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UN conference to review progress of least developed countries during past five years

A United Nations conference is set to undertake a review of progress made during the past five years by the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs), which comprise about 12 per cent of the global population.

Called the Midterm Review conference for the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries, it will take place in Antalya, in the south of Turkey, from 27 to 29 May.

Adopted in 2011, the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) is a plan that charts out the international community’s vision and strategy for the sustainable development of LDCs for the next decade.

“[The conference] is important as it is taking place at a midpoint of the decade long Programme of Action, in the first year of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the other global development frameworks,” Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, told reporters at a press briefing.

“We are taking stock of the successes but also challenges and lessons learned. It is also an opportunity to capitalize on the shared will of the international community to redouble efforts in accelerating support for the LDCs based on a strong national leadership and ownership,” added the UN official, who is also the High Representative for Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

According to studies undertaken by the United Nations, the general economic growth of LDCs has been positive since 2011, rising by about 4 per cent in 2012 and by 5.3 per cent in 2014.

“The challenge is that it is not shared equally by all,” stressed Mr. Acharya, adding that almost a quarter of the LDCs have a growth rate of more than 7 per cent, which is quite substantial.

The senior UN official noted that progress can especially be seen in the area of human development, access to the internet and telephone networks, infrastructure expansion, access to energy, reduction of child and maternal mortality rates, access to primary education, and women’s representation in parliament.

“But there are also many challenges. Incidence of poverty is still very high in these countries – almost half of the population is still below the poverty line,” he warned, underlining that many of the LDCs see their growth rates rise, but over time aren’t sustainable as many face conflict.

“Looking ahead in the next five years, what we’re really trying to discuss in the conference is what are the challenges that [the LDCs] face, for which they require strong national leadership and ownership, but also what can the international community do about it, in terms of raising resources, in terms of strengthening their institutions, but also in terms of helping them accelerate progress and building reliance.”

Participation is expected at the highest possible political level and will bring together various stakeholders, including representatives from governments, the private sector, multilateral organizations, civil society, and academia. The conference will result in an inter-governmentally negotiated and agreed outcome in the form of a political declaration.

According to Mr. Acharya’s Office (OHRLLS), the LDCs represent the poorest and weakest segment of the international community. They comprise more than 880 million people.

Their low level of socio-economic development is characterized by weak human and institutional capacities, low and unequally distributed income and scarcity of domestic financial resources. They often suffer from governance crisis, political instability and, in some cases, internal and external conflicts. Their largely agrarian economies are affected by a vicious cycle of low productivity and low investment. Only a handful has been able to diversify into the manufacturing sector, though with a limited range of products in labour-intensive industries, i.e. textiles and clothing.

The category of LDCs was officially established in 1971 by the UN General Assembly with a view to attracting special international support for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the UN family.

The current list of LDCs includes 48 countries (the newest member being South Sudan); 34 in Africa, 13 in Asia and the Pacific and 1 in Latin America. For LDC country profiles, click here.

Photo: Severely malnourished children from the neighbouring refugee camps are transferred to the in-patient therapeutic feeding centre of Batouri, Cameroon. The centre had only 12 beds before the CAR crisis. Photo: WFP/Sylvain Cherkaoui

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