DOHA/NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the international community – particularly wealthy nations – to step up and help more than 1.1 billion people in the least developed countries break out of vicious cycles and lift themselves out of poverty.
“Countries with the least need support the most. And you need it now. You represent one in eight people on earth. But your countries are trapped in vicious cycles that make development difficult, if not impossible,” he told the Summit of Least Developed Countries in Doha, Qatar.
Today’s summit of heads of state and government from some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries is taking place just ahead of the opening of the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries, which will run in the Qatari capital to 9 March.
The summit is normally held every 10 years but has twice been postponed since 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the next five days in Doha, government leaders and other stakeholders are set to assess the implementation of the Istanbul Program of Action, adopted at a precursor UN conference held in Turkiye in 2011, and mobilize additional support and action for the world’s 46 least developed countries.
In his welcoming remarks to the summit, the UN chief stressed that the cost of living was becoming increasingly difficult due to the war in Ukraine, resulting in higher energy and food prices. This, combined with the effects of conflict, drought, hunger and extreme poverty, creates an environment that fuels poverty and injustice, he said.
“For your countries, progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — starting with eradication of extreme poverty and ending hunger — is about more than lines on a chart leading to 2030,” the Secretary-General said. “It’s a matter of life and death and it is unacceptable if you are held back by processes and decisions that are made far beyond your borders.”
The world’s Least Developed Countries are trapped in vicious cycles which make development difficult.
We cannot allow countries to fall back down the development ladder after working so hard to climb it.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) March 4, 2023
Indeed, fossil fuel giants are raking in huge profits, while millions in your countries cannot put food on the table. “You risk being left behind in the digital revolution without the support or technology you need for social and economic development or job-creation,” he said, calling for an end to the conditions that have left vulnerable countries facing a perfect storm.
“Ending this storm for perpetuating poverty and injustice requires massive, sustained investment,” he explained, and stressed that the global financial system had been designed by wealthy countries, largely to their benefit. In the absence of effective debt relief, the countries are forced to devote an increasing share of government revenues to debt servicing.
And countries that graduate to middle-income status will lose LDC-specific benefits, which will become a punishment, not a reward, Guterres warned. “We cannot allow countries to fall back down the development ladder after working so hard to climb it. Amid these injustices, the UN is working with you to develop smooth transition strategies, based on tailored support for the graduation process.”
A country can graduate from the LDC category by meeting two of three criteria (income, human assets and economic and environmental vulnerability, or by having a per capita income of more than twice the income graduation threshold, at two consecutive triennial meetings of the UN Committee for Development Policy.
When disaster strikes, vulnerable people often suffer the worst consequences, particularly those living in the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
— United Nations (@UN) March 4, 2023
In the afternoon, dozens of youth delegates, representing 226 million young people from 46 LDCs, participated in the first Youth Forum to ever be held at an LDC conference. The forum provided a unique opportunity for young people to share their solutions, actions, and impact. According to UN, 24 out of 46 LDCs had active conflicts as of 2019. Three out of four LDCs are in conflict and post-conflict situations.
In his remarks to the Civil Society Forum also being held on the margins of the leaders’ summit, Csaba Korosi, president of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, stressed that strengthening the bonds between civil society organizations and the United Nations was imperative. “Governments do not have a monopoly on wisdom and that we need your wisdom. We need your knowledge. We need your experience,” he said.