LDCs committed to Doha Programme despite challenges
LDCs committed to Doha Programme of Action despite negative impact of East European conflict and pandemic challenges
DOHA, Qatar- Despite critical analysis of the extent to which the East European Conflict has negatively impacted least-developed countries (LDCs), especially those in the African region, these countries remain committed to the successful delivery of the Doha Programme of Action, writes Matiisetso Mosala.
The ongoing Fifth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in Doha, Qatar highlighted that this conflict takes place when LDCs are still reeling from the severe and challenging shocks and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ravages of climate change.
Many of the speakers at LDC5 alluded in different ways to the challenges they are facing in their countries as a result of the East European conflict. Lesotho's Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Nthomeng Majara, said the challenges include skyrocketing inflation, economic stagnation, increased costs of energy, food insecurity, worsening poverty, and escalating climate catastrophes.
"Coupled with the global economic growth projected to slow down in the years to come, the situation paints a very bleak picture for the future of LDCs and risks the reversal of their decade's hard-earned developmental gains," Justice Majara stated.
Hakainde Hichilema, the President of the Republic of Zambia, similarly said the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple economic and humanitarian crises derail the recovery efforts of LDCs, adding that they are the real battlefields for implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and where global development gaps are most pronounced.
President Hichilema questioned why LDCs are locked up in the least-developed bracket when other countries continue to advance, what is locking them up, and what the real issues should be addressed to move from potential to prosperity.
Nevertheless, Zambia has considered this year a critical one for strengthening her resolve to address some of the key challenges and devise workable solutions that will help reduce debt vulnerabilities and mitigate climate change challenges and economic shocks.
The unanimous adoption of the Doha Programme of Action during the first part of this conference in Istanbul ten years ago sparked a ray of hope for structural transformation for LDCs. It provided a platform and an opportunity for the countries to break free from the tier of socio-economic under-development.
According to the Zambian president, the promise of stronger partnerships, coupled with a collective resolve to foster greater economic and social development, make the aspirations of the Doha Programme of Action look attainable.
"We need to devise workable solutions that will help reduce debt vulnerabilities, and mitigate climate change challenges and economic shocks. In particular, at the SDG Summit in September, we need to rededicate ourselves to collectively agree on concrete steps and actions to get back on track in implementing the 2030 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals."
Furthermore, he said the reform and strengthening of the international financial system that considers the needs of LDCs should be a priority on the agenda.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has asserted that debt challenges must be tackled if LDCs are going to meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
Lesotho's economy is still vulnerable due to its weak domestic structure, overconcentration on the exports of textiles, and dependence on FDI and ODA, which were significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The deputy prime minister of Lesotho has, however, revealed that the country has embarked on efforts to work towards meeting LDC graduation criteria.
"To improve and achieve sustainable economic growth, the government has undertaken to boost private sector-led employment creation. Also, in an effort to domesticate the implementation of the DPoA and the SDGs, the Kingdom of Lesotho has now embarked on reviewing her National Strategic Development Plan to include provisions of the DPoA," Justice Majara expanded.
She further indicated that the government of Lesotho has embraced a proactive policy stance for graduation by nesting it into the long-term development plan as the primary premise for an effective response to propel the country into middle-income status.
According to her, Lesotho has huge potential for increasing productivity and enhancing economic growth through the prioritized development of six sectors, such as natural resources, tourism, agriculture, technology, infrastructure, and hydropower.
The president of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, has noted in his speeches that Malawi is also facing the effects of climate change, with increased flooding and drought causing further damage to crops and livelihoods. He said that, like many other least-developed countries (LDCs), poverty and malnutrition are widespread in this sub-Saharan African nation, with more than half of the population living below the poverty line.
Chakwera stressed that together, an online university can be delivered, an investment promotion regime established, a food stock holding mechanism created, a crisis mitigation and resilience-building mechanism developed, and a graduation support package that ensures a smooth transition from the LDC category.
Zambia has placed a premium on ownership and primary responsibility in the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action. President Hichilema said he and his government have done this by aligning their national development agenda to the program’s overarching goal of structural transformation.
Among the measures being undertaken to support structural transformation and economic diversification, he stated that they committed to promoting value addition to products from the mining and agricultural sectors and promoting investments in energy, transport, education, health, water and water harvesting, and sanitation infrastructure.
“We are also encouraging partnerships for technology transfer, digital connectivity, and growth of small and medium enterprises as well as improving efforts towards ensuring environmental sustainability and reducing systematic risks,” the Zambian president presented.
Major impediments to exerting expansion in these sectors include a lack of investment, an infrastructure deficit, weak governance, and low production capacities. Justice Majara of Lesotho shared with the heads of state and world leaders a vision for domestic resource mobilization that LDCs could embark on, establishing their own investment fund as a first step at the national level.
She said the fund could be built as a joint effort of the government, private sector (corporates), and citizens, and the success of the fund would inject an impetus into the development agenda and translate to concrete outcomes.
Meanwhile, a new trade report by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the lead United Nations agency supporting least-developed countries highlights trade policy options to help them work towards sustainable, trade-led development, launched in the face of crises.
ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton said, “Least developed countries continue to depend on commodity exports almost twice as much as other developing countries, and they continue to be more vulnerable to global instabilities. We as the global community, have to do more and do it better. This joint report with OHRLLS highlights concrete policy actions we can take to make a difference for them.”
The report, Improving Food Security, explores trade policy options to support the resilience of least-developed countries.
Trade can increase the availability and affordability of food in LDCs, where more than 60% of people deal with food insecurity – twice as much as in developing countries and six times as much as in developed countries.
Trade plays a key role for LDCs, as highlighted in the Doha Programme of Action, a program designed to help LDCs return to a pathway to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.