UN LDC-IV Civil Society Forum: Civil Society Participation in the
Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries, Istanbul, Turkey
7-13 May 2011
In 1971, the United Nations identified 24 countries as Least Developed Countries, recognising them as the most vulnerable countries of the world. It called for LDC-targeted special measures to enable these countries to overcome the obstacles to their development.
After three decades of special development attention in which there have been three UN LDC conferences and three specific Programmes of Action for the LDCs, the number of LDCs has increased to 48.
Most of the countries included in the original list of 24 remain in this category, with many more joining the group. The inability of LDCs to start on a road to effective development not only emphasises the overwhelming challenges they face – weak economies, unsustainable levels of debt, conflict, weak governance structures, and environmental vulnerabilities – but also raises questions about the effectiveness of international development approaches to address the needs of these countries.
In 2011, the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs will take place in Turkey, on the basis of the modalities set out in UN Secretary General’s Note of August 2008 (A/63/284) and in accordance with General Assembly resolution 63/227. It was decided during the 65th session of the UNGA that the Conference would be held from 9-13 May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Conference will review the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action (BPoA) adopted in 2001 to address the specific needs of the LDCs, and adopt a new Programme of Action for LDCs.
To this end, the preparatory process envisages assessments at national and regional levels prior to the Conference.
LDC-IV will take place against the backdrop of the energy, food and economic crises, as well as the growing concern about climate change, all of which have not only had a severe effect on LDCs, but have also exposed the seriousness of their vulnerabilities.
LDC-IV provides an opportunity for far reaching reflection on the impact of the special measures put in place to support LDCs, as well as for charting a new direction.
It is therefore important to ensure that the Conference and preparations for it involve a wide range of stakeholders, not least from the LDCs themselves. The important contribution of civil society actors is recognised in General Assembly resolution 63/227.
2. Involvement of civil society Civil society actors have been present at all three (1980, 1990 and 2001) previous UN Conferences for LDCs. In the first two such conferences in Paris, those present were NGOs and associations that had consultative status with the UN. They were few in number, mostly representing NGOs from donor countries.
At the Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries held in Brussels in 2001, the participation of civil society actors was enhanced with the organisation of an NGO Forum at the conference parallel to the official conference. Financed by the European Union through the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Forum brought together more than 1,000 civil society representatives from all over the world, with a substantial number coming from LDCs. It laid the basis for coherent mechanisms to be established for follow up, and a provisional NGO Forum structure was established at the end of the Forum which had a base in the Least Developed Countries. LDC Watch was established on the basis of this follow up structure.
3. Role of civil society
LDCs and their development partners have committed themselves to placing the people at the centre of the development process. This is reflected in the first commitment of the Brussels Programme which calls for “fostering a people-centred policy framework”.
Civil society plays a vital role in representing and giving voice to the needs and aspirations of ordinary people in the Least Developed Countries. With its community-level presence, civil society is able to bring the experiences, concerns and priorities of ordinary citizens to the policy making process. Similarly, it is well placed to sensitise people about government policies and the opportunities they entail. It plays an important role in mobilising and empowering the population to participate in the development process.
Civil society is not only important in advocating for the needs of the people with governments and their partners, but also holding LDC governments and their development partners accountable for the commitments they have made.
The participation of the civil society in the UN LDC-IV process will strengthen the bottom-up character of the process. It will bring the rich experiences and lessons from the ground to bear on the process, ensuring a more thorough assessment of the Brussels Programme, and a pro-poor and more inclusive new Programme of Action for LDCs. The Civil Society Forum at the UN LDC-IV helps to promote UN Secretary General’s Note of August 2008 (A/63/284) and General Assembly Resolution 63/227 in engaging CSOs and promoting and defending the interests of LDCs. Civil society is therefore a strategic partner of LDC governments and UN-OHRLLS in the roles in promoting LDC interests and issues.
4. Engaging CSOs for the preparation of UN LDC-IV and the organisation of UN LDC-IV Civil Society Forum
LDC Watch is legally registered in Belgium as an international organisation, a consequence of its establishment from the 2001 LDC NGO Forum held in Brussels in 2001.
