– Innovative approaches, creative financing measures and strong cross-sector partnerships were among the most effective, game-changing tools for lifting populations out of poverty and building a sound foundation for sustainable growth, delegates heard on day two of the Midterm Review for the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries.
The three-day conference, under the theme of “Partnership for Transformative Change in Least Developed Countries”, would take stock of progress made in implementing the Programme of Action adopted in 2011 to help countries in eight priority areas: productive capacity; agriculture, nutrition and rural development; trade; commodities; human and social development; multiple crises and emerging challenges; financial resources; and good governance.
Speakers from developed, developing and least developed countries laid out progress reports, concerns and ways to better provide assistance to trigger concrete results on the ground. Many representatives from least developed countries agreed that climate-change disasters, global economic shocks and health crises were hobbling past and future gains, erecting unexpected barriers on their path to progress.
Outlining some of those challenges, Egypt’s delegate set the landscape, stressing that, while the 48 least developed countries were rich in human and natural resources and represented 12 per cent of the world’s population, they only possessed 2 per cent of the global gross national income (GNI). Some persistent barriers to progress included slow global economic growth, lingering effects of the 2008 world financial crisis, trade barriers and lagging official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment (FDI). A focus on developing extractive industries to the detriment of other industries was also weakening efforts to realize the Programme of Action.
Some speakers said health crises had erected fresh barriers that affected the growth trajectory of least developed countries. Guinea’s representative reported important national achievements, including a rising growth rate, falling inflation and effective debt cancellation programmes. Yet, the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak had unleashed negative humanitarian consequences, reverberating across all socioeconomic sectors. In the post-Ebola era, the epidemic had acted as a reminder of the importance of strengthening the health-care system alongside other critical sectors.
For other speakers, conflict was among the most insurmountable obstacles. Some delegates emphasized that, without peace, development gains simply could not thrive. Afghanistan’s representative said that countries facing conflict and post-conflict situations were dealing with the most severe challenges in realizing the Programme of Action. As a landlocked developing country affected by conflict, Afghanistan fought terrorism daily, he said, appealing for international support to help achieve a peaceful society.
Welcoming the reference to the “New Deal” in the draft political declaration, he stressed the importance of ODA, regional cooperation and economic integration, as well as trade and investment promotion. Continued “ambitious” efforts by least developed countries, partners, the United Nations, civil society and the private sector were also needed.
Some representatives of least developed countries provided a snapshot of their varied pathways to progress. Rwanda’s delegate recounted State-driven national experiences geared towards the end goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2020, noting that his country had achieved an 8 per cent growth over the last decade.
He went on to underscore the power of regional integration, as witnessed by the major road, rail and pipeline projects pursued by regional Governments. Rwanda had taken an inclusive approach to development and seen a 12.5 per cent reduction in poverty over the last decade, driven by innovative agriculture programmes, demonstrating that the sector was a building block for prosperity.
The representative of Zambia said that Africa, which hosted most of the least developed countries, had the potential to come out of that category, but would need support from all actors. What happened on the continent “had a direct bearing on the development of the rest of the world,” she said. The Midterm Review was indeed an opportunity to find solutions to how least developed countries could harness that huge, existing potential to build a better tomorrow.
Elaborating on that scenario, the representative of Gambia said that, if least developed countries attained sustainable growth, they would play an important role in the global economy, not only as producers, but as consumers, given their rising purchasing power. Similarly, Finland’s representative said it was critical to remember that least developed countries represented an enormous potential for world economic growth, stability and prosperity.
Boosting that potential, some speakers shared best practices and lesson learned with regard to innovative approaches, including some efforts that had produced positive results on the ground. Cancelling debt and opening markets had tripled over the last decade Morocco’s trade with sub-Saharan African States, that country’s representative said. The delegate of the United States said that simply raising ODA levels was not enough to guarantee results. Instead, ODA should be used to generate even further investments. Citing one example, he said that, since the 2002 Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, the United States had leveraged millions in investments from private sector companies for energy initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.
There was widespread agreement, however, on the urgent need for continued, predictable and sufficient support to help least developed countries break down trade barriers and bolster national efforts to eradicate poverty and build resilient economies and communities. The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said that, after a recent downward trend, ODA allocated to least developed States was now on the rise and he encouraged partners to do “much better” by earmarking 50 per cent of it to those countries. He also urged enhancing synergies between the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
In a similar vein, China’s delegate said that, given new recent agreements on global approaches to shared challenges, all nations should join hands and take real action to meet the goals in the 2030 Agenda for least developed countries. As such, those countries had a long way to go to realize the Programme of Action and needed both assistance and input to realize their goals to break through obstacles they faced.
To reach the finish line, he continued, North-South cooperation must play a key role, with donors implementing commitments and accelerating technology transfers, and South-South joint initiatives must also be bolstered to strengthen capacity-building and explore diverse development paths. With that in mind, China had supported efforts in Djibouti, Myanmar, Nepal and other countries.
