International Organizations Detail Initiatives to Help Least Developed Countries Move towards Smooth Graduation, as Doha Conference Concludes Debate
Given the diverse nature of least developed countries, accurately identifying the specific interests of each and supporting them in a tailored manner is a pressing task, speakers stressed today as the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries held its fourth and final day of debates, which also featured States and intergovernmental organizations detailing initiatives to help least developed countries overcome pressing challenges and move towards smooth graduation.
The representative of the Republic of Korea cited as imperative that the international community pays special attention to least developed countries, stressing that only structural transformation can help their recovery and integration in the global trading system. He drew particular attention to countries that are heavily burdened with external debt. Reiterating his country’s commitment to engaging more closely with least developed countries, he spotlighted initiatives, such as the Korean-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) solidarity initiative and development cooperation strategy with Africa.
The representative of Luxembourg noted that his country continues to devote 1 per cent of its gross national income to official development assistance (ODA). In 2021, Luxembourg allocated 35 per cent of its ODA, and in 2022, maintained this rate well above the target of 0.2 per cent, and will contribute €220 million to international climate finance from 2021 to 2025 to help States cope with the effects climate change. However, public funding is not enough to provide the necessary support to least developed countries, he stressed, highlighting the importance of including the private sector.
Along similar lines, the representative of Japan detailed his country´s support for least developed countries. In Africa, Japan has long supported African-led development through the Tokyo International Conference of African Development process. In 2022, Japan — as a partner growing together with Africa — announced its intention to invest a total of $30 billion over the next three years, focusing on investment in people and helping Africa become resilient. To enable least developed countries to properly enjoy the benefits of free and fair trade, Japan continues to promote World Trade Organization (WTO) reform, he said, also highlighting the “Aid for Trade” initiative.
The representative of Switzerland underscored the importance of stepping up efforts for public and private partnerships in financing, noting that 18 per cent of financing could be met through mobilization of the private sector. He observed that the financial shortfall of $3 billion to $4 billion for the Sustainable Development Goals could be met from the private sector. Progress in development requires an environment of peace, governance and the promotion of conflict resolution, he said, noting that Switzerland will work to speed up graduation.
The representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that, despite offering many answers for advancement, science and technology remain unequally distributed across the world, with those who need them most having the least access. Against this backdrop, he reiterated IAEA’s commitment to transferring technology to least developed countries, relying heavily on South-South cooperation mechanisms. This can support the development of infrastructure for laboratories and research, allowing countries to inform their decision-making at every level, he emphasized.
The representative of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said that his agency creates enabling intellectual property ecosystems that promote innovation and empower communities to leverage intellectual property. Citing concrete examples, he pointed out that WIPO assisted 70 women entrepreneurs in Uganda to commercialize their products, and the agency is now working to extend similar efforts to Sudan and Cambodia. Moreover, WIPO provides targeted assistance to least developed countries scheduled for graduation, including enhanced support for the modernization of national intellectual property offices. On that, he said WIPO has implemented specific programmes in Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe in 2023.
“Let us not miss the chance to make the prosperity of the world inclusive,” said the representative of the World Trade Organization, warning that current multiple crises, headwinds and shrinking trade weigh heavily upon the weakest. Calling on the international community to foster partnerships and build resilience, he highlighted WTO’s progress in integrating least developed countries into global trade through duty-free market access. However, least developed countries still cannot reach 1 per cent of global trade and remain at the bottom of the value chain. On the issue of graduation, he said that WTO is exploring how to assist least developed countries in a smooth transition, describing digital trade as one avenue for those States as it breaks barriers and provides unprecedented reach.
“It’s almost too late, but if we act now and at speed,” the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is still achievable, said the representative of the United Nations Capital Development Fund, describing his organization as a special measure and catalytic financing entity that works to mobilize public and private financing for least developed countries. Despite being responsible for only 3 per cent of global emissions, least developed countries are extremely vulnerable to the negative consequences of climate change. In this context, he drew attention to the Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility — a mechanism outlined in the Doha Programme of Action — which helps Governments access the climate finance they need to adapt to climate change.
Also speaking were representatives of Cambodia, Brazil, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia, Türkiye, Croatia, Belgium, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Saudi Arabia.
