LDCs Summit in Doha and promises made 42 years ago

Sadly, there was no major announcement of desperately needed cash

Shazia Anwer Cheema March 15, 2023
The writer is a PhD scholar of Semiotics and Philosophy of Communication at Charles University Prague. She can be reached at shaziaanwer@yahoo.com and tweets @ShaziaAnwerCh


It is a common perception that the standard and quality of living of humans have been improved through the first industrial revolution and then due to the information technology revolution. While I cannot disagree with this fact, I do believe that the divide between rich and poor has also increased in the recent past to the limit beyond control. In the good old days, a human being might live under less secure circumstances in terms of diseases and physical labour but the condition was more or less the same for everybody: if a cure was not available for the poor it was also not available for the rich because there was no cure available at all (in terms of viral and bacterial diseases). It is not the case now and we live in a global system of deprivation and divide — the divide between who can afford and who can’t. As living standards in general are not the same, a vast population is living in the continuous misery of inaccessibility. The most recent example is the Covid-19 vaccination that was available for rich immediately after its invention but the poor waited for nearly a year to get the first shot.

The world is enjoying the idea of healthy food and safe living but it is not accessible for a population of Least Developed Countries (LDCs). These countries are losing livelihood due to several factors including bad governance, corruption, climate change impact and armed conflicts. Today, LDCs account for 14% of the world population with access to less than $1.9 a day.

Since September 1981, the world community is trying to take LDCs out of poverty. Except for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal, the rest of LDCs are situated in the African continent. According to the UN data released at Doha LDC Summit, 1.1 billion people are living in 46 LDC. This figure was 42 in September 1990, according to the Paris conference report held on 3-14 September 1990.

The situation got better in the first decade of the 21st century. A report released by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) in April 2012 documented a list of 39 LDCs. But 10 years on, we today have 46 countries on the list.

Are we moving backwards despite spending billions on mitigating poverty? If yes, then one of the reasons is the debt trap, as indicated by Csaba Kőrösi, the President of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly. According to him, between 2011 and 2019, the combined debt of LDCs tripled from $10 billion to $33 billion per year. A report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released in 2020 noted that LDCs’ total external debt servicing cost reached $31 billion in 2020, and forecasted that it would soar to $43 billion in 2022.

The Doha Summit triggered me to find out what 77 countries of the world pledged with LDCs and how far they have kept their word. Having gone through the original document adopted at the Paris Summit (1-14 Sept 1981), I have no doubt that the world had not only failed in the realisation of dreams the 77 countries sold to LDCs but rather the mantra of ‘Open Market Economy’ that is ruling the global trends since the early 1990s devastated horticulture and agriculture growth of these countries because imports of edibles into these countries increased instead of their exports getting a boost.

Despite the pledges of providing assistance and skills, their horticulture and agriculture growth have been on a constant decline for three decades. At Doha LDC Summit 2023, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly criticised rich countries for not providing the appropriate support LDCs desperately need today. It is pertinent to mention that leaders of the world’s major economies refrained from attending the Summit that focuses on the turmoil in poor nations. Sadly, there was no major announcement of desperately needed cash.

“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”— Mother Teresa

Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2023.

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