Summing up a view that had woven a common thread through discussions today, Canada’s representative said: “Truly, the voices and development resources of all will be needed if we are to realize our shared vision of sustainable development for the least developed countries.”
Delivering statements during the general exchange of views were Government officials and representatives of France, Austria, Mali, Myanmar, Eritrea, Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Israel, India, Brazil, Somalia, Cambodia, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Japan, Malaysia, Romania, Bangladesh, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Argentina, Serbia, Norway, Indonesia, Venezuela, United Republic of Tanzania, Ireland, Togo, Switzerland and Azerbaijan, as well as the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Trade Centre.
The Midterm Review for the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Sunday, 29 May.
WENLIANG YAO (China) said that, despite least developed countries (LDCs) having made progress over the past five years, those States still had a long way to go to realize the Istanbul Programme of Action. The countries needed help and input to realize their goals, with North-South cooperation playing a part. Donors must implement their pledging promises and accelerate technology transfers. South-South cooperation must also be bolstered, strengthening capacity-building and exploring diverse development paths. All countries should join hands and take real action to meet the Goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. China empathized with least developed countries and was working to assist them to break through the obstacles to their progress. China had supported efforts in Djibouti, Myanmar, Nepal and other countries, including 50 large-scale infrastructure projects and training initiatives.
MOHAMMAD ISMAIL RAHIMI, Technical Deputy Minister of Economy of Afghanistan, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcomed the political declaration to be adopted as a comprehensive, balanced and forward-looking document. Among the least developed countries, those in conflict and post-conflict situations faced the most severe challenges in realizing the Programme of Action. As a landlocked developing country affected by conflict, Afghanistan fought terrorism daily and he appealed for international support to help achieve a peaceful society. Welcoming the reference to the “New Deal” in the draft declaration, he stressed the importance of official development assistance (ODA), regional cooperation and economic integration, as well as trade and investment promotion. Continued “ambitious” efforts by least developed countries, partners, the United Nations, civil society and the private sector would be needed.
RIITTA RESCH (Finland) said the implementation of new processes that had been agreed to in 2015 would greatly affect least developed countries, demonstrating that the Programme of Action’s priority areas remained as timely and valid as ever before. Common goals, such as eradicating poverty, and their implementation required mutual accountability, deeper international cooperation and enhanced partnerships with the private sector. Meanwhile, least developed countries represented an enormous potential for world economic growth, stability and prosperity, she said, emphasizing that the international community should support them in graduating from their current status. Among the most important cross-cutting issues was gender equality, she said, emphasizing an urgent need to enhance women’s and girls’ rights, especially in rural areas. Finland’s commitment for least developed countries had been reflected in its long-term partnerships and it had kept its percentage of the gross national income (GNI) to least developed countries close to the 0.2 per cent, she said, encouraging emerging economies to increase their financial support and set timelines and targets for doing so.
RAYMOND TSHIBANDA N’TUNGAMULONGO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of theDemocratic Republic of the Congo, said the Midterm Review offered the opportunity to express unwavering commitment to the 2011 Istanbul Programme of Action. After the downwards trend, ODA allocated to least developed countries was now on the rise and he encouraged partners to do “much better” by earmarking 50 per cent of it to those countries. The Programme of Action had been integrated into his country’s strategic planning framework, with the Government pursuing reforms in all sectors. Despite challenges such as Ebola, debt burden, the 2008 economic and food crises and a fall in commodity prices, the country was “well on its way” to graduating from the LDC category, a goal upheld by the President’s vision to ensure middle-income status by 2020 and emerging country status by 2030. The Government and its partners had injected resources into the agriculture, health, education and infrastructure sectors, and created an institutional environment that had led to a “boom” in internal and foreign trade, and enhanced value chains at the regional level. He urged enhancing synergies between the Programme of Action and other international accords, such as the 2030 Agenda.
OLIVIER BROCHENIN (France), associating himself with the European Union, said the specific nature of least developed countries should be recognized, particularly through ODA, and he respected international standards for debt sustainability. In 2015, France had earmarked Euros 1 billion for least developed countries, a 12 per cent increase from 2014 and almost one quarter of its bilateral aid. His Government had identified 16 priority countries for ODA, 15 of which were least developed States, and had placed countries in crisis on the international agenda, notably the multi-stakeholder fund in the Central African Republic. On climate change, the goal was to provide Euros 1 billion annually for adaption and mitigation measures. At the December Climate Change Conference, France had committed to devoting Euros 25 million to the special fund set up by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and aimed to have an agreement on capacity-building at the upcoming meeting in Marrakech. The challenges required a broader vision of financing that transcended ODA to include other tools. France was working to identify the best financing tools for least developed countries, taking into account their debt situations.
