Oxfam calls for action to lift the world’s Least Developed Countries

At a time when one in seven people face a daily struggle to get enough food, Oxfam is calling on world leaders gathering in Turkey May 9-13 to seize the opportunity and help lift the most vulnerable nations out of poverty.

Istanbul is hosting the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UN development chief Helen Clark, and 39 heads of state – mainly from the poorest countries – will join a range of civil society organizations, academia and the private sector. Their aim is to map out an action plan that ensures the world’s poorest people have enough to eat, as well as access to water, jobs, education, basic health care and other essential human rights.

Food prices are once again on the rise, passing the levels reached during the crisis of 2007-8, which pushed the number of hungry people in the world to more than 1 billion. Since July 2010, prices of many crops have risen dramatically, including maize, wheat and sugar, with increases of more than 70 per cent. For people already struggling to get by, this is devastating.

“The tragedy is that there is enough to feed every human being on earth – yet we have nearly a billion people who are chronically hungry, and an equal number who are obese. Hunger is a result of injustice, not of a global food shortage,” said Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director Barry Coates. “For the poorest people in the world’s poorest countries, obstructions beyond their control keep the basic necessities of life out of reach.”

In 1971, 24 of the most fragile and vulnerable countries were identified by the United Nations as Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Four decades later, we live in a significantly more unequal world. Wealth has further concentrated in the hands of the few and the number of countries branded “least developed” has doubled to 48, amounting to 15 per cent of the global population. Predictably, 33 of the LDCs are in Africa, 14 are in the Asia-Pacific region, and one is in the Caribbean.

The international community has a vital role to play. It is a scandal that rich countries still subsidize their agriculture and displace impoverished producers of crops like cotton. The UN conference could reform trade rules to discriminate in favor of LDCs, instead of rigging the rules against them.

“In Istanbul, leaders have an opportunity to deal with systemic problems in the world’s food system, along with related issues of poverty. With vision and courage, they can mark a turning point,” said Coates.

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Contact information

Jason Garman, Oxfam New Zealand, tel: +64 9358 5902 cell: +64 21 202 5096, jason.garman@oxfam.org.nz