High level side event on LDCs and MDGs

Least developed countries (LDCs) remain under constant strain due to global crises and face the most severe challenges in achieving the MDGs since more than half of their populations live below the poverty line. Dr. Arjun Karki from civil society watchdog LDC Watch spoke at a High level event on LDCs and MDGs held in New York on 21 September 2010.


Her Excellency Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh Madam Chair, His Excellency President of Turkey, His Excellency Prime Minister of Belgium, Minister Rawal, Heads of Government, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for this opportunity. Today, I will be speaking about LDC civil society perspectives on the LDCs and MDGs. Despite three UN Conferences on LDCs and three specific Programmes of Action, in the last 40 years, the number of LDCs has more than doubled, rising from 24 in 1971 to 49 today. Today, around 850 million of the world’s citizens continue to live without access to adequate food, clean water, education, health, energy and other essential services in the LDCs. More than half of this population also lives with gender related discrimination that stands in the way of sustainable development, social justice and human rights. By 2015, the year by which the international community committed to achieve the MDGs, the number of people living in the LDCs will have risen to 925 million.

Madam Chair,

The world has witnessed multiple crises in recent years: the global financial and economic crises, food crisis, energy or fuel crisis, and the calamities brought about by human-induced climate change. Unprecedented sea level rise is threatening the very existence of the Small Island LDCs in the Pacific region, whereas many LDCs in Africa are suffering the consequences of desertification and erratic precipitation. Similarly, South Asian LDCs such as Bangladesh and Nepal are experiencing severe flooding and climate induced migration due to rapidly melting glaciers in the Himalayas. Today, citizens in LDCs are increasingly bearing the brunt of these global catastrophes that they have had no hand in creating. A large number of LDCs are also facing malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS epidemics that threaten millions of lives and thereby reduce the healthy, productive workforce of some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. These global crises are having profound implications, and further jeopardise the possibilities for achieving the MDGs and the Brussels Programme of Action for LDCs (BPoA).

In addition, the majority of LDCs are also facing the spiralling effects of debt crisis. At present, many LDC governments are forced to allocate more of their national budgets to servicing debts than they spend on education and health. We firmly believe that the MDGs cannot be met this way. There will be NO MDGs without LDCs! We therefore call for immediate, total and unconditional cancellation of all LDC debts – on the basis of rights and justice, and not charity. This is vital for eradicating poverty, hunger, meeting the other MDGs and enabling countries to graduate from LDC status. Further, despite commitments to provide duty-free and quota-free market access for LDCs, tariffs are still levied on LDC exports such as textiles and agricultural products, by both developed and developing countries. The issues of non-tariff barriers and stringent rules of origin requirements further hinder fair access of LDC exports to markets. Such unfair terms of trade are severely undermining employment and economic growth. LDC Watch therefore calls for the establishment of systems of trade, finance and technology transfer that are fair, pro-poor, equitable, and in the interests of LDC countries.

Madam Chair,

Despite various commitments made at international fora, financial commitments have not been honoured.   Africa was told in 2005 by its donors to expect about $60 billion in 2010; however, the actual amount is less than 75 percent of the pledged amount. Similarly, ODA figures also mask the huge geographic disparities in the distribution of aid to LDCs. In 2007, 55 percent of LDC aid went to only 8 countries. At the top of this list was Afghanistan. As a result, 84 percent of the LDC population were forced to share 45 percent of the aid flows. This is disturbing evidence of a coverage gap in ODA to LDCs.

Madam Chair, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We emphasise that the international community must honour its financial commitments and put its money firmly where its mouth is. LDC Watch demands that ODA be used for its rightful purpose, which is to address pockets of poverty, uphold human rights and address gender justice and social exclusion by promoting pro-poor development and empowerment. If the MDGs are to be met at all by 2015, strategies and efforts must, in the next five years, be re-oriented towards the more than 850 million people living in the LDCs. ODA must also use country systems, ensure country ownership and not only aid effectiveness, but development effectiveness.

In the lead up to UN LDC IV, LDC Watch is seriously engaged in the review process of the BPoA, in which we are working closely with High Representative Mr. Diarra and his colleagues at OHRLLS and with the Government of Turkey – the host of LDC IV; we are grateful for the support we have received from these offices so far. Finally, we have been engaging closely with the LDC Bureau, and are particularly thankful to the Government of Nepal for their strong cooperation.

The international community has made repeated promises to the LDCs. Now it is time to get serious, and translate promises into action. We as LDC civil society call upon LDC governments to prioritise pro-poor and inclusive development, and take strong steps to tackle corruption. In the run-up to LDC IV, we also call upon member states to establish a UN LDC Campaign, coordinated under the auspices of UN-OHRLLS. Finally, we look forward to working in partnership with you all on this, and on developing an effective, new-generation LDC Programme of Action for the coming decade.

Thank you all for your attention.