Delegates Call for Heightened Commitment to Official Development Assistance, as Second Committee Debates Groups of Countries in Special Situations

| October 18, 2017

Speakers stressed the need to increase official development assistance (ODA), build infrastructure, widen export bases and stimulate trade in least developed and landlocked developing countries, as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) took up groups of countries today.

Bangladesh’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said her group was limited by narrow production and export bases, stagnant trade, low investment flows and widespread poverty.  Expressing concern over inward-looking and restrictive policies of development partners, she called for timely implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

Climate change was also undermining development efforts, she said, as were difficulties in accessing the Green Climate Fund and Least Developed Countries Fund.  She lauded the newly established Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, but said the United Nations development system must reposition itself to better support the world’s most vulnerable States.

Addressing development finance, Ecuador’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern that total official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries had declined from $41 billion in 2014 to $37.3 billion in 2015.  Preliminary data from 2016 showed that bilateral ODA to least developed countries had further decreased by 3.9 per cent, compared to 2015.

Urging the international community to meet its ODA commitments, Ethiopia’s representative noted that 35 per cent of the population of least developed nations would remain in poverty in 2030.  “It is certainly correct to state that the battle of achieving the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] would be won or lost in least developed countries,” he said.

Addressing the plight of landlocked developing countries and speaking on their behalf, Zambia’s representative said attracting resources and investments in infrastructure development was a major challenge.  Accordingly, he called on the international community to support efforts by the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries through technical assistance, investment and public-private partnerships.

Establishing and maintaining secure, reliable, high-quality sustainable infrastructure, including transport, energy and information and communications technology (ICT), were critical to reducing the high costs of trade, he added.  World Trade Organization (WTO) members should implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement and development partners should provide technical, financial and capacity-building support.

Sandagdorj Erdenebileg, of the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action (document A/72/272).

Noting that efforts were underway to expand and upgrade road and rail transport infrastructure in landlocked areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America, he said substantial expansion as well as maintenance requirements were still urgently needed.  On international trade, he observed that landlocked countries accounted for a low share of global merchandise exports at just .88 per cent in 2016, down from .96 per cent in 2015.

He also introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on crisis mitigation and resilience-building for the least developed countries (document A/72/270) and implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020 (document A/72/83-E/2017/60).

Also speaking were the representatives of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Maldives (also for the Alliance of Small Island States), Zambia (for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries), Haiti (for the Caribbean Community), El Salvador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), India, Russian Federation, Moldova, Botswana, Mongolia, Thailand, Bhutan, Tajikistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Brazil, Kuwait, China, Lesotho, Myanmar, Mali, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Maldives and Timor-Leste.

A representative of the International Chamber of Commerce also spoke.

The Committee will meet again on Wednesday, 18 October, at 10 a.m. to take up the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

Introduction of Reports

SANDAGDORJ ERDENEBILEG, Chief of the Policy Development, Coordination, Monitoring and Reporting of the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011 to 2020 (document A/72/83-E/2017/60).  He said the average gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of least developed countries was estimated to have increased to 4.5 per cent in 2016 from 3.8 per cent in 2015, but that rate was well below the target of 7 per cent growth.  Progress towards building productive capacity was stagnant, as the share of manufacturing increased only marginally to 12.7 per cent in 2015 from 12.1 per cent in 2014.  Investment declined in 2015 to 23.5 per cent of GDP, down from 25 per cent in 2014.  He commended the establishment of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries and the related contribution agreement which was signed in 2017.  In terms of human and social development, he expressed concern that 32 million children remained out of school from 2009 to 2015 and that millions of persons suffered from food insecurity in South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

Additionally, he noted that bilateral official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries fell by 3.9 per cent in 2016 compared to 2015.  The foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to least developed countries also declined in 2016 by 13 per cent and only accounted for 2 per cent of the world.  In terms of governance, 14 least developed countries were considered compliant with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and six became candidate countries.  Numerous least developed countries also reached the graduation threshold and others were set to graduate soon.  To that end, he urged all stakeholders to reverse the declining trend in ODA, FDI and trade, all of which were critical for the sustainable development of least developed countries.

