UN Conference in Helsinki seeks new solutions to the problems of the least developed countries

The world’s poorest countries are most severely affected by crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. This week, the UN LDC Future Forum will bring together leading scientists, policymakers and development practitioners in Helsinki to discuss new solutions for boosting global development.

More than a billion people live in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window), and approximately 75 per cent of them live below the poverty line. According to estimates, the number of people in LDCs living in extreme poverty has started to rise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and rising debt have a more dramatic impact on countries with weak economies, and the gap between countries continues to expand.

The least developed countries held a marginal share of the world trade before the pandemic; together, they accounted for less than one per cent of the total trade.  In the first half of 2020, falling raw material prices and supply chain disruptions reduced the goods exports of LDCs by 16 per cent, further aggravating their situation.

These will be the challenges that renowned economists Jeffrey Sachs and Joseph E. Stiglitz as well as numerous other researchers, politicians and development cooperation experts from around the world will address as they convene at the LDC Future Forum in Helsinki on 6-7 October to discuss innovative, research-based new solutions to boost development.

Items on the conference agenda include measures to reduce poverty, to ensure access to high-quality education and healthcare, to harness technological development for the right purposes, and to mitigate climate change.

Finland will benefit from international cooperation to solve global problems

Finnish participants in the conference, organised with support from the Government of Finland, include Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari and Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto.

“While significant progress has been made by many LDCs towards achieving the sustainable development goals, we have to acknowledge that incremental change is no longer enough. What is needed is a transformational change, driven by innovation and strong private sector participation,” says Minister Ville Skinnari.

The objective of the conference is to make policy recommendations for LDCs, to support their efforts to achieve sustainable development goals, to build their ability to compete in the global economy, and eventually move towards convergence with more developed economies.

International cooperation to support LDCs has great significance for wealthy countries such as Finland. Measures to promote global justice and equality also constitute good security policy, given that climate change and pandemics are global problems requiring global solutions.

Evidence shows that poor countries are not condemned to poverty

Despite the seemingly hopeless situation in many poor and conflict-prone countries, there are numerous examples of positive development. In Asia-Pacific, as many as ten out of twelve LDC countries will soon become middle-income countries.

Countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal that have struggled with conflicts and poverty for decades have nonetheless been able to build economic development, gender equality and well-functioning governance.

The majority of Finland’s partner countries for bilateral development cooperation are in the LDC category.

Meeting to be live streamed and recorded

The conference is organised by the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) (UN-OHRLLS) in cooperation with the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) (UNU-WIDER) and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) (SDSN).

The Forum will contribute to the Fifth United Nations Conference on LDCs(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window), taking place in Doha, Qatar, in January 2022.

A live stream of the meeting can be viewed on the LDC Future Forum website(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) on 6 and 7 October. Recordings will be made available on the website after the event.