Australia's National Statement to the Plenary of the Fourth Conference on Least Developed Countries
- Natural Resources
Australia's Statement to the Fourth Conference on Least Developed Countries Plenary, as delivered by The Hon. Bob McMullan, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister, on 11 May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.
It is a privilege to be able to address, on behalf of the Government of Australia, this Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries.
Let me begin by expressing Australia's appreciation to the Government of Turkey for hosting and presiding over this event.
This is an event with great potential.
The key question is – will the potential of this event be realised?
While in the ten years since the Brussels Programme of Action there have been some notable achievements, persistent challenges remain.
And the overall challenge facing LDCs has assumed a new dimension – their economic vulnerability must now be redefined to incorporate the very real concept of climate vulnerability.
An honest assessment is that the results of our joint efforts have been disappointing.
A renewed commitment is needed to meet the needs of the world's poorest and most vulnerable.
One very positive development is that emerging economies are playing an increasingly important role in LDCs through South-South cooperation, investment and remittance flows.
Effective co-ordination among all development actors will be crucial in order fully to realise the benefits of these new forms of international cooperation.
This is why Australia is increasingly working in partnership with emerging economies to assist low-income countries.
Australia's own commitments to developing countries and LDCs in particular are clear and unambiguous.
And, what is more, we do what we say.
We have a substantial and growing development assistance program.
We said we would double our development assistance between 2005 and 2010, and we did.
We said we would double our development assistance again between 2010 and 2015, to well over $8 billion dollars, and we are on track to do that.
Last night in Australia, the Government announced that its development assistance budget for this year will reach $4.8 billion dollars, including more than $1.5 billion for LDCs.
This is an overall increase of more than eight per cent in real terms or around half a billion dollars relative to last year.
To put this in context, the average rate of growth of Australia's total public expenditure over the next four years is projected to be only one per cent.
Australia is making some very tough public expenditure choices, like most other countries, but has not wavered from its commitment to increase development assistance.
The Australian Government committed, at the 2010 MDG Summit, to substantially increase the focus of its development assistance on the LDCs, and we are doing that.
Funding for LDCs will increase by 20 per cent this year and account for one-third of Australia's development assistance.
Over the five years from 2010 to 2015, we will invest around $10 billion in programs targeting the development needs of the LDCs.
Australia recognises the importance of international partnerships in achieving sustainable development outcomes for LDCs.
Throughout last year, we consistently called for an ambitious replenishment of the World Bank's concessional arm, the International Development Association.
In December 2010, we delivered a very substantial increase in our IDA and multilateral debt relief contribution for the period 2011 to 2014 – pledging a total of $830 million.
This was some 30 per cent higher than our previous contribution and was the largest percentage increase provided by any of IDA's top twelve donor countries.
We have substantially increased our engagement with UN funds and programs, including through multi-year core funding commitments to eleven UN organisations that, over four years, will add several hundreds of millions of dollars to previous levels of support.
Most important, however, are the partnerships we form with individual countries to help them progress their own development priorities and address their most pressing development challenges.
As we expand our development cooperation with LDCs over the next decade, Australia will give particularly high priority to addressing the challenges of climate change and food insecurity.
Climate change has the potential to affect food and water supplies and to threaten the viability of some human settlements – with serious, even existential, impacts on the economies and societies of vulnerable countries, including Australia's near-neighbours in the Pacific region.
That is why we are assisting developing countries to respond to climate change in the 2010 to 2012 "fast-start" period.
We have committed $600 million toward the global fast-start financing effort and we have already committed around 80 per cent of this to countries and multilateral funds.
LDCs and small island developing states have been given the highest priority in the allocation of our fast-start package – because these countries need it most urgently.
Not less than half of our fast-start financing will be allocated to adaptation, recognising the pressing need to deal with those impacts of climate change that are already inevitable.
Increasing food insecurity is having a particularly adverse effect on the development of low-income food-deficit countries, including many LDCs.
Australia has struggled with a difficult environment for agriculture and has worked hard to increase its own agricultural productivity.
We have committed $100 million to an Africa Food Security Initiative that draws upon our unique experience in dry land agriculture.
In addition, we have particular interests and capacities in the area of sustainable and responsible natural resources management – and we are committed to expanding our work with LDCs and other vulnerable countries in this area.
We will be looking for opportunities to respond on a bilateral basis to specific requests from LDCs for assistance, focusing particularly on food security, climate change and natural resources management, and drawing wherever possible on the unique capabilities of Australian institutions.
Aid is necessary but it is not enough.
There is no path out of poverty without trade.
Australia has been a vocal supporter of open trade as a major driver of economic growth and poverty reduction.
We were one of the first countries to provide unilateral, non-reciprocal market access for all LDC exports to help boost their income from trade and promote the further development of productive capacity.
International remittances to developing countries are also an important and under-recognised source of development financing.
Australia is working closely with Italy and other G20 member countries to reduce barriers to the flow of international remittances and increase their development impact, particularly in the LDCs.
Australia strongly supports the view that the Istanbul Programme of Action should have associated with it an effective accountability mechanism.
Further, in cooperation with France and other G20 member countries, we intend to ensure that the Istanbul Programme of Action receives the attention of G20 leaders when they meet in November.
Australia has been among the most active proponents of the G20's new development agenda, and has argued consistently for a strong G20 focus on measures to promote economic and social resilience in low-income countries, including LDCs.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Maldives on their recent graduation from LDC status.
This is an impressive and all-too-rare achievement.
The Istanbul Programme of Action sets us all a very ambitious target – to graduate half of the 48 LDCs within the next decade.
This underscores the critical importance of ensuring a smooth transition for countries graduating from the LDC category.
More must be done to ensure that countries moving towards graduation face incentives rather than penalties.
Australia is working closely with the Maldives and the wider G77 membership to support a forthcoming General Assembly resolution that aims to recognise the challenges faced by graduating countries and strengthen transitional measures.
In closing, let me say that we look forward to the day when there are no more
programmes of action – when our action has achieved its aims and the 48
countries that are our concern today are advancing along a path that leads to
better lives for all their citizens.