LDC Watch is a network of LDC civil society organisations led by civil society actors from the LDCs. Its International Secretariat is based in Kathmandu (Nepal), with an African focal point in Dakar (Senegal) and a European Coordination office in Brussels (Belgium).
With a constituency across the 49 LDCs, it works closely with other international civil society coalitions to put the focus on development in LDCs within the broader debates on development and international co-operation.
LDC Watch works closely with the UN Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), and other relevant UN entities. In planning for LDC-IV, UN-OHRLLS, as the focal point for the Conference, invited LDC Watch to take the lead in organising civil society activities around the Conference and preparations for it.
The purpose of the proposed civil society activities is to enhance the ability of future strategies to effectively address the challenges faced by LDCs. The activities will ensure full engagement of civil society actors in the review of the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action (BPoA) and their contribution to new strategies for promoting sustainable development in LDCs.
6. Projected outcomes
- Co-ordinate CSO engagements globally, both in LDCs and development partner countries, to promote LDCs issues and concerns and their participation in the UN LDC-IV process and beyond 2011;
- Ensure effective participation of civil society actors, particularly from LDCs, in the assessment of the BPoA and preparations and contribute in devising and implementation of a new generation Programme of Action for LDCs;
- Broader ownership of agreed strategies by relevant stakeholders;
- Stronger international partnership among the broad range of stakeholders in the implementation of future strategies;
- Increased capacity of civil society organisations in both LDC and non-LDC countries for advocacy, networking and campaigning for defending LDCs interests.
The pinnacle of the civil society process will be the Civil Society Forum to be held during the Fourth United Nations Conference on LDCs in May 2011. The Forum will be a culmination of preparatory activities undertaken by civil society actors to enable interactions with and inputs to intergovernmental and UN System Conference and pre conference activities and preparations.
Civil society activities will cover national reviews, the regional review meetings, the launch of the Civil Society Forum Steering Committee, the Civil Society hearing at the UNGA, Preparatory Committee meetings and the Civil Society Forum that will be held in parallel to LDC-IV from 7-13 May 2011.
The Civil Society Forum will bring together not only NGOs from LDCs but also representatives of women’s movements, youth movements, trade unions, peasant federations, media, human rights defenders and renowned cultural artists from all over the world.
The following activities are proposed for the civil society process:
i. National reviews
The national reviews taking place in LDCs create awareness about internationally agreed LDC Programmes of Action and provide an opportunity for civil society organisations to engage with their government and development partners both in the preparation of UN LDC-IV process and participating in the conference itself. The guidelines provided to national governments by the UN High Representative calls for the national preparations to be broad-based and participatory so as to include civil society, the private sector, media, development partners, and others. The involvement of civil society at this level can provide constructive inputs and thus contributes towards the lobbying and advocacy activities of the Civil Society Forum including the Global Report.
CSO co-ordination in LDCs
CSOs within each LDC will be encouraged to work together in seeking an effective engagement with their national authorities including members of national parliaments in assessing the implementation of the BPoA and recommending future the agenda for a new generation of LDC Programmes of Action.
Civil society organisations will be encouraged to provide constructive contributions to the national assessments and identifying national negotiation priorities towards UN LDC-IV.
Civil society coalitions will be invited to put together written contributions addressing the implementation of national development strategies, specifically as identified in the BPoA, as well as to bring forward proposals for the future. This will both enable the effective involvement of civil society in the national preparatory process, as well as support the larger advocacy campaign for defending the interests of LDCs and LDC citizens.
ii. Regional meetings
At the regional level, in partnership with the UN-OHRLLS and relevant UN agencies, the following three consultations have been organised:
i) Africa LDC Civil Society Assembly on 4-5 March 2010, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in the lead-up to the official regional review in Africa
ii) Pacific LDC Civil Society Assembly on 3-6 August 2010, Port Vila (Vanuatu) in parallel to the forty-first official Pacific Islands Forum
iii) Asia LDC Civil Society Assembly on 22-23 November 2010, Bangkok (Thailand)
These meetings and consultations have provided opportunities for dialogue between CSOs and country delegates. It has also strengthened the basis for involvement of CSOs in the UN conference, and at the meetings of Preparatory Committee.