Representatives of the International Development Law Organization, International Anti-Corruption Academy, International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Islamic Development Bank, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, World Health Organization (WHO), University for Peace, United Nations Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), International Renewable Energy Agency, International Trade Centre and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also spoke.
The plenary of the Conference will reconvene at 2 p.m. on Thursday, 9 March, to conclude its work.
SORASAK PAN, Minister for Commerce of Cambodia, reported that his country met the criteria for graduation from the least developed countries category in 2021, and that it could graduate as early as 2024 if things go smoothly. Further, it hopes to be an upper-middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050. He emphasized, however, that graduation comes with challenges, as currently enjoyed benefits and concessions will fade out. Expressing hope that the Doha Programme of Action will help smooth the graduation process and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that it will also complement the next phase of his country’s strategic development plan. He then detailed Government efforts in this regard, including work to diversify sources of economic growth, foster digital transformation and promote a circular, green economy. Further, the Government has allocated more than 20 per cent of its budget to support small and medium-sized enterprises, civil-sector workers and the most vulnerable. On that point, he noted that cash transfers were rapidly disbursed to more than 700,000 families through this initiative. He added that, with United Nations support, the Government is developing a multidimensional variability index to identify threats to national livelihoods.
LUIZ ALBERTO FIGUEIREDO (Brazil), aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the issue of least developed States is a top priority for his country and the entire international community — and due to the integrated and indivisible nature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Develop, is an imperative for everyone. The ambitious goal of setting least developed countries on a self-sustained development path requires self-oriented strategies in line with national priorities. As such, he cautioned development partners to refrain from imposing conditions in such cooperation. Brazil is intensifying and diversifying its political, economic and social ties with those States with South‑South cooperation utilizing Brazilian experience and expertise, including humanitarian and technological initiatives based on sharing knowledge, not only technology. He noted Brazil is present in 31 least developed countries — 23 in Africa, 4 in Asia, 3 in the Indo-Pacific and 1 in the Caribbean regions. In the specific case of Africa, it has established an extensive network of 32 technological cooperation agreements with countries and the African Union itself. He advocated for a new model of bilateral agreements, more focused on cooperation than dispute settlement.
LEE DO-HOON (Republic of Korea) stressed that recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has been overshadowed by an economic slowdown and a continued threat from climate change, leading to a great uncertainty. “The outlook is bleak,” he asserted. Unfortunately, least developed countries are at the very forefront of being exposed to such vulnerabilities from global crises. It is therefore imperative for the international community to pay special attention to these countries, he noted, stressing the critical importance of global solidarity and partnership. He advocated for an integrated approach to address long-standing structural vulnerabilities and building resilience in the sustainable growth of the least developed countries. Only structural transformation can help least developed countries recover, enabling them to be integrated in the global trading system. He drew particular attention to countries that are heavily burdened with external debt. Given the diverse nature of least developed countries, accurately identifying specific interests of each and supporting them in a tailored manner is a pressing task. Enhanced global partnership is key. He reiterated his country´s commitment to engaging more closely with least developed countries, contributing to their sustainable growth. In this context, he spotlighted initiatives, such as the Korean-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) solidarity initiative and development cooperation strategy with Africa.
Mr. WILKS (United Kingdom) noted that the last two years have witnessed the first reversal of global development progress in decades, pointing out that many countries — including least developed States — are struggling with stagnating economies. Further, effective cooperation at the global level is weakening, exacerbated by the Russian Federation’s illegal war in Ukraine that has driven up food and energy prices. Against that backdrop, he said that 2023 provides an opportunity for a “reality check”, as it represents the midway point of the 2030 Agenda. Stressing the need to refocus efforts on achieving that target, he underscored his country’s commitment to delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring the existence of a global system that can do the same. “Least developed countries’ priorities are the United Kingdom’s priorities,” he said, adding that his State will champion their interests now and in the future. To that end, the United Kingdom’s development strategy focuses on reducing poverty, supporting global health, tackling climate change, advancing economic transformation and protecting the rights of women and girls.
OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), aligning himself with the European Union, noted more than a third of the population in least developed countries still live in extreme poverty, with only one in four people connected to the Internet and nearly 7 out of 10 deaths attributed to climate-related disasters. Since 1971, only six countries have graduated from the category, requiring stronger partnerships. Luxembourg continues to devote 1 per cent of its gross national income to official development assistance (ODA). Five of six priority partner countries — Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic — are among the 46 least developed countries, with the sixth, Cabo Verde, able to leave the category in 2007. In 2021, Luxembourg allocated 35 per cent of its ODA, and in 2022, maintained this rate well above the target of 0.2 per cent, and will contribute €220 million to international climate finance from 2021 to 2025 to help States cope with the effects climate change. He cited the importance of including the private sector, as public funding is not enough to provide the necessary support to least developed countries.
SATOSHI MAEDA (Japan) described the adoption of the Doha Programme of Action as a sign of solidarity among the international community to develop the least developed countries. In Africa — which accounts for the majority of these countries — Japan has long supported African-led development through the Tokyo International Conference of African Development process. Last year, Japan — as a partner growing together with Africa — announced its intention to invest a total of $30 billion over the next three years, focusing on investment in people and quality of growth, in order to help Africa become resilient and sustainable. A rules-based free and fair economic order is the foundation of growth and prosperity. In addition to “Aid for Trade,” Japan continues to promote World Trade Organization (WTO) reform, as well as international rule-making, so that least developed countries could properly enjoy the benefits of free and fair trade. He reiterated his country´s commitment to contribute to least developed countries´ economic security by strengthening cooperation on the development of relevant infrastructure and legal systems.
MARTIN DVOŘÁK, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, spotlighted unprecedented global fragility resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and conflict — including the Russian Federation’s reckless invasion of Ukraine that has disrupted global supply chains and food security. Without investing in food security, he stressed, the international community will not achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 on zero hunger. Underscoring that his country ensures a balanced approach when providing assistance to both middle-income countries and least developed countries, he detailed support for the “Grain from Ukraine” initiative. He stressed, however, that his country’s assistance to Ukraine does not affect its strategy or budget for helping others in need, including least developed countries. Highlighting bilateral partnerships with Cambodia, Ethiopia and Zambia, he pointed out that public, private, academic and civil society actors are all involved in national development strategies. Expressing hope that the Doha Programme of Action will lead to renewed partnerships between least developed countries and their development partners, he emphasized the need to include all relevant stakeholders in supporting sustainable development.
Ms. MARTIN (Canada) cited a “global polycrisis”, representing the interconnectedness of today’s complex global challenges — a reminder of shared vulnerabilities, and of the potential for shared resilience. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is co-chairing, alongside Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’s Sustainable Development Goals Advocates Group, to build global momentum towards achieving a more sustainable, inclusive and prosperous future that leaves no one behind. Canada, she noted, continues to seek innovative development finance solutions through broad-based engagement and consultation, supporting the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States in hosting pre-Conference round-table discussions with experts from least developed countries to increase collective understanding of the challenges they face in accessing development finance. These conversations led to the report on Least Developed Countries Access to Finance that the Office and his Government launched earlier this week.
Mr. SHAHARAN (Malaysia) voiced concern over the unprecedented political and economic situation which exacerbates vulnerability of least developed countries to natural calamities and the impact of climate change. In this context, is it crucial to adopt the Doha Programme of Action, he asserted, noting Malaysia´s active role in supporting the development of least developed countries. Reiterating his Government´s commitment to help these countries achieve sustainable development, he spotlighted a number of initiatives, including the Malaysian technical cooperation programme which provides technical assistance and capacity-building to countries in agriculture, trade, education and environment. Moreover, he reiterated his country’s commitment to South-South cooperation, promoting mutual exchange of expertise and resources among developing countries. He further detailed a number of partnerships established by Malaysia to support least developed countries in advancing their economies.
RIDWAN HASSAN (Indonesia), noting that least developed countries face limited productive capacity, insufficient fiscal space, debt distress and low access to technology, said that the COVID-19 pandemic made these challenges even more daunting. The international community must create an enabling environment to increase financing for development in least developed countries, as such States face systemic, structural financing challenges and limited access to ODA. To do so, support must be increased for such countries through promoting investment, providing financial and technical assistance, encouraging innovative financing and offering debt-distress assistance. Further, the international community must scale-up investment in youth by providing access to inclusive, quality education and training. On that point, he said that his country provides capacity-building for least developed countries, including through scholarship and training programmes in the health, farming and fishing sectors. Adding that development cooperation must be demand-driven and underpinned by the principles of solidarity, inclusivity and equality, he said that Indonesia works to support least developed countries through the framework of South-South and triangular cooperation in infrastructure development and technology transfer.
