Madame Deputy Secretary-General
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen
Allow me to highlight a few key points on the United Nations Development Agenda as it relates to the three most vulnerable groups of countries: the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
First, I would like to stress that the special needs of these three groups of countries lie at the heart of the United Nations Development Agenda. The development challenges that have engaged the efforts of the international community are most pronounced in these groups of countries. Moreover, the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States are, in most cases, the least equipped to respond to these problems, whether they are abject poverty, disease and hunger, environmental degradation or economic marginalisation. They are also greatly handicapped by structural problems, geographical and environmental factors. For these reasons, they have special needs that have been clearly articulated in their respective Programmes of Action, but have also been given consideration in other United Nations major conferences and summits, including the Millennium Summit. Any assessment of the success of the United Nations Development Agenda must, therefore, begin with taking into account these vulnerable groups of countries. In other words, we could never credibly claim success for the United Nations Development Agenda, unless that success was also evident in these vulnerable countries. Any effort by the international community to address global development challenges should start with the assessment of progress in the most vulnerable countries. Likewise, special attention should be paid to the effects of major global currents in the three groups; which brings me to my second point, globalisation and economic integration.
A shared objective of the programmes of action for the three groups of countries is ensuring their beneficial integration in the world economy, in both physical and economic terms. Whereas major efforts have been undertaken by these countries, especially through macro-economic reform and liberalisation, to enhance their participation in the global economy, the results have been, in most cases, disappointing. As a result, the share of each of the three groups of countries in world merchandise trade remains below 1 percent. The same is true for trade in services. In part, this is a reflection of their structural weaknesses and geographical disadvantages. But is also a reflection of the continuing unfairness of the global trading system. Economic reforms at the national level have to go hand in hand with appropriate reforms of the global economic system for the most vulnerable countries to benefit from globalisation. In this context, the delayed conclusion of the Doha Round, as well as its failure to adequately address the needs of the most vulnerable countries, is a major setback for the global development agenda, which was the primary objective of these multilateral trade negotiations.
The third issue I would like to highlight is that of resources for development. One of the major characteristics of the three groups of countries is the crucial importance of official development assistance (ODA), as their constraints limit the availability of internal resources as well as private capital inflows. At the same time, because of geographical handicaps and, in some cases, the lack of economies of scale, putting in place the necessary infrastructure, social and administrative services tends to be much more costly than in other countries. External support is, therefore, indispensable to the development of these countries. In the last few years, significant progress has been made in terms of official development aid and multilateral debt cancellation. However, we are still far from achieving the internationally agreed target of developed countries providing 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) in development assistance by 2015. As you are aware, because the international community recognized the special needs of the LDCs, it agreed in the Brussels Programme of Action that 0.15 to 0.20 percent of ODA/GNI should be allocated to the LDCs by 2010. The achievement of the United Nations Development Agenda, especially in relation to the Least Developed Countries, the Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States, crucially depends on the attainment of these internationally agreed commitments. If we fail, we will fail to reach the MDGs.
The fourth point I would like to underline concerns the burning issue – if I may use the pun – of climate change. With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releasing its highly anticipated report, and consultations on the post-Kyoto regime getting underway, climate change has, understandably, dominated environmental and development debates this year. However, the most vulnerable countries, which stand to suffer most from the consequences of the world warming up, and have the least capacity to adapt, have so far not featured in the debate as much as they should. On the contrary, the debate of climate change has sometimes overshadowed the equally important development challenges that these countries face. As I said in the beginning, international efforts to address global challenges have to start with the weakest and most affected members of the international community. It is therefore important that the debate on climate change devotes more attention to the needs of the vulnerable countries who, ironically, contribute least to global warming. In particular, greater attention needs to be paid to the capacity of these countries to respond to the effects of climate change. As we know the impact of climate change will disproportionally be felt by these most vulnerable countries, which will greatly impact on their agricultural production, the backbone of their economies.
Finally, I would like to draw attention to the related problem of energy, which is a major challenge for all the three groups of countries. Most of these countries, especially the Least Developed Countries, heavily rely on wood fuel to meet their energy needs which is not only inefficient, destructive to the environment, but also a health hazard. Access to modern forms of energy, such as hydropower, is limited to a very small part of the population. Even then, it is often inadequate and unreliable, with the consequence that power blackouts are a common occurrence in many of these countries. For small islands, power generation options are limited by their relatively small, and sometimes highly dispersed, populations. Remoteness from global markets results in higher energy costs for many vulnerable countries. In recent years, rising oil prices have compounded these problems for the oil-importing vulnerable countries. All these challenges pose a major hindrance to economic growth and poverty reduction. Effectively addressing the energy needs of the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States is therefore important to achieving the United Nations Development Agenda.
The world’s development challenges require an integrated approach, even more so the challenges of the most vulnerable countries. Failure to make reasonable progress in one aspect of the world’s development agenda undermines progress in other aspects of the agenda. Similarly, failure to make progress in the most vulnerable countries undermines progress to advance the development agenda as a whole.