ABDOU JOBE, Minister of Trade, Industry, Employment and Regional Integration of Gambia said least developed countries’ structural transformation had been limited and their vulnerability to external shocks had not been substantially reduced. Their share of manufacturing – the driving force of many middle-income countries – had only slowly increased, while inadequate infrastructure, including unreliable energy supply, made their products uncompetitive in global markets. If they attained sustainable growth, they would play an important role in the global economy, not only as producers, but as consumers, given their rising purchasing power. The recent review of Gambia’s economic performance had had mixed results. It had registered “impressive” achievements in many sectors, such as education and health, with policy measures to support the private sector. As a least developed country, Gambia was also vulnerable to external shocks such as Ebola and climate change, and in 2014, while focused on achieving a 5.5 per cent growth rate, Gambia had been hit by the regional impacts of the Ebola epidemic. While it had escaped the virus itself, tourism had fallen by 30 per cent in the 2014-2015 season.
WILLIAMS NKURUNZIZA (Rwanda), advocating enhanced global partnerships, stressed the importance of ownership and leadership by least developed countries, which should “break the first sweat” in crafting their own future. Rwanda’s record showed that good leadership and the right policy choices were not external interventions. The goal was to become a middle-income country by 2020. “We are on course to realizing this vision,” he said. Over the last decade, Rwanda had achieved an 8 per cent growth rate. That was the result of greater investor confidence and was inspired by pro-business administrative and regulatory reforms. Underscoring the power of regional integration, he said: “We are stronger when we are pulling together,” as witnessed by the major road, rail and pipeline projects pursued by regional Governments. Rwanda had taken an inclusive approach to development and had seen a 12.5 per cent reduction in poverty over the last decade, driven by innovative agricultural programmes, demonstrating that the sector was a building block for prosperity. With local ownership, South-South cooperation and support from its partners, Rwanda would continue to work for a better future, he said, urging others to work towards freedom from ODA.
ASHRAF IBRAHIM (Egypt) said least developed countries were rich in human and natural resources, representing 12 per cent of the world’s population, but only 2 per cent of the global GNI. Challenges had erected barriers to the eradication of poverty and the achievement of sustainable development. Slow global economic growth and the lingering effects of the 2008 world financial crisis had added to their burden, alongside the lack of adequate ODA and limited foreign direct investment (FDI). Persistent trade barriers and a focus on developing extractive industries to the detriment of other industries also weakened chances of progress. Despite those challenges, Egypt had enhanced support to implement the Programme of Action. Moving forward, financial commitments to least developed countries must be honoured to support them in their efforts, and FDI must be bolstered. Implementing the Programme of Action should go hand in hand with the 2030 Agenda, he concluded.
STEPHEN O’DOWD (United States) said that achieving positive outcomes required more than increased ODA. Partnerships must be strengthened to tackle the challenges least developed countries faced. ODA should be used to leverage further investments. Since the 2002 Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, the United States had leveraged millions in investments from private-sector companies for energy initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa. Planning efforts must be complemented by approaches that promoted gender equality, innovation and job creation. Good governance, after all, was essential to achieving sustainable development, he said, adding that science and technology also played a critical role.
MOHAMED ABBOU (Morocco) said the current unprecedented global challenges had gravely affected peace and stability worldwide, including armed conflict, terrorist threats and nuclear dangers. That new, grave global reality required effective international interventions based on economic growth and improved well-being for all. To address that scenario, the international community and partners should bolster economic development in the least developed countries, redoubling efforts and meeting commitments. For its part, Morocco had supported the least developed countries through South-South cooperation as its main foreign policy measure. Cancelling debt and opening markets had over the last decade tripled Morocco’s trade with sub-Saharan African countries. Innovative financing mechanisms also produced results, he said, citing agreements in areas such as agriculture and industrial productivity.
AUXILIA PONGA (Zambia) said the effective and successful implementation of the new agreements made in 2015 called for a well-coordinated approach through an integrated, systematic and coherent process if the desires and aspirations of those development agendas would be achieved in a timely manner. Africa, which hosted most of the least developed countries, had the potential to come out of that category and needed support from all. “What happens in Africa has a direct bearing on the development of the rest of the world,” she said. “The survival of the world will depend on how we manage the great resources that are found in Africa.” The Midterm Review provided an opportunity to finding concrete solutions to how least developed countries could harness that huge, existing potential to build a better tomorrow, she said, warning that uneven progress to date should be reversed by strong joint efforts between those States and development partners. As a least developed landlocked country, Zambia aimed at turning challenges into opportunities with its national development plan. Some of those efforts included narrowing the technology gap and developing human capital.
KLAUS WOLFER (Austria) said least developed countries continued on their path to sustainable development, with global cooperation reaching unprecedented levels and new technologies helping to seize new opportunities through reduced transaction costs. Austria was eager to dialogue with least-developed-country partners to listen and learn about experiences in implementing recently concluded international agreements, such as the 2030 Agenda. The national development strategy focused on cooperation with least developed countries in five areas: people; sustainable economic management; development and capacities; environmentally sound planning; and building a world without fear. Through that plan, Austria was committed to the sustainable use of natural resources, setting up efficient crisis-management capabilities and delivering assistance through the European Union, as well as the United Nations, including the Vienna-based United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). It also was committed to allocating 0.7 per cent of GNI to ODA, applying Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) policy guidance in that regard, he said, citing a recent decision to double bilateral assistance until 2021.
