25 Sep 2013

Tuvalu unhappy with UN approach to LDC status

4:52 pm on 25 September 2013

Tuvalu's government is to push the United Nations to reconsider the criteria for graduation from Least Developed Country status.

Tuvalu is one of the 49 countries in the world with LDC status which ensures it gets greater access to international aid.

The status is based on poverty, weakness in human resources and economic and environmental vulnerability.

Tuvalu was due to graduate from LDC status this year but consideration of this by the United Nations Economic and Social Council has been deferred.

However the Tuvalu prime minister, Enele Sopoaga, says his country feels not enough weight is given to the environmental plight of small island states like his.

ENELE SOPOAGA: And that is what we have been asking the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the United Nations to consider. The committee and development policy of the ECOSOC, who assesses these criteria, has been very, very reluctant to recognise that, and we're going to continue to push on. It is our intention to take the matter in to ECOSOC to ask for consideration for the application of those three basic criteria. And we're going to push that anyway, with the hope they can appreciate better the unique situation of Tuvalu.

DON WISEMAN: So you would not expect Tuvalu to be in a position to graduate for many, many years?

ES: Well, we appreciate the recognition from ECOSOC that Tuvalu should graduate and lose that status, but this status, with the present application of those criteria, is totally unrealistic and perhaps very, very wrong. We need to address the application of the criteria. We have no problem with the criteria, but the application. EVI (Economic Vulnerability Index) must be one of the two. And that's just how we look at these things.

DW: So ECOSOC thought you should graduate, but you have been successful in getting them to defer that?

ES: Yes. I seem to have some sort of inkling at the back of my mind why the reason the recommended graduates from LDC status have always been small island developing states. First we had the Maldives, and then Samoa - all small island developing states. None of the major LDC countries with much more resources and much more capacity have ever been recommended for graduation. What is going on? Why have these recommendations on graduation been only on small island developing states who have been LDCs? For the Maldives, they were recommended to graduate in 2004, and towards the end of 2004, Christmas, Boxing Day of the same year, they got thrashed by waves, king tides coming all the way from the Asian tsunami and so on. It threw out almost the whole economy of the poor island country. In February the following year or March, April, in Mauritius, the whole world were talking nonsense and they were talking 'Oh, my God. What happened to Maldives?' We were talking about graduating and they were doing all right. And now the whole economy, almost the whole economy, has been thrown out the window. These are the realities of small island developing states and, therefore, bodies like ECOSOC must carefully look into their consideration. And there's a lot of LDCs in other regions of the world who are doing much, much better, much better. Yet they continue to [continue] getting special attention because of that LDC status. So there seems to be a conspiracy going on. We understand we need to stand up and deal with that.