- CSOs and other stakeholders from the region covered by the regional meeting.
- At least two CSO representatives from each LDC involved.
iii. CSO engagement in Preparatory Committee Meetings
The first and second sessions of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings will both be held in New York from 10-14 January 2011 and 4-8 April 2011 respectively. Active participation of civil society representatives and CSF Steering Committee members will be ensured in both Preparatory Committee meetings. Approximately 15 CSO representatives including members of the Steering Committee, Secretariat Staff and experts relevant to LDCs negotiation agendas will be invited one day before the official Preparatory Committee and will stay throughout to support the development of CSO strategies for lobbying, networking and campaigning on LDCs issues and concerns.
iv. UN General Assembly Civil Society Hearing on LDCs
The organisational session of the Intergovernmental PrepCom has fixed the date for a day of informal interactive hearings with members of the civil society for 1 April 2011, prior to the second PrepCom meeting. In addition to the members of the Civil Society Forum Steering Committee and two representatives from the International Secretariat based in Kathmandu, one civil society representative will be invited from each LDC. In addition, 5-7 resource persons and experts on thematic issues relating to the Civil Society Forum and members of strategic partners of civil society campaign and advocacy will be invited to the hearing in New York.
v. CSF Steering Committee Meetings
The Civil Society Steering Committee of the Civil Society Forum was officially launched by Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, on 19 October 2010 at the UN Headquarters in New York. The Steering Committee will meet at least four times during the preparatory process, including during the launch of the SC in October 2010. Two of the meetings will be scheduled to coincide with the meetings of the PrepCom and the final meeting will occur in Turkey immediately prior to the launch of the Civil Society Forum. In order to get inputs from the Steering Committee members, telephone, video and Skype conferences will also be held as and when needed.
vi. Lobbying and Advocacy
The Secretariat of the Civil Society Forum and the Steering Committee have and will continue to actively engage in strategic lobbying of international governments and inter-governmental bodies such as the EU, African Union, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and OECD on LDC-related concerns and issues for the review of the BPoA and development of the next LDC Programme of Action. In the process leading to LDC-IV, the Steering Committee members and representative of the Secretariat will also participate in Pre-Conference events.
vii. Civil Society Forum 2011
The LDC Civil Society Forum will open two days before the start of the official conference and continue until the end of the official conference. It will be organised as follows:
The LDC Civil Society Forum will be open to all civil society organisations. Efforts will be made to ensure the participation of at least two civil society representatives from each LDC, reflecting the diverse composition of society – including gender, youth and other marginalised groups. CSOs that have Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and those specifically accredited for the LDC-IV Conference will be able to participate in the official conference.
The details of the agenda will be decided by the CSO Steering Committee (see below) in consultation with UN-OHRLLS. In general, the following elements are proposed:
The meeting of the steering committee members and secretariat staffs will be organised two days before the Civil Society Forum. This will help them to prepare and finalise the agenda and strategies in organising the CSF and engaging with the official conference. This meeting will be devoted to briefings, orientation, and discussion of civil society strategies towards the official conference.
Formal opening of the Civil Society Forum
The formal opening of the Forum will take place in the evening of 7 May 2011. The aim will be to involve prominent actors from the official conference and from the host country in addition to the NGO/CSO representatives.
Plenary meetings of the Forum
These will take place twice a day for the duration of the Conference, focusing on specific topics/issues relevant to the official agenda of the Conference.
Civil society organisations will be invited to organise their own seminars and workshops on issues that they wish to bring to the Forum. These will be scheduled throughout the duration of the Forum.
Dialogue with the official conference
Regular meetings will be scheduled to provide a dialogue between member states negotiators and the leaders of the Civil Society Forum. Similarly, LDC negotiators will also be invited to brief participants of the CS Forum on the ongoing discussions and negotiations.
Press conferences will be organised each day. These will provide briefings to the media on the activities of the LDC Civil Society Forum, and on observations from participants in the NGO Forum of the ongoing proceedings in the official conference.