MODIBO TRAORA� (Mali) said the 2012 political and security crisis, the most serious in recent history, had been marked by terrorism by Tuareg groups, jihadists and drug traffickers, as well as a coup d’etat. The strategic poverty reduction framework, adopted in 2011, took into account key areas of the Programme of Action, but it had been undermined by the crises. The Government had increased from 10 to 15 per cent the budgetary allocation for agriculture, while the nutrition policy had offered other opportunities to pursue reform. Success, however, had fallen short of forecasts. Educational attendance had fallen in 2012 and 2013, the general worsening explained by a shortage of schools. On gender equality, a positive discrimination law advocated 30 per cent of those nominated to elected posts must be women. ODA, which had fallen in 2012, had recovered in 2015, representing around 12 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). A peace agreement had been signed, laying the basis for better governance and re-founding of the country. “That is our hope,” he said, stressing the importance of development cooperation.
U TUN TUN NAING (Myanmar), said his country’s development landscape was changing, with special focus on democratic principles, such as the rule of law and anti-corruption measures. Many least developed countries faced structural challenges such as climate change, narrow production and export bases, volatile commodity prices and widespread poverty. Myanmar focused on increasing both the strength and consistency of its strategies, policies and mechanisms, especially for financing, infrastructure development, capacity-building, fighting corruption and enhancing agricultural productivity. “We must find ways and approaches to build resilient economies,” he said, by empowering people, creating jobs, developing human resources and strengthening good governance. Effective global partnerships and strong national leadership were essential to help least developed countries overcome their challenges.
GIRMA ASMEROM TESFAY (Eritrea), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country was working to graduate from LDC status through a commitment to consolidate the political, social, economic and cultural development of its people. Its development policy aimed to ensure access to basic social and economic opportunities. Education was free from kindergarten to the tertiary level. Progress had also been seen in the area of health, as Eritrea was among the few countries to have achieved Millennium Development Goals 4 (child mortality), 5 (maternal health) and 6 (HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases). It was improving the productive capacity of its agriculture and fisheries sectors, while the mining sector was expected to contribute “significantly” to its economic growth. The particular challenges of least developed countries must be recognized in efforts to implement the Programme of Action.
ALBERTO GONZALEZ (Cuba) said that, in the last five years, international support for least developed countries had fallen short of the goals of the Programme of Action. Some gains had been made since 2011, notably in reducing infant mortality in the majority of least developed countries. The average number of deaths of children under 5 years old, however, was higher in those countries than in developing nations. In addition, their share of global trade had barely increased. Preferential treatment for least developed countries was crucial for implementation of the Programme of Action, he said, urging the fulfilment of commitments and respect for the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Developed countries must fulfil their ODA pledges, strengthen trade on the basis of preferential trade conditions and guarantee least developed countries’ participation in the global financial architecture. It was also time to agree on the forgiveness of external debt.
IBRAGIM JUNUSOV (Kyrgyzstan), citing the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024, advocated finding solutions through a comprehensive approach in the areas of education, health, gender equality, climate change, the economy and the rule of law, among other areas. The prospects for meeting such commitments in least developed countries would hinge on resolving international financing issues and he encouraged donors to meet the goals of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, especially for allocating 0.7 per cent of GNI to ODA. As well, least developed and developing States should take on more responsibility for mobilizing financing, notably through the effective use of national resources. With that, he encouraged all States to join efforts to ensure that the Istanbul Programme of Action lived up to the slogan of “leave no one behind”.
SOHAIL MAHMOOD (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Midterm Review was timely given the historic agreements that had been made in 2015. The Programme of Action was centred on the overarching goals of eradicating poverty and overcoming obstacles to achieving development gains. To do so, partnerships were key. While it was heartening that some least developed countries were making progress, gains had been uneven, with formidable challenges hampering success. The majority of those countries had failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and current structural constraints and climate change crises had hobbled trade and productivity. With only four countries having graduated from the Group of Least Developed Countries, bolstered efforts were needed, including building synergies with the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Greater debt relief, enhanced ODA and heightened investments could also be crucial tools.
AHMED TIDIANE SAKHO (Guinea) said the paradigm shift in development seen in the agreements made in 2015 in New York, Sendai, Paris and Addis Ababa had allowed the Midterm Review to make the necessary adjustments and forge new partnerships to achieve common goals. Despite progress, the rate of growth in least developed countries had fallen short of the 7 per cent target. Food security, empowerment of women and young people, and access to energy were just some challenges they faced. Guinea had achieved important results, including a larger growth rate, lower inflation and debt cancellation, but the Ebola virus outbreak had had negative impacts at the humanitarian level, spanning all national socioeconomic sectors. In the post-Ebola era, that epidemic had acted as a reminder of the importance of strengthening the health-care system. Indeed, a five-year national plan also included principles of the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda to address a range of challenges. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, the Government would forge partnerships with the private sector and civil society to help bring about change for its citizens.
