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DEV/3446
17 March 2022
Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, 1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Member States Adopt Action Plan to Help Least Developed Countries End Poverty, Recover Stronger from Pandemic, Ahead of March Conference in Qatar

Doha Programme Embeds Five Lifelines Addressing Hopes, Dreams, Livelihoods of One Eighth of Humanity, Secretary-General Says

Member States today moved closer toward helping the world’s most vulnerable countries pull out of poverty and debt, recover from the pandemic and meet ongoing climate challenges by adopting, through consensus, a resolution that lays down a 10-year blueprint called the Doha Programme of Action. 

The action taken at the first part of the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries outlines concrete measures — in areas from health to finance to infrastructure — that will be discussed in detail during the second portion of the conference, slated for 5 to 9 March 2023 in Doha.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, opened the conference by outlining five lifelines that are embedded in the Programme and will help these struggling countries recover in the short-term; achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the medium-term; and prosper over the long-term.  “The hopes, dreams, lives and livelihoods of one eighth of humanity rest between the pages of the Doha Programme of Action,” he said.  Vaccines are the first lifeline while the second is a global financial system that places the needs of the least developed countries at the top. “But they’re up against a morally bankrupt global financial system that stands in the way,” he said.

The third lifeline concerns structural transformations that modernize the infrastructure and transportation systems of these countries and expand their economies beyond dependence on natural resources.  A fourth lifeline centres on climate action while the fifth focuses on peace and security.  “Across these five lifelines — and the entire Doha Programme of Action — the least developed countries can count on the total commitment of the entire United Nations system,” he assured the delegates.

After his election as Conference President, Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said he was committed to maintaining the momentum created by the Doha Programme’s adoption.  The international community is living in times of alarming changes and the world risks losing recent development gains.  By addressing the pandemic’s impact on least developed countries, the Programme will serve as a road map to leave no one behind and provide tools for change and resources.

Lazarus Mccarthy Chakwera, President of Malawi, who spoke of behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the global community needs great courage to live during the current times.  Climate change events, such as cyclones and tropical storms, along with unsustainable debt and the pandemic, which disproportionately impacted the least developed countries, have increased poverty levels in these countries.

The representative of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, appreciated that the Doha Programme was adopted by consensus.  Since the end of the Istanbul Programme of Action in 2020, four countries have graduated from the list of least developed countries and 16 others are at different stages of graduation.  Yet least developed countries still account for only 1.3 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), 1.4 per cent of global foreign direct investment (FDI) and just under 1 per cent of global merchandise exports.  “It is unconscionable that these 46 nations, comprising 14 per cent of the global population, remain some of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world,” he said. 

The representative of Botswana, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said it was best to adopt the Doha Programme without delay so as to not lose momentum on the way forward.  The least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States share many commonalties that bond them together.  The pandemic has magnified the vulnerabilities they have faced, and it will take them much longer to return to GDP per capita levels experienced before the pandemic, he said, adding that vaccine inequity has also hurt them.

Speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating himself with the Group of 77, the delegate for Antigua and Barbuda said least developed countries are still trying to achieve the aspirations laid down by the adoption of the first programme of action 50 years ago.  Despite some economic growth, these States remain fragile as they hope for a recovery from the pandemic.  Global economic policies have long been inconsistent with realities, and official development assistance (ODA) and development finance must be prioritized.  He said that premature graduation from the category would mean the international community would be faced with an overwhelming number of middle-income countries.  The Alliance continues to advocate for all least developed countries as “we are in this fight together”,

Some delegates did not agree with portions of the Doha Programme’s language.  The Russian Federation’s representative said it did not block the programme’s adoption by consensus since these vulnerable countries need support.  Yet he dissociated himself from several paragraphs of the draft regarding climate change and did not agree with the inclusion of the term “cybersecurity”, urging instead the term “security for informational technology” be used.

The speaker for the United States said the Doha Programme neither creates new nor affects existing rights or obligations under international law, nor does it create any new financial commitments.  He said the Programme of Action omits many key elements of the Glasgow Climate Pact, including several related to the imperative to limit warming to 1.5°C.  He also was concerned over its use of terms that lack agreed international definitions, including “right to development” and “illicit financial flows”.  He stressed that all Member States should focus more on preventing and combating corruption-related crimes at home.

The representative of Barbados, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the upcoming Doha Summit undoubtedly offers a unique opportunity to collectively develop an ambitious recovery agenda from the pandemic, which has halted at least some least developed countries’ implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Istanbul Programme of Action.  “Least developed countries need innovative solutions to solve their structural problems,” she said, also calling for renewed financial support to economies strained by the adverse effects of climate change and COVID-19.

Ethiopia’s delegate called for Programme’s adoption to be taken as a rallying cry to bring least developed countries out of difficult circumstances.  “Poverty alleviation in the least developed countries as our highest aspiration and goal requires meaningful partnership in development spheres without other political considerations,” he said.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said today should mark a positive milestone to express solidarity and support, stressing that the bloc will continue efforts to mobilize resources, boost sustainable public and private investment, and support least developed countries in debt relief and debt treatment.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Conference adopted by consensus its provisional rules of procedure and provisional agenda, as recommended by the Preparatory Committee for the Conference at its second session on 26 July 2021.

The Conference elected Qatar as ex-officio Conference Vice-President.  Election of the remaining Conference Vice-Presidents will take place during the Conference’s second part in Doha from 5 to 9 March 2023, as will consideration of its organization of work.

