Press Release

Secretary-General: Countries with the least developed need support the most

04 March 2023

Caption: Secretary-General António Guterres delivers remarks at the First Plenary Session of the Fifth Conference of Least Developed Countries (LDC5) taking place in Doha, Qatar from 5 to 9 March, 2023.

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Leaders’ Summit of the Least Developed Countries, in Doha on 4 March:

I want to deeply thank Qatar for hosting us in Doha -- and for launching the Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries.  

I’m deeply grateful for the extraordinary generosity and hospitality of the government and the people of Qatar.  

Countries with the least need support the most.  

And the need for support is something that is required now.  

You represent one in eight people on earth.  

I have an enormous admiration for your remarkable efforts to achieve graduation and to sustain graduation. 

But your countries are also trapped in vicious cycles that make development difficult, and I can reassure you that we are perfectly aware of the inequities created by an unfair global economic and financial system and determined to change it by reforms and by adequate sources of support to Least Developed Countries. 

Because economic development is challenging when countries are starved for resources, drowning in debt, and still struggling with the historic injustice of an unequal COVID-19 response, starting with vaccines and then by the very unfair access to the resources needed for recovery. 

Human development is also challenging when education, health care and social protection systems are struggling and when women are denied their rightful place at the table across every aspect of civil, economic, and political life.

A thriving business community and the creation of decent jobs is challenging if economies are stuck in first gear -- exporting raw materials without opportunities for structural transformation to rapidly move up the value chain.  

Combatting climate catastrophe that you did nothing to cause is challenging when the cost of capital is sky-high and the financial support you receive to mitigate and adapt to the destruction is a drop in the bucket.  

Meanwhile, bigger economies continue to heat our planet and spew greenhouse gas emissions at record rates.  

Fossil fuel giants are raking in huge profits, while millions in your countries cannot put food on the table.  

You risk being left behind in the digital revolution without the support or technology you need for social and economic development or job-creation.  

Easing the cost-of-living crisis grows more difficult by the day, with the war in Ukraine accelerating the rise in prices of energy and food.  

Add the impacts of conflicts, droughts, hunger and extreme poverty, and the result is a perfect storm for perpetuating poverty and injustice.  

We must end this storm. But we must recognize that to end this storm we require massive and sustained investment and Least Developed Countries require and deserve massive financial and economic support. 

For your countries, progress on the Sustainable Development Goals -- starting with the eradication of extreme poverty and ending hunger -- is about more than lines on a chart leading to 2030.  

It’s a matter of life and death and it is unacceptable if you are held back by processes and decisions that are made far beyond your borders. 

Indeed, our global financial system was designed by wealthy countries, largely to their benefit.  That is why we are insisting so strongly, namely with the G20, for its reform. 

Deprived of liquidity, many of you are locked out of capital markets by predatory interest rates.  

Deprived of effective debt relief, you can be forced to spend an ever-growing share of government revenue on debt service costs.  

Instead of the Official Development Assistance at the levels that you need, most developed countries are falling short of their promise to provide 0.15-0.20 per cent of their Gross National Income to Least-Developed Countries.   

And countries that graduate to middle-income status are victims of the cruelest sleight-of-hand trick -- where support systems vanish before their eyes.  

Graduation must be a reward, never a punishment. 

In the midst of these injustices, the United Nations is working with you to develop smooth transition strategies, based on tailored support for the graduation process.  

We cannot allow countries to fall back down the development ladder after working so hard to climb it.  

That is why the Doha Programme of Action includes an online university to provide your countries with better access to science, expertise and technology to develop more innovative and diverse economies and workforces.  

At this time of widespread food insecurity, the creation of a food stockholding system for Least-Developed Countries will be another tangible outcome of this Summit to combat hunger and skyrocketing food prices.  

The Doha Programme of Action also includes the establishment of an international investment support centre to help least developed and graduated countries attract foreign investment.  


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