AMINA ORON (Israel) said that, despite tremendous progress, least developed countries needed continued external support to address new and emerging challenges. Israel had long been committed to working with developing countries, including programmes that aimed at poverty eradication, food security, empowering women and girls and quality education and health. “When you provide the right tools and opportunities, the results can be astounding,” she said, citing examples that had supported Rwanda’s national plan to modernize its agricultural sector. Achieving progress on international goals to lift more than 400 million people in least developed countries out of poverty by 2030 would require strong and effective global partnerships. Collective efforts would be needed towards empowering those countries’ young populations, sharing best practices and supporting the improvement of data systems and access to critical technologies.
MADHUMITA HAZARIKA BHAGAT (India) reaffirmed her Government’s commitment to strengthening ties with least developed countries. “Ours is a joint partnership,” she said, and close to India’s vision of sharing experiences with other developing countries. Noting that India had contributed $300,000 for the organization of the Midterm Review, she said the 2030 Agenda’s core goals were relevant for the least developed countries, especially its focus on ending poverty as a requirement for sustainable development. Universal access to affordable energy was also a key priority for least developed countries, as was the Agenda’s emphasis on growth, full employment and industrialization as policy objectives in their own right. Perhaps most importantly, the imperative of revitalizing the global partnership through technical and financial assistance was in line with the Programme of Action. As the international community put the 2030 Agenda into action, least developed countries’ priorities must be at the centre. India’s partnership with least developed countries was guided by a vision of common destiny, with assistance provided in the agriculture, infrastructure, medicine, energy and banking sectors, among others. In 2008, India had become the first country to announce duty-free trade schemes, from which 31 least developed countries now benefitted.
CARLOS DUARTE (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Programme of Action had laid out an ambitious agenda to launch least developed countries on a stronger development path. Since then, they had been hit hard by the global economic and financial crisis and seen efforts to recover stumble due to weak institutional capacity, narrow export bases and health emergencies. Enabling half of the least developed countries to graduate by 2020 required a strong international commitment to create the necessary conditions, with developed countries delivering on ODA commitments and intensified efforts to reform global economic and financial governance. The private sector also must commit to more responsible production and investment. In the area of trade, he was disappointed that no reference had been made to the need for to eliminate trade-distorting agricultural subsidies. Citing initiatives in agriculture, food security, education and health, he said that 70 per cent of Brazilian imports from least developed countries enjoyed duty-free and quota-free market access.
DEIRDRE KENT (Canada) said her Government had launched a review of its international assistance in order to refocus efforts on supporting fragile States, notably in advancing gender equality, empowering women and girls, and promoting human rights. Those consultations would help the Government learn about best practices to address gender equality, she said, noting that it was reaching out to stakeholders around the world to ensure that assistance helped those who needed it most. She welcomed the opportunity to hear directly from least developed countries how the Midterm Review could best respond to the Programme of Action. “Truly, the voices and development resources of all will be needed if we are to realize our shared vision of sustainable development for least developed countries,” she said, adding that ODA must be complemented by domestic, foreign and private investment.
SHAMSHAD AKHTAR, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said that 7 of the region’s 12 least developed countries were poised to meet graduation criteria, with others likely to do so by 2018. Graduation per se, however, did not alleviate endemic and structural problems and progress could not distract from realities. Millions still lived in extreme poverty and there was a long path to other development goals, including reducing child mortality and improving access to energy, water and sanitation. For its part, ESCAP had worked to address those and other issues, including a holistic transport programme to reduce cost and time of trading goods and enhancing domestic resource mobilization. Moving forward, development partners needed to align themselves in order to reverse declining ODA flows. In addition, a global governance mechanism needed to empower least developed countries with better market access and finance to complement domestic efforts to realize the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda.
ABDUSALAM HADLIYEH OMER, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion of Somalia, said his country was among the most challenged of the least developed countries, with a devastating civil war that had destroyed its public and private institutions and forced its citizens to flee. As it transitioned to democracy, the Government was working to complete the national development plan, focusing on inclusive institutions, education, democratization and investment promotion. Least developed countries must take ownership of their development by tackling the “demons” of poor governance, corruption and discrimination. “Our partners can only do so much,” he said, “it is up to us to do the heavy lifting.” FDI was at the heart of Somalia’s development, he said, citing 3.7 per cent economic growth in 2014. Investment in infrastructure would enhance regional connectivity, while bringing down the costs of doing business.
THAVRAK TOUN (Cambodia) said his country had made significant gains in realizing the Programme of Action in the areas of peace, political stability and security, with an average 7 per cent annual growth over the last five years. Cambodia had focused on creating a dynamic environment in which the private sector could invest. The country continued to invest in education, with net enrolment rates in primary education at 98 per cent, and had embarked on environmental governance reforms that placed 6 million hectares of forest under sustainable management arrangements. Challenges to implementing the Programme of Action were inadequate financial and human resources, external shocks and climate change.
