12 May 2011
The 4th UN Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) started in Istanbul on May 9. The representatives of 47 international organizations and 197 countries are going to be hosted in Istanbul for this extensive organization which is held once in ten years. This year, Turkey holds this significant conference.
The main themes around which the discussions are going to be held during five days conference are ranged from fostering a people-centered policy framework, good governance at national and international levels, building human and institutional capacities, building productive capacities to make globalization work for LDCs, enhancing the role of trade in development reducing vulnerability, protecting the environment and mobilizing financial resources. To sum up, the main question is to cope with severe poverty which has been at rise despite the extensive measures taken in the recent decades. Hence the conference is even more meaningful for the underdeveloped countries in the times of global economic crises.
The international community recognized LDCs as distinguished by widespread poverty along with the structural weakness of those countries’ economic, institutional and human resources in 1971. To direct a quick glance to the facts about LDCs, there are 48 least developed countries in the world as classified by the United Nations: 33 from Africa, 14 from Asia, 1 from Latin America. Around 815 million people live in these countries and expected population of LDCs is 965.2 million by the year 2015. Today more than half of the population in LDCs lives on less than $ 1.25 (PPP) per day along with a high risk of food crises. Moreover, it is not hard to guess severe maternal and infant mortality rates in these countries where life expectancy at birth 57 years at average as defined by the UN sources.
UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon stated in his opening speech at the Conference that the development ranks among the LDCs have been increasing especially since the previous conference which was held in 2001. Yet, Ban Ki-moon also added that international community is still beyond what was aimed in providing financial and humanitarian aid to these countries in the last decade. In other words, albeit increased foreign aid to these countries, the number of the countries which are categorized as LDCs have increased from 25 in 1971 to 48 in 2011.
What is the reason beyond the failure of remedies for this significant poverty which is not lessening yet rising due to the immense measures?
Previous conference report presented in 2001 shows inefficiency of the measures that were taken in 1990s. Although the LDCs have done mostly what was left to their part to find a place in the global economy during 1990s, the enigmatic character of global economy did not let these countries to go further. Most LDCs pursued economic reform programs set out in previous action programs, including but not limited to reducing tariffs and other trade barriers, liberalizing currency regimes, privatizing public enterprises, adopting liberal investment policies as highlighted in UN Report in 2001. However, that initiatives do not come in line with the rise in financial resources, decreasing national depths, moderate commodity prices and an acceptable place in the world market with the limited number of commodities that they export. Neo-liberal remedies of the last decade did not work with LDCs and gave much more similar results with the previous decades.
Considering the drastic failure of neo-liberal formula in handling the problems of least developed countries, the current picture is not very much surprising and promising. A close glance can realize the fog of the current global crisis on conference talks as well. Although, the last financial crises was an extreme signal showing that the global economy cannot be managed merely by the formulas created by the developed countries, it is still vague if international community is aware of the fact that taking the poor into the consideration is the only exit. Whether some agree or not, the current scene shows us clearly that the global economy will cherish with empowerment of all or perish separately. Under such concerns, I hope the conference give applicable and multi-dimensional results for the LDCs.