Mr. GOKSU (Türkiye) noted that his country in 2011 hosted the fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries Conference, which drew up the Istanbul Programme of Action, a 10-year road map for 2011 to 2020. However, he affirmed that least developed countries remain vulnerable and deprived from access to international financial markets. A small number have graduated from the category in 50 years, and regression in their achievements is jeopardizing their ability to fulfil the 2030 Agenda. The international community must shoulder its responsibility, especially for landlocked developing countries and small island developing States. Türkiye, he stressed, will remain one of the leading countries in providing ODA and humanitarian aid despite the difficulties it is facing. It is unacceptable for millions of people to suffer from hunger in the twenty-first century, he stressed, citing the Black Sea Grain Initiative as a crucial initiative in ensuring the smooth flow of supplies, especially to least developed countries. Citing the widening digital and technological gap between developed and developing States, he noted the importance of the United Nations Technology Bank in Türkiye — the only United Nations agency exclusively dedicated to those countries.
JAN BEAGLE, International Development Law Organization, sharing her organization’s experience working with least developed countries, noted that the development of regulatory frameworks can help to increase access to justice, eliminate discriminatory laws and practices, reduce corruption and enhance transparency. In so doing, the rule of law creates an enabling environment for sustainable investment and trade. In this context, she pointed to the Investment Support Programme for Least Developed Countries which provides technical assistance and capacity-development, including in relation to the design of legal frameworks, negotiation of complex investment contracts, commercial arbitration and mediation, and dispute resolution. Accountable institutions can support the equitable implementation of legal frameworks and promote participation in decision-making. The full participation of women and girls in public life is essential for inclusive and sustainable development; however, according to the World Bank, 2.4 billion women still do not have the same legal rights as men. To tackle this challenge, her organization has undertaken comprehensive reviews of legislation to repeal gender discriminatory laws. Moreover, the rule of law can help combat climate change and environmental degradation by empowering communities to claim their rights and participate in climate decision-making. Against this backdrop, she welcomed the establishment of a loss and damage fund for those least developed countries that have contributed the least to emissions, but are on the front lines of climate change, as an important step towards climate justice.
CHI DUNG DUONG, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said that the Doha Programme of Action rightly acknowledges the importance of science, technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, welcoming its inclusion of specific targets relating to intellectual property and innovation. The WIPO strategic vision aims to ensure that intellectual property acts as a catalyst for jobs, investment, business growth and economic development in all global economies. To this end, it works to create enabling intellectual property ecosystems that promote innovation and empower people, businesses and communities to leverage intellectual property effectively. For example, WIPO assisted 70 women entrepreneurs in Uganda to brand and commercialize their products, and the organization is now working to extend similar efforts to Sudan and Cambodia. Further, WIPO provides targeted assistance to least developed countries scheduled for graduation, including enhanced support for the modernization of national intellectual property offices, specialized intellectual property training for certain stakeholders and using intellectual property for economic diversification. On that, he said that WIPO has implemented specific programmes in Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe in 2023, adding that it is working to develop similar initiatives in other least developed countries later this year.
Mr. HAFNER (Switzerland) noted the world of today is not the one the international community wanted in the wake of the Istanbul Programme of Action, but this Conference provides an opportunity to examine its commitments and multipartite actions in service of the 2030 Agenda. Switzerland encourages least developed countries and partners to establish national frameworks to allow civil society and other stakeholders to have a higher profile in development. Citing the importance of stepping up efforts for public and private partnerships in financing, he noted that 18 per cent of financing could be met through mobilization of the private sector, encouraging least developed countries to launch dialogue and partnerships with those two sectors. The financial shortfall of $3 billion to $4 billion for the Sustainable Development Goals could be met from the private sector. Switzerland will work to speed up graduation, he said, noting that progress in development requires an environment of peace, governance and the promotion of conflict resolution.
