Speech by Vice-Minister of the Republic of Finland Johanna Sumuvuori at the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries

on March 7 2023 in Doha

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Let me first thank the Government of Qatar for hosting the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.

Here, at the LDC5 Conference, we can renew our global partnership with the LDCs. I admire the strength and resilience the least developed countries show in fighting against the many challenges, such as the climate change. The Doha Programme of Action we have agreed on is needed to accelerate the sustainable development of the Least Developed Countries.

The only way of tackling global challenges is to face them together. Finland has a strong focus on LDC countries in its development funding. A third of our national funding is allocated solely to LDCs. Most of our bilateral development partners are LDC countries, with our partner Nepal’s graduation from the category much anticipated.

For development to accelerate, we need innovative ideas. In October 2021, Finland hosted the first LDC Future Forum in Helsinki. The Forum, organized by the UN Office of the High Representative, provided policy recommendations to support LDCs in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and in building their ability to compete in the global economy. We intend to fund five LDC Future Forums in the future. The first of the sequence will be organized in Helsinki at the end of this year. We hope the Future Forums will continue to bring about innovations for furthering the sustainable development of LDCs.

We are all aware of the urgency of climate action. It is crucial that we move into climate resilient development pathways and do not lose sight of the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1,5 degrees. However, even if we stopped all emissions today, the need to adapt and build resilience would continue to grow rapidly.

The changing climate and extreme weather events impact livelihoods, and the health and the security of people in all regions. The hardest hit are those already in vulnerable positions. It is a question of existence for countries and people. The health and balance of our ecosystems are also at risk. Therefore, adaptation to climate change is indispensable.

Finland is a forerunner in building resilience to weather and climate related disasters. Through our ongoing bilateral cooperation, over 300 million people will benefit from improved weather and early warning services.

Innovation and digitalization hold tremendous potential to accelerate sustainable development. They can strengthen and diversify economies, as well as enhance productivity and job creation. Innovation and digitalization can enable transformation of education, health and agricultural systems. Digitalisation is a key catalyst of green transition. However, digital connectivity gaps remain wide, particularly in LDCs, where only one third of the population is currently online. We need investments and cooperation to expand secure, affordable and meaningful digital access.

Finland cooperates closely with partners to enhance secure connectivity infrastructures, data governance, innovation and digital skills in developing countries. We are active in Team Europe flagship initiatives. They aim at fostering human-centric digital transformation, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Realizing the full potential of digital to the economy and society – at scale – will require making the transformative power of networks accessible to all. Finland is at the forefront of innovation when it comes to digital expertise and know how. With Companies like Nokia, we have an incredible opportunity to contribute to a world where more organizations, industries and people can reach the full potential of digital.

UNICEF has recently established two global innovation hubs in Helsinki. One is focused on innovative learning and the other on innovative finance for children. These aim at bringing transformational change for the benefit of children in developing countries.

In order to leave no one behind it is of utmost importance to address gender inequalities. The Covid-pandemic has had a negative impact on gender equality. At the same time, women’s rights are being questioned. Climate change and conflicts have gendered consequences. We must address discriminatory structures, social norms and gender stereotypes that are the root causes of gender inequalities. Special attention must be paid to women and girls in vulnerable situations, such as women with disabilities, women from ethnic minorities and women IDPs.

Gender equality is a priority in Finland’s foreign and development policy. In our development cooperation, we emphasize the prevention and elimination of gender-based violence, both offline and online. As a co-leader of the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality, we promote bridging the gender gap in digital access and preventing online gender-based violence.   

Finland places particular emphasis on equal and inclusive sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to services and comprehensive sexuality education.

In addition to Official Development Assistance, we need to mobilize the private sector and its funding to support LDCs. In Finland, the government provides a special guarantee to our Development Finance Institution “Finnfund”, which enables investments into the private sector in LDCs. Another innovative initiative is Finn Church Aid Investment (FCAI), which invests is SMEs in LDCs. Finland prioritizes the Least Developing Countries in its Trade and Development support. An indication of this is our long-standing support to the Enhanced Integrated Framework.

Besides international contributions, the LDCs’ ownership and full utilization of their resources is crucial. The LDCs are the best experts in their development, and we are here to listen. We hope that graduations from the LDC category will accelerate with all of us working together towards this change.