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Fourth UN LDC Conference Adopts Istanbul Programme of Action

13 May 2011: Over 7,000 participants, including Heads of State and government, international organizations' representatives and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, to attend the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC IV) from 9-13 May 2011. The Conference aimed to assess the results of the 10-year Brussels Action Plan for the LDCs, which was adopted in 2001, and to agree on new measures and strategies for the sustainable development of LDCs into the next decade.

As the meeting came to a close, participants adopted the Istanbul Political Declaration and Programme of Action for the LDCs (documents A/CONF.219/L.1 and A/CONF.219/3, respectively). In the Declaration, which serves as preamble to the Programme of Action, governments commit to further strengthen their support to the poorest countries by “creating a favorable environment for sustainable development, increasing productive capacities, diversification of economies and building the necessary infrastructure.” The Declaration underscores that the ownership and primary responsibility for escaping poverty rests with the LDCs themselves, stressing the importance of good governance, inclusiveness, transparency, respect for human rights, reduced corruption and domestic resource mobilization. It also emphasizes, however, that those efforts must be given “concrete and substantial” international support “in a spirit of shared responsibility."

The Programme is the fruit of several months of pre-Conference negotiations and specifies joint action by LDCs and their development partners, covering 27 priority areas, including: infrastructure building; energy access; disaster risk reduction (DRR); human capital enhancement through health measures; and the empowerment of women and youth. More specifically, the Action Plan calls on countries to build their human capacities by: fostering sustained, equitable and inclusive human and social development;  increasing gender equality and the empowerment of women; reducing the vulnerability of LDCs to economic, natural and environmental shocks and disasters, as well as climate change; and enhancing their ability to meet these and other challenges through strengthening their resilience. Under the Programme of Action, developed countries agree to support national disaster reduction and mitigation programmes in LDCs, and to facilitate South-South transfer of lessons learned on disaster preparedness.

The Action Plan commits governments to enable half the number of LDCs to meet the criteria for graduation by 2020. Forty-eight countries are classified as LDCs, 33 of which are in Africa, 14 in the Asia-Pacific region, and one in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bakary Kante, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Director of the Division of Environmental Law and Conventions, speaking on behalf of the UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, noted that environmental change including climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation, is escalating social and economic impacts and scarcities. Highlilghting that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNSCD, or Rio+20) will focus on the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, he underlined that "the transition to a green economy can produce positive social and environmental outcomes if the appropriate enabling policies are in place." He also indicated that UNEP's commitment to further work with LDCs to strengthen their ability to adapt to challenges such as climate change.

During a special event on sustainable agriculture, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Jacques Diouf, highlighted the need for sustainable foreign investment in LDCs, but stressed that they should be implemented equitably. Diouf called on foreign investors to recognize the rights of local stakeholders, as well as domestic food security and rural development concerns. He called on countries to place these investment priorities within a clear partnership strategy, noting that the present level of private investment in LDCs must be increased by 50% to feed a growing world population. To help protect rights, the FAO, World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) are preparing draft Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment that Respects Rights, Livelihoods and Resources.

The Conference also included a High Level Interactive Thematic Debate on Good Governance at All Levels, during which UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark highlighted the vulnerability of LDCs to the impact of the food and fuel crises, as well as climate change and the resulting increase numbers of natural disasters. [UN General Assembly Press Release, 13 May 2011] [UN Press Release, 12 May 2011] [UNDP Administrator Statement, 11 May 2011] [UNEP Executive Director's Statement] [UN Press Release, on Thematic Debate, 9 May 2011] [LDC IV Conference Website] [UN Press Release, 13 May 2011] [UN News Center, 13 May 2011] [FAO Press Release] [FAO Draft Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment]