REFLECTIONS ON THE DOHA SUMMIT
The Doha Programme of Action is a practical guide to addressing the targets of the SDGs in the LDCs, reckons Noah Dallaji
The recent United Nations summit in Doha, Qatar, was a fitting reminder to the global community about the challenges of development in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The issues are not new actually but more than ever, there is the burning concern to mitigate or possibly overhaul them for a saner clime of human progress and social change. Interestingly, the African continent perhaps should be more concerned about the realities of these challenges with the clear understanding that out of the 46 LDCs, 33 are in Africa, which collectively are some of the poorest and most vulnerable economies in the world. Other critical indicators in this regard are that these countries comprise about 14 percent of global population, account for only 1.3 percent of global Gross Domestic Product, receive 1.4 percent of total foreign direct investment and trade under 1 percent of world merchandise exports.
As UNCTAD rightly observed ahead of the summit, the LDCs are the battleground on which the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will be won or lost.
Of course, the objective at the summit was how as many of the LDCs could graduate from their current status to the next level of progress with the basic socio-economic indices as signposts and recognized as such with concomitant effects on the actualization of the SDGs as par the UN’s Agenda 2030.
Therefore, it became imperative to mobilize international community’s commitments towards the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action for the LDCs (2022-2031) adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2022, designed to offer opportunity for a renewed partnership between the LDCs and their development partners to overcome structural challenges, eradicate poverty, achieve internationally agreed development goals and enable graduation from the LDC category.
It is to be noted that the list of the LDCs is reviewed every three years by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP), a group of independent experts that report to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, which may recommend for addition to or graduation from LDCs status. However, experts have also noted that in adopting strategies for development, how the LDCs achieve graduation is as important as when they do so, which calls for a deep appreciation of the issues of development in these counties and application of effective policies and programmes.
The 5th UN’s conference on the LDCs in Doha with the theme ‘From Potential to Prosperity’, was indeed a very important summit and the resolutions are forward-looking at least in proposals and extent of expressed commitments especially within the context of the LDCs being in a race against time to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. In this regard were such major issues of development as the challenge of poverty, adverse effects of climate change, food and energy concerns, debt burden as well as challenges of health, education and infrastructural facilities as strategic to economic development. As an affiliate of the UN’s ECOSOC, the African Children Talent Discovery Foundation (ACTDF) was well represented at the summit and participated actively in the proceedings.
In tackling the multi-pronged challenges, many believe cognizance has to be taken of the dire circumstances in the LDCs with particular reference to their weak economies and the political will to take some very important decisions even with the consequences. In addition are the levels of commitments and effectiveness of such shared vision and values of the development partners by walking the talk.
Nonetheless, at the ACTDF, we strongly believe that action must now be taken in tandem with the necessity to change the tide against the state of poverty and underdevelopment in these countries if we must be realistic about achieving the UN Agenda 2030 because of the time constraint. Perhaps the proposals put forward by UNCTAD at the summit should provide a road map towards achieving the basic objective of attaining the UN Agenda 2030 if when applied and consolidated.
As situated by UNCTAD, there was the need for bold action and development cooperation to achieve inclusive growth and sustainable development in LDCs. Accordingly, UNCTAD called for effective debt relief in LDCs to avert the growing risks of debt distress, partly caused by the lack of alternative sources of development finance, export diversification to shift economic activities, jobs and resources from low-productivity sectors to higher-value –added and productivity sectors, stronger productive capacities in LDCs to improve their capacity to make quality goods and deliver services to enable them participate in global trade and a new strategy to enable LDCs graduate with momentum. Other parts of the proposal include increased investment capacity in LDCs through financial and technical support for investment project preparation and contract negotiation, investment-related dispute resolution, investment promotion facilities and related assistance as well as a just, balanced and sustainable low-carbon transition in LDCs through increased international support. Indeed, that it’s now time to put productive capacities at the heart of every development strategy.
No doubt, overcoming the challenges of development in the LDCs is a huge task requiring a collective effort which as the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, noted in his remarks at the plenary, “we must find ways to come together”, adding that “there is no more important issue around which we can and must unite than in transforming the words of the Doha Programme of Action into results”.
He went on to list the crucial areas of concern as the issues of poverty eradication, food, health, clean water and sanitation, tax evasion, investment in education, manufacturing and technology, infrastructure, strengthening institutions, women and youth issues as he called on developed countries to demonstrate a global commitment for action.
Although the focus was specific, however, what was missing in the evaluation and prospects at the summit was the fact that some of the developing countries are also still struggling to meet the targets of the Agenda 2030, most affected by the effects of the Covid-19 and global economic disruptions and uncertainties. This calls for concern.
Moving forward especially on the expected transformation of the LDCs economies, it is high time the developed countries lived up to the UN’s charge of providing LDCs with 0.5-0.20 percent of their Gross National Income for Official Development Assistance. This is the bottomline for an accelerated development and hopefully meeting the targets. Aside a clear-headed political leadership and governance structure, what the LDCs really need most is the issue of effective financing and technical know-how. The Doha Programme of Action is a practical guide to addressing the concrete targets and deliverables that can play a game-changing role in implementing the SDGs in the LDCs.
Consequently, it was the view of experts at the summit that the LDCs must necessarily apply the remaining years ahead of 2030 to the exigent needs of their respective countries in order to usher in a new era of possibilities anchored on global partnerships to ensure actualization.
· Dr. Dallaji, President, African Children Talent Discovery Foundation (ACTDF) writes from Abuja