JEROME LUDVAUNE (Vanuatu) said that, as a small island developing State, his country faced challenges. While recommended for graduation a number of times, Vanuatu had insisted on maintaining its LDC status in order to reduce its vulnerability to economic and other shocks. Building a resilient economy should be a priority before graduation and he called on the United Nations to consider special support measures for small islands. He asked the Organization to establish a small island developing States status, and in doing so, open the door to special international support so that those islands losing LDC status would receive special treatment in efforts to alleviate vulnerability. Vanuatu would need $450 million to recover from Cyclone Pam, which had hit in 2015, and he advocated the creation of a United Nations financial mechanism that would help in that regard. Concluding, he noted that his State was the first Pacific island country to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) stressed the importance of national ownership in the implementation of the Programme of Action, with policies mapped out in line with each country situation. Viet Nam had focused on restructuring the economy through administrative reforms, improving human-resource capacity and developing infrastructure. Along with domestic resource mobilization, international integration was important and Viet Nam supported a pro-development, balanced multilateral trade system that responded to developing country needs. She called for facilitating market access for least developed countries. Donors should also enhance ODA, technical assistance and other cooperation for LDC transition strategies towards building resilience. Concluding, she attached great importance to South-South cooperation.
NOBORU SEKIGUCHI (Japan) said that, in 2015, his Government had adopted the Development Cooperation Charter to align its assistance to the Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on partnerships. The Government had increased its ODA budget for the first time in 17 years and recently contributed $3.5 million to the Peacebuilding Fund. ODA for least developed countries had always aimed to reduce poverty through economic growth, founded on the notion of human security, including in infrastructure investment, which had reached $110 billion in Asia over the last five years. Also, the recently unveiled “Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure” would provide $200 billion for projects around the world. A focus of its $4 billion disaster risk reduction cooperation was climate change adaptation, with particular consideration of least developed country needs. For the first time, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development would be held in Africa, he said, noting also that Japan had recently launched the Sustainable Development Goals Promotion Headquarters.
RAJA REZA RAJA ZAIB SHAH (Malaysia) said many least developed countries were still a long way from achieving their goals, with the current global financial and economic landscape and environmental challenges posing barriers to their progress. The needs of those countries could be addressed by reducing vulnerabilities to economic shocks and closing large investment gaps in infrastructure, transport, energy and information and communications technology. To assist, development partners must fulfil their commitments. South-South cooperation could potentially play a significant role in promoting sustained growth and development, he said, noting that Malaysia had shared experiences to assist least developed countries to overcome constraints through the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme, which had reached more than 11,000 participants.
RADY ONOFREI (Romania) said eradicating poverty and reducing hunger was a tangible objective that could be implemented by efforts of affected countries and the international community’s support. The Governments of least developed countries should create a stimulating framework for investments, including FDI, and mobilize all national stakeholders for promoting development through economic growth that was also environmentally sustainable and inclusive. Eliminating poverty was connected to a healthy and educated population in which women were empowered. For its part, Romania had supported the United Nations in its pivotal role in global governance with the aim of strengthening the international community’s response to global challenges. Regional cooperation and strong partnerships were also critical.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and outlining his country’s vision to achieve middle-income status by 2021, said it had seen steady growth over two decades and continued to reach the graduation threshold in the economic vulnerability index. It was expected to reach more than 7 per cent growth for 2016. With the most progress made in electricity supply, another hallmark achievement was its construction of the Padma Bridge. The structure, being built without outside assistance, upon completion would be the fifth largest bridge in the world. Furthermore, the country had achieved nearly 100 per cent net enrolment in primary education. Despite progress, stronger partnerships could better help it attain its goals, most notably reaching 8 per cent growth. Foreign financing was a main factor required to implement the most ambitious development projects. Other goals included duty-free and quota-free market access; export diversification, addressing non-tariff barriers; preferential market access for services; and trade-related capacity-building. Migration regimes also must be reformed.
ZVONKO MUCUNSKI (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said that, amid global political, economic, security, social and refugees crises, it was time to change the world’s mindset and create policies to trigger true change in international relations. All countries must jointly share the entire responsibility with all those that were facing war, conflicts, financial crises, disasters, climate change consequences, extreme poverty and inadequate basic services, such as health care and education. Economically stronger nations must empathize with those in poverty, he said, stressing that least developed countries could not achieve their development goals without good infrastructure, education, health services and broadband connectivity. The Programme of Action offered solutions and showed the steps needed to act further. “The assessment we get from future generations is now solely in our hands,” he said.
MATEO ESTREME (Argentina) said the Midterm Review provided an excellent opportunity to shape initiatives and take concrete action to implement the Programme of Action. International efforts must be strengthened and structural difficulties must be overcome to address poverty, based on the eight priority areas in the Programme of Action. Support must target specific sectors, including boosting productive capacities and ensuring food security. The global economic playing field must be levelled to create an inclusive, transparent and non-discriminatory international system that would act as a driver for reducing poverty. Development partners must fulfil their financial commitments and meet their promised ODA levels. All efforts should also be streamlined with the new approaches agreed to in 2015, including the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.
