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Wednesday, 26 July 2000

Mr President


I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the countries of the Pacific Islands Forum who are represented in New York; Australia, Fiji, Nauru, the Federated States of Micronesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and, my own country, the Marshall Islands.


We would like to thank the Committee for Development Policy for the report on their second session.  We would particularly like to thank the expert group of the Committee for the work it did in further assessing the proposed changes to the criteria for establishing least developed country (LDC) status, as requested by ECOSOC last year.   Our countries are pleased that the Committee has confirmed that economic vulnerability needs to be an explicit part of the LDC criteria.  This is important as we move beyond simple income levels to assess all the constraints to development when deciding which countries deserve LDC status.   We wish to reiterate that being economically or environmentally vulnerable does not automatically make a country an LDC. Vulnerability must be assessed alongside other indicators of development, and decisions taken accordingly.


Mr President, we continue to believe more work needs to be done to adequately reflect environmental and ecological vulnerability in the LDC criteria.  This is an issue of vital importance to the countries of my region, many of whom is vulnerable to extreme climatic conditions in the form of devastating cyclones, floods and other natural disasters, and is also particularly vulnerable to the threat of rising sea levels which have the potential to fundamentally change the way we live. We welcome the acknowledgment by the Committee that it needs to continue to develop and refine the LDC criteria.  We urge that in doing so they work closely with other agencies and organisations working on vulnerability issues.  In this regard we commend to the Committee the work of the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, who are developing an environmental vulnerability index which we hope in time will be a useful tool in refining the LDC  criteria.


Mr President, the case of the Maldives illustrates the importance of integrating future or prospective environmental vulnerability into the LDC criteria.  While the Maldives appears to meet the criteria for graduation from the LDC list, the Committee itself has noted that they are facing exceptional challenges from climate change. We believe that the Maldives needs the support of the international community in addressing these challenges.  As part of this we would support the graduation of the Maldives from the LDC list taking place in a phased manner, giving them a period of time in which they will continue to receive the necessary support of the international community while they attempt to address the exceptional challenges they face.



Thank you Mr President.