The Conference also appointed the Bahamas, Bhutan, Chile, China, Namibia, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Sweden and the United States as members of the Conference’s Credentials Committee.

Also speaking today were delegates from Lesotho (on behalf of the African Group), Australia, Bangladesh, Senegal, Japan, Indonesia, Laos, India, Republic of Korea, Egypt, Turkey, Angola, Cuba, Morocco, China, Brazil, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Nepal, Bhutan, United Kingdom, Maldives, Algeria, Hungary, South Africa, Gambia, Uganda, Belgium, Nigeria, Belarus, Thailand, Haiti, and Myanmar, as well as an observer for the Holy See.

Opening Remarks

MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, upon his election as President of the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, expressed confidence that the Conference will address issues affecting those States and noted his commitment to maintaining the spirit of momentum of all parties concerned, looking forward to the second part in Doha from 5 to 9 March 2023.  The international community is living in times of alarming changes, he said, at risk of losing the gains achieved in development.  Affirming that lack of equal access to vaccines remains a challenge, he noted Qatar has always been a pioneer in humanitarian action, contributing more than $140 million in general assistance, supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) Programme of Action with $10 million in funding, and providing aid to 92 countries.  The Doha Programme of Action is the first to address the impact of COVD-19 on least developed countries, serving as a road map to leave no one behind, with tools to enact change and provide more resources.  He called for cooperation from all parties in order to achieve progress.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the hopes, dreams, lives and livelihoods of one eighth of humanity rest between the pages of the Doha Programme of Action.  He outlined five lifelines embedded in the Programme of Action that will help the least developed countries recover in the short-term, achieve the global goals in the medium-term and develop and prosper over the long-term.  The first is the lifeline of vaccines.  Manufacturers are producing 1.5 billion doses per month, but nearly 3 billion people — mostly living in the least development countries — are still waiting for their first shot.  “Our world cannot afford a two-tiered recovery from COVID-19,” he said. 

The second lifeline is a global financial system that puts the needs of least developed countries first, he said.  Developing countries need to invest in sectors vital to reducing poverty and increasing resilience:  job-creation, expanded social protection, food security, universal health care, quality education and digital connectivity.  “But they’re up against a morally bankrupt global financial system that stands in the way,” he said, stressing:  “This must change — starting with reforming the international financial architecture to support all countries.”  He anticipated efforts to establish an International Investment Support Centre for Least Developed Countries.

The third lifeline is supporting structural transformations across the least developed countries, he said, as most of their economic growth is linked to natural resources or extractive sectors, which are highly volatile in the short-term and vulnerable to fluctuating commodity prices, marketplace whims and the impacts of climate change.  The pandemic has made the situation far worse, disrupting the powerful economic engines of trade, manufacturing and transportation.  These countries need support to increase their participation in the global value chain, modernize infrastructure and transportation networks and facilitate trade flows to reduce costs and increase efficiencies.  Promoting open and fair trade rules is essential so all countries can compete, he stressed.

Fourth is climate action, as these countries, which did not cause the climate crisis, are living with its worst impacts, he said.  The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showed how deaths from floods, droughts and storms have been 15 times higher in the most vulnerable countries and regions.  A massive boost in technical and financial support is needed to spark a just transition to renewable energy and green jobs.  All development banks must urgently work with Governments to design and deliver bankable projects, he said, stressing that 50 per cent of climate finance must go to adaptation and reformed eligibility systems so vulnerable nations can access it.  Developed countries must deliver on their $100 billion climate finance commitment to developing countries this year.  “Promises must turn into reality,” he said.

Fifth is the lifeline of peace and security, he said.  The world faces the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945 and the least developed countries represent the lion’s share of these hotspots.  The problems that affect development do not just result from conflict within developing countries.  For example, the effects of the war in Ukraine are reverberating across regions and around the world, threatening to exacerbate social and economic vulnerabilities in developing countries, particularly the least developed countries.  The proposed New Agenda for Peace calls on the global community to work as one — in solidarity, as a human family — to address the roots of violent conflicts by investing in development.  “Across these five lifelines — and the entire Doha Programme of Action — the least developed countries can count on the total commitment of the entire United Nations system,” he assured.

LAZARUS MCCARTHY CHAKWERA, President of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the global community is living at a time of great consequence that demands great courage, with a confluence of forces marching against humanity at frightening speed, pushing towards calamity.  Citing climate change events, including Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in 2019 and Tropical Storms Ana and Gombe in the last seven weeks, which left a trail of destruction and death in his inland least developed country, he asked what the effects must be on coastal States like Mozambique, Madagascar, Bangladesh, Comoros, Haiti and Myanmar — which are already choking from an unsustainable debt burden racing towards the $1 trillion mark and the socioeconomic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased poverty levels in those countries by 35 per cent in the past two years. 

Meanwhile, he noted least developed countries are already suffering after countries in the global North adopted COVID-19 containment measures that disproportionately disadvantage them, alongside the rising cost of goods triggered by a senseless war in Eastern Europe.  The current global context demands the adoption of the Doha Programme of Action — the best opportunity for charting a recovery path for the world’s most vulnerable countries.  “Surely it is not too much to ask that we have a Programme whose ambition is to accelerate sustainable development in countries where poverty levels have become an unsustainable burden for the global economy,” he said.  Adoption of the Programme of Action is a must, as it contains measures for eradicating poverty, ending hunger and malnutrition, making Internet access universal, increasing exports and trade, and setting a benchmark for official development assistance (ODA).  It would also establish an online university, an international investment support centre, and food stockholding.