Mr. Erdenebileg next introduced the Secretary-General’s report on crisis mitigation and resilience-building for the least developed countries (document A/72/270).  He noted that least developed countries were highly exposed to shocks, as they often had topographies with geological fault lines, floodplains and coastal area, placing them at high risk of earthquakes, cyclones, flooding and typhoons.  Climate change and increasing globalization made them even more vulnerable to external shocks.  Many had experienced various disasters and shocks with consequences of a high magnitude.  Also, most least developed countries were commodity-dependent and market shocks had severe consequences on their economies.

Severe external shocks and crises not only halted the pace of economic progress and exacerbated poverty, but also undermined the capacity of least developed countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said.  Most losses in those countries were uninsured and Governments did not have the financial reserves or access to contingency financing that allowed them to absorb losses, recover and rebuild quickly.  Least developed countries did not have the necessary resources to establish effective resilience-building mechanisms.  Indemnity-based commercial insurance was not available to them for most natural hazards, as the market was simply non-existent or insufficiently developed.  Least developed countries needed increased international assistance, both technical and financial, to build their resilience and gain access to capital market-based risk transfer mechanisms in the form of insurance and catastrophe bonds.

Concluding, he introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action (document A/72/272).  He noted that landlocked developing countries had experienced a decline in annual GDP growth, which fell from 3.5 per cent in 2015 to an estimated 2.6 per cent in 2016.  They had also experienced a reduction in their under‑five mortality rates, HIV incident rate and prevalence of undernourishment, malaria and tuberculosis.  Efforts were under way to expand and upgrade road and rail transport infrastructure in Asia, Africa and Latin America.  However, there were still missing links that needed to be closed and substantial expansion as well as maintenance requirements were also urgently needed.

The average proportion of population with access to electricity in landlocked developing countries had increased from 42 per cent in 2010 to 49 per cent in 2014, he continued.  Regarding information and communications technology (ICT), they lagged behind other groups of countries and faced high costs for broadband.  On international trade, landlocked developing countries accounted for a low share of global merchandise exports at just .88 per cent in 2016, declining from .96 per cent in 2015.  Their merchandise exports remained highly concentrated on commodities, as the share of commodities exports averaged 83.1 per cent in 2015.

Interactive Discussion

The representative of Nigeria asked for information on the strategies and recommendations to address maternal mortality and children’s education in least developed countries.  In response, Mr. ERDENEBILEG said the United Nations system organizations had dedicated support mechanisms that addressed those issues.  Efforts included the promotion of trade and access to global markets as well as programmes to support the enrolment of children in schooling.

Statements

DIEGO FERNANDO MOREJÓN PAZMIÑO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said ODA had continued to be the critical source of external financing for least developed States, providing a buffer to weather impacts of the unstable and volatile global economic environment.  He expressed concern that total ODA from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee countries to least developed States had declined from $41 billion in 2014 to $37.3 billion in 2015.  Furthermore, preliminary data from 2016 showed that bilateral net ODA to least developed countries had further decreased by 3.9 per cent compared to 2015.  He also noted that such countries were disproportionately affected by systemic shocks, including the economic crisis, commodity price volatility, health epidemics, natural hazards and other environmental shocks.  Such events not only halted the pace of economic progress, but undermined their capacity to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

The Group recognized the special development needs and challenges of landlocked developing countries, arising from their remoteness from world markets and geographical constraints, he said.  Those disadvantages imposed serious impediments for export earnings, private capital inflow and domestic resource mobilization, adversely affecting their overall sustainable development.  He stressed that infrastructure development played a key role in reducing the cost of development for landlocked developing countries and that the development and maintenance of transit transport infrastructure, ICT and energy infrastructure were crucial for them to reduce high trading costs, improve competitiveness and become fully integrated into the global market.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) spoke on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and aligned himself with the Group of 77.  He expressed hope that the international community would translate their commitments into concrete action, especially for the benefit of least developed countries and landlocked developing States.

He said his region placed great importance on providing support to least developed and landlocked developing countries in addressing their development challenges, particularly in relation to their geographical handicaps and structural vulnerabilities.  Under the regional cooperation framework, he recognized the existence of development gaps among ASEAN States and thus highlighted the important work of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration Work Plan III which assisted less developed countries in capacity-building activities.

