Graduation challenges of LDCs

Even after four UN Conferences and four specific Programmes of Action for addressing special development challenges of LDCs, the number of LDCs has doubled from 24 in 1971 to 48 now. Only four countries have graduated out of the LDC category so far. Hence, it is critical that LDCs and development partners act with greater political will to materialise their commitments defending LDCs’ developmental interests and priorities. Above all, it’s the accountability to LDC peoples that is key and of utmost priority.

There are many issues that the people of LDCs and the governments face, that stand as roadblocks to graduation. The dominant development paradigm and the current international aid architecture, which overwhelmingly prioritizes profits and markets have failed in addressing the development challenges faced by LDCs. 

The developmental role of the states must thus be reinforced, balancing the role of the states and the markets as emphasised in the IPoA. The current development model is perpetuating inequality and inflicting injustices in LDCs. The factual revelation - that the richest 66 people have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of humanity; the wealth of the 1% richest people in the world amounts to US$110 trillion, which is 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population, is unacceptable. 

Therefore, in order to enable LDCs to graduate, LDC Watch calls upon development partners to cancel all LDC debts, double official development assistance (ODA), use country systems and ensure country ownership in financing development in LDCs. 

The Ministerial Conference on New Partnerships for the Development of Productive Capacities in LDCs in Benin in July 2014 calls for “total cancellation of all LDC external debt” – LDC Watch is happy to note this outcome as total and unconditional cancellation of LDC debt has been one of our long-standing campaigns, hence we are eagerly waiting to see this commitment realised immediately! 

It is essential that LDCs intensify and accelerate their efforts towards improving the conditions of the youth and women, comprising the largest number of LDC populations and who are mostly unemployed, under-employed and marginalised, even when they possess high productive potentials and capacities to deliver to the LDCs’ development. 

The 2014 UN-OHRLLS Report points out that low levels of education, the limited employment generation capacity and underdeveloped social protection meant that large number of youths and women were underemployed or involved in low income self-employment, informal jobs or unpaid works in our part of the world. 

Social Protection is an essential priority for our poor and marginalised peoples and the IPoA has recognised it as one of the key elements under Human and Social Development. 

In accordance with the IPoA, LDC governments (i) “mainstream social protection into national development strategies and strive 

to strengthen country-led social protection policies and programmes” and (ii) implement social protection policies by ensuring 

allocation of adequate resources, capacity building and appropriate financial infrastructure for the functioning of social protection systems such as cash transfers with maximum efficiency”. 

Hence, LDC Watch has been calling for development partners to acknowledge their historical responsibility and equity under 

the UNFCCC and provide immediate, new and additional debt-free climate finance in order for us to adapt and build resilience against climate change impacts on LDCs. 

In this context, it is also essential to underscore the fact that we’re already facing Loss and Damage, which therefore must be considered a separate pillar in addition to adaptation. We are witnessing everyday climate change havoc, and hence, adaptation is too late in our countries.

Speaking of trade justice, we must fight for the full implementation of duty free quota free access to LDC products which was committed by development partners way back in 2005 in Hong-Kong. 

We must urge development partners to immediately remove both tariff and non-tariff trade barriers to ease access of LDC products to development partner countries. In Bali, at the 9th WTO Ministerial last year, LDC Watch fiercely fought for the adoption of the LDC package which is already weak with its non-binding nature. 

LDCs must now claim for their rights, which have been long committed by development partners, but yet remains unrealised.

We can’t think of poverty eradication and sustainable development while ignoring the development needs of the poorest and the most vulnerable LDCs. It is, therefore, a prerequisite that LDCs be kept at the centre-stage of the Post-2015 Development Agenda – No SDGs without LDCs and No Post-2015 Development Agenda without LDCs! 

Dr. Karki is International Co-ordinator, LDC Watch.

The article is based on Dr. Karki’s Opening Statement at the LDC Ministerial Meeting of Asia-Pacific LDCs on Graduation and Post-2015 Development Agenda, the complete version is here.

Source: LDC Watch and more at The Himalayan Times.