As Global Tensions, Divides Deepen, We Must Find Ways to Come Together, Secretary-General Tells Doha Conference on Least Developed Countries

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the plenary of the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, in Doha today:

This Conference was originally scheduled for January 2022.  The sudden cancellation due to the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was yet another reminder that the world is subject to constant and unexpected change.

And indeed, since then, we have seen the eruption of war in Ukraine with a devastating impact on Ukrainians — but also on least developed countries struggling with skyrocketing food and energy costs.

Meanwhile, global tensions and divides are deepening.  And so, we must find ways to come together.  And there is perhaps no more important issue around which we can and must unite than in transforming the words of the Doha Programme of Action into results.

We don’t have a moment to lose.  Least developed countries are being stranded amidst a rising tide of crisis, uncertainty, climate chaos and deep global injustice.  They are unable to keep pace with lightning-speed technological change.

Systems are stretched — from health and education, to social protection, infrastructure and job creation.  Unemployment is rising — especially among young people.  And women are being pushed to the side lines.  And a deeply dysfunctional and unfair global financial system is handing least developed countries the rawest of deals.

Least developed countries face interest rates that are up to eight times higher than developed countries.  And it’s only getting worse.

Today, 25 developing economies are spending over 20 per cent of Government revenues not on building schools, not on feeding people, not on expanding opportunities for women and girls — but solely on servicing debt.  Some have seen debt-service payments skyrocket by 35 per cent.

Least developed countries need a revolution of support across three key areas.  First, they need immediate assistance to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals.

For least developed countries, these Goals represent survival in itself — from poverty-eradication, to food, health, clean water and sanitation.

This September’s Sustainable Development Goals Summit is the centrepiece moment to demonstrate a global commitment for action.

We have put forward and presented to the G20 a Sustainable Development Goals stimulus to gather the world around the need to provide at least $500 billion a year to developing countries.

It’s also high time that developed countries live up to their commitment to provide least developed countries with 0.15 to 0.20 per cent of their gross national income for official development assistance.  No more excuses.

We must also expand international efforts to fight tax evasion, money laundering and the illicit financial flows that drain domestic resources.

While no country or region is immune, lower-income countries lose a much higher proportion of their tax revenues to tax abuse — while having the least influence on global taxation rules.

Least developed countries also need funding and support for structural transformation to climb the value chain.  To massively invest in manufacturing and technological capabilities, and better infrastructure and transportation networks.  To give women a seat at the decision-making tables of Government, business and civic life.  To invest in education and training to generate a highly skilled workforce.  And to strengthen institutions.

The Doha Programme of Action is a practical guide to address all these issues.  It contains concrete targets and deliverables, such as a “sustainable graduation support facility”, an “investment support centre” and an “online university”, which can play a game-changing role in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in least developed countries.  And so, I call upon development partners to support the implementation of these deliverables and the achievement of the Doha Programme of Action targets.

Second, we need to reform the global financial system through a new Bretton Woods moment.  International financial institutions must develop creative ways to extending financing where the needs are greatest.  This includes expanding contingency financing and integrating disaster and pandemic clauses into debt instruments.

It is also time to accelerate the reallocation of special drawing rights from the richest countries that receive the most to those who need help the most.  Multilateral development banks should transform their business model to massively leverage funds to attract greater flows of private finance at reasonable cost into developing countries, in particular the least developed ones.

And we must find new, common-sense ways to measure countries’ economies — such as developing lending criteria that go beyond gross domestic product to provide a true view of the value of natural capital such as the preservation of forests, watersheds and marine resources.

Et troisièmement, les pays les moins avancés ont besoin d’une révolution en matière de soutien à l’action climatique.  Ils produisent moins de quatre pour cent des gaz à effet de serre dans le monde.

Il est, hélas, tragique que près de sept décès sur dix attribués à des catastrophes climatiques se produisent dans ces pays.

Les pays développés doivent accroître leur appui aux pays les moins avancés pour les aider à s’adapter, à renforcer leur résilience aux changements climatiques et à passer plus rapidement aux énergies renouvelables.

Ils doivent honorer la promesse qu’ils ont faite de mobiliser 100 milliards de dollars en faveur des pays en développement et simplifier l’accès au financement de l’action climatique.

Rendre opérationnel le fonds pour les pertes et dommages convenu à la dernière COP; honorer l’engagement de multiplier par deux le financement de l’adaptation; réalimenter le Fonds vert pour le climat à des niveaux plus ambitieux ; et ils doivent, d’ici cinq ans, appuyer la création de systèmes d’alerte précoce pour chaque personne dans le monde.

En septembre, je convoquerai un sommet sur l’ambition climatique, qui sera l’occasion pour les gouvernements, les entreprises et la société civile de passer des paroles aux actes sur les engagements de zéro émission nette et de garantir une justice climatique aux populations qui sont les premières touchées.

Je plaide également pour un Pacte de solidarité climatique, afin de mobiliser un soutien financier et technique pour accélérer la transition des économies émergentes vers les énergies renouvelables et de maintenir l’objectif de 1,5 degrés en vie.

L’ère des promesses non tenues doit prendre fin – maintenant.  Accordons aux besoins des pays les moins avancés la place qu’ils méritent:  Au cœur de nos projets, au cœur de nos priorités et au cœur de nos investissements.  Je vous remercie.

For information media. Not an official record.