UN LDC IV Time to Deliver

The fourth UN conference on the Least Developed Countries concludes making pledges to support LDCs to help themselves. But will these pledges translate into action?<br>Bhagirath Yogi in Istanbul

May 29, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 04 No.-23 May 27 -2011 (Jestha 13,2068)

For five-days (9-13 May), the Lutfi Kirdar Convention and Exhibition Center looked like a festival ground. Some 9,000 people, attired in their traditional dresses, had gathered in the historic city from around the world. The aim was to lobby with the western developed countries to commit more to support one of the poorest sections of the world’s community. But, as delegates and activists were returning to their respective countries, there was little for them to take back. “We had high hope that things would change this time, especially after all these crises in the world. Unfortunately in the produced document, we see cynicism, it is business as usual. Developed, countries do not seem ready for a new kind of partnership, it is really disappointing,” said Demba Mousaa Dembele, a civil society activist from Senegal, who is also the chairperson of LDC Watch—a network of civil society organisations monitoring the progress of LDCs. The Istanbul Declaration and Istanbul Programme of Action (2011-2020), adopted by the member states of the United Nations at the conclusion of the summit, however, called for partnership for all the stakeholders to change the plight of the poorest people in the world.

“Solidarity, cooperation and partnership with the least developed countries, the poorest, most vulnerable and weakest countries and their people are not only moral imperatives, they are also economic and political ones… A successful renewed and strengthened global partnership that effectively addresses the special needs of least developed countries will contribute to the cause of peace, prosperity and sustainable development for all,” said the Programme of Action adopted by the five day conference.

But, were the world leaders really committed to change the status quo? Evaluation of their decision regarding the Overseas Development Aid (ODA) and debt cancellation could be one of the yardsticks.

The Istanbul Programme of Action (PoA) called upon the donor countries to fully deliver on ODA promises made by them by 2015 and further enhance the resources to LDCs thereafter. “This commitment, when fulfilled, is expected to double the resources going to LDCs from 38 billion US dollars to almost 70 to 80 billion US dollars by 2015. And we have also agreed to an upward revision of resources going to LDCs after 2015,” the PoA said.
Regarding debt cancellation, the Programme of Action called for an enhanced level of support for debt sustainability of the LDCs with bold and comprehensive measures. “We are frustrated as the conference has failed to meet our expectations,” said Dr Arjun Karki, spokesperson of the LDC IV Civil Society Forum. “The UN General Assembly Resolution 63/227 passed in 2009 had called on member states to mobilize additional international support measures and action in favour of the least developed countries. But this did not happen,” he added.(Debt Scenario)Officials, however, insist that the Istanbul conference should be seen as a step forward as it has pushed the LDC agenda higher in the international development discourse.

“The Istanbul conference has rightly put the issue of the LDCs high on the international agenda and also stressed the imperative need for giving a strategic focus to the concerns and expectations of the LDCs as the most vulnerable group of the international community,” said Gyan Chandra Acharya, Nepal’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who was actively engaged in the negotiations as the chair of Bureau of LDCs and group of 77 developing countries (G 77).  “We hope that the full and effective implementation of this comprehensive yet action oriented program of action would result in a substantial change in the lives of the people. With vigorous partnership, it can help half of the LDCs meet the criteria of graduation by 2020,” he added.

The Programme of Action, among others, called for providing more support for market access through realization of the timely implementation of duty free quota free provisions for LDCs, reforms in the rules of origin, and clear commitment to enhance the share of assistance to LDCs for Aid for Trade; Establish stronger support mechanisms to promote foreign direct investment (FDI) to LDCs through setting up of new initiatives and partnership programs including by providing incentives to business community to invest in LDCs; and provide support for accelerating the progress towards attainment of all MDGs especially with provision of technical and financial support; and for its further progress beyond 2015 in education, health, shelter, sanitation, gender equality and empowerment and social protection.

The LDCs, on their part, committed themselves to combating corruption and good governance. The host country, Turkey, announced that it was willing to host a mid-term review of the PoA in 2015 by inviting all the stakeholders.

Nepal’s Participation
Though Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal had to cut short his visit to Istanbul due to simmering political crisis back home, officials said Nepal had an opportunity to show its leadership skills and brush up its profile as a leader of the LDCs.  And, what would the conference mean for millions of poor living in Nepal?

“This summit provided a forum for both LDCs and development partners to share their concerns, which is a good beginning,” said Deputy Prime Minister Upendra Yadav, who led the Nepali delegation after premier Khanal returned Kathmandu. “If we could have relative political stability in the country, we could easily graduate out of the LDC status within the next decade,” he added.

Though LDC leaders like Yadav asked for strong international support to help at least half of the 48 LDCs to graduate by 2021, many at the conference were less enthusiastic towards such outcome.

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