Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

21 June 2012

Secretary-General's remarks to the High-Level Side Event on LDCs

We have come to Rio to forge the future we want.

The time is right.  The world is facing continued economic turbulence,  growing inequality, environmental decline.  

We need a 21st-Century rethink of our approach to development.  

In a word, the world needs inclusive growth – growth that integrates the economic, social and environmental pillars instead of creating false choices between them.

The needs and concerns of Least Developed Countries are front and centre in Rio.  

That is how it should be. LDCs must remain the focus of our attention.

LDCs are among the most vulnerable countries.  They are disproportionately affected by environmental challenges and natural disasters, poverty and hunger, gender issues and youth unemployment.
At the same time, LDCs represent enormous reservoirs of untapped potential.  Investing our energies and our support in LDCs is an opportunity for all.
Last year we agreed on an LDC action plan in Istanbul – and a renewed effort to boost aid effectiveness in Busan.

The Rio agenda is crucial to realizing those ambitious goals.

We know that over-reliance on agricultural exports exposes LDCs to the double threat of economic and environmental shocks. Land degradation and desertification in LDCs also carry a high human cost.

We must work together to enhance resilience through support, knowledge sharing and economic diversification.

We need to make a special effort for fragile and conflict-affected areas which are home to more than 1.5 billion people.  We are working on a New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States that focuses on peacebuilding and statebuilding.

And, more broadly, we need to expand avenues for LDCs to fight poverty, boost efficiency and provide new opportunities for the marginalized.

Let me point to three crucial areas.  

First, sustainable energy.

Most LDCs have low and unreliable access to energy, high energy costs coupled with low investment.

We have made significant progress in Rio to advance sustainable energy for all, an approach that links development, social inclusion and environmental protection.

We must sustain this momentum so that LDCs enjoy modern sources of energy to fuel their development.  

Second, food and nutrition security.

My “Zero Hunger Challenge” envisions a world where everyone has access to enough nutritious food all year round, where we end malnutrition in pregnancy and early childhood. A world with sustainable food systems everywhere, reduced losses of food after production, and greater opportunity for smallholder farmers, especially women, who produce most of the world’s food.  

Third, gender equality.

Any serious shift towards sustainable development requires the empowerment and full participation of the world’s women.

The Istanbul Programme of Action stresses equal access to education, basic services, health care, economic opportunities and decision making at all levels.  This will make a big contribution to sustainable development in LDCs.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Rio is not the end of the road, it is a beginning.  

A beginning of a process to define sustainable development goals that build on the Millennium Development Goals, to safeguard people and our planet, to create the future we want.

Our discussions have highlighted the specific challenges and needs of LDCs.  This will give a much needed push to the implementation [of] the Istanbul Programme of Action.

Together, let us keep working to expand opportunity, dignity and hope to the most vulnerable around the world.  

Thank you very much.