SHANCHITA HAQUE (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating herself with the Group of 77, said that structural transformation was slower in her Group than in other developing States due to institutional and capacity constraints.  Those limitations included narrow production and export bases, stagnant trade and investment flows, weak land and natural governance, and widespread poverty.  The principle of State ownership remained crucial and the nations in the Group were committed to take the lead in formulating, implementing, following up and reviewing their own coherent economic and development policies to implement the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020, she said.

Expressing concern about the inward-looking and restrictive policies adopted by some development partners, she called for the timely implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  Further, climate change was undermining development efforts and there were difficulties in accessing and utilizing the Green Climate Fund as well as the Least Developed Countries Fund.  Thanking Turkey for its generous contribution to the newly established and operationalized Technology Bank, she said that the Organization’s development system must reposition itself to effectively support the most vulnerable countries of the world.

Mr. RAUSHAN (Maldives), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that eight of his bloc’s members had least developed country status.  While none of them were landlocked, they were all “sea-locked”.  As island and coastal States, they understood the unique challenges faced due to remoteness, highly dispersed populations, limited connectivity, poor infrastructure and transport, among other characteristics.  The Maldives had only graduated from the status of least developed country six years earlier, he pointed out, adding that targeted approaches were necessary to support the efforts of countries in special situations to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.

He went on to highlight the need for all countries in special situations to consider transparent measurements of progress on sustainable development that moved beyond per capita income.  Income-based indicators reflected neither a society’s holistic advancement nor its vulnerabilities, he observed, and did not address the unique circumstances and challenges of each country.  That distinction became even more pertinent when assessing countries for graduation because many least developed nations on track for graduation were extremely vulnerable to shocks such as large-scale disasters.  Such occurrences could not be stopped, but better graduating policies could be formulated and better safety nets provided for newly graduating countries so they could make smoother and more successful transitions.  As such, he called on the Secretary-General to ensure that the system was better equipped to address and respond to countries in special situations, both in his repositioning of the United Nations development system and his broader reform of the Organization.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said it was critical that the special challenges of those countries be mainstreamed into the 2030 Agenda follow-up processes.  The Group emphasized the importance of fostering synergies and coherence in the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and other critical development processes.  The establishment and maintenance of secure, reliable, efficient, high-quality sustainable infrastructure, including transport, transit systems, energy and ICT, remained critical to reducing the high costs of trade and transport, particularly for the Group’s countries.

The magnitude of resources and investments in infrastructure development was a major challenge, he continued, calling upon the international community to support the Group’s efforts through technical assistance, facilitating investment and strengthening public-private partnerships.  He also called on World Trade Organization (WTO) members to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement and called on development partners to provide technical, financial and capacity-building support.  Inclusive and sustainable industrialization was critical for the structural transformation of economies.  Meanwhile, regional integration and ensuring coherent regional policies was essential to enhancing connectivity, improving regional trade and linkages with regional and global value chains.  The Group expressed concern with the stagnating trend of ODA as well as the sharp decline in FDI.  It also stressed the importance of continued support and international cooperation on efforts in adaptation and mitigation to climate change and strengthening resilience.

ASTRIDE NAZAIRE (Haiti), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with the Group of 77, said that least developed countries continued to face a set of interconnected global challenges.  For one, ODA remained the most important source of external development finance for them.  “It is therefore a matter of grave concern that the total ODA from donor countries to least developed countries declined,” she said.  Developed countries must step up efforts to increase their ODA and make additional concrete efforts towards the ODA targets.  Since most least developed countries struggled to mobilize domestic resources, it was essential to increase domestic public finance including at the subnational level.  That would help enhance Governments’ abilities to provide public services, finance infrastructure and help manage macroeconomic stability.

Coordination of support for domestic resource mobilization and the recognition of the importance of country ownership was crucial, she continued.  To that end, it was essential to reduce illicit financial flows by 2030 with a view to eventually eliminate them.  Technology transfer and South‑South cooperation were vital.  While some least developed States were graduating from the category of countries by 2020, it was important to keep in mind that they would still face significant challenges.  In that context, she called on the United Nations and development partners for more institutionalized and coordinated support to countries graduating from that group.  She also emphasized the need to support least developed countries in addressing climate change, noting the heavy toll on the Caribbean region with back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed hope that the mid-term review of the Istanbul Programme of Action and the monitoring results of the fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries would be positive.  Similarly, he welcomed the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014‑2024 through General Assembly resolutions 69/137 and 69/232.