THOMAS STELZER, International Anti-Corruption Academy, stressed that global corruption undermines the efforts of least developed countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. “Corruption is at the heart of numerous challenges,” including those faced by least developed countries, he cautioned, noting that it erodes trust in public institutions, undermines the rule of law, corrodes decision-making, impedes economic development and facilitates organized crime. Effective anti-corruption policies are therefore necessary to promote social cohesion and reduce inequalities. Further efforts must also be made to promote the strong involvement of all Governments with civil society, academia and the private sector. He highlighted that investing in education is the best way forward to sustainable development, safeguarding human rights and strengthening the rule of law. The International Anti-Corruption Academy is the only institution which focuses on the holistic fight against corruption by offering technical assistance and helping countries build resilience. In this context, he pointed out that many least developed countries received scholarships to participate in the Academy´s programmes and trainings. He drew attention to the idea of establishing an online university for least developed countries, underscoring the importance of empowering people with knowledge.
DRAGO LOVRIĆ (Croatia) observed that the 46 least developed countries have been the hardest-hit by multiple interlocking crises, including the war of aggression in Ukraine, health emergencies and the triple planetary crises. Such countries therefore require the international community’s support, and Member States must demonstrate political will and solidarity in understanding that this world will never be a better place until it is more inclusive and equal. He went on to point out that Croatia understands what it means to emerge from conflict and work to rebuild a society whose social fabric has been torn by war. Croatia has shared its experience of post-war transformation to benefit countries facing similar challenges, and he said his country views its development cooperation — which has expanded in recent years – as an enabler of political and economic cooperation. Croatia’s total ODA in 2020 totalled $94.4 million — 0.15 per cent of its gross national income — and a large portion of this went to least developed countries through funds and projects designed to strengthen the rule of law, support food security, empower women and girls and invest in scholarships for youth in need. He added that his country will continue to work multilaterally and bilaterally to help least developed countries move towards smooth graduation.
Ms. RONBOUTS (Belgium), aligning herself with the European Union, noted that, 22 years ago, the third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries was held in Brussels, and the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States was established — and since then, her country’s support of the issue has never waned. Citing Belgium’s access to political fora, she noted the importance of keeping in mind the needs and interests of least developed countries, with a focus on climate finance: Brussels has decided to raise its ODA in that sector to €130 million annually. Her country is also fighting inequalities in access to vaccines, and invests in technology transfer in Africa in support of the African Union vision of new global health order. Least developed countries have large youth populations, and Belgium will strengthen efforts to provide quality education for children and youth, alongside promoting gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, investing in gender‑specific programmes at all levels. The world is a challenging place, but the international community must not get carried away by pessimism, she stressed.
CHRISTOPHE PERRIN, Assistant Director-General for the External and Corporate Relations Cluster of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that, to overcome their vulnerabilities, least developed countries need stronger productive capacities associated with broader human capabilities, infrastructure and technology. They also need stronger institutions, including of work and social protection systems. Informal employment represents almost 90 per cent of total employment in least developed countries, he observed, stressing the importance of a progressive transition to formal employment to improve work quality and effectiveness of social protection. Highlighting the vulnerability of least developed countries to climate change, he stressed the need of both developed and developing countries to transform their economic structures, trade patterns and social behaviour. He further advocated for stronger social protection systems to facilitate transitions and structural transformation which contribute to social justice. Against this backdrop, he highlighted that countries with effective social dialogue and broad collective bargaining coverage tend to have lower poverty rates and lower levels of inequalities. Detailing ILO support for least developed countries, he stressed the need to expand international assistance to provide emergency financial aid and foster sustainable finance for these countries. He further called for strengthening institutions for employment and decent work creation and enhancing policy coherence for climate action.
FRANÇOIS RUBOTA MASUMBUKO, Minister for Rural Development of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, detailed Government efforts that have allowed the mobilization of State resources, made public spending more effective, addressed corruption and enabled all to access justice more fairly. Further, the Government has worked to maintain macroeconomic stability and diversify the national economy, which is still based on the exploitation of natural resources. Noting that his country has faced armed conflict for more than 25 years — including aggression from Rwanda through the 23 March Movement(M23) terrorist group — he also outlined national efforts to ensure peace in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Turning to his country’s development strategy, he said that ending extreme poverty, eradicating hunger and disease and promoting universal access to quality education are enshrined in this federating framework. Adding that his country has received significant support from its development partners while other countries in sub-Saharan Africa receive little aid, he underscored that the allocation of ODA is crucial and urged that sectors capable of contributing to growth receive special attention.
