Turkey is hosting a major UN conference in Istanbul this week in order to "establish a vision on how the world will struggle against poverty and hunger." Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan bashed "rich" countries in his speech at the 4th U.N. Conference on the Least Developed Countries, or LDC-IV, Monday, saying, "I am sorry to say that the developed, rich countries have not shown satisfactory interest in this important conference."
Twelve prime ministers participated in the meeting's opening ceremony Monday, and more heads of state are expected to arrive during the conference, which runs until May 13. At least 44 ministers and 47 international organization leaders are expected to participate, along with more than 1,000 business enterprises. Focusing on the business side of the issue, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon promoted Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as investment opportunities rather than as charities.
"It is time to change our mindset," Ban said in his speech at the opening ceremony. "Investing in these countries is an opportunity for all. First, it is an opportunity to release the LDCs from poverty, hunger and diseases, which is our moral obligation," he said. "Second, investing in LDCs can provide the stimulus that can help propel and sustain global economic recovery."
In 1971, there were 25 LDCs, according to the United Nations. Today, there are 48, and just three nations – Botswana, Cape Verde, and Maldives – have escaped the LDC status in the past 30 years.
Of course, there are those who came to the conference with a more specific agenda. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joined the conference early this week, promoting his own ideas about how to end the poverty of LDCs through redistribution of resources. He said, "A map must be drawn of the wealth and natural resources of LDCs, to be circulated among leaders of these countries." Ahmadinejad also suggested that the wealthy nations should lower their military spending and give that money instead to LDCs. Ahmadinejad insisted, "At least 10 percent of the military expenditures of the world's 40 countries that exceed $1,200 billion must be allocated for LDCs."
Other ideas are less extreme. Barry Coates, executive director of Oxfam, New Zealand, argues for debt cancellation for the LDCs, especially fo those new debts taken out in response to the global financial crisis. Stephen O'Brien, the UK international development minister for Africa, would improve the trade opportunities for LDCs by, for instance, allowing duty free access for LDC exports.
Millions of people live in desperate poverty in these 48 Least Developed Countries, and from a purely economic position, the best thing for them is to grow job opportunities for their populations. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director at the World Bank, believes LDCs in Africa should make the most of their agriculture, and sell finished products and processed foods rather than simply exporting raw materials. Turkish Ambassador Mithat Rende told the Turkish news outlet Today’s Zaman, "When you are generating sustained economic growth or activity, you should think about how you can also generate employment. Without generating employment you cannot do much."
Rende, however, believes the only way for the necessary changes to occur and for these countries to build their economies and climb out of poverty is through global agencies like the United Nations. He visualizes global cooperation to deal with these longstanding economic problems. He said, "We’d like to highlight that all people have the right to benefit from global wealth and prosperity; it is in the interest of all to deal with global challenges and poverty. It is also our moral obligation and that of the global community as well. We need a paradigm of development, of growth, to achieve sustained growth for all, for the international order..."
Men like Rende may truly believe that global answers exist for these global problems. Regardless, this conference in Turkey is being used to promote global unity and cooperation as a means to cut the number of LDCs in half over the course of the next decade.
"We are talking about the conscience of the international community, and we should talk about collective happiness," Rende said.
Unfortunately, while those things sound lovely, the human race has a sin problem. Selfishness, corruption, greed, and hunger for power tend to get in the way. It is good to find ways to help the LDCs get on their feet and succeed in feeding their peoples. However, global governance will not work toward peace and "collective happiness" in a world dominated by corruption. According to the Bible (versus Revelation 13) only international order that will bring true justice and peace will be the one in which the Messiah rules in righteousness (Isaiah 11). Until then, all other forces working to bring global unity will likely fail or will lead to an international order that looks more like that found in Revelation 13.
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