Image via WikipediaAnnouncing both hard data and feelings about the lack of progress toward achieving sustainable development and poverty eradication in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the Civil Society Forum's representatives have said they are not happy at all. “We are angry; we are frustrated,” said Dr. Arjun Karki, chair and spokesperson of the Civil Society Steering Committee, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday when the committee released its report on the LDCs at the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs in İstanbul (May 7-13) outlines an ambitious plan of action to lift the world's 48 LDCs out of the spiral of poverty.
“The civil society Global Report provides information and statistics that clearly illustrate how the Brussels Program of Action, drawn up for the third LDC conference in 2001 failed to make a significant dent in the poverty and vulnerability in LDCs,” Karki said.
According to the Global Report, the developed countries have failed to meet their pledges to LDCs, most obviously to provide official development assistance (ODA), amounting to 0.15-0.20 percent of gross national income, as reiterated in the Brussels Program of Action in 2001 at the previous LDC conference. The report points out that ODA flows to LDCs mask unacceptable geographic disparities in the distribution of aid linked to foreign policy and security, “the so called war on terror, trade and other strategic interests,” saying in many cases it is not development aid.
“In 2007, 55 percent of LDC aid went to eight countries: Afghanistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mozambique, Uganda, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The remaining 41 LDCs -- comprising 84 percent of the LDC population -- shared just 45 percent of ODA flows,” the report said.
The report also refers to an external debt stock of $155 billion and annual debt service payments of more than $6 billion in LDCs. “This is proving to be a major handicap in their fight against poverty and underdevelopment. With debt growing with every aid program, there is no real prospect that the loans incurred will ever be paid back,” the report states.
Therefore, the Civil Society Forum recommends that the domestic economies of the LDCs should be strengthened partly by giving democratic ownership and control of their resources and sustainable extraction; financial resources should be ensured for equitable, just and sustainable development through measures like progressive tax and international tax justice and a financial transaction tax; and bold steps should be taken to solve the LDCs’ debt problem including transforming the international financial system and reining in speculation on commodities.
The forum also recommends that 100 percent duty-free quota-free market access should be ensured for LDC exports. “LDCs have the richest natural resources in the world but they have not been able to use these resources self-sufficiently for over a century, and the number of LDCs has even doubled in the last 40 years. The situation stands before us as a shame,” said Dr. İhsan Karaman from Doctors Worldwide Turkey, who is also a member of the Civil Society Steering Committee.
He added that policymakers in the global north should take their hands off the natural resources of the LDCs; development partners should spend a certain amount of the money they invest in militarization on supporting the LDCs; and the corruption problem in LDCs should be solved through transparency and accountability.
The Civil Society Forum’s representatives have added that civil society’s involvement is vital to ensuring that a new program of action is going to be carried out, and citizens must be closely involved in the follow up and monitoring of the İstanbul Plan of Action for its success. “We want members walk the walk. We want them to respect decisions agreed to in İstanbul,” Karki said, adding that their recommendations also involve expected commitments in regards to prevention of environmental crisis and climate change, plus women’s empowerment and gender equality development.
A child dies of malaria every 30 seconds in LDCsAccording to 2009 data from the UN Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), a child born in an LDC is 26 times more likely to die before his/her fifth birthday than a child born in a developed country. Here are more glaring facts regarding human development in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs):
31 percent of LDC children are undernourished compared with 17 percent in developing countries as a whole.
Women in LDCs have a one in 16 chance of dying in childbirth compared with one in 3,500 in North America.
In sub-Saharan Africa, malaria kills a child every 30 seconds.
There are currently 4.1 million people with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
Only 22 percent of roads in LDCs are paved compared with 43 percent in developing countries as a whole, and 88 percent in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Only 16 percent of the population in LDCs has access to electricity compared with 53 percent in developing countries
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