Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Ministerial Meeting of Least Developed Countries, in New York today:
I am pleased to be with you. I thank the Government of Bangladesh for its able chairmanship of the Group of Least Developed Countries over the past two years. This period coincided with the first two years of implementing the 2030 Agenda. I commend this Group for the active and constructive role played in intergovernmental negotiations, ensuring that the voice of least developed countries has been heard in global decision-making and norm-setting processes.
The 2030 Agenda is predicated on leaving no one behind, so the special needs of least developed countries are a priority for all. Today, I would like to celebrate with you the achievement of the first target of the 2030 Agenda, Sustainable Development Goals target 17.8.
With this morning’s signature of the host country and contribution agreements, the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries has now become a reality. I commend Turkey for its financial and in-kind support that has enabled the operationalization of the Bank.
We now have a collective responsibility to turn this tool into an effective mechanism for strengthening the science, technology and innovation capacities of least developed countries. I appeal to Member States and other stakeholders, including the private sector and foundations, to contribute generously to the financing of this Bank so it may reach its potential.
The least developed countries include the poorest and most vulnerable nations of the world. At the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals period, these countries lagged furthest behind. They suffer heavily and disproportionately from natural disasters, famine, health epidemics and economic shocks, such as commodity-price drops.
The impacts of climate change remain a huge threat. A single extreme weather event can undo years of hard-won development gains. We are now at a critical juncture in the Istanbul Programme of Action for the least developed countries, with only three years left in its implementation period. We are falling short of many of its targets.
Average GDP growth rate in least developed countries in 2015 stood at 3.8 per cent, its lowest level over the last two decades, and far short of the target rate of 7 per cent. The latest data show that, in about a third of the least developed countries, 50 per cent or more of the population lives in extreme poverty.
The share of least developed countries’ exports in global trade further declined from 1.09 per cent in 2014 to 0.97 per cent in 2015, a long way from the target of 2 per cent by 2020. I encourage donors to increase their efforts to reach the target of official development assistance to least developed countries of between 0.15 and 0.2 per cent of gross national income. In 2015, only seven OECD-DAC [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development-Development Action Committee] donors reached this goal, down from eight in 2014 and nine in 2013.
Despite the challenges, we can also celebrate some success stories. The least developed countries have made significant steps forward on several fronts. Across the board, least developed countries have made progress in mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals into their development planning. Such planning extends to the development of financial and capital markets, as we see in Bangladesh, where the Central Bank has championed inclusive and green finance, both at home and internationally.
I commend the nine least developed countries that have submitted their voluntary national reviews, and the six others that have announced their intention to do so at next year’s high-level political forum. The momentum of the 2030 Agenda can be harnessed to support implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action.
I also commend Equatorial Guinea on being the fifth least developed country to graduate from the category. Nine others are likely to follow suit soon, with seven having met two of the criteria for the first time at the 2015 triennial review of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy. In this regard, it is essential that development partners and United Nations system entities join forces to increase their support to least developed countries to ensure a smooth transition and to prevent relapse.
For my part, I assure you that the Secretary-General and I are committed to improving the delivery of the United Nations development system in order to better serve Member States, especially the least developed countries.
As we implement the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda, the United Nations is committed to work in close partnership with least developed countries to support them in achieving the ambitious goals we have set out.
On Monday, the Secretary-General launched his financing strategy. At its core, it addresses how the United Nations can work with Member States, and particularly least developed countries, to enhance their capacity to mobilize domestic and international resources to serve the needs of the 2030 Agenda.
The Secretary-General and I also stand ready to facilitate mobilization of resources to implement the nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. The reform measures proposed by the Secretary-General in July also seek to strengthen the United Nations system’s response to the needs of the most vulnerable countries, particularly least developed countries, including through country-level implementation.
We envision a new generation of country teams to service the 2030 Agenda with a greater level of coherence, effectiveness and accountability, and with enhanced skillsets to help Governments unlock the potential of partnerships and financing. They will have stronger leadership to reduce fragmentation and ensure that the UN’s support, focus and structure is calibrated according to the specific Sustainable Development Goal needs and priorities of each country. Traditional coordination tools are no longer enough. We need so much more to effectively service the new Agenda.
All Member States are invited to remain part of these discussions. We want to build — together with you — the United Nations system of the future. I look forward to continuing to engage with all of you on the path forward.