UN calls for greater support to least developed countries, adopts new declaration in Turkey
A major United Nations meeting focusing on the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) closed on 29 May in Antalya, Turkey, with a call for greater support to the world’s most vulnerable nations, and the adoption of an outcome document paving the way for further concrete action and progress in the years to come.
“We are pleased that a number of important initiatives have been put forward that will support the least developed countries to reach their full potential” said Gyan Chandra Acharya, the UN High Representative for the LDCs and Secretary-General of the conference.
The three-day meeting, co-organized by the Government of Turkey and the UN, reviewed progress made by the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs) since the adoption in 2011 of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA).
Challenges and opportunities in LDCs
At this Midterm Review, challenges and opportunities were considered in addition to recommendations for the next five years of implementation, taking into account the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement.
The meeting, hosted by Turkey in the coastal city of Antalya, brought together around two thousand participants including high-level UN officials and representatives from government, international and regional organizations, civil society and the private sector.
It featured an inter-governmental plenary, four high-level roundtables, 25 side events, a private sector forum, a civil society forum and a pre-conference event hosted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and Bangladesh.
New initiatives and Political Declaration announced
A number of initiatives were announced, including the appointment of a “governing council” for the Technology Bank for LDCs, which will support access to and the better utilization of science, technology and innovation.
“Strengthening global partnerships and supporting strong national leadership and ownership, will assist almost one billion people living in vulnerable countries as they work towards a bright and productive future,” declared Mr. Acharya, who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
The meeting adopted a Political Declaration, in which participants highlighted how LDCs have experienced some recent progress in areas including reduced child and maternal mortality rates, gender parity in education and parliaments, as well as access to the internet and mobile networks.
Economic growth has also been strong, even though its pace has been more volatile and below the average of the last decade. There has also been an increase in the number of countries fulfilling criteria, which will lead towards graduation from least developed status.
Graduation from LDC status ‘not everything’
“The key message is graduation is not everything,” Shamshad Akhtar, the Executive Secretary of the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), told the UN News Centre.
“Least developed countries need to continue being recipients of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) because that is a very important cushion that they need,” she stressed. “But also how the ODA is deployed to build their resilience is also very critical.”
Ms. Akhtar was referring to a financial pledge made by development partners to allocate the equivalent of 0.2 per cent of their Gross National Income (GNI) to LDCs, a commitment which was reaffirmed today at the conference.
Emphasis on investment
Another strong message in Antalya was that much more needs to be done to build productive capacity in agriculture, manufacturing and services, so that LDCs can work towards lifting themselves out of the category.
Representing the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Ashwani Muthoo told the UN News Centre that agriculture is the “backbone” to achieving this. Last year, nearly 70 per cent of the UN agency’s new annual commitment went to LDCs.
“What is clear is that there is a great will at the local level and at the community level to do better, but they also need to be supported by good leadership and better governance,” Mr. Muthoo said. “As IFAD, we are there. That’s our mandate to support them, and we do realize the agenda is unfinished but together we will get there.”
In addition, it was underlined how further development of infrastructure and access to energy will have far-reaching effects in LDCs, helping to eradicate poverty. Private sector development and the promotion of gender equality, all while building resilience, were highlighted as critical.
“I believe all this can be done,” Jeffrey Sachs, an Advisor to the UN Secretary-General and an Advocate for the Sustainable Development Agenda who spoke at the meeting on financing options said, noting that the global community needs to be very “practical.”
“My emphasis is on investment; investment in people, health and education, investment in infrastructure – the roads, the power, the fiber, the broad-band connectivity. Because if we can create that platform of strong infrastructure and human capital, the private sector capital is really amazingly large and mobile worldwide,” he explained.
The global community also emphasized that initiatives providing LDCs with access to duty-free and quota-free markets, and offering favorable conditions under which exports qualify for preferential treatment, should be fully utilized, with a commitment to increase Aid for Trade to LDCs.
Commitment to undertake a study that will consider ways in which LDCs can manage and withstand shocks such as natural disasters, health pandemics and economic volatility, was also reaffirmed.
There are 48 LDCs in the world, which comprise more than 880 million people (about 12 per cent of world population), but account for less than 2 per cent of world GDP and about 1 per cent of global trade in goods.
Adopting Declaration, political leaders, representatives reaffirm commitment to Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries
‘Need to foster progress across all sectors’ underlined at Midterm Review
While the world’s poorest 48 countries had made headway in reducing poverty and improving well-being, without “robust” support to help them diversify production bases, boost trade and protect hard-won gains from various external shocks, the aspirations of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 would not be realized, Heads of State and Government, and High Representatives agreed today, as they concluded the three-day Midterm Review of that 10-year framework.