“The very reason nations are brought together under the banner of least developed countries is to move together towards the shared prosperity that will one day make the term obsolete,” he said.  The Programme of Action contains measures for enabling least developed countries to meet the criteria for graduation, “but it needs implementation, implementation, implementation”.  He called upon United Nations leadership to strengthen the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States, as the workload has increased.  He further urged development partners to go beyond fulfilling their commitments and also be responsive to the pressing needs that are created within the 46 least developed countries by unforeseen events.

Action

Mr. Al-THANI then invited the Conference to consider the draft resolution titled “Draft Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries” (document A/CONF.219/2022/L.1) and the Secretariat’s note transmitting “Draft Doha Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries” (document A/CONF.219/2022/3), as recommended by the Preparatory Committee for the Conference at its resumed second session on 21 December 2021 for adoption by the Conference.

He cited the work of the Co-Chairs of the Preparatory Committee to the United Nations, Rabab Fatima (Bangladesh) and Robert Keith Rae (Canada), in ably leading and concluding the negotiations on the document.

The Conference then adopted the draft resolution by consensus. 

Explanations of Vote

The representative of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed appreciation that the Doha Programme of Action had been adopted by consensus.  He noted that since the end of the Istanbul Programme of Action in 2020, four countries have graduated from the list of least developed countries and 16 others are at different stages of graduation.  However, least developed countries still account for only 1.3 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), 1.4 per cent of global foreign direct investment (FDI) and just under 1 per cent of global merchandise exports.  “It is unconscionable that these 46 nations, comprising 14 per cent of the global population, remain some of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world,” he said. 

The pandemic reversed years of hard-earned progress; despite sufficient stocks of vaccines, access remains unequal with some States having vaccination rates in the single digits, he said.  In addition, only 27 per cent of the population of least developed countries is online, meaning “the digital divide risks becoming the new face of the development divide, he said.  Leaving no one behind means starting with those furthest behind, and adoption of the Programme of Action is an important step in that direction, requiring reinvigorated global partnerships.  He called for the historical commitment of ODA comprising of 0.15 to 0.20 per cent of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries’ gross national income to least developed countries to be fulfilled.  He added that it is a matter of great concern that six least developed countries are classified as in debt distress, while 17 are at high risk, calling for redistribution of at least $250 billion from developed countries to developing ones.  Longstanding structural problems must also be addressed on illicit financial flows and recovery of stolen assets.  He noted the Programme of Action sets the goal of a further 15 States to graduate by 2031.

The representative of Botswana, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developed Countries, said it was in the best efforts of the international community to adopt the Doha Programme without delay so as to not lose momentum and move ahead.  The least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States share many commonalties that bond these countries together, he said, stressing the importance of continuing to address their challenges.  The pandemic has exposed and magnified the vulnerabilities these countries are facing.  It will take them much longer to return to pre-pandemic levels of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.   Diminished fiscal space compounded by the debt crisis and limited productive capacities severely constrains their ability to stimulate sustained economic growth.

Vaccine inequity has hurt them as well, he said, noting the low vaccination rate in least developed countries.  The adoption of the Programme of Action signals a new and collective commitment to support these countries as the international community strives to leave no one behind, he said, stressing:  “We need to affirm our commitment to collectively accelerate recovery from the pandemic, especially for the most vulnerable.”  He called on the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to deliver a favourable outcome for the most vulnerable members of the Organization.

The representative of Lesotho, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted 33 of 46 least developed countries are on that continent.  “We cannot afford another 50 plus years of lost opportunities,” he said, as implementation cannot just be an idea — rather, in 10 years there must be tangible results.  Having 40 countries yet to reach the point of graduation “would mean that we have once again failed”, he said.  The Programme of Action needs to ensure a smooth and sustainable transition strategy to graduation, and this must also be consistent with all General Assembly resolutions on smooth transition, coupled with improved coordination of United Nations systems and the support of development and trading partners. 

The Programme of Action has been negotiated under unprecedented circumstances caused by the pandemic, he observed.  “We now have the unique opportunity to fulfil the promises and mandates and ensure that the multi-layered drive for recovery from COVID-19 is fulfilled,” he said — which is crucial to safeguarding the successful completion of all mandates so that least developed countries are not left behind in the global recovery.  As this is only the first step in a 10-year journey, he noted a successful conclusion will depend on implementation and fulfilment of commitments by both least developed countries and development partners.

The representative of Barbados, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said there is no doubt that the upcoming Doha Summit offers a unique opportunity to collectively develop an ambitious recovery agenda from the COVID-19 pandemic that has halted progress by some least developed countries in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Istanbul Programme of Action.  Noting that such nations face serious challenges related to limited human, technical and financial capacity, she said CARICOM has always advocated for a holistic approach to addressing the multiple challenges faced by the least developed countries, which must consider their specificities and the significant development gaps they face. 

“Least developed countries need innovative solutions to solve their structural problems,” she said, also calling for renewed financial support to economies strained by the adverse effects of climate change and COVID-19.  Such action would represent a major step in the alignment of the least developed countries with the 2030 Agenda and help eradicate poverty, achieve internationally agreed development goals and enable graduation from least developed country status.  However, she warned that the success of the Action Plan will be determined by its full implementation and the fulfilment of related commitments.  In that regard, she urged international partners to redouble their efforts to enable least developed countries to adequately address the structural constraints and challenges hindering their development efforts, as well as the equitable and timely availability of COVID-19 vaccines.

The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating himself with the Group of 77, said 50 years after the adoption of the first Programme of Action, least developed countries are still striving to achieve those aspirations.  Some small island developing States are categorized as least developed countries, making support even more important.  Despite some economic growth, all those States remain fragile, as they still hope for recovery from the pandemic.  He stressed that climate change and the global economic crisis disproportionately affect small island developing States, least developed countries and landlocked developing countries.

Noting that full implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Glasgow Climate Compact and delivering on financial goals are critical, he called for eradication of poverty in all forms.  Global economic policies have for too long been inconsistent with realities, and official development assistance (ODA) and development finance must be prioritized.  He noted that premature graduation would mean the international community would be faced with an overwhelming number of middle-income countries.  He said the Alliance continues to advocate for all least developed countries as “we are in this fight together.”

The representative of Australia, speaking also on behalf of New Zealand, said they are staunchly committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda and achieving the global goals.  COVID-19 erased hard-won gains and showcased the vulnerability of the least developed countries as it tested the multilateral system.  The pandemic has made the collective agreement to the shared priorities of the 2030 Agenda more important than ever.  The new Programme of Action is well equipped to address the immediate impacts of COVID-19 and stand the test of time, guiding the international community through the Decade of Action, leading to 2030.  Australia is pleased to participate in the new High-Level Panel that will finalize a multidimensional vulnerability index, which offers an important lesson for the entire multilateral development system.

As the Programme of Action’s implementation begins, the international community must be mindful of the catalyst gender equality can provide for sustainable development, he said.  His delegation is pleased that the Programme pays particular attention to the empowerment of women and girls and pays due regard to the issue of human security, which is fundamental to protect and promote sustainable development.

The representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the Co-Chairs of the Preparatory Committee of the Fifth Conference, noted the third year of the pandemic is an unprecedented period of crisis, with consensus adoption of the Programme of Action representing ambition.  She cited partners’ support for key commitments in the text for least developed countries’ recovery, adding those States have also committed to good governance and the empowerment of women and girls.  The preparatory process was long, but meaningful and rewarding, and the real work will start with implementation, which must be leveraged.  Financial and technical support is needed for structural transformation towards graduation, and the Office of the High Representative must play a pivotal role, closely monitoring progress on deliverables.  The Fifth Conference is a unique opportunity, she said, and now is the time to demonstrate international solidarity.

The representative of Senegal said the Doha Programme of Action is establishing new commitments.  The implementation methods must be changed to tackle challenges, such as poverty, unemployment and health issues, faced by these countries and their people.  Fresh approaches are necessary.  Most people living in extreme poverty live in the least developed countries and the pandemic worsened these problems.  Investment must be increased and infrastructure must be put in place.  The fiscal systems of least developed countries must be strengthened, their economies must be diversified and their tax base must be broadened.  There should be an evaluation midway through the Programme of Action implementation period, she said, adding that sustainable development must be rooted in peoples’ well-being.

The representative of Japan said the international community cannot further delay implementation of the Programme of Action in helping to build back better, providing a solid basis for other documents in the future.  Threats against people on the ground are increasing, he noted, calling for solidarity and protection and empowerment of individuals.  Calling on the international community to scale up its efforts to maintain momentum over the next decade, he reiterated his delegation’s commitment to the upcoming Conference.

The representative of Indonesia said the Doha Programme of Action is very important for the least developed countries.  It is vital that no one is left behind.  South-South cooperation, which is growing, is very significant and  necessary.  The importance of partnerships cannot be over emphasized.  The pandemic has only intensified the problems and issues facing the least developed  countries, he said, stressing that adequate resources must be provided to these countries to ensure their respective populations are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, noting that his country has been recommended for graduation from the least developed country category in 2026, said it has been working to implement its National Socioeconomic Development Plan since the early 2000s.  The newly adopted Doha Programme of Action will also be streamlined into the national planning process, with the aim of laying a strong foundation for smooth and sustainable graduation.  The adoption of the Programme of Action today will reinforce least developed countries’ capacities to cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the global financial and climate crises.  Despite having met the graduation thresholds on all three criteria, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic still has challenges that are unlikely to end before graduation.  In particular, he said, in light of declining ODA, new sources of financing are needed, and scaled up support from development partners, financial institutions, the United Nations system and the private sector is more crucial than ever.

The representative of India said that since the end of the Istanbul Programme of Action in 2020, four countries have graduated from the least developed countries’ list while 16 others are at different stages of graduation.  Despite this significant progress, many of the goals and targets of the Istanbul Programme remain unmet.  Support to the least developed countries must focus on fostering a recovery that addresses their most critical socioeconomic national challenges.  India is pleased to note the concrete deliverables agreed upon in the Doha Programme of Action, including the proposed online university, a food stockholding initiative, and a crisis mitigation and resilience-building mechanism.  Measures to address the debt and liquidity problems should not duplicate existing mechanisms and platforms.  Developed countries must deliver their commitments to combat climate change by accelerating their path to global net zero emissions and delivering on finance and adaptation for developing countries.  All investments must follow principles of financial responsibility and viability to avoid unsustainable debt burden.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said the Programme of Action sets concrete and tangible targets and commitments on a range of issues including investing in people, leveraging science, technology, and innovation, and enhancing international trade and regional integration.  It further addresses climate change.  Strengthening resilience against COVID-19 is indeed ambitious and necessary since the 1.1 billion people spread over the 46 least developed countries have been the worst hit amid the global pandemic, and the hard-won progress achieved over the last few decades has unraveled.  Calling for full implementation, he said:  “We know where we want to go and what we have to do, and how we must do it.”  He noted the Republic of Korea was once a poverty-stricken least developed country, but with the assistance of the international community, as well as its own efforts, was able to overcome extreme poverty and achieve rapid growth.

