The intergovernmental Preparatory Committee for the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries concluded its second session today, after a week of negotiations on a new 10-year road map for sustainable development of these vulnerable States.
Throughout this week, delegates examined a 47-page “zero draft” outcome document, which will be presented to world leaders for adoption at the upcoming Fifth Conference in Doha, Qatar, from 23 to 27 January 2022. It succeeds the previous Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020. (See Press Release DEV/3442 for the opening of the second session.)
The draft outcome document sets out six key focus areas for action. They include investing in people to eradicate poverty and leave no one behind; leveraging science, technology and innovation to combat multidimensional vulnerabilities and achieve the Goals; structural transformation as a driver of prosperity; enhancing international trade of least developed countries and regional integration; addressing climate change, recovering from COVID-19 and building resilience against future shocks; and mobilizing international solidarity and reinvigorating global partnership and innovative tools for risk-informed sustainable development.
Perks Master Clemency Ligoya (Malawi), Chair of the Group of Least Developed Countries, who led the drafting of the new Programme of Action, expressed appreciation for the stewardship of the Preparatory Committee’s Co-Chairs and engagement by development partners. Calling for “sympathetic consideration” of the special situation facing least developed countries, he said there were certain areas of concern, which could be addressed for further consultations. He urged development partners to examine various reports describing how disproportionate least developed countries have been affected by the current pandemic-induced crisis. Decades of development gains have been lost, he stressed, noting that 2 million people have joined the existing “extremely poor” population while boys and girls are not only out of school but are going hungry.
There is no agreed language in history to tackle this level of challenge, he said, calling for better understanding of the special situation. Turning to windows of funding, least developed countries are not key beneficiaries of existing facilities, he said. They receive only 14 per cent of global financing, 6 per cent of blended finance, and 0.09 per cent of official development assistance (ODA), he pointed out, urging donor countries to increase their ODA to the targeted 0.2 per cent. Debt relief and debt swaps are vital as half of the least developed countries are experiencing debt crises, he continued, calling for greater cooperation in technology transfer. To fight the pandemic, vaccines must be made available to least developed countries free of charge. The Group calls for a $5 billion social protection package and $50 billion in special drawing rights.
He went on to request 12 years of continued support to countries graduated from the “least developed” category, explaining such assistance is necessary for them to compete in the international market after losing specific privileges. The Group also proposes the establishment of an online university and an international investment support centre, he said, calling on the Secretary-General to explore these new initiatives.
Amrit Bahadur Rai (Nepal), echoing points raised by Malawi’s delegate, stressed that this is just the beginning of negotiation, and the spirit of cooperation is key to success. The Doha Programme of Action is another opportunity to strengthen global partnership to address the needs of least developed countries, he said, adding that there is almost no disagreement that least developed countries are the battleground for implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In closing remarks, Courtenay Rattray, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and the Secretary-General of the Conference, said it has been a very productive week and that hopefully delegations will take note of the very pointed messages just delivered by the representatives of Malawi and Nepal. Least developed countries need specific support to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to recover lost ground, he added. He emphasized the need to mobilize financing from all sources, adding that the level of international support must be protected and leveraged to attract more private capital for least developed countries.
Going forward, delegations must remain constructively engaged and conclude negotiations on the zero draft as soon as possible but no later than December, he said, urging Member States to ensure high-level participation in the Conference – which is crucial not only for least developed countries, but for the entire international community when it comes to full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the spirt of leaving no one behind.
Rahab Fatima (Bangladesh), Co-Chair of the Preparatory Committee, congratulated delegations for finalizing the zero draft “in record time”, saying that it testifies to the importance that all Member States attach to the new Programme of Action that will not only help least developed countries meet the 2030 Agenda but also enable them to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. The past week saw encouraging positive engagement from development partners, as well as extremely useful consultations with civil society. She added that some areas of divergence remain, expressing confidence that an ambitious outcome document will emerge.
Robert Keith Rae (Canada), Co-Chair of the Preparatory Committee, said that the past week helped set a positive tone for negotiations going forward. Some key issues were identified that will require more work and attention, including language relating to trade, intellectual property, technology transfers and an approach that would enable least developed countries that graduate to middle-income status to achieve greater success rather than heartache. He emphasized that the Preparatory Committee is working in a world that is confronting very difficult conditions unseen since 1945 “and that is what makes ambition important”. Informal discussions will continue in the coming months, but the final product should be a clarion call for concrete steps to enable least developed countries to overcome multiple crises in a spirit of solidarity and partnership.
In other business, the Preparatory Committee recommended to the Conference the adoption of the provisional agenda (document A/CONF.219/2021/IPC/L.3) and organization of work of the Conference (document A/CONF.219/2021/IPC/L.3/Add.1).
Also adopted was the draft report of its second session (document A/CONF.219/2021/IPC/L.6) that was introduced and to be finalized by Julio César Arriola Ramírez (Paraguay), the Rapporteur of the Preparatory Committee.
The Preparatory Committee will continue informal consultations on the outcome document and reconvene for an additional half-day meeting between mid-December 2021 and 10 January 2022, to take action on the final draft to be recommended to the Conference.