Provision will be made for two strategy meetings of civil society representatives to take place each day. These will be used to provide briefings to participants at the Forum of the proceedings in the official conference, and to consider proposals for common engagement with the official conference.
Cultural Performances and Exhibitions
Prominent performers/activists will be invited to perform. Provision will also be made for showing films and exhibitions on the themes of the Forum, in which CSOs will be invited to participate. The CSF Steering Committee will lobby officials to appoint some of these performers ad LDC “goodwill ambassadors”.
viii. Official Conference
Efforts will be made to ensure that representative views are presented to the official Conference as a result of the discussions in the Forum. This will be both through the active participation of civil society representatives in the discussions within the official Conference, and through the regular presentation of reports from the Forum.
ix. Publications and documentation
Throughout the process of Civil Society preparations there will be the publications of CS reports, briefings and other thematic position papers setting out the analysis and views of civil society. Briefing papers on thematic issues of particular relevance to LDC-IV conference and pre-conference will also be produced. Provisions have been made for the preparation of a Global Civil Society Report addressing the assessment of the BPoA and development strategies needed for next generation Programmes of Action for LDCs. This will be a 100-150 page document and will be developed by three authors: from Asia, Africa and a development partner country. This will be published before the official Conference, most likely prior to the second PrepCom Meeting as a contribution by CSOs in the preparation for the UN LDC-IV.
x. Press, publicity and outreach
Efforts will be made to promote the activities of the LDC Civil Society Forum and its preparations. This will be done through outreach to the media and through a dedicated web portal.
During the course of the Forum, provision will be made to prepare a daily press briefing, to project live webcasts of some of the proceedings, to produce a daily bulletin for distribution inside the Forum and at the official conference as well as to broader audiences not present in Turkey. The content of the Forum and the opinions of civil society actors will be projected through the use of internet tools such as webcasts, video recordings, social networks, etc. The CSF Secretariat’s IT and Media Coordinator will work together with other media staff hired specifically for the Forum to develop media briefings, and will partner with the United Nations Non-Government Liaison Service and the official media centre to disseminate information.
9. Organisational Structure
The Steering Committee of the Civil Society Forum, with support from the Secretariat based in Kathmandu, will manage both the preparations and organisation of the Civil Society Forum before and during the UN LDC-IV Conference. There will be regular contact and co-ordination meetings among the UN-OHRLLS, NGLS and LDC Watch officials to facilitate and co-ordinate activities relating to LDC-IV. The preparation and implementation of the CSO activities towards the LDC-IV conference will be overseen and directed by a Steering Committee, with a secretariat being established to facilitate, implement and follow-up the decisions of the Steering Committee.
The Civil Society Steering Committee comprises of the following members:
- LDC Watch
Contact Person: Arjun Karki, International Coordinator
P.O. Box: 8130 Kathmandu
288 Gairidhara Marg, Gairidhara, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977 1 4004813, 4004985
Fax: +977 1 4004508, 4443494
- African Forum on Alternatives
Contact Person: Demba Moussa Dembele
P.O. Box 5021
Tel: +221 33 867 0024
Fax: +221 33 867 0025
- Environmental Development Action in the Third World (ENDA) – Ethiopia
Contact Person: Azeb Girmai
P. O. Box 278
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: +251 1512186
Fax: +251 1514580
- Social Watch
Contact Person: Roberto Bissio
18 de Julio 1077/902
Montevideo 11100, Uruguay
Tel: + 598 2902 0490
Fax: +598 2902 0490/113
- Jubilee South-Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD)
Contact Person: Lidy Nacpil
34 Matiyaga Street, Central District
Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Telefax: +632 9253036
- European Solidarity Towards Equal Participation of People-Eurostep
Contact Person: Simon Stocker
115 Rue Stevin, B – 1000
Tel: +322 231 1659
Fax: +322 230 3780
- Oxfam International/Oxfam New Zealand
Contact Person: Barry Coates
Level 1/14 West Street, Newton
Auckland 1021, New Zealand
Tel: +64 9 355 6506
Fax: +64 9 355 6505