The representative of Egypt, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, thanked Qatar for supporting the Conference.  The Doha Programme of Action has been negotiated during a difficult time created by the challenges of the pandemic.  It is important for all financing commitments to be completed.  Egypt hopes that the strengthened solidarity of the international community can help the least developed countries, he said.  Adopting the Programme is only the first step in guiding these countries to success and supporting them to build resilience against future shocks.  Egypt looks forward to the Programme’s successful implementation during the coming decade, he said, stressing the importance of evaluating progress in fulfilling the commitments and goals of the Programme during its implementation period.

The representative of Turkey said the pandemic has amplified least developed countries’ pre-existing vulnerabilities and has severely affected their ability to achieve the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  The Doha Programme of Action, which was built on the Istanbul Programme of Action, “will be our renewed collective commitment to finding lasting solutions to the multiple and complex challenges,” she said.  She noted the United Nations Technology Bank, which became operational in 2018 in Turkey, plays a critical role for filling the technology gap in least developed countries.  Turkey has renewed its financial commitment to the Bank to support its activities for the next five years, and she encouraged countries to consider allocating necessary financial resources to the Bank.

The representative of the United States said the Doha Programme of Action neither creates new nor affects existing rights or obligations under international law, nor does it create any new financial commitments.  The United States upholds and respects the authority, independent mandates and roles of other existing institutions, he explained, adding that the indicators, governance proposals and language developed through the 2030 Agenda and reflected in the Programme of Action have no precedential value for the international financial institutions.  United Nations negotiations, including the outcome document of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Doha Programme of Action, are “immaterial” to the United States position on trade and have no relevance for the country’s trade policy or its agenda at the WTO. 

He said the United States has not committed to the United Nations ODA targets of 0.7 per cent of GDP or to 0.15-2 per cent of gross national income for the least developed countries.  It proudly stands as the world’s largest provider of ODA — about one third of which is invested in least developed countries.  The proper forums to discuss eligibility and allocation of concessional assistance are the boards of the multilateral development banks and the OECD.  Consideration of the progress made at the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to mobilize $100 billion in climate finance annually, as well as the decisions or mandates under the Convention and the Paris Agreement, remain solely under the auspices of those bodies, he added.  The Programme of Action omits many key elements of the Glasgow Climate Pact, including several related to the imperative to limit warming to 1.5°C.  He also expressed concern over its use of terms that lacks agreed international definitions, including “right to development” and “illicit financial flows”, stressing that all Member States should focus more on preventing and combating corruption-related crimes at home.

The representative of Angola said his country is in the process of graduating from least developed country status, due in February 2024, and becoming a middle-income country.  Angola is investing in people and leveraging technology and innovation, recognizing that structural transformation is a driver of prosperity.  His Government is fully committed to the Programme of Action, which is crucial in addressing climate change, environmental degradation, recovery from the pandemic and building resilience against future shocks for risk-informed sustainable development.  It is also important to mobilize international solidarity and reinvigorate global partnerships and innovative tools and instruments in the march towards sustainable graduation.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the economic turbulence caused by the pandemic and the sanctions have hurt the least developed countries.   The Russian Federation did not block the adoption of the Doha Programme of Action by consensus as these countries are vulnerable and it is important that they receive help.  Many provisions of the Programme were adopted without agreement of some countries with different points of view.  The ambitions of the donor countries, who speak loudly and strongly for the need to redouble efforts, are quite modest, he said, adding that there is a lack of ambition.  The Russian Federation does not agree with the inclusion of the term “cybersecurity” and urges that the term “security for informational technology”, which was agreed in the context of relevant United Nations resolutions and texts, should be used.  The final paragraph of the Programme on climate cannot be accepted, he said, dissociating himself from several paragraphs of the draft regarding climate change.

The representative of Cuba said his delegation recognizes the vulnerabilities and needs of least developed countries, expressing regret that many major challenges remain to be dealt with.  He urged the international community and the United Nations system to support successful implementation of the Fifth Conference, addressing issues including financing, technology transfer and building alliances.  Developed countries must assume their historical responsibilities, taking concrete steps towards an international world order that is more fair and equitable.  He noted some wording in the document did not enjoy consensus, including the reference to “human security”, and affirmed Cuba’s firm commitment to South-South cooperation.

The representative of Morocco said his delegation looks forward to the second part of the conference that will be held in March 2023.  The Doha Programme of Action is a significant step forward and its implementation requires ambitious and bold action by the international community; it also is a key part of an international response that will help least developed countries to recover from the pandemic.  It includes a host of ambitious projects.  Morocco was one of the first countries to offer help to the least developed countries during the pandemic, he said, adding that Morocco remains committed to contribute to South-South partnerships that will benefit these countries.

