DOHA, QATAR: “Graduation must be a reward, never a punishment,” the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has urged.
He is also of the view that middle-income countries, like Eswatini, should not be deprived of support after graduating from the least developed country status.
Speaking at the leaders’ summit of the ongoing 5th UN Conference on Least Developed Countries held at the Qatar National Convention Centre, the UN chief noted that countries that graduate to middle-income status are victims of the cruelest sleight-of-hand trick, where support systems vanish before their eyes.
His Majesty the King also submitted a similar concern regarding the downgrading of support to middle-income countries.
He noted how Eswatini was among several middle-income countries that have experienced a massive reduction in development aid assistance and urged the world donor community not to downscale this support.
His Majesty said it was very concerning that some of the countries that had previously graduated from the LDC category are not supported to enable them to remain in their elevated status and cushioned against external shocks.
“We now find ourselves facing daunting challenges in creating an enabled environment for our people to live in, as Eswatini has experienced a massive reduction in development aid assistance. We, therefore, appeal to the international community to give us more financial and technical support in order for us to achieve these (SDG) targets,” he urged the UN family of nations.
The UN Secretary-General, who spoke prior to His Majesty’s address, described the lack of support for middle-income countries as an injustice and said the UN would work to avert it.
“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,” he said.
The UN chief lamented the ‘storm’ faced by developing countries, which he said must be stopped.
“Countries with the least need support the most, and the need for support is something that is required now. You represent 1 in 8 people on Earth. I have 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 the least developed countries,” he said.
Guterres observed that 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 with the very unfair access to the resources needed for recovery.
He said 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 are challenging if economies are stuck in first gear — exporting raw materials without opportunities for structural transformation to rapidly move up the value chain. Combating a 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 of people 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.
He further noted how easing the cost-of-living crisis was growing 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 recognise that to end this storm we require massive and sustained investment and the least developed countries require and deserve massive financial and economic support,” he urged.
Also speaking at the conference, the Emir of Qatar H.H. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has pledged a US$60 million (about E1.09 billion) financial contribution to the DPoA, with US$10 million (about E182 million) to go towards supporting the implementation of the DPoA activities for the LDCs, while US$50 million(E911 million) will be allocated for supporting the intended outcomes of the DPoA and building resilience potential in the LDCs.
The DPoA which was adopted in March 2022 to help create new commitments and broad partnerships towards driving the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The conference continues until Thursday and local officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as well as those from the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, are among the participants.