UNCTAD: LDCs need a new generation of international support measures

A recent United Nations paper ("The least developed countries need a new generation of international support measures to face the development challenges of the 2020s", United Nations Conference on Trade and Development - UNCTAD, Policy Brief No. 97) stresses that the least developed countries (LDCs) need a new generation of international support measures to face the development challenges of the 2020s.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in a policy brief issued in February, pointed out that "beset by long-standing structural weaknesses, shortcomings in international support and widening inequalities within and among all countries, [LDCs] have to confront new or intensifying problems worsened by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, climate change, the rapidly evolving character of globalisation and the new technological realities of the digital age".

"The health crisis emerged at a time when progress was unsatisfactory, with many LDCs already facing broadly similar economic challenges that led to the establishment of the category in 1971, including high levels of poverty; commodity dependence; inadequate accumulation of financial, physical and human capital; low labour productivity; low value addition to exports; and structurally weak economies".

In order to cope with and overcome both old and new challenges, LDCs need a new generation of international support measures that are "fit for purpose in a fast-changing global environment" and these measures should be "tailored more closely to enabling and sustaining the aspirations of the LDCs and addressing the long-standing structural vulnerabilities of these countries", underscored UNCTAD.

International support measures for LDCs are classified into three main areas: international trade; development cooperation; and support for participation in the UN and other international forums.

Trade-related support measures comprise preferential market access for goods; preferential treatment for services and services suppliers; special treatment regarding obligations and flexibilities under the World Trade Organization rules as well as under regional agreements; and trade-related technical assistance and capacity-building.

Under development cooperation, support measures for the LDCs include special quantitative and qualitative commitments in bilateral official development assistance flows; specific resource allocations by multilateral and regional development organisations including the UN system; dedicated mechanisms such as the Technology Bank for LDCs, the Enhanced Integrated Framework under Aid for Trade, the Least Developed Countries Fund, the UN Capital Development Fund and Investment Support Programme for LDCs; South-South and triangular cooperation; and scholarships and other forms of financial support for education and research.

As regards support measures for participation in international forums, these include support for travel; caps and discounts to UN system budget contributions; capacity-building for participation in negotiations; and flexibility in reporting requirements under international agreements.

"Overall, existing international support measures have so far had only modest impacts due to inadequate design, partial implementation by donor countries, insufficient funding, declining effectiveness, institutional weaknesses and limited utilisation by LDCs", highlighted UNCTAD.

"Critically, LDCs need a new development model centred on productive capacities to eliminate structural impediments, build resilience to shocks and overcome the limitations imposed by their continued marginalisation in the global economy".

UNCTAD further emphasises that the new generation of international support measures should aim at strengthening the existing measures, and at establishing new measures, to address the gaps in international support.

It has proposed the following principles towards enhancing the coordination, synergy and coherence of international support measures:

* Align the new generation of international support measures with the overall objective of fostering the development of productive capacities aimed at achieving structural transformation.

* Foster coherence and synergy among international support measures in the field of trade, finance, technology and capacity-building.

* Adapt international support measures to twenty-first century realities, including the lingering effects of COVID- 19, climate change and the accelerated digitalisation of the world economy.

* Strengthen the mutual accountability of LDCs and their development partners through a specially designed, overarching multilateral governance framework and monitoring and evaluation to achieve greater transparency in international support measure operations.

* Strengthen and accelerate the process of graduation from the LDC category.

The policy brief provides examples of measures in the areas of trade, financing for development and technology; illustrating in a tabular format their past performance, challenges as well as alternatives to address the challenges.

Furthermore, for in-depth analyses and recommendations, it points to the UNCTAD's flagship report, "The Least Developed Countries Report 2021: The Least Developed Countries in the Post-Covid World - Learning from 50 Years of Experience".

The report was published in September 2021, marking the 50-year period of the establishment of the LDC category in 1971 by the UN General Assembly, following research, analysis and advocacy work by UNCTAD.

At the same time, the 50-year landmark coincided with the intergovernmental negotiations taking place for the new generation Doha Programme of Action for the LDCs for the Decade 2022-2031, which was expected to be adopted by the Fifth UN Conference on the LDCs (LDC5) scheduled for January 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

However, the LDC5 Conference was postponed with the COVID-19 pandemic raging unabated. It was postponed for the second time, originally being scheduled for January 2021 after the end of the previous Istanbul Programme of Action (2011-2020) implementation period.

On 23 February 2022, the General Assembly adopted a resolution deciding to reschedule the LDC5 Conference with new dates and, "on an exceptional basis, to hold it in two parts".

The first part is now planned for 17 March at the UN headquarters in New York, consisting of one plenary meeting to consider and adopt the draft Doha Programme of Action for the LDCs for the Decade 2022-2031.

The second part is scheduled for 5-9 March 2023 in Doha, Qatar, which is expected to adopt the political Doha Declaration.

It will also feature the daily General Debate of Member States, high-level thematic roundtables, the Parliamentary Forum, the Civil Society Forum, the Youth Forum and the Private Sector Forum.

With the new Doha Programme of Action (2022-2031) as well as the final remaining decade for the aspirational Sustainable Development Goals running in parallel, UNCTAD underlines "enhanced and renewed international support" in the form of new generation of international support measures to the LDCs to advance progress towards both agendas.

By Prerna Bomzan.

Source: South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) #9534 Tuesday 15 March 2022.