SHAUKAT ABDULRAZAK, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stressed that science and technology offer many answers for advancement — but they are unequally distributed across the world, with those who need them most having the least access. They can save the lives and livelihoods of billions of people, particularly in least developed countries. Scientists have unlocked the power of the atom, he noted, to provide low-carbon energy, develop climate-resistant crops and tackle pollution, among an array of public goods. In some cases, data from nuclear science complements conventional technology, and IAEA is committed to transferring technology to least developed countries, relying heavily on South-South cooperation mechanisms. This can support the development of infrastructure for laboratories and research, allowing countries to inform their decision-making at every level.
AMEERA AL HASSAN, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), voicing concern over urgent challenges faced by least developed countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, stressed the need for a new global partnership, guaranteeing that these countries benefit from social, economic and environmental development. UN-Habitat plays a critical role in addressing these challenges and promoting sustainable urban development in least developed countries through upgrading their infrastructure. The Programme collaborates closely with civil society and other United Nations agencies to address the most pressing challenges facing least developed countries, including inadequate housing, insufficient infrastructure and limited access to basic services. Against this backdrop, she emphasized the importance of affordable housing for all, access to affordable urban services — such as water, sanitation and electricity — and bolstering disaster risk reduction. To promote sustainable urban development in least developed countries, it is crucial to ensure sustainable financing of innovative urban initiative, she said, also calling for investment in urban infrastructure and services.
MOHAMMAD ALSAATI, Islamic Development Bank, said that the Bank is committed to serving its 57 member countries across 4 continents — the majority of which are least developed countries affected by fragility and conflict — through measures to boost recovery, tackle poverty, build resilience and drive green economic growth. Noting that the Bank’s future interventions will aim to support green infrastructure in sectors such as energy, transportation and agriculture, he said it will also promote inclusive human capital development by promoting universal health care, education, nutrition, social protection and job creation. Offering several examples of specific programmes, he said that the Bank approved $4.3 billion for a strategic preparedness-and-response programme relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside a $10 billion initiative with the Arab Coordination Group. Further, it allocated $10.5 billion for a food-security response programme as a proactive effort to support the Bank’s member countries and approved a $13 billion climate-action initiative.
The representative of the World Trade Organization noted that trade has been an important driver of prosperity for many nations, big and small — however, current multiple crises, headwinds and shrinking trade weigh heavily upon the weakest. The international community must foster partnerships more than ever before to build resilience. WTO has made progress in integrating least developed countries into global trade through duty-free market access and other steps, also providing the necessary transition time for them to apply WTO rules. However, he observed least developed countries still can’t reach 1 per cent of global trade and remain at the bottom of the value chain. Recognizing the Conference’s overarching theme of graduation, WTO is exploring how to assist least developed countries in a smooth transition. Digital trade is one avenue for those States, breaking barriers and providing unprecedented reach. A fit-for-purpose WTO in the next decade can serve interests better than before, he noted. “Let us not miss the chance to make the prosperity of the world inclusive,” he urged.
LIGIA NORONHA, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), cautioned that least developed countries bare a burden of exposure to impacts of climate change, disproportionate to their contribution to the problem. She drew attention to waste management which contributes to issues around health, competition for land and hazards from large waste dumps. She underlined that in collaboration with other United Nations entities, UNEP will focus its support on implementing new initiatives at the national and local level. Specifically, it will work to advance sustainable waste management to circular approaches, supporting the Doha Programme of Action to convert waste into opportunities. She called for a healthy, sustainable environment for all.