DANILO VU?ETI? (Serbia) said that, given that more than half of the world’s extreme poor lived in least developed countries, there was a real prospect that many of them would indeed be left behind unless a concerted effort was made to fulfil the Programme of Action. The majority of those countries had not achieved the Millennium Development Goals, and economic problems, including stagnant trade flows, were further hampering those efforts. Persistent poverty in many least developed countries must be overcome, as it often led to instability and conflict, the proliferation of refugees and migrants, and increased humanitarian problems. A revitalized global partnership was needed to promote greater productive capacities and develop infrastructure and energy sectors. “In our ever shrinking and interdependent world,” he said, “it is inadmissible to leave the poorest among us behind and deny them the benefits of modern civilization. Together, we must make sure that the Istanbul Programme of Action is fully implemented.”
KARE STORMARK (Norway) said education was the basis for achieving progress in social and economic development. As such, Norway was substantially increasing support for education in emergency situations, targeting children that were victims of protracted humanitarian crises in the Middle East and other regions, with a special focus on girls and vocational training. Cooperation programmes were ongoing with Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal and South Sudan. On economic development, he emphasized the critical importance of including women in the workforce and the economy. To achieve economic growth, internal resource mobilization was essential and aid should be matched and used to release such funds. Tax collection also played a key role. “In Norway, we pay high taxes, not everybody is happy with that,” he said, “but, everybody is happy that this provides us with free health care and education.”
Mr. WARDANA (Indonesia) urged efforts at the global and regional level to support the least developed countries, with partnerships based on mutual benefit and regional initiatives both enhanced and connected to global efforts. Least developed countries should enhance their own initiatives and be in the driver’s seat of the global partnership, with public-private partnerships and corporate social responsibility efforts offering good alternative financing sources. South-South cooperation, including for trade, should also be enhanced. Indonesia was not immune to challenges, but it was overcoming them to support least developed countries through sharing best practices and capacity-building.
JOSE GREGORIO BRACHO REYES (Venezuela), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country had promoted development in the least development countries since 1981. Progress had not lived up to expectations in the vast majority of cases and he expressed concern at the lack of political will among donors to comply with ODA commitments, as well as the deadlock in the Doha Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations. To achieve the goals set for 2020, he urged debt proposals that were more “human” and “constructive”. The root of the problem lay in power relations championed by the prevailing economic model. Emphasizing the importance of South-South cooperation, he said the Petrocaribe agreement had enhanced cooperation and satisfied 43 per cent of the energy needs of countries benefitting from its implementation, including Haiti, the only least developed country in the region. The systematic economic war being waged against Venezuela meant that it was limited in the actions it could take.
SONGELAEL SHILLA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that, while partners had committed to provide 0.15 to 0.20 per cent of their GNI as ODA for least developed countries for more than a decade, very few had fulfilled those pledges and he called upon them to do so. Least developed countries were the major victims of climate change. While they had struggled to cope with that and other shocks, no visible international support had been provided to help them build resilience and it was time for the international community to work on such mechanisms. His country’s national midterm review report on the Programme of Action’s implementation had outlined gains, such as a stable 6.8 per cent average growth and steps taken to build 7,700 km of new road providing market access to agriculture producers. Growth, however, had not been broad-based and poverty remained high. He urged joint efforts to make the technology bank operational by 2017.
The representative of Ireland supported the Secretary-General’s conclusions and recommendations for further action in the implementation of the Programme of Action to reflect the new development paradigm adopted in 2015. The 2030 Agenda had laid out a blueprint for ending poverty, with goals on peaceful and inclusive societies that incorporated civil and political human rights issues to be implemented by all countries. Ireland had experience in fragile environments in partner countries, including Uganda, Mozambique and Timor-Leste, soon after peace had been restored. Its international development policy focused on countries where human rights were most at risk. Ireland was committed to helping least developed countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and while ODA would not be sufficient, it would remain relevant. Ireland was a global leader in ODA for least developed countries and was committed to directing more aid to them, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. It would provide 50 per cent of its aid budget to least developed countries.
DOEYI ABBEKOE DODZI EDGARD (Togo) said the Midterm Review was critical to advancing efforts aimed at improving the lives of people worldwide based on the spirit of the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda. Togo had taken many steps in areas such as agriculture, food security, education, literacy for women, youth employment and bolstering capacities for infrastructure development. Major financial reform measures had triggered, among other things, the mobilization of domestic resources and anti-corruption initiatives. Despite those gains, challenges remained, particularly in the area of developing human capital and boosting production capacities. Graduating from the Group of Least Developed Countries required maintaining sustained efforts to address those and related challenges. For its part, Togo had adopted a national programme for sustainable development that aimed at achieving the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda.
