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Broken Promises & Moral Responsibilities

António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, participated in the Summit of Least Developed Countries (LDC) at Doha in the first week of March 2023. He used the platform to launch verbal attacks on the rich nations for their bad approach towards the poor countries. In a very blunt language, he said that developed countries strangled the LDCs through skyrocketing fuel prices and aggressive interest rates.

The LDCs usually hold their summit once in a decade. However, the summit has been cancelled twice since 2021 due to COVID-19 Pandemic. Addressing the summit held in the Qatari capital on March 4, 2023, Guterres said: “Today’s poly-crises are compounding shocks on developing countries – in large part because of an unfair global financial system that is short-term, crisis-prone, and that further exacerbates inequalities.” The UN Chief stressed: “We need to massively scale up affordable long-term financing by aligning all financing flows to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and improving the terms of lending of multilateral development banks.” The Secretary-General told the audience: “The high cost of debt and increasing risks of debt distress demand decisive action to make at least USD 500 billion available annually to developing countries and convert short-term lending into long-term debt at lower interest rates.

Representatives from 46 LDCs took part in this summit this time. As the UN member-states are yet to recognise the Governments of Afghanistan and Myanmar, these two nations sent no representative to Doha. The UN Chief assured the 46 LDCs that the world body would ensure their economic development in the coming years. Without mentioning the names, he attacked the US and its Western allies in strong language, stating that they should provide the LDCs with USD 500 billion per year in order to help the latter pull their citizens out of the debt trap. The amount shall also help the LDCs create proper infrastructure for economic development, added Guterres.

According to the Secretary-General, developed countries often promise huge financial grants and aid. However, they have backtracked on those promises in many cases so far. He alleged that the developed countries were so busy tackling the Pandemic, they did not send COVID-19 vaccines to LDCs. Hence, the majority of the people are yet to receive the first dose of vaccine in those countries.

Although no representative of developed nations attended the Doha Summit, Guterres stressed: “Our global financial system was designed by wealthy countries, largely to their benefit. Deprived of liquidity, many of you are locked out of capital markets by predatory interest rates.” He further criticised wealthy nations for their failure in keeping the promise to give 0.15-0.20% of their Gross National Income (GNI) to LDCs. The UN Chief told the representatives of LDCs: “Combating climate catastrophe that you did nothing to cause is challenging when the cost of capital is sky-high and the financial help received is a drop in the bucket. Fossil fuel giants are raking in huge profits, while millions in your countries cannot put food on the table.

As Malawi chaired the Doha Summit, President of the East African nation Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, too, blasted the global community for their broken promises, saying that aid was “not a favour or an act of charity“, but a “moral responsibility“.

Meanwhile, the LDC Summit announced that Bhutan, Bangladesh, Laos, Nepal, Angola, Sao Tome and Principe and the Solomon Islands would graduate out of LDC status by the end of 2026. In that case, these countries shall gradually lose trade and aid privileges. Guterres warned that the eight countries might become “victims of the cruelest sleight-of-hand trick – support systems vanishing before their eyes“, and would require help after moving up the wealth scale.

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