The representative of China said as the largest developing country, it has put forward a global development initiative, in concert with the 2030 Agenda, providing least developed countries with development resources, greatly facilitating the pandemic response and recovery.  As the largest contributor to the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, his delegation called on multilateral creditors like the World Bank to participate in debt relief, which is complicated and sensitive.  He noted the term “debt relief” in the Programme of Action is too broad and vague, and “debt suspension” and “debt treatment” should be adopted instead.  His delegation dissociated itself from several paragraphs.

The representative of Brazil, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the least developed countries are on a self-sustained path as they work with their development partners and the latter should not place constraints on these countries as they work with them.  At the end of the day, the least developed countries should be the ones in the driving seat.  Solidarity among nations and South-South cooperation are very important.  Brazil has worked closely with other nations, such as Angola, as agricultural partners.  It is an important part of development.  Brazil is ready to contribute its expertise on renewable energy.  He reaffirmed that Brazil is a historical friend and partner of least developed countries and is ready to play its part in the implementation of the Doha Programme.

The representative of Ethiopia said least developed countries face a multitude of tides including the pandemic, which drained momentum, and restrictive fiscal policy options have also impeded them from putting forward solid recovery plans.  Attempts to finance medium- and long-term investments continue to add up to debt stress, while rising prices of commodities in the international market denote a worrisome trend, as many countries heavily depend on imports.  He noted climate change continues to test the resilience of least developed countries, with over 20 million people in his country exposed to a stern drought due to lack of sufficient rainfall for three consecutive years.  He called for adoption of the Programme of Action to be taken as a rallying cry to bring least developed countries out of difficult circumstances.  “Poverty alleviation in the least developed countries as our highest aspiration and goal requires meaningful partnership in development spheres without other political considerations,” he said.

The representative of Cambodia, aligning with the Group of 77 and China and the Least Developed Countries Group, said he is pleased to support the adoption of the Doha Programme of Action 2022-2031, the international community’s renewed commitment to support the least developed countries over the next 10 years. “This marks a significant momentum that serves as the milestone of attaining sustainable development in the LDCs,” he said.  The Programme will help implement the global goals and ensure social and economic recovery from the pandemic, including by building resilience against future shocks, eradicating poverty and enabling smooth graduation for countries from least developed country status.

The representative of Nepal said the least developed countries are the battleground on which the 2030 Agenda will be won or lost.  The Programme of Action recognizes their multiple structural challenges for economic transformation and secures renewed commitments from development partners to support them through internationally agreed goals and targets on ODA commitments, market access, debt relief, technology transfer and capacity-building.  Last time, the international community missed the target of the Istanbul Programme of Action; this time, it must enable 15 additional least developed countries to meet the graduation criteria by 2031.  There must be synergy between climate action and the pandemic recovery package.  Also, special attention should be given to the countries in the graduation pipeline and those that have recently graduated to ensure their smooth, sustainable, and irreversible graduation.  He called on development partners to meet their ODA commitments to spend 0.15 to 0.20 per cent of gross national income and repurpose their unused special drawing rights.  He cited other action areas such as enhancing international trade in the least developed countries to support their growth and their share of global exports.

The representative of Bhutan said the Doha Programme of Action was adopted within a challenging international context, beset with multiple crises and turmoil.  At the same time, the Programme represents a renewed and strengthened global partnership between least developed countries and development partners.  As it coincides with the formulation of Bhutan’s next development plan, the Programme will strengthen national efforts to transform its economy and make the country ready for the future.  Bhutan will graduate from the least developed country-status category in 2023.  Bhutan is pleased the Programme recognizes the indispensable role that international support measures play on the path to sustainable graduation.  As a small landlocked country, Bhutan is always mindful of its vulnerability to external shocks.  It can take only one glacial lake outburst flood, one major earthquake, or as in present times, another pandemic, to reverse hard earned development gains.  Bhutan expects the priorities contained in the Programme will be immediately mainstreamed in the activities of the United Nations funds and programmes, as well as find reflection in the assistance frameworks of development partners.

The representative of the United Kingdom said having targets is not enough, and the international community must ensure that social protection and inclusion are at the core of the development agenda.  This is fundamental for sustainable development, she stressed.  The Glasgow Climate Pact must urgently be implemented, in full, as the impacts of global warming are far worse than previously understood.  She urged the international community to accelerate adaptation finance and scale up support for loss and damage.   Private and public investment in least developed countries must be scaled up, championing the free flow of trade, capital and knowledge to drive economic growth.  Through British Investment Partnerships, the United Kingdom will mobilize up to £8 billion of United Kingdom-backed financing a year by 2025, partnering with capital markets and sovereign wealth funds to co-invest in projects and provide scale.  She also called for investment in science, technology and digitalization.  “We must bridge digital divides, while ensuring that human rights are protected offline and online,” she said.  She condemned the Russian Federation’s illegal, unprovoked and premeditated attack on Ukraine, which is also an attack on sovereignty, democracy and the Charter itself — one that will compound humanitarian crises around the world and further lead to global economic and social backsliding.

