Explanation of Position at the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (Part 1)

Nicholas M. Hill
Deputy U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council
New York, New York
March 17, 2022


The United States is pleased to join consensus on the Doha Programme (DPOA) of Action. We praise the diligence and flexibility shown by all delegations to come together around a document that addresses the urgent concerns facing Least Developed Countries (LDCs). We commend Canada and Bangladesh for their relentless efforts to promote compromise and bring us to consensus. The resulting Programme of Action will be a defining document, one whose timeline covers the remaining eight years leading up to 2030. When the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was endorsed in 2015, it was a highly ambitious set of goals. Seven years have passed since then. We are cognizant that for LDCs, which are faced with new challenges and setbacks generated by the dual threats of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, achievement of the SDGs may feel further away today than it did in 2015.

The United States is committed to the full achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. We firmly believe that the SDGs remain within our reach, and the DPOA helps to illuminate the path forward. In that regard, we all have a role to play – Member States, local and regional governments, civil society actors, the private sector and business community, universities, entrepreneurs, and innovators. The United States partners with LDCs to catalyze the necessary resources and capacity to deliver development outcomes for their people, balancing the three interlinking pillars of the 2030 Agenda: economic, social, and environmental.

We underscore that the Doha Programme of Action is non-binding and does not create new or affect existing rights or obligations under international law, nor does it create any new financial commitments. Related to this, we stress, too, that the term “right to development” is not recognized in any of the core UN human rights conventions and does not have an agreed international meaning.

Independence of other bodies: The United States is firmly committed to the full achievement of the SDGs. In that regard we uphold and respect the authority, independent mandates, and role of other processes and institutions. We highlight our mutual recognition, in paragraph 58 of the 2030 Agenda, that implementation of the Agenda must respect and be without prejudice to the independent mandates of other processes and institutions and does not prejudge or serve as precedent for decisions and actions underway in independent fora. The 2030 Agenda also does not interpret or alter any World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement or decision, including the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). Similarly, indicators, governance proposals, and language developed through this process have no precedential value for the International Financial Institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group.

Addis Ababa Action Agenda: Regarding the reaffirmation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, we note that the trade-related language in the outcome document is “immaterial” to our position – either the United States could not agree to the language or such language has been overtaken by events. Therefore, our reaffirmation of the outcome document has no standing for ongoing work and negotiations that involve trade.

Trade: The United States supports strong and growing trade relationships around the globe. We welcome efforts to bolster those relationships, increase economic cooperation, and advance prosperity for all people, within the appropriate institutions.

We underscore our position that trade language negotiated or adopted by the General Assembly or Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), or under their auspices, has no relevance for U.S. trade policy, for our trade obligations or commitments, or for the agenda at the WTO, including discussions or negotiations in that forum. This includes calls to characterize and expedite market access and tariff liberalization for LDCs. This also includes any call on extending flexibilities and trade preferences to LDCs, which falls under a discussion of differentiation at the WTO, and not the UN. Similarly, this includes calls to adopt approaches that may undermine incentives for innovation, such as technology transfer that is not both voluntary and on mutually agreed terms.

ODA/Concessional finance: The United States proudly stands as the largest provider of official development assistance (ODA) but has not committed to the UN targets of 0.7 percent of GDP or to 0.15-0.2 per cent of GNI to LDCs. The United States attaches exceptional importance to our relationships with—and the needs of—our LDC partners and friends. For many years, approximately one-third of U.S. net bilateral ODA, averaging almost $11 billion annually, has been invested in LDCs. Regarding concessional assistance, the proper fora to discuss eligibility and allocation are the Boards of the Multilateral Development Banks and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Climate Change, including Climate Finance: Addressing the climate crisis is a top priority for the United States. The United States works in close partnership with vulnerable LDCs to support clean energy transitions and build resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change. Last year President Biden released the first-ever U.S. International Climate Finance Plan and announced his intention to work with Congress on a quadrupling of U.S. public international climate finance by 2024 to over $11 billion, including a six-fold increase of adaptation finance. The United States also supports efforts to enhance access to climate finance, including in the context of the Green Climate Fund and other relevant multilateral funds.

Regarding references to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris Agreement, and the Glasgow Climate Pact, all relevant references in the DPOA should be understood as they are situated within their respective contexts. In particular, we note that language in this declaration from the Glasgow Climate Pact only partially reflects that agreement, and omits reference to a number of key elements, including as they pertain to the imperative to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit warming to 1.5C. Further, the assessment of progress made toward any decisions taken, mandates, or goals in the UNFCCC context remain solely under the consideration of those fora. Accordingly, and in regard to paragraphs that link the DPOA with other processes, it is our understanding that there will not be an additional process under this body for assessing progress made toward the goals of the UNFCCC or the Paris Agreement, to include assessment of the collective goal to jointly mobilize $100 billion in climate finance per year in the context of meaningful mitigation action and transparency on implementation, referred to in paragraph 250i of the DPOA. We underscore our continued commitment to fully delivering the $100 billion goal as soon as possible and welcome the substantial progress made by climate finance contributors at and in advance of COP26 to this end.

Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs): While the United States acknowledges the UN system increasingly uses the term “illicit financial flows,” we continue to have concerns that this term lacks an agreed-upon international definition. Without an agreed-upon definition, resolutions should be clearer about the specific underlying illegal activities, such as embezzlement, bribery, money laundering, other corrupt practices, and other crimes that produce or contribute to the generation and movement of illicit finance. Equally, all Member States should focus more concretely on preventing and combating these crimes at home.

Colleagues, we are glad to join you in the adoption of the DPOA. We look forward to continued collaboration at LDC5 in Doha in March 2023, and we stand ready to partner with you in the critical decade ahead.