Landlocked Developing Countries Conference to Address Development

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Third UN Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries will be an opportunity to address the issues these countries face.

Third UN Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries will be an opportunity to address the issues these countries face.

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 6 2024 (IPS) – Landlocked developing countries need greater support from the international community so that they are no longer left behind when it comes to progressing with the SDGs, says the UN High Representative of the Least Developed Countries.

The Third UN Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC3) is set to be hosted in Kigali, Rwanda, in June. A preparatory committee for the conference has been established and convened its first meeting on Monday. 

The overarching theme of the conference, “Driving Progress through Partnerships,” is expected to highlight the importance of support from the global community in enabling LLDCs to meet their potential and achieve the SDGs. The conference invites the participation of multiple stakeholders, including heads of state and government, the private sector, and civil society. Several senior leaders in the UN system, including Secretary-General António Guterres, are expected to attend the LLDC3 Conference.

Thirty-two countries are classified as LLDCs, 17 of which are also classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Sixteen are in Africa, and the remaining are located across Asia, Europe, and South America. This year will mark the first time that the LLDC Conference will be hosted in Africa.

Rabab Fatima, Under Secretary-General and High Representative of the Office for the Least Developed Countries, and the Secretary-General of the LLDC3 Conference, remarked that this conference would be a “once-in-a-decade opportunity” for the global community to address the needs of the LLDCs in order to “ensure that nobody is left behind.”

“The 32 landlocked developing countries are grappling with unique challenges due to their geographical and structural constraints and lack of integration into world trade and global value chains. Their situation has been further exacerbated by the lingering effects of the pandemic, climate change, and conflict,” she said.

The lack of direct access to coastal ports means that LLDCs rely on transit countries to connect them with international markets. This can lead to high trade costs and delays in the movement of goods. In other cases, many of the LLDCs’ transit neighbors are also developing countries with their own economic challenges. According to Fatima, the average cargo travel time for LLDCs was twelve days, compared to seven days for transit countries.

As a result of the slow progress in development, twenty-eight percent of people in LLDCs live in poverty. At least a third of the people are at a high risk of or already live with some form of debt distress, and fifty-eight percent of people deal with moderate to severe food insecurity.

Enkhbold Vorshilov, Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the UN, noted that the conference would be a “critical juncture” for the LLDCs. He also serves as the co-chair of the preparatory committee along with the Permanent Representative of Austria. He added, “Despite our varied cultural and economic structures, we share common challenges that impede our development and economic growth.”

The Preparatory Committee will negotiate the details of the conference’s outcome document, which has been prepared to “encapsulate the challenges and aspirations of the LLDCs,” according to Gladys Mokhawa, Permanent Representative for Botswana and the Chair of the Global Group of Landlocked Developing Countries. Mokhawa expressed that the document has so far received general support from member states and that the final draft would be comprehensive and committed to addressing the challenges that LLDCs face “that align with their specific needs and aspirations.”

“A vision is clear: to transform the geographical challenges and to ensure that our landlocked status is nothing more than a detail of geography,” she said. “We believe that our collective efforts can and will make a difference.”

“Our goal is not merely to draft a document but to build positive, genuine partnerships that will empower landlocked developing countries to overcome their challenges and achieve sustainable prosperity,” said Vorshilov. He added that, along with support from neighboring transit countries, cooperation from development partners and financial institutions would be important to mobilize the resources needed to support the LLDCs.

The document is intended to serve as a guideline for the LLDCs for the next decade and will touch on several areas of interest. In addition to addressing transport and trade, it will focus on emerging issues, such as science, technology, and innovation, and improving capacity and resilience against issues arising from climate change.

Earlier meetings, including the first meeting of the committee, have seen delegations express solidarity with the LLDCs and support for the agenda of the upcoming conference. Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis, Permanent Representative of the European Union Delegation to the UN, stated that the development challenges call for “more efficient allocation of financial resources on the path toward the SDGs” and that an “essential element” of their partnership would be the development of connections and transport corridors for the benefit of all peoples.

Speaking on behalf of the Africa Group, Ambassador Marc Hermanne Araba of Benin noted that Africa has faced the brunt of the challenges faced by the LLDCs and their neighboring transit countries. He added that the present moment was an opportunity to “chart a transformative agenda for the LLDCs,” and therefore it is important for the global community to reaffirm its’ commitment to address the LLDCs’ challenges together to “ensure that these countries are not left behind.”.

Fatima welcomed the media as a “key partner,” through which the voices of LLDCs would have a platform, and to bridge the gap between the conference and those communities who will be most affected by the outcomes by sharing their perspectives.

IPS UN Bureau Report


Moimuna Nursing Institute Ushers Hope for Vulnerable Rural Girls in Bangladesh

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Dr MA Sayed conducts a practical with his students at the Moimuna Nursing Institute. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Dr MA Sayed conducts a practical class with his students at the
Moimuna Nursing Institute. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

THAKURGAON, Bangladesh, Feb 6 2024 (IPS) – After passing her secondary school certificate (SCC) in 2019, Sweety Akter went door-to-door to collect money to enroll in a college, but she wasn’t successful.

Born to an extremely poor family in Fultala village under Baliadangi upazila in Thakurgaon district, Akter saw her dream of studying fading as she was unable to enroll in a college because of a lack of funding, despite her good results at school.

