The LDC IV Monitor organised a special event to explore the recent development trends in the LDCs and the implementation status of selected commitments of the IPoA on 29 May 2016, as side event of the Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) for least developed countries (LDCs). The event also saw the launching of the latest report titled, Achieving the Istanbul Programme of Action by 2020: Tracking Progress, Accelerating Transformations. The report highlights recent accomplishments, and missed opportunities for the LDCs in the context of an unfavourable global economic environment and inadequate delivery of global aid commitments.
The event featured a High-level Panel, followed by the presentation by Author’s Panel on the main findings of the report based on results from analyses of progress vis-à-vis targets in the IPoA and concluded by Open Discussion.
The key points of the High-level Panel discussion, moderated by Debapriya Bhattacharya, Chair, LDC IV Monitor, and Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue, comprised of following:
Kerffalla Yansane, Minister of State and Advisor, Guinean Presidency emphasised structural economic transformation as the most important factor for LDCs to graduate. He noted that the foundation of structural transformation lies in the strong institutions and commitment from leadership.
Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Benin to the United Nations and Co-facilitator of the Mid-term Review of the IPoA, was impressed by the depth of analysis presented in the report. He highlighted need for assistance to the LDCs in order to build capacity to implement technological innovations. He called for an investment promotion regime which will in turn support dynamic economic transformation. The interplay of the IPoA and SDGs has provided an accountability mechanism that provides an opportunity for LDCs to achieve economic and social progress. He emphasised the role of leadership, as fundamental to building resilience by building domestic resources against exogenous shocks. He also called for the need to develop inward investment demand: to invest in our own economies to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). He also stated that the security challenges are global in nature and it needs to be addressed by all.
Yvette Stevens, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the United Nations in Geneva and Chair, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) Board noted the time-appropriateness of the issues raised in the report. She stated that LDCs should take on the ownership and be accountable for their own paths towards graduation. She also called for developing concrete and focused activities, mirroring the model of the EIF and to make use of specific activities to leverage trade as a developmental tool. She felt that the Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) carried out in many of the LDCs with support from EIF will help mobilise additional resources for trade-related capacity building of the LDCs.
Ambassador Inigo Lambertini, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations explained the importance of remittance as a development resource. The issues raised at the event would inform the programme of the G7 economies. He recalled the experiences of Italy which clearly demonstrates the importance of remittances as a source of domestic resource mobilisation.
Yahya Gülseven, Senior Expert at External Affairs and Partnership Department, Turkey International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) recalled that after the global financial crisis there was a sharp decline in official development assistance (ODA) as resources were limited. Developed countries were hesitant to implement projects in LDCs as it was considered risky. However, Turkey proceeded to engage with Somalia. Overall, it has increased its aid budget in relation to South-South cooperation to around USD 400 million. In doing so, Turkey has changed the perception of LDCs being viewed as ‘risky’ and has signalled to the world that working in a LDC is not risky. Under the G20 presidency, Turkey attracted attention to issues of importance to the LDCs and argued in favour of encouraging greater South-South cooperation.
The authors of the recent LDC IV Monitor report, Achieving the Istanbul Programme of Action by 2020: Tracking Progress, Accelerating Transformations presented the following key findings of the publication:
Jodie Keane, Commonwealth Secretariat, London presented on the current structural transformation of LDCs. The quantitative analyses conducted presented a sombre outlook: LDCs have not met the growth target of 7% as outlined in the IPoA and are unlikely to in the second phase. Although some trade targets will be met, others will not and interpretation of some of the results relating to the achievement of structural economic transformation are challenging. Increasing export product specialisation is taking place at low levels of income for the LDCs. This is worrying in relation to the achievement of structural economic transformation. Another pertinent issue raised relates to the quality of services data which limits the ability to interpret recent trends in terms of achievement of structural economic transformation.
Patrick Guillaumont, FERDI, Clermont-Ferrand presented analyses on the graduation trends and prospects of graduation for LDCs. According to the research, the prospect of enabling half of the LDCs to meet graduation eligibility by 2020 appears to be extremely unlikely, with only a maximum of 10 countries likely to meet the graduation threshold by 2020, 3 of which are in this case due to the reform of the criteria thresholds. Reforms to the graduation process should include indicators related to structural handicaps that constrain the graduation process and consequently the achievement of structural economic transformation. The international community has an obligation to provide ODA and disbursing Aid for Trade resources.
Pierre Encontre, Chief, SIDS and Status Issues Section Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, UNCTAD observed that only seven countries were likely to be recommended for graduation, which not the objective of IPoA: Angola, Bhutan, Equatorial Guinea, Nepal, Sao Tome Timor Leste and Solomon Islands. He questioned the findings in the report which indicated that a maximum of ten countries were likely to meet the graduation criteria by 2020.
The potential synergies between IPoA and SDGs were presented by Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Centre for Policy Dialogue, Bangladesh. The presentation detailed the commonalities between the SDGs and the IPoA. The 2030 Agenda, captured in the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs, provides an important opportunity to realise the work plan set out in the IPoA, by way of drawing synergies, leveraging and establishing coherence in the course of their implementation. The SDGs include related targets in the following areas: poverty, hunger, employment, health, water and sanitation, education, gender, inequalities, climate issues (including disaster risks), governance and global partnerships. All of these are closely interlinked with the IPoA priority areas. The SDGs could play an important role in ensuring the sustainability of graduation of the LDCs.
Federico Bonagalia, OECD Development Centre, France presented the Emerging global challenges and obstacles to achieving the SDGs. Some of the challenges resonated old ones with new implications for the LDCs while others were new challenges that have become more relevant. The set of interconnected global challenges facing LDCs have the ability to significantly threaten the prospects of not only achieving the SDGs but also the IPoA goals. In terms of ODA, the absolute volume of flows to LDCs has increased, while the share of the LDCs as a group in total ODA has declined. Aid for Trade resources remain inadequate and fall short of commitments. This remaining a longstanding problem. Between 2002 and 2010, an average of 70 per cent of Aid for Trade commitments were disbursed. This is equal to the amount disbursed over the IPoA implementation period (2011–2014). While the 2030 Agenda calls for a ‘data revolution’ worldwide for monitoring global development goals and targets, the availability of data in LDCs remains inadequate. Monitoring progress against all the targets set out in the SDGs, as with the IPoA, is therefore likely to be a formidable challenge.
The event generated robust discussion and was attended by key persons from national delegations, civil society partners and representatives from international organisations such as OECD and UNCTAD.
Open discussion and Closing
Bénédicte Frankinet, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations and Co-facilitator of the Mid-term Review of the IPoA commended the report and the quality of research that went into it. He further suggested that the report be released before the Midterm Review enabling meaningful impact by informing policy before the final outcomes are decided. Stock taking should be undertaken and presented a year ahead of the next review in order to influence outcomes.
Pierre Encontre, Chief, SIDS and Status Issues Section Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, UNCTAD observed that only seven countries were likely to meet the graduation criteria: Angola, Bhutan, Equatorial Guinea, Nepal, Sao Tome Timor Leste and Solomon Islands. He questioned the findings in the report which indicated that ten countries were recommended for graduation.
Rolf Traeger, Chief, Least Developed Countries Section’s Research and Policy Analysis Branch, Division for Africa, LDCs and Special Programmes, UNCTAD echoed the importance of structural economic transformation which should precede the graduation criteria. He noted that holistic structural economic transformation ensures sustainability and longevity of the graduation. Furthermore, better targeted and focused policy initiatives by the international community could help facilitate this.
Debapriya Bhattacharya concluded the open discussion session by thanking the participants for their presence and valuable inputs. He thanked the authors for conveying the key message presented in the report and for highlighting that leadership and accountability would be central to the successful delivery of the IPoA.