The representative of Maldives, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, noted the impact of the pandemic is far from over and has devastated least developed countries and small island developing States.  Economies have been thrown into disarray and strides made in achieving the 2030 Agenda have been wiped out, requiring the assistance of development partners more than ever.  In addition, the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has issued a stark warning that the window for adaptation is closing.  Access to climate financing must increase and the pledge of $100 billion in climate financing needs to be mobilized at the earliest.  He noted Maldives graduated from least developed country status in 2011 after being postponed due to the devastating impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.  “Our experience shows that the World Bank’s Country Income Groups’ current classifications are inadequate to accurately reflect the economies of least developed countries and small island developing States,” he said.  The pandemic contracted Maldives’ economy by 60 per cent and caused economic damages of over $4.6 billion.  “Overnight, we went from an upper-middle-income country to a no-income country,” he noted.  Therefore, a multidimensional vulnerability index is essential to give an accurate representation of those economies and assist international partners to direct ODA to where it is truly needed.  Least developed countries and small island developing States scheduled for graduation are among the most severely affected by the pandemic and need the same assistance that the Maldives received, and continues to receive, from partners post-graduation.

An observer for the Holy See said the Programme of Action includes clear identification of focus areas for action, including the need to achieve universal access to quality education, skills and lifelong learning for all, as education is a crucial enabler of sustainable development and social inclusion.  He also cited the commitment to achieve universal access to safe and affordable drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for all, as well as access to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services.  He further noted text on eliminating preventable maternal, infant and child deaths, and improving access to affordable quality health care.  While the Programme is an important step forward towards integral human development in the least developed countries, he expressed regret that the text and its impact are lessened by terms and concepts that are unclear, controversial, and long-disputed, expressing two reservations.  The Holy See interprets the terms sexual and reproductive health, sexual and reproductive health-care services, health services and related terms as applying to a holistic concept of health, not including abortion, access to abortion, or access to abortifacients.  He further stated that the term “gender” is understood as grounded in biological sexual identity, male or female.

The representative of Algeria, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said the Doha Programme of Action comes at a critical juncture.  The pandemic has hurt the least developed countries and jeopardized their hard-earned gains and the Programme is a key approach to help these countries, which represent the most vulnerable people.  The international community must intensify its efforts to help these countries meet many challenges, such as receiving vaccines, debt relief, the fight against illicit financial flows and climate action, he said, underscoring that it is important to support the targets outlined in the Programme of Action.

The representative of Hungary, associating herself with the European Union, said her country supported adoption of the Programme of Action, as it contains several important priorities and goals including poverty eradication, structural transformation, capacity-building and digitalization.  It represents a new generation of renewed and strengthened commitments between the least developed countries and their development partners, grounded in achieving rapid, sustainable and inclusive recovery from the pandemic and building resilience against future shocks, enabling graduation from the category.  This will facilitate access to sustainable and innovative financing, leveraging the power of science, technology and innovation.  Despite the importance of the document, her delegation could not support the migration-related paragraphs — in particular paragraphs 74, 75, 77 and the relevant targets — as mentioned in the explanation of position made at the last meeting of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee, and her delegation dissociated itself from them.

The representative of South Africa, aligning himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said he is pleased the conference process has progressed despite interruptions.  The huge obstacles resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have been amplified in magnitude and impact for the least developed countries.  The urgency of providing these countries with the maximum support possible cannot be overstated.  The citizens of these countries, not least their 226 million young people, need the opportunity to live lives of dignity.  South Africa is hopeful this important blueprint for the advancement of the least developed countries in the decade ahead will be matched with required support measures at the main conference in Doha in March 2023.

The representative of Gambia said extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, voicing hope that with the adoption of the landmark Programme of Action, the least developed countries will usher in a new era of transformation, innovation, revival and renewal.  In conjunction with accelerating implementation of Agenda 2030 during this Decade of Action, he urged the United Nations and the international community to mobilize action and solidarity towards implementing the Programme of Action, calling for them to work in partnership with the least developed countries.  This can ensure that the new Decade of the Doha Programme of Action will culminate in the graduation of more of those States with resilience and improved capacities for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of Uganda, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said the pandemic had exacerbated the existing vulnerabilities that the least developed countries faced and they are being left further behind in achieving the 2030 Agenda.  Uganda welcomes the Doha Programme as it provides a more enhanced, renewed and strengthened global partnership to support their graduation goals.  The mobilization of sufficient and adequate means of implementation is critical to help these countries reach their goals, he stressed.

The representative of Belgium, associating himself with the European Union, said 12 of 14 countries of its bilateral cooperation are least developed States.  The new Programme of Action comes at a crucial time for the international community.  Just as the world was beginning to see the end of the pandemic, it is once again confronted by a global disrupting event.  Apart from the horrible images of civilians dying and people fleeing from bombs and missiles, the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine has dramatic effect on the commodities market.  In times of crisis, the most disadvantaged countries always pay the highest price.  In its commitment, Brussels will focus on the first chapter of the Programme, investing in people in least developed countries to leave no one behind.  His country will also pay particular attention to youth issues and vaccine equity.

The representative of Nigeria, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the least developed countries face a particular vulnerability, particularly as a result of the pandemic.  Nigeria affirms that the Doha Programme is consistent with the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement and other internationally agreed pacts.  It is necessary to help these countries cope with the impact of the changing climate.  These countries need resources to enhance their infrastructure and reduce their debt.  Nigeria calls on all stakeholders to help the least developed countries establish national plans.

The representative of Belarus said her delegation joined consensus, as the Doha Programme will help consolidate international efforts and help overcome structural problems and the impact of pandemic faced by least developed countries.  The new 10-year Programme targets hunger, poverty, disease, inequality and employment, and will help to counter future shocks, assist graduation and tap into the potential of technology, innovation and trade.  She expressed hope it will be balanced in nature and based on intergovernmental decisions adopted within the United Nations.

