Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to supporting and advancing sustainable development in the world’s least developed countries (LDCs). The prime minister was in Doha for a two-day official visit to attend the 5th United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs), “The Doha Programme of Action: Driving Sustainable Development in the Countries Farthest Behind’. The conference offers an opportunity to highlight the plight of LDCs, which face a variety of challenges ranging from economic to developmental to other areas, as well as to accelerate sustainable development and articulate these countries’ full potential. As is unavoidable and necessary, developed countries must assist LDCs in not only realising their potential but also in developing areas such as education and health, as well as acting responsibly, particularly when it comes to climate change.
In representing Pakistan’s concerns, Prime Minister Shehbaz has stressed the importance of exploring opportunities to ensure sustainable development in areas where international assistance is most needed—the Global South and countries that lag behind in development indices. As the prime minister stated, LDCs require assistance in reaching their full potential, which can be achieved in part through robust investments in health, education, and social protection systems. There is little doubt that massive resources are required to fully implement Agenda 2030 and the SDGs. PM Shehbaz has also proposed a system of international technology combined with SDGs to provide easy access to LDCs in order to help them develop, bridge their digital divide, and contribute to a knowledge-based economy. We see that LDCs typically provide cheap labour for richer nations, rather than the developed world providing opportunities for LDCs to develop a skill-based economy.
PM Shehbaz has also correctly stated that many of these countries are already in or are on the verge of debt distress. Pakistan, in particular, is experiencing one of the worst economic crises in its history and is on the verge of default. With last year’s devastating floods, the country faced billions of dollars in losses, and despite international community pledges, little has materialised to date. Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the global carbon footprint but has suffered from a climate change-induced natural disaster in the form of floods in the country, which have displaced millions of people. This is on top of the fact that flooding may occur again this year. In terms of climate-change-related disasters, the international community’s responsibility cannot be overstated, nor can we stop emphasising that the developed world, particularly the West, owes the Global South far more than it is currently doing. The rich-poor divide in the world is not limited to individuals but also to entire nations. With the developing world, particularly LDCs, facing a slew of challenges such as climate change disasters, poverty, food insecurity, and so on, we need to see more action from the world’s wealthier nations.