To that end, he reaffirmed his Group’s commitment to promote the consideration of special needs and challenges of landlocked developing countries, in accordance with those agreements.

ASHISH KUMAR SINHA (India), associating himself with the Group of 77, pointed out that more than one‑fourth the total Member States of the United Nations continued to be recognized as least developed countries, a fact that reflected the “huge scale” of the challenges faced and the work required to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  Among other things, the needs of countries in special situations included the diversification of economies; education and skills to expand countries’ human resources bases; better infrastructure and connectivity; access to affordable energy and emerging technologies; resilience to natural hazards or external economic shocks; debt burden management; and better terms of international trade and investment.  Expressing hope that the Technology Bank would facilitate the building of national capacities, he said India had longstanding development partnerships with other developing nations, focused on the sharing of technological expertise and financial assistance as well as the provision of scholarships and training.  In 2008, India had become the first emerging economy to offer a duty-free trade preference scheme to provide market access to least developed countries, and in 2015 it had extended an additional concessional credit of $10 billion to African countries over the next five years.

Mr. MASLOV (Russian Federation) commended national strategies and programmes aimed at strengthening the development of least developed and landlocked developed countries, but said additional support should be given to facilitate employment and economic diversification.  In that regard, he encouraged a greater role for the Technology Bank.  His country worked to broaden the access of least developed countries’ goods into global markets through the Eurasian preferential tariff, which benefitted 48 least developed States.  To that end, it provided concessions in the form of $3.13 million in 2016 and $2 million in 2017.  His country encouraged the stabilization of food prices and commodities and participated in international humanitarian efforts to provide food aid to States, both bilaterally and multilaterally.  In collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Russian Federation provided 30 States with $220 million of food aid.  His country also supported long-term development and food security programmes, including a 3‑year programme with a $6 million budget to strengthen agriculture, which was led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  His Government also provided $3.3 million to combat the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

VICTOR MORARU (Republic of Moldova), reaffirming his country’s commitment to the development priorities listed in the Vienna Programme of Action, outlined recent progress in improving his nation’s business climate.  Among other things, the Government had optimized the regulatory framework, expanded business support infrastructure and established a “one-stop shop” for all public sector services to enable both citizens and the private sector to easily access information.  Free economic zones, offering customs and tax benefits, had been created across the country to attract foreign investment, resulting in the diversification of Moldovan imports and the creation of new jobs.  While the Secretary-General’s report highlighted slight progress achieved by least developed States in several  areas, including the eradication of extreme poverty, it also noted challenges faced by landlocked developing countries in their pursuit of sustainable development.  Significant resources were therefore still required to achieve the priorities set out in the Vienna Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals, he said.

TLHALEFO BATSILE MADISA (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that it was a well-known fact that the latter were confronted with challenges that pertained to their geographical disadvantage.  Botswana attached great importance to the effective implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and had made significant strides in that regard.  That implementation had not been undertaken in isolation but alongside already existing strategies and policies, he said.  Higher transit costs and cross-border delays in landlocked developing countries militated against their integration into the global trading system.  Botswana had signed numerous treaties to facilitate the free movement of peace and goods through its territory.

ENKHTSETSEG OCHIR (Mongolia) said her country was working with the Russian Federation and China to build a tripartite economic corridor to improve transit in the region.  In June 2016, the three countries had agreed on basic principles, a mechanism of coordination and priority projects for the corridor.  Her Government had recently decided to set up an investment and research centre at its Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the tripartite economic corridor’s focal point.  The corridor would promote increased trade turnover, cross-border transportation and improved competitiveness.  The establishment and maintenance of secure, reliable, efficient infrastructure also remained critical to reducing the high cost of trade and transport and enhancing the integration of landlocked developing countries into global markets.  In addition, her country had learned that diversification of the economy was crucial.  Mining still dominated Mongolia’s economy, making it vulnerable to external shocks.  Her Government would make sustained efforts to diversify with value-added production in other sectors, with a strong emphasis on green development and ICT.

