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Norwegian State Secretary Delivers Speech At The Fourth UN Conference on Less Developed Countries

May 19th, 2011

Fourth UN Conference on the Less Developed Countries
Istanbul, Turkey ~  Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Statement by Norwegian State Secretary Ingrid Fiskaa

Thank you, Mr President

The fourth UN conference on the least developed countries is an important opportunity to renew and revitalise the global partnership for our common good. I would like to thank the Government of Turkey for hosting this conference and for the leadership it has shown in the preparations.

Climate change represents a serious challenge to sustainable development. It is a global challenge that we all have to face, but we know that LDCs are particularly vulnerable in this regard – not least related to food security.

The link between climate change, development and sustainable growth is vital. We need to work hard to sufficiently reduce emissions to limit climate change to an increase of two degrees Celsius. Many of the LDCs have hardly any emissions to reduce, and we as donors can make it attractive to choose a more climate-friendly course of development.

But even if we do manage to meet the two degrees Celsius target, climate change will still have severe consequences, especially for the poorest countries. And women will suffer the most. There is a huge need for climate adaptation funding. Norway’s climate adaptation aid will focus on increased food security and disaster risk reduction.

In the preparations for this conference, the LDCs have stressed the need to focus on economic growth and infrastructure. We fully support that. Access to energy for all, both at household level and for industrial purposes is vital for economic growth in these countries. This is not least important for women. Norway is currently preparing for an international conference on access to energy for all to be held in Oslo in October. We have substantially increased our ODA allocation for renewable energy initiatives, mainly for hydropower, but also for small-scale power plants based on wind and solar power as well as other renewable sources.

However, aid alone will not be sufficient to fund development of renewable energy. It is crucial to find ways of using aid money to stimulate private–public partnerships in the renewable energy sector. Access to energy and private sector development is key to fight poverty and ensure sustainable development. This must be combined with equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities. Decent jobs for both women and men, and predictable tax systems, combined with good public health, education and other social services are also key factors.

Aid has been, and will continue to be for a long time, an important source of revenue for LDCs. The Norwegian Government is committed to allocating at least 1% of GDP to ODA. However, we also need to examine other financial flows in and out of poor countries. Developing countries probably lose at least ten times the amount they receive in aid through illicit financial flows. This money is mainly generated by trade mispricing and tax evasion, but also trafficking, the drugs and arms trade, and corruption. And it usually ends up in a tax haven. These financial flows represent a serious crime against the world’s poor and against the governments trying to promote development in their countries. Well functioning tax systems, dedicated police forces and judiciaries, and international action against tax havens and bank secrecy are important elements in the global fight against poverty and for justice.

Tax systems are crucial not only to secure increased revenues, but also to build citizenship. When you pay tax, you also take on a larger stake in the development of your country.

The size of the poverty challenge also requires us to scale up innovative financing. During the opening week of the 65th General Assembly, several countries, including Norway, agreed to work towards introducing a levy on financial transactions. The levy would be applied on a large scale, and to a wide range of transactions, and could provide stable and substantial financing for development.

International trade is also a potential engine for growth, provided developing countries gain access to markets and the know-how to negotiate the best possible agreements. We know, however, that formal market access is insufficient for many LDCs with weak productive capacities. Norway supports Aid for Trade through a number of multilateral initiatives. There is also need for a more fair international trade system, where countries can find policy space for their own development strategies.

Excellencies,

Emerging economies have changed the picture of international financial flows and international trade since the conference in Brussels. We are pleased to welcome middle-income countries into our common partnership for the LDCs. A number of emerging economies are providing a substantial amount of aid to LDCs. Whether we are discussing aid, debt relief, trade or investments, it is clear that partners in the South are crucial for the future success of our efforts. At the same time, we need to strengthen our global systems for financing development. More than anything we need to broaden the financial basis of the United Nations funds and programmes. The more multilateral, and thus less “Western” they become, the more sustainable they will be. There are many competitors out there. Let us all join together to address global problems with global solutions – through multilateral structures.

Excellencies,

We know that the political and economic empowerment of women is the single most important catalyst for change and development. Therefore, investing in women and girls opportunities is crucial. For example, the UN estimates that we can lift 150 million people out of poverty if women gain better access to land and equipment in the agriculture sector.

In a multilateral context we have made important progress in this area over the last 30 years. However, during the preparation for this conference, we have been very concerned about attempts to take us back in time. In this day and age, any suggestion that the empowerment of women is problematic is simply anachronistic. Development can only happen when a country can tap its full potential, including women.

Finally Mr President,

The Istanbul Programme of Action will reach beyond 2015. It must therefore be our shared responsibility to secure an outcome that will serve as a sound building block for our continuing efforts to fight poverty. We need to build further on the crucial factors for reaching the Millennium Development Goals, namely political will, good governance, protection of human rights, and particular focus on education and health, women and young people. At the same time, we must increase our focus on the structural causes of poverty: climate change, armed conflicts and illicit capital flows out of developing countries.

We look forward to working with our partners on all of these issues, and to securing a successful outcome of the fourth LDC conference.

Thank you.

Source: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Written by Mina Remole

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