The representative of Thailand said this moment represents a critical juncture as the international community approaches the midterm of the 2030 Agenda.  The pandemic effects have not been felt equally across the globe, with the least developed countries bearing the greatest impact.  COVID-19 vaccines and essential medical supplies must be equally accessible to all.  Thailand stresses the importance of achieving universal health coverage as a foundation for social protection and better preparedness for future health emergencies.  Homegrown and locally driven development approaches are crucial to help countries and communities recover from the crisis in a sustainable and inclusive manner, with more resilience.  Science, technology and innovation, as well as technology transfer and capacity-building, are crucial.  Sustainable financing is equally crucial as is partnership.

The representative of Haiti said that the Conference comes at just the right time, as the situation in least developed countries could not be more critical.  Noting Haiti is the only least developed country in the Americas, he said the Doha Programme of Action will help to define the way ahead for achieving sustainable development.  He cited recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, among other issues, as the solid basis for tangible actions.  The Programme is a very ambitious and innovative document, with great potential to assist the 1.1 billion inhabitants of the least developed countries, helping to close the gap in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  He voiced hope that it will act as a lever to build back better inclusively for all.

The representative of Myanmar said that according to the 2018 report of the Committee for Development Policy of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Myanmar met all three criteria to graduate from the least developed country status for the first time since it was listed in 1987.  Despite the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Myanmar's economy in 2020, the elected Government had been able to maintain its growth while protecting human lives with the appropriate socioeconomic relief policies.  Myanmar was on the right track to qualify for graduation from the list of least developed countries before the military coup in February 2021.  This illegal military coup halted the civilian Government’s democratic transition efforts and created turmoil and a heart-breaking situation in Myanmar.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that by early 2022 up to 25 million people, or almost half of Myanmar's population, will be living below the national poverty line.  Yet the people of Myanmar are resolute and will persevere to end the military dictatorship and to restore democracy in Myanmar as well as to double efforts for development of the country, he said.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said today should mark a positive milestone to express solidarity and support, but least developed countries continue to face inequalities.  In addition, noting the events of the last weeks have cast a dark and threatening cloud, he condemned the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified military invasion of Ukraine, with the involvement of Belarus — actions that grossly violate international law and the Charter, undermining international security and global stability.  The repercussions are already being felt across the world, with price shocks on fuel, food and other critical necessities having already emerged.  In today’s interconnected world the global impacts of the war cannot be overstated, and unfortunately, will be acute for the least developed countries.  He called for the Russian Federation to cease its use of force across Ukraine and withdraw its military forces, welcoming adoption of the Programme of Action in that sombre context.

In implementing the Programme, he called on the international community for greater efforts to promote access to social protection, universal health coverage, and equitable access to safe, affordable COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and health technologies in least developed countries.  The European Union will continue efforts to mobilize resources and boost sustainable public and private investment, and support least developed countries in debt relief and debt treatment.  In addition to supporting graduating least developed countries in smooth transition, he noted those in fragile situations or affected by conflict will require sustained international engagement.  While responsibility for their own development and implementation of the Programme of Action lies primarily with the least developed countries, stronger partnerships, international collaboration and dialogue will be at the heart of implementation.

Closing Remarks

HEIDI SCHRODERUS-FOX, Acting High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said for two years those countries have suffered more than most during the pandemic, and for decades before that, have struggled to have their needs fully recognized by the international community.  “Now the war in Ukraine adds yet more uncertainty,” she said, as food insecurity will grow in many least developed countries, where hunger has been on the rise for several years.  The international community must ensure that the needs of least developed countries will not be shuffled down the priority list for global action.  By signing this new promise today, the Programme of Action, “we say to the world that solidarity cannot be a zero-sum game”, she stated.  It is now more urgent than ever to work towards a new multilateralism to deliver a more secure, prosperous, equal, and healthy planet.

The Programme of Action is ambitious, forward-looking, and action-oriented, but “the document alone is not enough.  It is delivery that matters”, she stressed.  As there is no time to lose, her Office will immediately start preparations for a comprehensive road map for accelerated implementation of the Programme of Action embracing Member States, parliamentarians, the private sector and civil society.  The whole United Nations system is committed to implement the Programme, and agencies will bring their expertise in the six priority areas for action to the table.

“We can now look forward with confidence to finally gathering in Doha and enjoying the welcome you have been preparing so patiently,” she said, noting the Conference will consist of five full-day meetings focusing on the full implementation of the Programme of Action and deliverables for the least developed countries.  The Graduation Support Facility will deliver enhanced support for graduation, with advisory services to help countries prepare for a smooth process.  She also noted yesterday’s launch of the Action Framework of the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition.  Citing the alliance focusing on meaningful connectivity and digital transformation globally for the hardest-to-connect communities — especially in least developed countries — she urged more initiatives by all stakeholders to achieve the 117 targets of the Programme of Action.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Conference President, expressed gratitude to everyone for the adoption by consensus of the Doha Programme of Action, saying it has breathed new life into the Programme’s work and given an impetus to everyone.  Stressing that the least developed countries need international partnerships, she said the Programme’s adoption is another step forward and collective efforts will ensure its implementation by all stakeholders.  The Fifth Conference will be a unique opportunity to demonstrate cooperation through multilateralism.  It will build on the Istanbul Programme of Action to make the economies of the least developed countries more prosperous and inclusive, she said.

For information media. Not an official record.