YONATHAN GUEBREMEDHIM SIMON (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that 35 per cent of the population of least developed nations would remain in poverty in 2030.  “It is certainly correct to state that the battle of achieving the 2030 Agenda would be won or lost in least developed countries,” he said.  Least developed countries should be the primary beneficiaries of international cooperation, and in that regard, he expressed concern that the current global circumstance was not favourable enough to realize the vision of leaving no one behind.  He noted that the bilateral net ODA to least developed countries was $24 billion in 2016, representing a fall of 3.9 per cent compared with 2015.  He urged for the international community to meet its ODA commitments and called for enhanced resource allocation within the development system to give priority to least developed countries.  Similarly, he encouraged development partners to fulfil their commitments to the Istanbul Programme of Action and the Vienna Programme of Action.  For its part, Ethiopia had mainstreamed those agreements into its national transformation plan for 2010 to 2015, its second national plan for 2015 to 2020 and its national development plan.

PUNNAPA PARDUNGYOTEE (Thailand), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said that least developed and landlocked developing countries were endowed with enormous human and natural resources.  They had the potential to contribute to sustained and inclusive global economic growth with the proper international support aimed at strengthening their capacity to cope with various global challenges.  She stressed that all stakeholders must do their part in mobilizing available resources to achieve sustainable development and emphasized that ODA, domestic resource mobilization through good governance and public-private partnerships were critical.  South‑South and triangular cooperation were important frameworks in assisting developing countries as well.  She noted that as part of Thailand’s commitment to the WTO, it was among developing countries granted duty‑free and quota‑free market access for thousands of products.  Thailand had also signed free trade agreements with several least developed countries.

SONAM TOBGAY (Bhutan), associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that the Committee for Development Policy, at its next triennial review in March, would consider Bhutan, along with five other countries, for possible graduation from the least development country category.  Graduation represented a moment of national satisfaction, and also was a testament to successful partnership and collaboration between his country and its development partners, he said.  However, he pointed out that challenges remained, adding that while Bhutan had achieved the income and human asset index criteria, it fell far behind in the economic vulnerability index which was critical to ensuring sustained economic growth and development.  He also highlighted the importance of smooth transition and continued support, noting that some development partners were withdrawing from his country because of its modest success.  As the Secretary-General had stated, he recalled, “graduation should not be punished, but instead, rewarded”.

JONIBEK HIKMATOV (Tajikistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that lack of access remained a main obstacle for the integration of the latter States into the global trading system.  As a landlocked developing country, Tajikistan encouraged strong synergy and implementation of development objectives at all levels.  His country had promoted efforts to strengthen its transit infrastructure, facilitated trade, simplified its customs regulations and offered tax benefits through free economic zones.  He recalled the agreement to establish an international think tank for landlocked developing countries, and said his nation would support its efforts to advance the interest of landlocked developing countries at the global level.  Noting that Tajikistan was yet to overcome structural and developmental challenges, he said that the lack of access to sea markets interfered with integration of landlocked developing countries into the world trade system.  Similarly, he urged all States to cease economic and unsubstantiated barriers to trade and transportation.  On climate change, he said that more than 2,000 people suffered annually in his country due to the damage caused by environmental and natural hazards.  To address existing challenges, Tajikistan furthered efforts to enhance its transportation, communication, electrical and energy routes and markets.  He encouraged donor countries to extend greater support through technological and financial assistance, including through grants and concessional loans.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that least developed States faced unprecedented challenges owing to their structural weaknesses.  In that context, he underscored the importance of a “sustainable and smooth graduation process” by ensuring enhanced, predictable and continued international support to those nations graduating from the least developed category.  “The core issue here is not the mere acknowledgement of their specific challenges but the fulfilment of the means of implementation — its sources, reliability, predictability and sustainability,” he said.  The role of technology was vital to help develop least developed countries, he stressed, calling for an effective operationalization of the Technology Bank.  “Landlockedness” was now known to make development 20 per cent costlier and incur double price for export with disasters and climate change further aggravating challenges.  Nepal continued to face such challenges, and was therefore focusing on developing connectivity, trade facilitation, transfer of technology and promote investment.

SHERWIN LUMBAN TOBING (Indonesia) said special attention must be paid in addressing diverse needs and challenges faced by African countries, least developed nations, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States.  Many of those countries were disproportionately confronted with various systemic shocks, including unfavourable macroeconomic situations, conflicts, humanitarian emergencies, natural hazards and climate change.  Such shocks impeded efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda and could reverse developmental achievements.  The international community must enhance support for implementation of international agreements and provide ODA to help those countries overcome vulnerabilities and build resilience.  Debt restructuring must be prioritized for countries impacted by conflicts or natural hazards.  Investment in infrastructure must be encouraged to generate employment and help countries integrate better with the world economy.  Investment was also needed to diversify their economies, thus avoiding over-reliance on limited export commodities.