“I went to many places but did not get the opportunity for admission. I did not have the financial support to study at a private college or an educational institute.”

Then Sweety’s fortune changed.

“I luckily got a chance to study for a nursing diploma free of charge at Moimuna Nursing Institute (MNI),” she told IPS.

Two sisters, Sweety Akter (left) and Shikha Akter (right) enrolled in Moimuna Nursing Institute, Sweety has already completed a nursing diploma with financial support from the institute and Shikha is now a second-year student. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Two sisters, Sweety Akter (left) and Shikha Akter (right), are enrolled in Moimuna Nursing Institute. Sweety has already completed a nursing diploma with financial support from the institute, and Shikha is now a second-year student. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Explaining her financial hardships, the 22-year-old Akter said her father is a gambler who had sold all the family’s assets to gamble, and he had even sold their lone homestead, where they are currently living.

“My father does not give me and my younger sister any money for education. My mother works as domestic help at the houses of people and is bearing the costs for our four-member family,” she said.

Sweety said that if she had not had the opportunity to enroll at MNI, it would have been impossible for her to pursue tertiary education, and she would have been forced to marry.

Overcoming all the odds and passing the nursing diploma, she is now pursuing an internship at Rangpur Medical College and Hospital (RMCH) with financial support from the institute, which paves the way for former students to get jobs at hospitals.

Shikha Akhter (19) enrolled in Moimuna Nursing Institute in Thakurgaon, northwest Bangladesh, to pursue a diploma in nursing science and midwifery with the encouragement of her sister, Sweety.

Shikha said she enrolled in the institute at a minimum fee, and now she is enjoying more facilities than other students as her elder sister also studied there.

“I am studying the nursing diploma and staying at the MNI’s hostel, which makes my life easy. I want to be a good nurse and serve people,” she added.

Joya Rani, a 20-year-old girl from poverty-stricken Kaliganj village under Deviganj upazila, also studied the nursing diploma with financial support from the institute.

“My father is physically challenged, so he cannot work. My mother is the only breadwinner for our family, and she supports the family by rearing cattle. That’s why she cannot give me any money (for study),” she told IPS.

Joya, who is currently doing an internship at RMCH, said she received a stipend of Taka 2,000 (USD 19) from the institute over the past two years, and if she had not received the stipend, it would not have been possible for her to continue studying.

Moimuna Nursing Institute, located 460 kilometers away from the capital Dhaka, is a non-profit approved by the Bangladesh Council of Nursing and Midwifery and offers a three-year diploma in nursing for about USD 1,500, which includes tuition fees, accommodation, uniforms, and books.

Thakurgaon is a poor district in Bangladesh, with a poverty rate of 36.7 percent against 18.7 percent at the national level. Of them, about 19.7 percent of people in the district live in extreme poverty, which prevents many from continuing their education, particularly the girls.

Since the start of its journey in 2019–20, the MNI has been providing financial support, including stipends and need-based scholarships, for students coming from underprivileged families.

MNI’s managing director, Dr. MA Sayed, said the institute authorities are providing a handful of scholarships, with three poor students receiving stipends in each batch so that they can continue their nursing education.

In distributing scholarships and stipends, a committee of the institute inspects the houses of their students. If the committee finds evidence of acute financial hardship, the MNI provides support.

Even after completing the nursing diploma, the institute’s support continues, and it facilitates sending the former students to public hospitals to do internships.

“During their internship, we are providing financial support for some selected poor students so that they can accomplish their goals,” Sayed said.

He said the MNI provides a residential facility for its students to ensure a smooth environment for education, resulting in a 100 percent pass rate, which makes it the first in Thakurgaon district.

“We also carry out career counseling for students to encourage them to consider a higher education in nursing,” he added.

Teachers, students and staff of Moimuna Nursing Institute pose for a photo in front of its main building on the campus. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Teachers, students, and staff of Moimuna Nursing Institute pose for a photo in front of its main building on the campus. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Nirmola Toppa, mother of Nila Kispotta, who recently completed a nursing diploma from the MNI, said after her daughter passed the SSC examination, she tried to marry her off because she could not afford to pay for her daughter’s educational expenses.

But a scholarship meant Nila could complete her diploma, and she is now getting a stipend of Taka 2,000 (USD19) per month from MNI to complete her six-month internship at RMCH.

Nirmala said Nila received Taka 6,000 (USD 57) to enroll in the internship too.

Founder of Moimuna Nursing Institute, Dr. Saifullah Syed, said in Thakurgaon, many rural underprivileged girls and those coming from minority and ethnic communities pass the entrance exam (SSC) to enroll in nursing institutes but do not enroll due to financial constraints.

Also, there are many who could qualify but do not take the entrance exam, thinking that they may not be able to afford the educational expenses to become nurses and midwives, he said.

“That’s why I founded Moimuna Nursing Institute to ensure that qualified poor rural girls, particularly those coming from minority and ethnic communities, get the opportunity to become nurses and midwives,” Syed told IPS.

He asserted that his institute has established an endowment fund under the control of a Board of Trustees, provides need-based scholarships, and arranges sponsors.

The MNI welcomes donations as it means more students may be assisted.

IPS UN Bureau Report