Statement by Finland at the LDC Conference

"The interlinkages between poverty and environmental problems are evident in the LDCs and they must be clearly reflected in the outcome of this conference. LDCs are among the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and other global environmental problems", the Finnish Minister for development cooperation, Ms Satu Hassi, stated in Brussels on Tuesday.

Statement by Finland at the LDC Conference

BRUSSELS, 14-20 MAY, 2001

Statement by Finland
Ms. Satu Hassi, Minister of the Environment and Development Cooperation

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Participants and Viewers on the Internet,

Let me begin by saying that I associate myself fully to the statement made earlier by the distinguished minister Maj-Inger Klingvall of Sweden on behalf of the European Union.

1. Ten years ago in Paris a Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries for 1990s was approved. Generally taken one could say that positive developments and improvement in the LDCs have occurred but this has certainly not been adequate. In many ways the situation with the overall development of the LDCs is worse than ten years ago. This is indeed worrying, and should not be accepted.

2. An American writer Lionel Trilling (1905-1975), who in his writings was often concerned about the development of moral and political values, stated already decades ago that "We [ who are liberal and progressive] know that the poor are our equals in every sense except that of being equal to us". I think this fairly well captures the reason why this very conference this week is important: Wealth and prosperity in the world is not equally or evenly spread, inequality in the world has been on the increase. This conference should pay close attention to the voices of the LDCs and, based on that, bring forward progressive ideas and policies as well as practical solutions in order to foster and support the sustainable development in LDCs in the era of ever more present globalization.

Mr Chairman,

3. In the Millennium Declaration the world leaders addressed the special needs of the least developed countries and endorsed the International Development Targets. These goals form an overall framework also for this conference. The challenge is the implementation of the Millennium Goals, turning them into reality. Reaching the most challenging goal of halving, by the year 2015, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty requires firm and immediate action.

4. The interlinkages between poverty and environmental problems are evident in the LDCs and they must be clearly reflected in the outcome of this conference. LDCs are among the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and other global environmental problems. For example, health problems and decline in food production resulting from climatic changes have direct consequences to development in LDCs. Compared to other countries, LDCs also have the least capacity to adapt or to protect themselves. In other words, those who are already worst off will be hit first and worst. It is important to understand that getting climate change in control is especially important to the world’s poor. This must also be taken into consideration when formulating the development cooperation policy of the donor countries: we must promote, for example, sustainable energy policy with our aid. New resources for developing countries, especially for LDCs, are also needed for capacity building in climate policy, and for technology transfer. But the primary question is, of course, cutting emissions in the industrialized countries and working towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns. It is not fair to demand a country that emits 1 tn of CO2 per year per person to cut emissions as much as a country that emits 20 tn per person.

5. The spread of HIV/AIDS epidemic has exceeded all estimations and its devastating impact destroys not only individuals, but entire societies. It ravages especially in the poorest countries. For example, Africa south of Sahara has 10 % of the world population, 70 % of the world’s HIV infected and 95 % of the world’s AIDS orphans. HIV/AIDS is therefore not only a health problem, but a fundamental development issue which has far-reaching social and political as well as economic implications. The most important challenge to control the epidemic is to reach the largest vulnerable population with prevention programmes. Primary health care systems are the basis in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Also important is education, which can, for example, help decrease sexual exploitation of women, and also raise the educational level of especially girls and women, thereby contributing to better health in societies.

6. The unsustainable debt burden of least developed countries is also one of the major obstacles to their sustainable development. The need for effective, equitable, development-oriented and sustainable solutions to debt of these countries is urgent. The debt relief for the poorest countries should be financed with additional resources, not at the expense of overall concessional funding.

7. A major challenge before us is to ensure that globalization does not marginalize LDCs further, but instead promotes the full integration of them into the global economy and the world trading system. This demands coherence in trade and development policies by both developed and developing countries, as well as by a number of international organizations. The EU has decided to grant duty-free and quota-free access to exports originating in LDC´s. This initiative is a step forward. Improved market access should be complemented by trade related technical assistance to enhance both the export capacity of LDCs as well as their capacity to take part and defend their interests in international trade negotiations. In the Finnish development cooperation we have increased contributions channelled to issues related to trade and development and capacity building in LDC´s, mainly through WTO, ITC and UNCTAD, and international non-governmental organisations.

Mr Chairman,

8. The so called ‘deliverables’ will be a way to measure the success of the Conference, showing the will and commitment of the international community to support the efforts of the LDC´s. I have already pointed to some concrete Finnish contributions, but would like to mention some other commitments by Finland.

9. The need for official development assistance is particularly strong in LDC´s. Finland reaffirms the goal of targetting 0,15 % of GNP to LDC´s. To be quite frank, Finland like many other countries has not succeeded in reaching this target during the past few years. We have, however, significantly increased the share of our support that is directed to the social sector, to purposes most directly linked with poverty reduction. This will be further strengthened after the recent Decision-in-principle by the Finnish Government to concentrate our development cooperation to fewer countries and especially to LDCs and other countries of low income. Finland seeks to support developing countries´ own efforts to develop environmentally sustainable policies to reduce poverty, increase security and democracy and improve human rights and gender equality. Furthermore, with regard to multilateral development cooperation, we will study possibilities for our so called thematic contributions to the UN Funds and Programmes to be earmarked to support LDC´s development efforts, among them especially UNDP’s governance trust fund. Also the quality and effectiveness of ODA and other sources of funding should be emphasized. In this regard Finland welcomes the recommendation made in the OECD/DAC High Level meeting on untying of aid to LDCs.

Mr. Chairman,

10. The assessment of the implementation of the previous Programme of Action showed, that one of the major shortcomings was the lack of an effective follow-up mechanism. I would like to emphasize the crucial importance of an effective implementation to mainstream LDC issues in the whole UN system and to involve all relevant actors, including WTO, the Bretton Woods Institutions, regional development organizations and the civil society in the implementation and follow-up.

11. In order to make this event a "conference with a difference" political will and firm commitment from all stakeholders is needed: governments, donors, international organizations, civil society, both at home and abroad, and the private sector, and – last but certainly not least – the LDC´s and their people themselves. Real development is possible and sustainable only through the ownership of the LDC´s of their development process. Development assistance cannot and should not be a substitute for both domestic and foreign private sources of funding that are essential to finance development in any country. Providing stable and secure conditions, the so called enabling environment, to attract foreign investments is actually a way of showing ownership, which, in turn, is a pre-requisite for sustainable development. In their efforts, LDCs should feel secure that they have external help and the commitment from their partners for equal cooperation.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.