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The 5th Global LDC Summit: Rhetoric and Reality?

By Saume Saptaparna Nath
Article UN PhotoEvan Schneider Secretary-General Antnio Guterres delivers remarks at the Summit of the Leaders of the Least Developed Countries, in Doha Qatar.
MAR 14, 2023 LISTEN
UN Photo/Evan Schneider Secretary-General António Guterres delivers remarks at the Summit of the Leaders of the Least Developed Countries, in Doha Qatar.

"Our nations do not ask for charity; what we seek is our dues under international commitments – PM Sheikh Hasina, 5th, LDC Summit

The 5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) was held in Doha in March 2023 (March 6-9) to help build an ambitious new program of action for LDCs in order to generate international attention and action to reverse the continuing deterioration of the socioeconomic condition of these most vulnerable countries. The United Nations began to devote special attention to the least developed nations in the late 1960s, identifying them as the most vulnerable members of the world community. However, the 46 least developed nations (LDCs), which account for around 14% of the global population, have some of the world's poorest and most fragile economies. They account for only 1.3% of global GDP, get only 1.4% of total foreign direct investment, and commerce accounts for less than 1% of global merchandise exports. Leaders attending the 5th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) in Doha, Qatar, have expressed regret and animosity at how richer countries have treated their poorer counterparts. Many of the summit's leaders from the world's poorest countries urged rich countries to fulfill billions of dollars in pledged funding to help them escape poverty and combat climate change.

The Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) was a once-in-a-decade opportunity to accelerate sustainable development in areas where international assistance is most needed and to tap the full potential of the Least Developed Countries in order to help them make progress toward prosperity. Nevertheless, leaders of the world's leading economies were conspicuously absent from the five-day gathering, which focuses on the turbulence in poor countries. Apart from the $60 million pledged by host Qatar to UN projects, there was no substantial announcement of critically needed funds. Against such a backdrop, there is rising concern regarding the commitments of the developed world to the LDCs.

5th LDC Summit: Agendas and Linchpins

The main theme of this year's conference was "From Potential to Prosperity”. During the five-day conference, stakeholders from countries, international bodies, and institutions pledged more than $1.3 billion in financial commitments in the form of donations, investments, loans, aid, development projects, and technical support, with the goal of positively affecting 1.2 billion people living in LDCs, representing a translation of the DPoA into tangible results. Thus, the Doha Plan of Action provides more hope to the world's most vulnerable countries. 'It’s time the era of unkept promises comes to an end': UN Chief said addressing the developed countries.

Guterres asked for $500 billion to be mobilized for social and economic change during the once-in-a-decade meeting. In response to that, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia offered $800 million in funding for LDC development initiatives beginning this year, and the Federal Republic of Germany committed $200 million in 2023. The EU Commission announced cooperation agreements worth more than 130 million euros to boost long-term investments in Africa. The Government of Finland announced an annual event called "The United Nations Least Developed Countries Forum" in Helsinki. The Green Climate Fund launched a new project to provide $80 million in equity to firms in order to provide green guarantees and lower the cost of financing, while the United Nations World Tourism Organization announced the establishment of a new $10 million Tourism Fund for Development. If this, as well as other commitments in the areas of trade, investment, and technology transfer, are kept, it will renew faith that the Doha Plan of Action will be fully implemented. However, the epidemic, followed by the war in Ukraine, has given significant damage to the economy of LDCs. Food and fuel price increases in foreign markets have created inflation in most LDCs. African leaders have asked the international community and the collective West to follow through on agreements, build international solidarity, and increase help for less-developed countries through the summit.

Commitments to LDCs: Mare Eye washing?

The international community has frequently fallen short of past conferences' expectations, particularly in terms of food security and financial support. Now, covid pandemic and the Ukraine war have added a fatal blow to their decades of broken promises. According to reports, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that the least-developed nations seemed to be trapped amid mounting crises, uncertainties, climate change consequences, and global inequities. an unjust and generally broken international financial system forces the least-developed countries into the worst bargains.

On the first day of the summit's general discussion, a financial commitment of $60 million was announced, which would be used to assist United Nations initiatives in LDCs, including the execution of the New Doha Plan of Action. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to not only reverse some progress made during the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) but also exacerbate persistent challenges in LDCs. Ultimately, this compromises the ability of countries to graduate from the LDC category.

Another important thing is, LDC officials from Africa and the Asia-Pacific region also used the discussion to reiterate their demands that industrialized states give up a promised $100 billion per year to help them combat global warming. However, climate adaptation has gotten significantly less international support than mitigation, not just in terms of funding but also in technology development and transfer, capacity building, and technical help. Besides, developed nations did not fulfill that historic commitment to providing between 0.15 and 0.20 percent of their gross national income. Following up on his earlier address railing against "predatory" interest, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned there should be "no more excuses" for not delivering support.

During the Conference, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated today (March 5) that under international agreements for meaningful structural reform, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) seek their dues, not charity. Senior African politicians also claimed that their countries are experiencing hunger, human rights violations, armed conflicts, environmental deterioration, and natural disasters, as well as economic constraints associated with global turbulence and debt burdens while speaking at the fifth United Nations Conference of Least Developed Countries (LDC5). The problems they are facing are not generated by them and cannot be tackled in isolation. Hence, there should be reinforced calls for debt relief and infrastructure expenditures to spur economic growth. worldwide to create a new future in which all nations are treated equally and multilateral cooperation dominates international interaction. The vulnerability caused by LDCs' limited export bases and reliance on food imports has been exacerbated by the effects of the Ukraine war on global markets and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed an additional 32 million people in LDCs into extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 per day) in 2020 alone. Besides, Climate risks are exacerbated by wealthy countries' inability to fulfill the yearly $100 billion objective in climate funding that they initially vowed to accomplish by 2020 to assist developing countries in adapting to the climate issue.

However, the obligations and responsibilities do not end with the signing of agreements or attendance at conferences. Hence, the development partners must modify their national cooperation programs to match the hopes and ambitions of least developed nations. In order to quadruple their share of global commerce, LDCs require ongoing assistance. Otherwise, the promises they had vowed will remain as just scraps of paper.

Saume Saptaparna Nath
Research Associate
The KRF CBGA

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