PHILIP FOX-DRUMMOND GOUGH (Brazil) said that the slow pace of recovery in the world economy had had a significant impact on developing countries’ capacity to mobilize resources towards sustainable development.  That challenge was particularly true for the least developed and landlocked least developed countries.  Least developed States needed improved global support to overcome the structural challenges they faced in implementing the 2030 Agenda, he said.  The midterm review of the Istanbul Programme of Action in 2016 renewed the collective impetus for achieving the goals included in its eight priority areas, with a view to meeting the general goal of graduating half of all least developed countries by 2020.

FAWAZ BOURISLY (Kuwait), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the effects of climate change had negatively impacted the economies and infrastructure of the least developed countries.  He said the “lack of respect” by donors to their international commitments resulted in a decrease in the rates of ODA.  For the tenth consecutive year, Kuwait committed to provide 10 per cent of its assistance to the least developed countries.  His Government also fulfilled its ODA commitments and provided 12 least developed countries with technological assistance and preferential and flexible loans through its Kuwait-Arab Economic Fund.  Kuwait also provided development cooperation to 106 countries, particularly through efforts to mobilize the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and Africa. Since 2015, his country allocated $15 million each year to finance development projects through the Kuwaiti Fund for Economic Development.

ZHANG YANHUA (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that with three years left to implement the Istanbul Program of Action, least developed countries continued to face multiple challenges and obstacles in their development efforts.  He called on all parties to work together to translate promises into action, implement the outcome document of the Comprehensive High-level Midterm Review of the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020 and work at enabling half of the least developed States to meet the criteria for graduation by 2020.  All countries, especially developed ones, must meet their commitments and help landlocked developing nations overcome numerous challenges, such as complex transit requirements and high transport costs.  He noted ways China was supporting countries in special situations through South‑South cooperation.  His State was also writing off certain eligible countries’ debts, providing aid for trade, increasing investment in the least developed countries and extending zero tariff treatment.

KELEBONE MAOPE (Lesotho), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, underlined the vital importance of reducing the vulnerability of States in those groups to the economic, social and environmental shocks to which they were prone.  Lesotho had mainstreamed the Istanbul Programme of Action into its national development agenda, known as National Vision 2020, as well as its strategic development plan for 2012‑2017, with the aim of facilitating its graduation from the group of least developed countries soon.  While implementation had been slow, reforms and initiatives aimed at fast-tracking those development plans were now underway, including a national jobs creation strategy.  As a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Lesotho was addressing the challenges presented by its landlocked status within the framework of the Community’s Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, which sought to improve vehicles’ freedom of transit from one member State to another to facilitate trade.  It was also a member of the Southern African Customs Union, among other relevant regional agreements.

AYE MYA MYA KHAING (Myanmar), associating herself with the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of 77, said structural transformation had occurred more slowly in least developed States than other developing countries.  Poverty was very real due to decreased trade and investment, which was exacerbated by environmental degradation and disappearing biological diversity.  ODA was still the largest external means of financing for least developed countries, but that assistance had declined in 2016.  She encouraged developed nations to meet their ODA commitments.  Noting that technology and innovation were key engines for sustainability, she welcomed establishment of the Technology Bank, as least developed countries lagged behind in that area.

NOËL DIARRA (Mali) associated himself with the Group of 77, the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries and the Group of Least Developed Countries.  A landlocked developing country, Mali had established a transit agreement protocol for goods with all its bordering neighbours, and created a private transport sector that comprised professional public entities with the autonomy to deal with transit countries.  Stressing that a lack of access to coastlines and high transport costs had hindered Mali’s economic development, he urged all States to implement the Vienna Programme of Action and the Istanbul Programme of Action.  Faced with a lack of resources, famine, malnutrition and widespread poverty, Mali welcomed the establishment of the Technology Bank, and called on partners to support capacity building, foreign investment and cooperation.  Similarly, he expressed concern over decreasing ODA and urged them to fulfil their financial promises.

