The thirteenth United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD–XIII) holds a special significance for the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), as this Conference comes immediately after the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC–IV) in Istanbul. The conference also comes at a time when Doha Development Agenda is deadlocked, and fear of a "double-dip" recession looms high and the world is grappling with the issues related to food and energy crises, and climate change challenges.
In the tradition of Doha, the Group expects that the Conference will pave the way for the international community to collectively work to forge a new consensus to pursue a development agenda in a fair and comprehensive manner towards addressing the needs, aspirations, priorities, and concerns of the LDCs. The LDCs Group considers UNCTAD–XIII in Doha as an opportunity to reflect on its future role and work out how best it can contribute to the development discourse. UNCTAD–XIII is also an important opportunity to build consensus on the course of development in the aftermath of global economic crisis. The Accra Accord provides a good base for UNCTAD–XIII to decide on how to promote development–centred globalization.
The comprehensive appraisal of the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action (BPoA) established that the specific goals and objectives of the BPoA have not been fully achieved; the progress had limited impact on employment creation and poverty reduction. The assessment also says that, in many LDCs, structural transformation was very limited and their vulnerability to external shocks has not been reduced. The reviews of BPoA at the national, regional and international levels have shown the need for greater ownership and leadership of the LDCs and better integration of the PoA into aid, trade and development strategies of development partners for the successful implementation and coherence of policies. There are calls for complementing the export–led growth strategies by focusing on the strengthened role of domestic productive capacity, diversification, enhanced investments, infrastructural development, building technological capacity, building and strengthening the capacity of the LDCs’ private sector that can stimulate enhanced and sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and structural transformation. This has shown that business as usual is not an option, necessitating a paradigm shift to bring structural transformation and economic diversification in the LDCs.
For the LDCs, this is a time of multiple transitions. There has been a transition from the BPoA to Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA). Numbers of LDCs are making the transition from conflict to peaceful democratic process. The development model that was made to pursue so far has come under question. The primacy of market forces is in trouble. Rampant deregulation is being cited as a costly mistake of any government. There are calls for enhancing the role of State to correct market imperfections as the consequences of the global economic crisis on development have been far and wide. Pressure of population on natural resources is intense.
Climate change has emerged as real, being manifested in heat waves, intense droughts, severe floods and destructive storms. Recent research reports suggest that conflict is 50 per cent more likely to break out in countries which suffer from drought and food shortages and this is yet another reason to fear the devastating impact of climate change. These reports also point out that 16 LDCs are in the critical zone in governance index while most other LDCs are in the danger zone, suggesting that the LDCs are in critical need of support in consolidating public institutions, public services and delivering development dividends to their people and avoiding State failure.
The LDCs are embroiled in rolling global economic crises through no fault of their own. The aftermath of the crises has seen the developed countries pursuing policies they were preaching and prescribing to the developing world not to do, including counter-cyclical policies and greater direct State intervention in the economy.
The continuation of the 20 per cent of the world population controlling 85 per cent of its wealth with only 15 per cent of wealth being spread among 80 per cent of the population is a challenge to the international community. Development for the few and underdevelopment for the many cannot continue in this interdependent world. Equity should, therefore, remain a guiding principle.
Searching for solutions to these numerous challenges requires an unprecedented level of global cooperation backed by political commitments and determination, and the LDCs Group expects UNCTAD–XIII to contribute meaningfully to this process.
The year 2014 happens to be the 50th anniversary of UNCTAD which, the LDCs Group feels, gives UNCTAD an important opportunity to help focus on the development discourse and the broader work of the United Nations on development, and reflect on what more needs to be done, how UNCTAD can contribute in this regard and also the direction it wants to take. It should also be an opportunity to learn lessons from the past, and move beyond to a more effective approach to development. By the time UNCTAD meets for its fourteenth Conference, we will have reached the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The IPoA will have its comprehensive midterm review, implementation, follow-up and monitoring in 2015. These contexts make UNCTAD–XIII all the more important.
The LDCs Group feels that, in the World Trade Organization (WTO) deliberations, the LDC package – covering full implementation of duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access, associated rules of origin, a most favoured nation (MFN) service waiver for LDCs, and "a step forward" on cotton – should be agreed for an early harvest by the Eighth Ministerial Conference in December. This package will send an important message from the international community that has committed to support the LDCs enabling half the number of LDCs to meet the criteria for graduation by 2020. The effective delivery of an early harvest in December 2011 is considered to be the first and critical step of the global community for paving way towards the implementation of the IPoA.
The IPoA (paragraph 156) calls upon UNCTAD "to continue to address the challenges faced by least developed countries through conducting intergovernmental consensus-building, especially in the Trade and Development Board, and to contribute to the implementation of the Programme of Action also through its technical assistance to least developed countries. UNCTAD’s institutional capacity in the research and analysis of least developed country issues should be maintained to this end."
The LDCs Group welcomes the agreed conclusions recently adopted by the fifty-eighth session of UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Board (TD/B/58/SC.I/L.2) that "urges UNCTAD to continue to address the trade and development challenges facing the LDCs including by mainstreaming the relevant provisions of the Istanbul Programme of Action into the work of the secretariat and in its intergovernmental machinery with a strengthened interdivisional coordination and follow-up mechanism, in accordance with the mandate of UNCTAD, within UNCTAD’s existing resources."
The LDCs Group recognizes that UNCTAD’s LDC Trust Fund is an important vehicle for enabling technical cooperation and capacity-building activities in LDCs, and for the successful implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action. While appreciating the contributions to the LDC Trust Fund, it calls on development partners to contribute more to the LDC Trust Fund and ensure the implementation of IPoA.
The LDCs issues are cross cutting in nature. This position paper aligns with the contents of position paper of the Group of 77 (G-77) and China, and makes some additional points that need to be particularly focused from the LDCs perspectives. This paper outlines the expectations of the group from the UNCTAD–XIII.