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‘Least developed countries need urgent support to achieve SDGs’

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Lemohang Rakotsoane

The least developed countries (LDCs) which Lesotho forms part of, require urgent support to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This was said by the United Nations (UN) secretary general António Guterres when opening the UN’s fifth conference for least developed countries (LDC5) in Doha, Qatar.

The conference ended yesterday with governments, developmental partners, civil society, and the private sector determined to implement the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA).

According to Guterres, three years after the world began its epic struggle against COVID-19, LDCs are already grappling with severe structural impediments to sustainable development and are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks.

These countries, he said, have found themselves stranded amid a rising tide of crisis, uncertainty, climate chaos and deep global injustice. 

“Systems are stretched or non-existent â€“ from health and education to social protection, infrastructure, and job creation. And it is only getting worse,”  Guterres said.

He indicated that the global financial system, created by wealthy countries to serve their own interests, was extremely unfair to LDCs, who must pay interest rates that can be eight times higher than those paid by developed countries.

“Today, 25 developing economies are spending over 20 percent of government revenues solely on servicing debt,” said the UN chief. 

In the face of such deep challenges, the UN chief stated that the LDCs “need a revolution of support” across three key areas. 

The include providing at least $500 billion a year to developing countries, as well as 0.15 to 0.20 percent of the Gross National Income (GNI) for official development assistance (ODA) from developed countries.

In addition, international efforts need to be made to prevent tax evasion and illicit financial flows.  

“No more excuses,” the secretary general stressed. “I call upon development partners to support the implementation of these deliverables and achievements of the DPoA targets,” he added.

Secondly,  Guterres said, it would be necessary to reform the global financial system through a new Bretton Woods moment.  

“This includes expanding contingency financing and integrating disaster and pandemic clauses into debt instruments,” he said. “Multilateral development banks should transform their business models to attract greater flows of private finance into LDCs.” 

He added that “we must find new, common-sense ways to measure countries’ economies such as lending criteria that go beyond gross domestic product.” 

Guterres said that LDCs were particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change despite contributing only a small amount of greenhouse gases.  

To provide the necessary support,  Guterres urged developed countries to fulfil their $100 billion promise to developing countries, simplify access to climate finance, operationalize the loss and damage fund, double adaptation finance, replenish the UN-backed Green Climate Fund, and provide early warning systems to every person in the world within five years.

“The era of broken promises must end now,” stressed the UN chief. “Let’s put the needs of least developed countries where they belong. First in our plans. First in our priorities. And first in our investments,” he added.

When delivering his remarks, Csaba KÅ‘rösi, President of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly said he was confident that all world leaders wanted to deliver on their promise of achieving the 2030 Agenda and transforming the economies of LDCs

“For that to happen, it is imperative that countries feel real ownership of the DPoA. Development partners should ensure that promises to assist LDCs to overcome their vulnerabilities are fulfilled” KÅ‘rösi said.

He added: “If we bolster true partnerships, and harness technology, and innovation our goals can still be within reach by 2030.”

For this to happen it will require high-impact decisions and transformative actions. 

He explained that this would include focusing on what international finance institutions should focus on, measuring wealth and sustainable development, relying on science in decision-making, mobilizing solidarity, improving standards of governance, and understanding global common goods. 

“This progress will not be easy, but I sincerely see no better option for humanity,” KÅ‘rösi said. 

During the conference several countries and development partners announced various financial assistance initiatives to assist LDCs to graduate from the LDC status and meet SDGs by 2030.

The Amir of Qatar Tamim ibn Hamad Al Thani, announced a $60 million financial contribution towards implementation of the DPoA. The Amir explained that $10 million of will be allocated to support the implementation of the DPoA’s activities. 

The remaining amount will fund the intended outcomes of the DPoA and build resilience potential in the least developed countries.

“There is a moral obligation incumbent upon the rich and developed countries to contribute more to assist the least developed countries to overcome the global challenges we are now dealing with,” the Amir said. 

With the debt crisis a key issue for officials attending LDC5, he called for attention to be paid to its impact on the least developed countries. 

The Minister of International Development announced a C$59 million to support nutrition and sustainable development projects, to reduce child mortality and fight climate change. 

Canada also provided C$34 million to Unicef to support young people in 15 LDCs and C$25million to Burkina Faso for ecosystems.

The Germany Secretary of State Economic Cooperation announced a EUR 200million funding for LDCs.

The United Nations Tourism Organization announced a setup of the Tourism Development Fund, to invest $10 million by 2030 to support sustainable tourism in LDCs as a driver of development.

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