Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Ministerial Meeting of Least Developed Countries, in New York today:
Good morning. It’s a great pleasure to be here with you all. I commend His Excellency Hassan Mahmood Ali and his team in New York for their successful stewardship of this Group.
Last year, global leaders agreed on two landmark agreements that will have an enormous impact on the countries represented here. The least developed countries played a full role in formulating the 2030 Agenda and stand to gain the most from the universal, transformative and integrated set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It is encouraging that several least developed countries are including the Goals and the 169 targets in all their plans and policies at this early stage, and I urge others to follow their example.
I am pleased to say we are confident that the Paris Agreement on climate change will enter into force in record time, before the end of this year. Many least developed countries are already feeling the most serious impact of climate change, having contributed nothing to causing it. The Paris Agreement will begin to put right this historic wrong and to create a cleaner, more stable world.
The Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries, held in Turkey earlier this year, concluded that least developed countries have made considerable progress on agriculture, human development and achieving peace. But unless this progress speeds up considerably over the next five years, across all sectors, it will not be possible to achieve the Istanbul Programme of Action by the target date of 2021. Least developed countries will need robust support to diversify their production, boost trade and protect development gains from external shocks.
Structural constraints, natural disasters, pandemics, conflict and post-conflict situations, and climate change are continuing to undermine progress. Many least developed countries are affected by large movements of refugees and migrants, either as countries of origin or as host countries. We must ensure that implementation of the New York Declaration agreed at the Summit held on Monday prioritizes least developed countries.
The Midterm Review made a strong commitment to revitalize the global partnership for development. Donor countries must fulfil their pledge to allocate at least 0.2 per cent of their gross national income for official development assistance (ODA) to the least developed countries. But ODA alone will not be enough. Least developed countries themselves will need to make greater efforts to raise domestic resources through capacity-building, private sector development and better institutional and policy interventions.
Sustainable development relies on national ownership and leadership, strengthening democratic processes and the rule of law, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Public-private partnerships, North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation must play a part. The United Nations stands ready to support you in all these areas.
I am happy to note that recent decisions by the World Trade Organization on trade facilitation and improved market access should help least developed countries to trade more easily. They need to be implemented as soon as possible.
Access to technology is equally important for least developed countries. I am pleased to say that the Technology Bank remains on course to be established next year, making it the first of the Sustainable Development Goals targets to be achieved. This bank will strengthen national capabilities and provide expertise to the least developed countries, supporting their efforts to achieve all the Sustainable Development Goals. It is very encouraging that the bank’s Governing Council has finalized its Charter. We await its adoption by the General Assembly.
Finally, data is the bedrock of development assistance. But there are gaps in the statistics of many countries. As many as 350 million people worldwide are not counted in national surveys. And even where data exists, people may lack the literacy and numeracy skills to analyse it and draw the right conclusions.
Transparent, accountable governance will need significant investment in systems to collect, analyse and report data at all levels — national, regional and global. The United Nations system and other development partners must support least developed countries in building this capacity. We must reinforce our work at every level, including here at the United Nations, to accelerate progress to achieve the Istanbul Programme of Action by 2021, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
But we must always remember that while these frameworks are vital, they should not be seen as an end in themselves. Our overall goal must be to unleash the vast human resource of almost 1 billion people living in least developed countries, to give them the opportunity to fulfil their individual potential, and to contribute to their communities and to wider society.
The only result that matters is the central pledge of the Sustainable Development Goals: that we leave no one behind. The entire United Nations system will continue to give special priority and support to least developed countries. Let us work together and deliver for the poorest and most vulnerable.
I thank you for your strong commitment and engagement.