Ms. HAMDOUNI (Morocco) said least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States faced major difficulties in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  The international community must take specific measures to integrate those countries into the global economy.  Many least developed countries needed enhanced ODA and FDI in areas guaranteeing a sustainable economy.  Diversification of their economies was also vital for sustainable growth and strengthening resilience to shocks.  Realization of donor promises was crucial in offsetting financial limits those countries had endured.  Morocco was cooperating with least developed countries and small island developing States in the Pacific region, providing know-how transfer and technical assistance.

ONISMO CHIGEJO (Zimbabwe) stressed the importance of international cooperation in achieving the Vienna Programme of Action, and thus, called on partners to help close the infrastructure gaps in landlocked developing countries.  For its part, Zimbabwe had set up one-stop border posts to encourage the seamless flow of goods, people and vehicles, as well as improved trade through efficient customs procedures.  It had upgraded customs technology at border posts and rehabilitated highways to facilitate cross-border movement.  Yet, Zimbabwe still needed to add value to its agricultural and mining products, undergo appropriate skill training and enhance funding to achieve its development goals.  Evidence-based data should be collected by landlocked developing countries and provided to the international community so appropriate support might be given.  It was also vital to ensure that coastal neighbours remained economically healthy, as they were crucial portals to landlocked countries.

LEONARD NKHOMA (Zambia), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said his State had been integrating the Istanbul Programme of Action priorities into its development planning framework.  That started with the formulation of a national vision to become a prosperous middle-income nation by 2030.  He supported the call for increased domestic resource mobilization and fulfilling ODA commitments, to drive productive capacity and place least developed countries on a path towards sustainable development.  Zambia’s economy had improved in recent months, with GDP growth projected to reach 4 per cent in 2017.  However, sustaining high and inclusive growth required a stable macroeconomic environment, and he called for new actions to reduce poverty, notably by:  promoting industrialization and diversification of the agricultural sector, improving incentives in the tourism and manufacturing sectors, and investing in research and development in key economic sectors.

KHAMPHINH PHILAKONE (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Group of 77, ASEAN, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said members of the latter two groups would not be able to overcome their special development needs without support and cooperation from the international community.  The Lao People’s Democratic Republic was a least developed and landlocked nation that faced multidimensional challenges in its national development, including limited productive capacity due to low skill levels, lack of technology for industrialization, insufficient infrastructure and remoteness from the world market.  To address those issues, the country was mainstreaming the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the Istanbul Plan of Action and the Vienna Programme of Action, into its national policies.  The Government had also increased investment in roads and railways linking the country with the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway networks.

Mr. RAUSHAN (Maldives), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said countries in special situations continued to seek the opportunity to build resilience to achieve prosperity.  Least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States must be provided a “level playing field” where they could forge enduring partnerships for economic and social development.  Despite graduating from the list of least developed countries seven years ago, the Maldives faced extremely high costs of providing basic services and building critical infrastructure.  He stressed the need to revisit the graduation criteria and process as the current one did not consider the country’s resilience.  “When a small island State, with a small and extremely dependent economy, with just one or two industries, is graduated from the protections provided within the LDC [least developed country] category, there is no doubt that country becomes more vulnerable,” he said.  A more holistic approach must be considered.

JOAQUIM JOSE COSTA CHAVES (Timor-Leste) associating himself with the Group of 77, said that as a small island developing State, his country understood the challenges of sustainable development.  He welcomed the establishment of the Technology Bank and said that partnerships among the Government, private sector and civil society would be fundamental. Timor-Leste provided support to conflict-affected countries, notably to share experience in elections, help manage extractive resources and advocate the “New Deal” principles.  Moreover, it had promoted economic cooperation while serving as President of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, from 2014 to 2016, and as a member of the Pathfinders and 16+ Forum. He called for additional and predictable financing to help least developed countries, small island developing States, countries emerging from and in conflict situations, and Non-Self-Governing Territories.

HIROKO MURAKI GOTTLIEB, speaking on behalf of the International Chamber of Commerce, said WTO had estimated that effective implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement could reduce trade costs by an average of 14.3 per cent, with developing countries benefitting even more.  That Agreement could also create 20 million jobs.  It would also foster cooperation and coordination of various stakeholders at the national level via the National Committee for Trade Facilitation.  That collaboration would drive maximum gains for stakeholders, she said.

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