MELCHIADE BUKURU, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, said that, while “everyone is starting to feel the sting” of widespread land degradation, declining biodiversity and extreme weather events, the 46 least developed countries have been facing these challenges for far longer and at far greater intensity. Pointing out that around 25 per cent of people living in least developed countries do so on degraded land, he underscored that land restoration, sustainable agriculture and nature-based solutions are smart investments. They create jobs quickly, he noted, stating that, between 7 and 40 jobs are created for every $1 million invested in these areas. Further, such investments can reach other segments of the labour market, as thousands of micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises are active in forest and land-restoration efforts and could contribute to job creation and economic growth if supported. While spotlighting the growing movement for healthy land — as farmers and herders use sustainable practices to minimize degradation, increase drought resilience and nurse degraded land back to health — he pointed out that a major limiting factor is domestic budgetary resources. He therefore called for bilateral and multilateral support, suggesting that opportunities be explored to link debt swap to investments in land restoration and other nature-based solutions.
RAYANA AHMAD BOU HAKA, World Health Organization (WHO), stated that, on International Woman’s Day, it is important to focus on their status and progress. She noted that, from 2000 to 2020, the maternal mortality rate in least developed countries was almost halved, with the risk reduced from 1 in 28 to 1 in 66. Though only 13 per cent of people live in those countries, they accounted for 42 per cent of all maternal deaths in 2020 — almost 70 per cent higher than the estimated global rate. Maternal deaths still account for 18.2 per cent of all deaths of woman aged 18 to 49. She further noted that life expectancy has increased from 66.8 years in 2000 to 73.3 years in 2019. In 2019, only 53 per cent of health‑care facilities in least developed countries have access to protected water sources on-site and just 1 in 5 have basic sanitation services, while, in 2021, one third of schools lack basic drinking water services and sanitation. Achieving universal health coverage in schools globally by 2030 will require a 14-fold increase in the current state of progress on basic drinking water. She cited that, in hand hygiene, every dollar invested saves $15. “Investing in health is investing in development,” she stressed.
Mr. EWUSL, University for Peace, stressed that global recovery depends on least developed countries getting the support they need. To ensure that these countries attain their development objectives, he called for bold investments in health, education and social protection systems. The majority of least developed States are in Africa, he noted, stressing that education in these countries must not be disconnected from their realities and the needs of their citizens. “Education is peacebuilding by another name,” he said, citing the late former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. If there is no peace in the country, it will be reflected in education and the content of the curriculum, he said, adding that the pandemic demonstrated weaknesses of education in least developed countries. Challenges such as diseases, lack of clean drinking water and illiteracy kill more people than open conflict. This has to be reversed, he asserted, noting that the climate crisis has negatively impacted education. Least developed countries carry the burden of climate change, he cautioned, stressing that the long-term solution to climate change lies in education and science.
FAISAL ALIBRAHIM, Minister for Economy and Planning of Saudi Arabia, noted that, given the current conditions of least developed countries and the challenges of the coming decade, the international community must learn the lessons of the past. Citing the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative and the country’s global leadership in humanitarian and development assistance, he noted financing of $96 billion for 167 States — many of them least developed countries. In 2021, Saudi Arabia ranked sixth worldwide in providing ODA and first in its ODA share of GDP. The country supports the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, and adopted the common framework of debt treatment beyond the former initiative. Further pointing to the Saudi Fund for Development Projects for least developed countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, he emphasized that, between 1975 and 2022, his Government provided 330 loans worth $6.26 billion to 35 States. Saudi Arabia is also developing a project for the reconstruction for Yemen, including job opportunities and other initiatives.
AHMET HALIT HATIP, United Nations Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, said that technological transformation holds the key to economic growth. Eradicating poverty and removing structural impediments cannot take place if those countries fail to build national capacities in science, technology, information and innovation. Recalling the establishment of the Technology Bank in 2016, in response to the call in the Istanbul Programme of Action, he said this was one of the first goals of that document to be realized. Its mandate has become even more ambitious now as it has become a focal point for improving and sustaining these countries’ productive capacities. The technological gap between least developed countries and other States became glaringly obvious during the pandemic as the international community confronted the importance of technology in health care, communication and work. The Bank works to identify and address gaps within States, he said, adding that least developed countries should be able to count on a revamped multilateralism in the pursuit of technological advances.
