Dr. Arjun KarkiLDC Watch International Co-ordinator Dr. Arjun Karki addressed the "High-Level Meeting of the Heads of State/Government/Delegation on Rio+20 and LDCs" held on 21 June at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development – popularly known as the Rio+20 – in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Below is Dr. Karki's Statement:

Right Honourable Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, Prime Minister of Nepal and the Chair of the LDC Group,
His Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey,
His Excellency Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister of Belgium,
His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
His Excellency Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations,
Hon. Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mr. Chairperson, let be begin by saying that we cannot achieve sustainable development anywhere if we fail to ensure it in the 48 UN defined Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Mr. Chairperson, the richest 10 per cent of people on this planet hold 57 per cent of global income while the poorest 20 per cent has less than 1 per cent; this one per cent also includes the share of LDC group of countries.

The present situation of the LDCs is very alarming and inhumane. The majority of our people, on a daily basis, are still deprived from even the bare necessities of life – adequate food, healthcare, water and sanitation, housing, energy, education – and therefore, deprived of a life of dignity and integrity. This is a political as well as ethical challenge to our governments as well as the international community.

Livelihoods, which are already inadequate, are further threatened by the expansion of corporate control over agriculture, forests and fisheries. Productive employment and decent wages is not available for a huge percentage of the LDC labor force. For our youth – our future who comprise over 60 per cent of the LDC population – their unemployment stands above 40 per cent. And, as if these economic burdens are not enough, our people are tormented by war, conflict, political instability, violence, women's oppression. These are symptoms of a deeply flawed system of injustice, inequity, exclusion and marginalisation that deprive our peoples from the universal right to development, peace and freedom.

Development makes no sense for our people in hot spots like Afghanistan, Sudan, DRC, who are fearing for their lives every ticking second. Peace and political stability in our countries are therefore a prerequisite for sustainable development.

Our people therefore should no longer be subjected to a life devoid of rights, equity and dignity. This present must change and in turn, the future of the LDCs must change – to one where all can enjoy their human rights in peace and harmony. And, for this change to materialise, we must urgently shift from the dominant unrestrained consumerist development paradigm to one which fully embraces sustainable development – but, a sustainable development which truly promotes social equity, environmental justice and the well-being of all people, and safeguards the health of the planet. It should be an economic paradigm that truly respects nature and the commons as priceless – not commodify and plunder it further. We therefore believe that treating nature as capital and further commodification and corporate control of nature will only make the rich richer and the poor poorer, furthering the divide of inequality and inequity.

LDCs are rich in natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity and for these very riches; we have been ruthlessly and relentlessy exploited by rich industrialised countries and even our own elites through the pursuit of export-oriented growth. Many conflicts in LDCs are actually wars over natural resources. Our governments and states must fulfill their obligations to defend the interests and rights of their people rather than be used as instruments for profit generation and accumulation at the expense of our people. Only then, we can ensure social, environmental and economic justice that lies at the core of true sustainable development.

LDC Watch has been reiterating that the LDCs suffer the worst impacts of climate change crisis although we are negligible contributors to the causes. This is extreme injustice to the vulnerable peoples of the LDCs. We harbour very rich but equally fragile ecosystems and biodiversity with our mountains, glaciers, deserts, forests and seas. Both, our nature and peoples are in jeopardy with the ever increasing desertification, sea-level rise and the melting of our himalayas which goes against sustainable development. The evolving climate-induced migration in the LDCs will soon be an additional alarming challenge at this rate.

We, therefore, continue to call on the rich industrialised countries who bear the historical responsibility for the climate crisis – to fulfill their obligations to humanity. We continue to strongly demand international actions that will bring about immediate and substantive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Further, we continue to call on them to deliver on their obligation and commitment to provide the finance and technology for people of LDCs and all developing countries to deal with the impacts of the climate crisis. We reiterate our demand for new and additional, non-debt creating finance for adaptation.

It is clear and certain that the LDCs have the highest stake vis-à-vis the outcome document that has now been adopted by member states. Let me pass on LDC civil society's message that the outcome document has failed our hopes of the future we want. Our future has been compromised simply due to a crisis of visionary leadership and political will. No new vision and no new commitments have only reinforced the status quo, on how we are to actually pave the way towards sustainable development. Simply reaffirming our past commitments which have been far short of implementation, is no claim for success of Rio+20! This planet and its most vulnerable and marginalised peoples in the LDCs urgently needs a concrete roadmap and accompanying action to safeguard their very survival and well-being, not a business-as-usual mere commitment, a recycling of the past, that we have witnessed.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that the current development paradigm, coupled with the development agenda and the accompanying aid architecture is not in favour of sustainable development, especially for the LDCs. This therefore urgently calls for keeping the LDCs at the centre stage, especially in the context of the upcoming Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) review in 2013 and the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) review in 2015 as well as beyond. We welcome PM Bhattarai's statement at the plenary where he urged the integration of the IPoA into the global development framework; this is essential to strengthen the political will, shared responsibility and mutual accountability of both our governments and development partners. We, LDC peoples will now NOT settle for only rhetoric for we just cannot afford to. We demand action in terms of implementation and delivery of commitments. And, to start with, we demand that all aid commitment to LDCs be fulfilled at the earliest to meet our development challenges. In a world of over production and over consumption, where global military spending can amount to $1.6trillion and more, we cannot accept that the promised aid delivery is not possible!

Thank you for your attention.