Keynote speech at the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) 5.3.2023

Keynote speech at the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) 5.3.2023

Presidentti Halonen osallistui YK:n vähiten kehittyneiden maiden konferenssiin Dohassa, Qatarissa 5.3.2023. Hän oli avainpuhuja konferenssin pyöreän pöydän keskustelussa, joka käsitteli kansalaisiin ja ihmisoikeuksiin panostamista vähiten kehittyneissä maissa.


Roundtable 1 on: Investing in people in least developed countries to leave no one behind 

Let me first thank the Government of Qatar for hosting the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.  

The theme of this roundtable is very topical. Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals were unanimously adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. Together we agreed to pursue a sustainable future and promised to leave no one behind.  

We are currently living in very challenging times. We are fast approaching tipping points of climate change. Number of conflicts is increasing and humanitarian crises are continuing in many parts of the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and deepened inequalities. Geopolitical divisions are growing. And a triple crisis of energy, food security and finance is ongoing. The impacts of these crises are weighing especially heavily on people in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). 

This year marks the halfway point in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is critical that we stand by our commitment to achieve socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development for all. Everyone must be able to fulfill their potential and have an equal access to opportunities. 

My own country Finland is committed to working with LDCs and to support their efforts to achieve sustainable development. When implementing development policy and development cooperation, Finland focuses on the priorities built on our values and strengthsFor example, investments in education have contributed to Finland’s own development path into a welfare society and we wish to share this experience with others.  

This is why we are committed to working with LDCs to support inclusive and equitable quality education, a human right and a sustainable development goal on its own. It is also a vital means to reducing poverty, advancing gender equality, addressing climate change and contributing to sustainable development as a whole. Finland allocates nearly 50% of its aid to education to LDCs and more than 50% to basic education.  

I want to highlight the importance of school meals as a social safety net with wide-ranging benefits to nutrition, well-being and education of children and families. In 1943, Finland was the first country to guarantee a free school meal. Since then school meals have become an essential element of our welfare and education system. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how essential the leaving no one behind principle is to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The pandemic has affected all countries, but the impact on LDCs has been 

particularly severe. It has posed serious challenges to progress made towards achieving the sustainable development, especially on poverty reduction. It has also negatively impacted the human rights, including the right of every person to education. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of multilateral cooperation for preparedness and response globally. COVID-19 vaccines are a global public good and have proved to be a prerequisite for ending the pandemic.  

The COVID-19 pandemic diverted resources from work on sexual and reproductive health and rights and access to services. Finland has emphasized the importance of recognizing sexual and reproductive health services as primary health care and essential part of universal health coverage (UHC) and the development of health systems. Studies show that with very limited resources and investments, significant results are achieved in the health of mothers and children, for example. 

Health also contributes to the “humanitarian-development-peace” nexus.  

Health security is one of the specific targets in the Sustainable Development Agenda and it is also connected with many other targets. Strong and resilient health systems strengthen preparedness for crises and create trust in the society.  

To promote health for peace, we must put people, especially persons in vulnerable situations at the center. Women and girls often bear the heaviest burden in crises and catastrophes but they are also powerful actors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how women’s knowledge and know-how has been central to all societies. Women’s role in decision-making can critically strengthen the response and resilience of society.  

To lift people out of poverty and create equal opportunities for all, efforts to ensure universal social protection play an important role. Social protection is about protecting our people, the most important factor in our economies. Social protection a smart investment that can provide important support for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for everyone in society. 

We must also facilitate a transition from the informal to the formal economy. Decent work is important for access to both universal social security and adequate income. Securing decent work enables individuals to build better and more prosperous futures for themselves, their families and their communities. 

Addressing the gender gap in employment is at the core of decent work. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity and increases economic diversification and income equality. This will not happen if women continue to do most of the informal care and domestic work in the families.  

Formalization and professionalization of child care is an opportunity to boost women’s productive labour force participation in all societies. This is one of the most important investments into the Economy of Wellbeing. We cannot achieve sustainable development with only half our potential. 

This conference provides an opportunity to renew our promise to support sustainable and resilient development for all. We are in a race against time to reduce the inequalities and vulnerabilities that risk leaving individuals, communities and whole countries behind.  

The Doha Programme of Action can make concrete difference in the lives of people in least developed countries but it will require efforts from all of us – the LDCs, development partners, policy makers, multilateral institutions, civil society, academia and the private sector.  

In this respect, let me highlight an initiative that Finland together the UN with has brought forward. In 2021, we hosted the first ever UN LDC Future Forum in Helsinki to identify and share innovative solutions to the challenges LDCs face, in support of the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action. We intend to organize this forum annually. 

Let’s continue the joint efforts. Thank you for your attention.