Capacity building in LDCs

The following statement was made by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh at the Least Developed Country Expert Group workshop which was held in September 2002 in Dhaka. Participants discussed the urgent need for capacity building as appropriate preparation for formulating National Adaptation Plans of Action.

We have assembled here this morning of a mid-autumn day. The belated summer continues to radiate scorching heat in Bangladesh. We cannot afford to overlook this erratic behaviour and the whims of nature. These changes are occurring not only in Bangladesh, but worldwide.

We are all concerned over this breakdown of the balance in nature. As human beings we are no less responsible for these unnatural changes than nature itself. Should we fail to take cognizance of the issue and adopt ameliorative measures, calamity beckons us. Therefore, it has indeed been thoughtful of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group to hold this workshop to deliberate upon what can be done to face this climatic change. This endeavour will certainly contribute to capacity building for meeting the challenge. The initiative is timely as well, in the immediate aftermath of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

We are indeed happy that Dhaka has been selected as the venue for this important event. The major share of responsibility for this human-induced climate change rests with the industrial world. The contribution of countries like ours is minuscule, yet we have to pay a disproportionate price. Besides, the resources and technology needed to face the challenge is beyond our reach. A workshop of this kind would be beneficial to us all.

You all know that global warming will have a significant impact on the world as a whole. However, the effects will not be the same across the globe, because of geographic locations and different levels of development. While for some countries, the impact might be “lifestyle threatening,” for others it is “life threatening.” The group of Least Developed Countries will face the worst effects because of dependence of their economies on agriculture and natural resources. The small island states, their peoples and cultures are at risk of being wiped off the world map. While the Least Developed Countries contribute least to global warming, they are the worst victims and least able to adapt.

Let me take this opportunity to say a few words about Bangladesh. The intention is not to scare, but to sensitize you all.

As the most densely populated, deltaic and low-lying country, Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report has mentioned that half a metre sea-level rise will permanently inundate about 11 per cent of our territory. Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site, will be at stake.

Keeping this threatening scenario in mind, it needs to be mentioned that per capita emissions of carbon dioxide in Bangladesh are a mere 0.2 ton against an average of six tons in the industrial world.

Our people often witness the problems of floods and drought. Scientists have reached the conclusion that deforestation in the Himalayas exacerbates flooding in lower riparian Bangladesh. On the other hand, structural control of water upstream causes great loss to productivity of our agricultural land and exacerbates desertification in the western part of Bangladesh.

The Government of Bangladesh with its limited resources is trying hard to meet the challenge posed by climate change.

We have signed and acceded to the Kyoto Protocol. The government has initiated a mass movement for afforestation, which has already contributed to enhance our forest cover. Besides, we have taken several climate-friendly initiatives, such as the building of power plants based on natural gas and converting our motor vehicles to a compressed natural gas system.

As a natural disaster-prone country, Bangladesh has developed a variety of coping mechanisms at formal and informal levels. This has greatly reduced the loss of life and property from such disasters. However, in recent years, the frequency of extreme climatic events, such as floods and cyclones have increased worldwide. This is causing great havoc, particularly to the Least Developed Countries.

For obvious reasons, both the Climate Convention and the Kyoto Protocol have emphasized mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial countries. But non-mitigation of carbon dioxide by these countries further exposes the Least Developed Countries in particular to the adverse impacts of climate change. Public pressure on policy makers for action needs to be strengthened in the industrial countries. We all have to appreciate that we have only one Earth to live in. Once some of its parts are affected by environmental disasters, other parts will not remain safe.

You will appreciate that climate change impacts add additional complexities and burdens to planning for sustainable development. So we need to address these issues within the paradigm of sustainable development. Then the immediate concerns of poverty alleviation, safe and adequate water, health care, access to affordable and clean energy and adequate adaptation come to the fore.

However, with limited resources, it’s a real challenge for the Least Developed Country governments to address simultaneously the issues of climate change and sustainable development.

Till recent times, the Least Developed Countries group could not make much headway in devising a collective strategy in climate negotiations. Least Developed Countries require more interaction and dialogue within themselves for working out a common strategy, before negotiating with larger groups. I can assure you all that Bangladesh remains ever ready to extend total cooperation to these efforts.

All these activities on the part of the Least Developed Countries obviously require capacity building at all levels – policy and institutional, human resources, research and development as well as technical levels.

Further information
Saleemul Huq discussed the position of the Least Developed Countries Group and the role of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group in Issue 44/45 of Tiempo (September 2002).