, adding that least developed countries contain a wealth of potential that the Doha Programme of Action must harness.
MIRYAN VIEIRA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Cabo Verde, noted her country graduated from the least developed to the lower-middle-income country category in 2008 after meeting two criteria while having yet to meet the economic vulnerability index. Although some progress has been made, the challenges for a sustained structural transformation remain due to a lack of natural resources and high vulnerability to climate change and external shocks. That structural transformation, she emphasized, is the very process that leads to the development of industries, services and infrastructure that can generate higher levels of productivity, employment and income, and enhance a country’s competitiveness globally. Noting the Doha Programme of Action focuses on mobilizing partnerships for sustainable graduation and the Istanbul Programme of Action has set the target by 2020 to enabling half of least developed countries to meet the threshold for graduation, she noted that poverty, lack of economic diversification and structural barriers prevail in many of the countries — mainly those in Africa and those with high vulnerabilities such as small island developing States. She called for more robust graduation monitoring mechanisms and effective financial support for all graduating countries.
MATILDA BARTLEY (Samoa), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating herself with the Group of 77, stressed that the impact of the war in Ukraine on global markets and the pandemic pushed an additional 32 million people in least developed countries into extreme poverty. She reiterated that eight small island development members are least developed countries. For these countries, an already precarious situation is made even more so in times of crisis. Development gains can be wiped out by a single event, leaving Governments to contend between recovery and providing basic support to the population. This point is made abundantly clear in the fallout from the pandemic, the burgeoning food and fuel prices and the impacts of disasters and climate change feed into a cycle of low earnings and high debt.
She underscored that, for small island developing States, the yearly costs of recovery far supersede the support they receive. Least developed countries remain on the brink of deepening poverty and underdevelopment. For small island developing States that are least developed countries, the challenge is enormous. At least one small island developing State is at risk of debt distress, at least two currently face security challenges, and all are bound to contend with the impacts of a climate change crisis they did not cause. The commitments of the international community are even more necessary, she cautioned, calling for a robust platform upon which countries can grow and graduate. Graduation with momentum — as advocated by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) — allows for countries to graduate sustainably with a solid base for continued development, she asserted.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), reaffirming the commitment of her State and that of the European Union to enabling the sustainable development of least developed countries, said that pre-existing vulnerabilities have been exacerbated by the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. Taliban rule is trampling over the rights of Afghan women, she said, welcoming the Doha Programme of Action and its six key focus areas. It is necessary to address the economic vulnerability of least developed countries, she said as she called on the international community to accelerate partnerships where they are needed the most. Since the pandemic, Malta has provided financial contributions to several United Nations agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP), she said, adding that Malta will work, in its national capacity and as a member of the European Union, towards the holistic development of least developed countries.