EINAR BJØRGO, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), proposed to bring services of the United Nations Satellite Centre to the benefits of least developed countries. Since 2001, UNITAR has provided access to satellite images, he said, highlighting their importance in emergency response, disaster risk reduction, peace and security, as well as protection of cultural heritage. He went on to detail the use of technology for the floods in Pakistan, the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, and the tropical cyclone over Vanuatu. Moreover, UNITAR has developed an algorithm that is being used to properly assess the number of people affected by floods. Harnessing the power of such technological applications, least developed countries can leverage technology and make smarter choices, he stressed, advocating for the application of disaster risk tools for the reduction of climate change. He also stressed the importance of UNITAR´s collaboration with Governments.
ALAIN WILFRIED BIYA, International Renewable Energy Agency, emphasized that, as of 2020, 479 million people in least developed countries still had no access to electricity, while more than 70 per cent of the world’s population — mostly in developing and emerging countries — received only 15 per cent of global investments in renewables. More strikingly, only 2 per cent of global investments in renewable energy in the last two decades were made in Africa, with significant regional disparities. Least developed countries may lose out on the opportunity to leapfrog to renewables and new technology, jeopardizing environmental, social and economic benefits of the energy transition in terms of transport, heating/cooling, clean cooking, low-emission energy systems and clean-energy technology. Agency work on international public financial flows to developing countries in support of renewable energy shows that there is still a critical funding gap. Citing the Energy Transition Accelerator Financing platform, which recently closed in on $1 billion at the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held last year, he noted the Agency advised over 60 States including 17 least developed countries on enhancement and implementation of renewable energy ambition in nationally determined contributions.
DAVID JACKSON, United Nations Capital Development Fund, noting that his organization is a special measure for least developed countries, said it is a catalytic financing entity that works to mobilize public and private financing for these countries. The Fund works through grant-making, as well as by sharing its technical expertise with financial instruments, he said. Turning to climate finance, he noted that least developed countries are responsible for only 3 per cent of global emissions, but are extremely vulnerable to the negative consequences of climate change. Highlighting the Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility, which helps Governments access the climate finance, capacity-building and technical support they need to respond and adapt to climate change, he said this mechanism is mentioned in the Doha Programme of Action as a target. Member States have committed to provide more resources for this, he said, adding that the Fund will bring forward concessional financing and match it with third-party arrangements. Recalling bilateral meetings with numerous least developed countries on the side lines of the current Conference, he said the Fund is committed to unlocking innovative solutions. “It’s almost too late, but if we act now and at speed,” the 2030 Agenda is still achievable, he said.
ASHISH SHAH, International Trade Centre, said that, in least developed countries, women are overrepresented in labour-intensive and low-skilled activities, comprising 80 per cent of workers in agriculture. Many are underpaid or not paid at all. Last year, the Centre provided support to 43 least developed countries which were at the mercy of climate and economic shocks and disproportionally affected by the global setback in development gains. The Centre helps countries cushion the effect of crises and become more resilient. For the last decade, least developed countries’ share of trade stood at 1 per cent, despite the target to double their share of global exports by 2020, he observed, asking: “Are there systemic inequalities in global trade?” “Goals and targets are cheap until you have to start executing them,” he declared, noting that building trade capacity should be at the heart of the least developed countries’ development. These countries must diversify exports away from raw and low-value goods. To this end, they need capacity-building to boost competitiveness, as well as access to information, finance and technology. The Centre helps them confront climate change and environmental degradation, he noted, highlighting the organization’s initiatives in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic aimed at waste reduction, sustainable packaging and circular production practices. He further detailed ways in which his organization supports the private sector in least developed countries.
MUSSIE DELELEGN AREGA, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said the call to support least developed countries goes beyond the moral commitment to leave no one behind, but must address systemic challenges and vulnerabilities to build resilience. Noting UNCTAD has been a development partner for nearly 60 years, he said in the decade to come, it will work to foster productive capacities towards structural transformation, offering index measuring and assessing capacities across nations and economies, allowing the countries to strategize. It also boasts a roster of programmes to help support economic specialization and diversification. Least developed countries need better integration into regional and global value chains, as they remain marginalized. Long-term affordable investment is required, given the lack of domestic resources, as the States concerned receive less than 2 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI) flows despite representing 14 per cent of the world’s population. Noting most of the countries are in debt distress, he called on the international community to support debt relief including through increased special drawing rights.