Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the meeting of the Least Developed Countries’ delegation leaders, 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, 27 September 2012.
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Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you all here today. Especially, I would like to welcome the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn. We have arranged this meeting together with Ethiopia. I thank you for your support.
I would also like to pay tribute to Ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya, Permanent Representative of Nepal who has led the LDC group with skill and commitment as well as his predecessor Cheik Sidi Diarra.
The UN General Assembly is an exceptional opportunity for the world’s leaders to address topical issues. I think challenges of the Least Developed Countries merit our particular attention. The LDCs suffer from limited productive capacity and inadequate infrastructure. Population growth rates remain high, and per capita incomes low. They are vulnerable to external factors such as volatile energy and food prices and international financial flows, and to climate change. Many LDCs still need to work to reach the international development goals.
The LDCs have set themselves an ambitious goal: half of them are to start graduating from the LDC status within the next 10 years. We fully support this goal. To achieve it the LDCs need sustained and sustainable economic growth. Such growth is the foundation for more employment, better incomes and more tax revenues.
A formidable challenge for the LDC governments is how to strengthen public finances so as to provide basic services to all citizens, while ensuring that the private sector can thrive at the same time. In this, LDC governments themselves must take the lead. Our responsibility is to support them. International trade and finance regimes have to be such that the LDCs can fully mobilize their domestic resources and participate in international economic interaction.
Finland has been a steadfast and consistent supporter of the LDCs. Five of our eight long-term partner countries in development cooperation are LDCs. We have already achieved the ODA target of 0.15-0.20 % of Gross National Income that was reconfirmed in Istanbul last year.
Resilience to unpredictable factors like conflicts and disasters needs to be stronger in the LDCs. With this in mind, Finland is supporting the UN Development Group consultations seeking out developing country views on conflict and fragility with a view to post-2015 planning. As we all know, 2015 is the dead-line for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. We need to fully implement the MDGs but we also need new goals that go beyond them.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The United Nations is a symbol of international equality and cooperation. It provides a forum where we can agree on international norms and rules, and remove obstacles for development. This is especially important for small countries like Finland as well as for the least developed countries. It is a forum where everybody’s voice counts. This is also the reason why Finland is active in trying to reform the UN system. We need an effective and efficient UN to promote sustainable development, and to empower the poor and the marginalized.
But there is good news as well. According to the World Bank, the number of the very poor has been falling in every part of the world in the last few years. You, the distinguished representatives of the LDCs – and we in the developed world – are obviously doing something right. Let us keep up the good work.
Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
It has been a privilege for me, as a new President, to address your group of countries for the first time. Thank you for your interest.