Statement by LDC Watch at the United Nations High Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals

NEW YORK, 25 SEPTEMBER 2008 - Current development models and policies have completely failed the world’s poorest countries – the least developed countries (LDCs). The LDCs Group was established by the UN in 1971 in recognition of the specific needs and constraints facing the world’s poorest countries, and therefore the need for specific strategies for these countries. “The fact that the number of LDCs has increased from 24 to 49 presently is proof enough”, says Dr Arjun Karki, Chair of LDC Watch. According to UNCTAD, although LDCs are achieving record rates of economic growth this is not benefiting those living in poverty.

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In 2001, the UN adopted the Programme of Action for the Least DevelopedCountries for the Decade 2001–2010 at the third LDC conference (UN LDCIII) inBrussels. The overarching goal of the Brussels Programme is: “tomake substantial progress toward halving the proportion of people living inextreme poverty and suffering from hunger by 2015 and promote the sustainabledevelopment of the LDCS.Furthermore, the Brussels Programme states that: “itssuccess will be judged by its contribution to progress of LDCs toward achievinginternational development targets, as well as their graduation from the list ofLDCs.”

With less than two years remaining before the deadline for the realisationof the Brussels Programme, it is clear that those objectives that incorporatesome of the MDGs will not be met. Recent
World Bank claims that extreme poverty hasbeen reduced by half in the last 25 years should be treated with caution. The SocialWatch Basic Capabilities Index published this week, which is calculated on progressin terms of basic social indicators rather than levels of income, shows 28 LDCsat the critical level out of the total 33 countries.

The recent MDG Gap Task Force Report commissioned bythe UN Secretary-General also draws discouraging conclusions. There is a largedelivery gap in meeting commitments towards the MDG target of addressing the special needs of the least developedcountries...[andto provide] more generous official development assistance for countriescommitted to poverty reduction” states the report. It also concludes thatthe total annual flow to LDCs would have to increase on average by $8.8 billion(at July exchange rates) between 2008 and 2010 in order to reach the target ofbetween 0.15 and 0.20 per cent of each donor’s GNI.

The UN’s review in implementing the MDGs takes place in the context of globalfinancial instability which has a significant impact on LDCs as well as the restof the world. The ability of the world’s richest nations to find more than $700 billion to subsidise their banks stands in stark contrast not only to theirfailure to adequately finance their commitments towards achieving the MDGs, butalso to the restrictions imposed on LDC governments to support their owninstitutions.

The MDGs willnot be achieved in full if they are not achieved in the LDCs. Failure to achievethe MDGs in these countries will be a failure of the international community todeliver on its commitments to the 750 million people living in LDCs – NOMDGs without LDCs! LDC Watch calls on the international community, includingLDC governments and their development partners, to reaffirm their mutuallyagreed development commitments and to assure delivery of the following keydemands:

ü      Criticallyreview the Brussels Programme for a meaningful preparation towards the UN LDCIVin 2011.

ü      Increaseaid allocations for the provision of basic social services, support forlivelihoods and the development of social infrastructure in order to tacklepoverty and socio-economic injustices as well as building human andinstitutional capacities for enhancing productive capacities in the LDCs.

ü      Committo the complete untying of aid so as to enable an increase it is effectiveness.

ü      Endall aid conditionalities, including policy prescriptions and structuraladjustment reforms that have only exacerbated poverty, undermined sustainabledevelopment and increased vulnerability to financial volatility.

ü      Increaseaid allocations towards the promotion of gender equality and women’sempowerment for their meaningful participation in all development processes.

ü      Increaseaid allocations towards supporting sustainable eco-agricultural systems thatensure food security as well as food sovereignty for small and marginalisedfarmers. The right to food sovereignty approach is key in addressing thestructural causes of hunger and the rising food price crisis.

ü      Fosterfair and non-discriminatory trade rules linking human development and povertyeradication. Accelerate 100 per cent duty-free and quota-free market access.Ensure that regional and bilateral trade agreements are based on the principleof mutual partnership upholding sovereignty and the rights of countries andpeoples.

ü      Cancelall multilateral debt. Cancellation should be unconditional and based on theprinciples of justice and reparation, including recognition of the totalillegitimacy of these debts. The various debt relief initiatives, including thejoint World Bank-IMF debt sustainability framework, have failed as no debt islogically sustainable. Debt servicing is unjust when done at the expense ofsocial sector expenditure as is the case.

ü      Promotegood governance embodying transparency, accountability and due policy space inall decision-making processes.

ü      Adhereto an integrated climate risk management framework that reduces the ever-growingvulnerability associated with climate change and addresses climate justice. Allenvironmentally degrading projects must be stopped as a first step towardsaddressing the growing problem of environmental refugees. Total transparency andaccountability must be ensured in the planned multi-donor trust fund to combatclimate change. It must also fully respect country and local ownership.

ü      Recognisecivil society as equal partners in development and provide it with due space andsupport in formulating development policies and in decision-making.

LDC Watch believes that globalisation will only work for LDCs if it is based ona pro-poor development model rather than the neo-liberal doctrine whichcurrently exists. We therefore demand a reorientation of the global developmentparadigm to one which is inherently based on the right to development of allhuman beings. It is imperative that the global development agenda integrateshuman development with social justice to achieve our goal of an LDC-free world!

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The 49 Least DevelopedCountries (LDCs) are home to about 750 million people in the world. By 2015,this population size is projected to reach 942 million. Of 35 countries thatfall in the lowest category of the Human Development Index (HDI), measured interms of life expectancy, literacy, standard of living and Gross DomesticProduct (GDP) per capita, 32 are LDCs.