“We reaffirm our commitment to the full, effective and timely implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action,” they stressed in a 26‑page Political Declaration geared towards catalysing action within the new context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other recently agreed international accords.
While least developed countries (LDCs) had made significant efforts to achieve the Istanbul Programme of Action – especially in the areas of agriculture, human development and achieving peace – there remained “a need to foster progress across all sectors”, the Declaration states, adopted as orally revised, both by those countries and their partners.
The Istanbul Programme of Action, adopted in 2011, covers eight priority areas: productive capacity; agriculture, nutrition and rural development; trade; commodities; human and social development; multiple crises and emerging challenges; financial resources; and good governance. Amid mixed reviews on its implementation, Governments pledged to tackle the institutional and capacity constraints that had hampered greater – and more sustainable – prosperity. In such efforts, national ownership was essential.
Strengthening global partnerships and supporting strong national leadership and ownership would assist almost 1 billion people living in vulnerable countries as they worked towards a bright and productive future, said Gyan Chandra Acharya, United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. Moving forward, it would be important to build solid links between the Programme of Action and global development frameworks in order to accelerate progress in the next five years for least developed countries and sustainable development for all.
Through the Declaration, Governments made recommendations across 14 areas, perhaps most notably around financing. Official development assistance (ODA) providers reaffirmed commitments, including to allocate 0.7 per cent of their gross national income (GNI) to ODA, and between 0.15 and 2 per cent specifically to least developed countries. To help least developed countries mobilize domestic resources, they committed to help broaden tax bases, enhance revenue administration and reduce corruption. Debt situations must be vigilantly monitored and problems addressed, where appropriate.
During the past five years, the Declaration stated, limited progress had been made in diversification and value addition. The situation required strategic policy interventions at the subnational, national, regional and global level. In terms of market access, Governments reaffirmed their commitment to “significantly increase” poor countries’ share in global trade, pledging to increase “Aid for Trade” support. Least developed countries were encouraged to mainstream trade into national development plans.
To foster investment promotion, they welcomed the decision of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to adopt “investment promotion regimes” for the least developed countries, inviting the United Nations Secretary-General to include that issue in the agenda of the System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, to enhance the ability of poor countries to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). They also recommended that least developed countries establish regulatory and policy frameworks that allowed businesses to innovate, invest and transform technology into employment.
On the issue of technology, Governments reaffirmed their commitment to operationalize the technology bank for least developed countries. In that context, they took note of a 2015 General Assembly resolution outlining steps necessary for its launch by 2017, pledging to promote synergies with the Technology Facilitation Mechanism established in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. They invited the bank’s governing council to draft a legal charter to be adopted by the Assembly by the end of 2016.
The ability to withstand and recover from external shocks was critical. With that in mind, Governments decided to carry out an analysis on crisis mitigation and building resilience for least development countries at the national and international levels, requesting the General Assembly to determine the parameters at its seventy-first session. They expressed their commitment to take early action to prevent armed conflict by strengthening core governance institutions, among other things, and called for more effective delivery on climate change commitments.
As for the United Nations, wider recognition of LDC status could facilitate better integration of the Programme of Action into the system’s development policies. The Committee for Development Policy was invited to look into why that category had not been applied by some bodies and to include its findings in its annual report to the Economic and Social Council.
More broadly, the Declaration recommitted Governments to “broadening and strengthening” the participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making. Those and “more concerted and ambitious” efforts would enable half of the least developed countries to meet the criteria for graduation by 2020.
Also during the closing plenary, participants adopted the report of the Midterm Review, introduced by the representative of Nepal as Rapporteur, which also included a resolution expressing thanks to the people and Government of Turkey, presented separately by the representative of Thailand on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.
Representatives of Bangladesh, Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Belgium presented summaries of the four high-level round tables held during the Midterm Review on the themes of, respectively, “Productive capacity, agriculture, food security and rural development”; “Trade and commodities, economic diversification and graduation”; “Human and social development and good governance at all levels”; and “Multiple crises and other emerging challenges, mobilizing financial resources for development and capacity-building”.
The representative of Mali presented a summary of the parliamentary parallel event, and a representative of LDC Watch also spoke.
Delivering statements during the general exchange of views earlier in the day was a representative of Bahrain, as well as officials from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN-Women) and the United Nations Tourism Organization.