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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2011

Fourth United Nation Conference on least developed countries

Statement by Amanda Ellis, Deputy Secretary International Development, Thursday 12 May 2011

Mr President
Delegates

Tena koutou katoa – Greetings from the people of New Zealand

It is an honour to address this Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries.

New Zealand joins others in expressing appreciation to the Government of Turkey for its generous hospitality. 

As a small South Pacific nation, New Zealand recognises that least developed countries face particular challenges.  The full support of the entire international community is required to help address these challenges –this includes a multi-stakeholder approach to development where governments partner with civil society and the private sector to bring innovative new approaches to the development agenda.

Five of the least developed countries are located in our part of the world –the small island states of Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.  They have narrowly-based and vulnerable economies, with a high dependence on remittances and overseas assistance.  They also have to deal with the constraints arising from vast distances and small populations, as well as difficult environmental circumstances, which include the adverse impacts of climate change.

To take one example, in South Tarawa, the major population centre in Kiribati, over 50,000 people are crowded onto a very narrow, low lying atoll with a population density similar to downtown Hong Kong.  Housing is poor, water often unsafe.  There is minimal sanitation and solid waste disposal with all the health challenges arising from these difficult conditions.  Rather than trying to act alone, New Zealand is partnering with Australia, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank in a multi-stakeholder initiative to support the efforts of the Government of Kiribati to create environmentally friendly growth.  This is a demonstration of the Cairns Compact in action, our own regional interpretation of the commitment made to donor coordination and partnerships in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. 

Despite the recent devastating earthquake in Christchurch where damage is estimated at 8% of GDP, New Zealand remains committed to steadily increase our official development assistance, including to LDCs.  The recent OECD DAC Peer Review of New Zealand found that in 2008 58% of New Zealand’s ODA went to LDCs and other low income countries, considerably higher than the DAC average of 44%. 

Over half of New Zealand’s aid is directed to our neighbours in the Pacific.  But our increasing focus on the Pacific does not mean that we are ignoring development needs in the rest of the world.  New Zealand provides substantial assistance in Southeast Asia and in Afghanistan and also maintains smaller programmes covering parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.  Timor Leste, Afghanistan, Lao PDR and Cambodia are long term development partners.  We provide regular humanitarian assistance to Myanmar and also respond, where possible, to urgent, compelling humanitarian need in other LDCs.  Our annual core funding to the multilateral system is untied, allowing agencies to spend New Zealand funds where the needs are greatest.  Consequently, our support to UN and other multilateral partners is frequently used to meet priority needs in LDCs.

New Zealand is very pleased to be able to announce at this Conference that we will provide NZ$2.5 million for a number of multilateral trust funds and programmes aimed at enhancing the economic development of all small states, many of which are LDCs. 

Collectively, we all need to do better in co-ordinating support to the LDCs.  Along with multilateral agencies, emerging economies, the private sector, foundations and civil society are critical partners in the fight against poverty.  

With finite resources, we need a much greater focus on development effectiveness so our programmes demonstrate both tangible and sustainable results that make a real difference to the lives of the poor and represent good value for money.  

New Zealand is now focusing our development support on sustainable economic development, including infrastructure, renewable energy, and investment in productive sectors.  These investments are designed to lead to the creation of jobs and increased wealth for communities.  This wealth needs to be shared.  Growth needs to be inclusive.  It needs to be pro-poor and gender sensitive.  World Bank research demonstrates that countries with the lowest levels of development also have the lowest levels of gender equality.  This is a missed opportunity.  The Economist estimates that in the last decade women’s economic activity has contributed more to global growth than China. 

The Brussels Programme of Action highlighted issues such as these which require ongoing attention.  The new Istanbul Programme of Action will accord a high priority to increasing the productive capacity of LDCs.  This corresponds well with the priorities for New Zealand’s development efforts.  As a small nation with limited resources New Zealand seeks to provide assistance in areas where we ourselves have a comparative advantage.  We are substantially upgrading our efforts in agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and in tourism especially through public private partnerships.  

And we are giving serious attention in the Pacific to improving transport infrastructure and making more use of local energy resources – these are essential “enablers” for tourism and trade.  

Along with many other countries, New Zealand is frustrated that the Doha Development Round has not yet been concluded.  The single, most effective step that could be taken to advance the position of the LDCs would be to create a framework within which they can trade themselves to a better future.  For our part, we have provided duty free and quota free access for 100% of LDCs’ goods since July 2001.  We are proud that we were one of the first developed countries to do so.

We are also not neglecting the critical enabler of human capacity building, including education and vocational training.  In the Solomon Islands we have pioneered a sector wide approach in partnership with the Ministry of Education.  We are delighted to be partnering with our close friend and neighbour, Australia, to intensify our coordinated support for education in other parts of the Pacific.

The Istanbul Programme of Action has the ambitious goal of halving the number of LDCs by 2020.  For this to be achieved the strong commitment and support of the international community is required, as well as a concerted effort by the governments and people of the LDCs themselves mobilising domestic resources, investing in human capital and good governance.  New Zealand commends the example set by the Maldives and congratulates them for their significant achievement in graduating.  We look forward to Samoa, from our own Pacific region, graduating in 2013.  This would have occurred earlier but for the devastating tsunami in 2009 which created such destruction and reminded us of the vulnerability of small island states to natural disasters.

Graduation from LDC status should be celebrated as a sign of the progress a country is making in advancing their development.  Unfortunately, and understandably, there is often concern and uncertainty that graduation will be costly for LDCs, for example, in terms of loss of preferences or assistance.  New Zealand welcomes the proposed working group to study and strengthen the smooth transition process.

In closing, New Zealand reiterates our commitment to play our part in helping LDCs out of poverty and along the path to a more prosperous future.  The High Level Meeting on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, later this year, will be the next opportunity for all of us engaged in development to share good practices and intensify our joint commitment to truly inclusive and sustainable development.  We were pleased to hear the Government of the Republic of Korea announce here in Istanbul its desire to see a new development partnership that represents a paradigm shift from aid to development effectiveness.  This stands to benefit not only LDCs but the entire international community.

Thank you

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT