CSO’S Engagement in the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) cardinal-UN

Whilst acknowledging some of the gaps in the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA), Civil Society working in African Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are optimistic that corrective actions can foster better outcomes of the IPoA. “For the poor countries in Africa to cast off the label of least developed, a genuine partnership with the international community is needed. LDCs in Africa and beyond no longer wish to be seen as the poorest and vulnerable perpetually bearing the brunt of financial and food crisis, climate change, debt burdens and crisis of governance. They are ready to move ahead with the developed counterparts, towards a full enjoyment of development, human rights, social justice and peace”.

This was one of the main messages coming out from the African Civil Society Regional Assembly towards the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the LDCs held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 13th to 14th. The meeting was organised by the LDC Watch, in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and United Nations office of High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS)

Giving a key note speech at the meeting, H.E Shanker D Bairagi, Leader of LDCS and Nepal’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva was saddened at the continued marginalization of LDCs in the global economy. “Against the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) target of 7 percent GDP growth in LDCs, the actual growth rate stands at 4.9 percent in 2011 and it is estimated that unless substantial efforts are made, the growth will not go beyond 6 percent until 2016”.

Whilst referring to the UNCTAD LDC Report, 2011, he added by indicating that the concentration of poverty is historically shifting towards LDCs. “In 1990, China and India accounted for 61 percent of the world’s poor while only 18 percent of the poor lived in LDCs. In 2007, the percentage share was almost equal and this trend suggest that LDCs are set to be a major locus of extreme poverty in the world, “he said.

Speaking at the same meeting, H. E Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under Secretary General and UN High Representative for LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, encouraged CSOs to ensure that as we enter the fourth programme of Action for the LDCs, there was need not to only improve the effectiveness of the existing support measures, but also to innovatively introduce new ones. “I see CSO actively engaged in each of the eight priority areas identified in the programme of action, whether be it in greater push for productive capacity, lobbying for investment in agriculture, advocating for increased trading opportunities for the LDCs or calling on governments to improve governance, “he said.

He informed CSOs that his office, on behalf of the UN, has drafted a comprehensive CSO Strategy within the broader framework of Advocacy and Outreach for LDCs. “Over the next five years leading to the mid-term review of the IPoA, the strategy makes provisions for the establishment of a representative LDC CSO Advisory Committee which will provide substantive and strategic guidance to the UN on CSOs and NGO participation in the plan of action.

The process will also draw upon a wide range of perspectives and experience at country level by actively drawing upon and mobilising other UN partners such as the UNDP which has operational presence in all of the LDCs.

Welcoming the initiative to develop a CSO strategy, CUTS International Secretary General, Pradeep Mehta says such a development will be a step forward in ensuring that the voice of CSOs and NGOs is strengthened in the UN process. “Strengthening relations with the citizens of LDCs through a strengthened participation of CSOs in the UN process will be a sound investment in better policy making and a core element of good governance in the UN process. It will allow the UN to tap new policy relevant ideals, information and resources when making decisions, “he said.

Meanwhile CUTS International Lusaka, Centre Coordinator, Simon Ng’ona has noted that voice of CSOs in Southern Africa on the IPoA is weak, rather almost silent. He encouraged CSO to mobilise and collectively bring out their treasures of practical knowledge and experience from the field to influence national and regional programme.

Commenting on the broader agenda of IPoA, he indicated that mainstreaming of the IPoA in national and regional programme should be achieved in a given time frame as otherwise this objective will remain elusive as ever.