TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May11/01)
Dear friends and colleagues,
Every ten years the
United Nations convenes a conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs),
with the fourth one starting next Monday (9-13 May 2011) in
The purpose of the conference is to:
1. Assess the results of the 10-year action plan for the LDCs adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on LDCs in Brussels, Belgium, in 2001; and
2. Adopt new measures and strategies for the sustainable development of the LDCs into the next decade.
The UN Office of the
High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing
However, the past few months of multilateral negotiations to review the implementation of the development commitments of developed countries towards the world's poorest and weakest countries, and to hopefully rise to the multiple global crises that hit worst on LDCs have been slow and frustrating. LDC negotiators and civil society groups that are actively involved in the negotiation process are very concerned that there is a retreat by developed countries of their existing commitments.
Below is a frank appraisal
by Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury of
With best wishes,
NEEDED FOR LDC IV IN
Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury*
(IPS) - Next Monday the United Nations is convening the decennial global
conference focusing on the challenges faced by "the poorest and
weakest segment of the international community humanity". This
week-long high level hosted by
These countries now numbering 48 and having a population size of 880 million - identified as the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) continue to be the voiceless, marginalized and most vulnerable countries of the world since the category was established more than four decades ago. These countries do not attract world's attention unless they are engulfed in conflict or devastated by natural disasters.
As the long preparatory
process involving all member states and relevant entities of the UN
is coming to a final point, the expected outcome of the fourth UN Conference
on the Least Developed Countries (UNLDC IV) does not look promising
at all. A mood of desperation and disappointment seem to be pervasive.
The upbeat atmosphere that existed ahead of all previous three conferences
is nowhere to be seen. The forward-looking and responsibility-sharing
outcome with a high-level advocacy and monitoring global mechanism at
the third conference in
In recent years, the
global situation, of course, has changed in a negative way requiring
a new and innovative approach to structure the possible outcome in
The LDCs seem to be
increasingly frustrated at the slowness of negotiations, lack of creativity
in recommendations and basically insignificant outcome document that
is being shaped. An expression that is going around is abbreviated as
"4Ds" which the LDC delegates believe explain very well the
current attitude of the development partners. DENY, DILUTE, DELAY and
DIVIDE, according to them, are the strategic steps that the partners
are resorting to since the preparatory process for UNLDC IV had commenced.
Nothing could be more disappointing than this with only a few days before
the start in
In terms of number
of events and profile of the conference,
One wonders what has brought the UNLDC IV to this near dead-end. Well, here are some clear realities that could not be wished away at this final hour:
1) The development
partners have taken a minimalist position on their commitment since
the negotiations commenced on the outcome document. The European Union
and its members who had played a key role in the positive results of
the last three LDC conferences have been rather hesitant in pushing
for a creative forward-looking agenda for LDCs.
2) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon began his second year in office committing him to alleviate the plight of the "bottom billion". That catchy description which included all LDCs seems to have disappeared from his priority agenda. Nine-member Eminent Persons Group appointed by him for providing much-needed and worthwhile ideas for bringing life to the UNLDC IV failed miserably by focusing on the graduation as the panacea for LDCs. That group was set up too late and with the persons who do not have any credibility with regard to their public commitments to LDCs. As a matter of fact, an examination of the public statements of the "Eminent Persons" during the one year period prior to their selection by the Secretary-General shows that nearly none of them made a single reference to LDCs in a substantive way. The Secretary-General passed the buck of his own responsibility to a group of people who did not have any commitment to the LDC issues and whose report earlier in March did not attract any attention either of the governments or the public or the media.
3) The lack of forceful, dynamic and creative leadership of the group of LDCs in preparing and steering the negotiating process from the outset has been visible all through.
4) The quality of the substantive documentation for UNLDC IV - be it from the member-states, or from the secretariat, or regional inputs - falls far short of the clarity of analysis and vision that is needed as an essential first step for success.
5) Though the negotiations are carried out by the LDCs Chair in the name of the Group of 77 which represent all 132 developing countries, in reality much of the challenge for the LDCs come from better-endowed fellow developing members who are constantly worried that the poorest would get away with special privileges.
6) UN public information apparatus did not play any role to highlight the issues of concern not only to LDCs but also to a larger world community. Its event-oriented press releases failed miserably to encourage much deserving engagement for UNLDC IV. The much-talked about advocacy strategy for LDCs called for by the UN General Assembly has not been able to show results.
7) The imminent death
8) Past years' experience tells us that the development partners as well as LDCs pay any regard to the objectives of the programme of action adopted by the UN for LDCs while structuring their bilateral assistance programme that is basically driven by national agendas of countries on both sides. This increasingly-visible self-serving dimension has been carefully kept out of consideration in any multilateral process in the name of bilateralism.
9) What is missing most noticeably from the expected outcome is a mechanism to cushion the external shocks of the terrible "C's" - climate change, credit crunch and commodity costs. The global crises of last years have shown that all the programmes and commitments meant for LDCs did not come to any use to give respite to the common people of these impoverished countries. They suffered beyond comprehension and still doing. A Global Safety Net for LDCs is what is needed to save the suffering of the millions of the vulnerable people in the weakest segment of the humanity. Such a safety net is to be structured in a way that it would automatically trigger measures to protect the vulnerable in LDCs in times of crises that is beyond their control.
To regain some credibility, the world leaders gathering next week in Istanbul need to live up to their responsibility to look after those whose needs are the greatest. To show leadership, the United Nations and its Secretary-General should be at the helm steering the international community's efforts to get these countries out of the morass made worse by, in his own words, the global "development crisis".
Unless some extraordinary
efforts are made to salvage
and High Representative. He participated in all previous LDC conferences
and set up the implementation mechanism for the last UN programme for
LDCs. Ambassador Chowdhury is the Chairman of the IPS North