Do More to Prevent Least Developed Countries from Falling into Debt Traps, Says Deputy Secretary-General, at Event on Doha Programme of Action

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks to the special high-level event of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council titled “Doha Programme of Action as an Accelerator of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda”, in New York today:

I am pleased to join this special high-level event on the Doha Programme of Action.

As we approach the second part of the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries conference, we are confronting a uniquely challenging international environment.

The world’s least developed countries are facing a cascade of crises:  soaring food and energy prices, escalating climate catastrophes, widening inequalities, increasing hunger, worsening poverty, rising interest rates and looming recession.

Least developed countries are being pushed off track in their pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.  The progress they achieved through years of dedicated efforts is evaporating as we speak.

Today, more than half of least developed countries are either in debt distress or at a high risk of debt default.  This is eroding their ability to invest in recovery, resilience, and long-term sustainability.

In 2021 alone, least developed countries were forced to spend 15 per cent of their export earnings on servicing external debt.  Fiscal space for basic services is under threat.

The Doha Programme of Action — adopted at the first part of the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in 2022 — is our road map for a robust response to leverage the opportunities for lasting change.

Together, we can drive the deep transformations necessary to help least developed countries regain momentum towards the Sustainable Development Goals, address structural vulnerabilities, and build resilience.

But it all depends on the means of implementation.  Financial resources will be key.  At this critical time, financial support for least developed countries is needed more urgently than ever.

Domestic public resources must be leveraged by international assistance.  The Doha Programme of Action reaffirmed developed countries’ long-standing commitment to provide 0.2 per cent of their gross national income as official development assistance to least developed countries.

Delivering on this promise would generate much-needed additional resources to fund vital investments such as universal social protection systems and decent job creation.

At the same time, we will keep pushing for a reform of the global financial and debt architecture, which remains too focused on the short-term, deeply unequal and inaccessible.

We must do more to prevent least developed countries — and, in fact, many middle-income countries — from falling into debt traps.

We must advance on a global Sustainable Development Goals stimulus with the G20 and reform multilateral development banks that must change their business models and accept a new approach to risk.

As a matter of urgency, the international community must finally deliver on its $100 billion climate finance commitment to support developing countries.  We must also deliver on the facility agreed at the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties on loss and damage.

Adaptation finance must be doubled, and half of the adaptation finance must go to least developed countries, small island developing States and other vulnerable countries.

Mobilizing finance, however, will not be enough.

To create a more resilient, equitable, and accessible society — and one that can anticipate long-term risks — we must invest in the Sustainable Development Goals through a just transition framework, while placing women, youth and all vulnerable populations at the heart of these efforts.

Systemic changes are never easy.  But we have opportunities to build momentum and move forward.

The Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries marks a critical stepping-stone ahead of September’s Sustainable Development Goals Summit — this year’s centrepiece moment to ramp up implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Crucially, the Sustainable Development Goals Summit should also be an important catalyst for the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action.

Because the 2030 Agenda will fail if we fail least developed countries.  I invite you to ensure the participation of your country in the Doha Conference at the highest possible level.

The Secretary-General has been mobilizing the full support of the entire United Nations system.  We are ready to make the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries a success.  But we need all hands on deck.

For information media. Not an official record.