LYNE CALDER (Switzerland) urged redoubled efforts to end structural limitations for least developed countries in order to realize the Programme of Action. The 2030 Agenda offered an opportunity to increase that instrument. Partnerships must guide its implementation, with gender equality a guiding principle in all sustainable development efforts. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda reaffirmed the importance of increased financing for least developed countries from all sources – public and private, national and international – to attain the Sustainable Development Goals. ODA was central in that pursuit. Switzerland supported measures to better target ODA to least developed countries and those affected by conflict, as well as efforts to increase domestic resources. Welcoming the national reports submitted during the Midterm Review as an important database, she called for creating synergies between them and reports for the 2030 Agenda, in order to minimize the burdens for least developed countries and ensure those efforts would be mutually reinforcing.
FAIG BAGHIROV (Azerbaijan) said that, as an emerging donor country and one with a conflict-affected past, national gains had seen significant progress. The poverty level had decreased to 5 per cent in 2015 from 49 per cent in 2001, he said, noting that such goals had been achieved through cooperation with an array of international organizations, including relevant United Nations entities. Macroeconomic stability over 15 years had led to great increases in GDP and investments. The country’s “Vision 2020” development plan focused on transitioning to a knowledge-based economy. Efforts to implement that plan had already reached public and private institutions using a model based on effective State regulation. In 2015, Azerbaijan had received the highest United Nations public service award for its initiative and implementation of a nationwide system that had transformed the civil service and addressed half of the new Sustainable Development Goals. Azerbaijan was ready to contribute to efforts of the least developed countries by sharing experiences and applying knowledge that had proven to be successful on all levels.
Ms. KHAN of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization urged a focus on the untapped potential of least developed countries’ natural resources and the fact that more than 50 per cent of their populations were under 30 years old. In recent years, they had recorded high economic growth rates, but despite their growing consumer bases and impressive exports, poverty had impeded their graduation, and export-led growth, based on primary commodities, had led to growth without development. UNIDO had been among the first United Nations agencies to have mainstreamed the Programme of Action through its operational strategy for 2011-2020. It had diversified its technical services to help build trade capacity, create income-generating activities and develop agro-industries, while programmes for country partnerships had been piloted in Ethiopia and Senegal.
SEAN NOLAN of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the adoption of the 2030 Agenda had placed great emphasis on leaving no one behind, a notion that was critical in achieving the Programme of Action. The majority of least developed countries had experienced solid growth since 2010, but uneven gains meant that, at the current rate, it would take 25 years to achieve targeted goals. Domestic conflict and weak State capacities played key roles in explaining weak economic performance. To address that, active support should be provided by development partners. While the international economic environment for the next few years projected a slow economic recovery and a continuation of low commodity prices, the catch-up potential was very high and obstacles could be overcome. Maintaining macroeconomic stability, capacity-building and tackling infrastructure gaps could help to stabilize and grow economies. IMF aimed at supporting least developed countries through a number of initiatives, including expanding the Fund’s support for nations that focused on strengthening tax collection systems and better supporting institutions in conflict-affected States.
FEDERICO BONAGLIA of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said efforts had been scaled up to areas ranging from domestic resource mobilization to migration. The Addis Ababa Agenda and 2030 Agenda had made it clear that no single source of financing would be sufficient to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Among OECD initiatives was a recently announced joint effort with the World Bank, United Nations and IMF to intensify least developed countries’ cooperation on tax issues, he said, announcing the launch on 29 June in Kyoto, Japan, of a new inclusive framework project. ODA was and would remain a crucial resource to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, with a total of $25 billion reaching least developed countries. For its part, OECD remained committed to working with the least developed countries to advance the Programme of Action’s implementation and realize the promise of the 2030 Agenda to chart a path to sustainable development for all.
TAUFIQUR RAHMAN of the World Trade Organization said the role of trade in the development process was widely accepted and had been recognized as an essential means of implementation for attaining a range of internationally agreed goals and targets. WTO had a longstanding objective of supporting trade-related elements of the Programme of Action and those items remained at the core of its work. Despite efforts being made to better integrate least developed countries into the multilateral trading system, challenges remained and more efforts were required by the nations themselves and the international community. By creating favourable trade conditions for them, WTO supported them in their efforts to move up the growth trajectory and ultimately graduate, reflecting the overarching goal of the Programme of Action.
The representative of the International Trade Centre, said many least developed economies remained goods producers, unable to take advantage of value addition. The Centre understood the value of investing in small- and medium-sized enterprises, which comprised nearly 95 per cent of businesses across the world and 60 to 70 per cent of all jobs, including many run by women. For least developed countries to build productive capacity and trade in value-added goods and services required them to comply with complex technical standards and costly compliance procedures. The Centre offered a free online tool to help least developed countries comply with more than 200 private standards. On trade facilitation, he urged least developed countries to ratify the WTO trade facilitation agreement, noting that the Centre’s programme for value chain development focused on bringing markets to farmers, and vice versa.
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