KATHMANDU, Dec 16: The three-day ministerial meeting of Asia-Pacific Least Developed Countries (LDCs) on Graduation and Post-2015 Development Agenda comprising high-level officials of the United Nations kicked off in the capital today.

The meeting aims at contributing to the graduation process in LDCs, exploring how this process can be backed up by strong national strategies, while mainstreaming graduation into development cooperation strategies and linking effectively with midterm review of Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) and post-2015 development framework. 

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala opened the meeting organised jointly by the Government of Nepal and the United Nations Office of the High Representative on Least Developed, Landlocked and Island States (UN-OHRLLS).

In his inaugural address on the occasion, Prime Minister Koirala said, "We attach great importance to this Ministerial Meeting. This provides us an important opportunity to share our experiences in the implementation of the Istanbul Program of Action (IPOA) that was adopted by the Fourth UN conference on LDCs as the latest comprehensive development compact premised on global partnership for advancing development potentials and prospects in LDCs. As the then LDCs Chair, Nepal led the substantive preparations and negotiations from the beginning until the adoption of the IPOA."

He said Nepal expected this meeting to contribute towards transforming the spirit generated in Istanbul into the Post-2015 Development Agenda with renewed vigour and sense of partnership. 

"LDCs´ history of struggle for development concerns about 900 million people of 48 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. International response to the needs and concerns of LDCs over the years has been evolving positively through the United Nations Conferences that have generated international understanding, solidarity, and partnership for the cause of LDCs. The intentions and commitments made, however, are yet to be instrumental in making qualitative difference in the life of people," the Prime Minister added. 

Noting that the Fourth LDC Conference set an ambitious target of enabling half the number of LDCs to meet the criteria for graduation by 2020, he said, "Today nine out of thirteen LDCs in the region are preparing graduation strategies. Building productive capacity, bringing about structural transformation and building capacity and resilience to vulnerabilities are central to the graduation drive." 

The fact that only four LDCs have been able to graduate in the past four decades highlights the need for a more focused, strategic and comprehensive approach in addressing the structural constraints and challenges we confront, Premier Koirala said adding that experiences show that ´business-as usual" approach will lead us nowhere. 

"We understand that there is no quick fix to development challenges. Time has come to think out of box and design a coherent, coordinated and consistent strategy to drive our efforts in an effective manner." 

The UN Secretary General’s report rightly underlines the importance of significant progress in the eight priority areas of the IPOA to address the disadvantages confronting LDCs and help them to enter a path of sustainable development and growth. Such progress is possible only with the effective integration of the IPOA into development assistance policy and frameworks of the development partners as well as all relevant UN agencies, he opined. 

Stressing that development has to be a demand-driven process with national leadership and ownership, PM Koirala said: "However, we must also acknowledge that LDCs are constrained to fulfill this responsibility alone given the limited capacity and resources at their disposal. External support thus becomes a necessity, not a choice for us." 

The declining ODA is a matter of serious concern to all LDCs. This trend needs to be reversed. The uninterrupted flow of ODA, FDI, trade earnings and other resources for financing development is necessary to adequately complement national commitment and domestic resource mobilization. Investment flows must be directed towards productive sectors, building capacity and reducing poverty through jobs creation. Excessive concentration of FDI on extractive industries has failed to show desirable results. 

LDCs have, over the years, undertaken a series of policy, legal, institutional and administrative measures on many fronts and made significant progress in ensuring good governance, promoting democratic accountability, the rule of law and creating an investment-friendly environment. However, development remains as elusive as ever in these countries. This calls for serious analysis of the effectiveness of development strategies and the adequacy of external support measures to address the domestic financing gaps faced by LDCs. 

Stating that LDCs have young and dynamic populations and the youthful aspirations are defining the order of the day, he said employment opportunities must be created to engage youth and utilize their potentials. "We must move from laour exporting phase to goods and services export phase. People are our most precious resources, and no nation can develop by ignoring them" he added. 

LDCs remain grossly marginalized in multilateral trading system. Failure to conclude the Doha Round with development-friendly outcome has undermined development efforts in LDCs. The most important outcome of the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial meeting for LDCs on Duty Free Quota Free (DFQF) market access remains to be fully implemented. As LDCs differ from each other in terms of their development constraints and potentials, appropriate support mechanism needs to be developed. In the absence of enhanced trading opportunities, investment in overcoming supply-side constrains and infrastructural bottlenecks and diversification of economy, LDCs´ desire for graduation will remain unfulfilled. 

Stating that Nepal is currently engaged in the process of finalizing a democratic constitution, PM Koirala said – "As you may be aware, the country has undergone political transformation of historic proportions in the course of nationally-driven peace process after over a decade long internal conflict. Nevertheless, despite our preoccupation with the transitional issues and politics, we accord top priority to our development agenda. We are convinced that peace, democracy and development are interlinked and mutually reinforcing. They must be pursued evenhandedly and in a holistic manner within an overall democratic polity to foster peaceful, stable, and harmonious societies and bring improvement in the quality of life of our people. 

A High Level IPOA National Implementation Oversight Committee has been established under the chairmanship of Minister for Foreign Affairs. IPOA has been appropriately mainstreamed and integrated into the periodic development plan. We express our sincere thanks to our development partners for their understanding and cooperation in our endeavours. 

In line with the IPOA, the Government of Nepal also decided, in May 2013, to graduate from LDC status into the developing country by 2022. Our goal to graduate is a milestone that we intend to reach in our relentless pursuit of development agenda for the wellbeing of our people. As we formulate a graduation strategy, we expect even stronger and focused support from development partners and international community in post graduation phase for its sustainability. 

The Eighteenth SAARC Summit in Kathmandu had the theme "Deeper integration for peace and prosperity". The region also consists of four LDCs. The Kathmandu Declaration has laid emphasis on the issues of trade, connectivity, infrastructure, poverty alleviation, environment, socio-economic and cultural development as well as good governance. We expect the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity) signed during the Summit to open up further opportunities for collaboration for development of energy sector in the region. It has also been agreed to initiate an Inter-Governmental process to appropriately contextualize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the regional level.

It must be unequivocally acknowledged that poverty and hunger fuel tensions and conflicts that cannot be confined to national borders. The rise of insurgency, militant extremism and religious fundamentalism often find breeding grounds in poorer societies. We need to turn our focused attention to pressing economic problems. BP Koirala, the first elected Prime Minister of Nepal told the 15th UN General Assembly in 1960 and I quote, "As we look at the world, we find that it is the economic disparity between countries, as between the rich and poor people within the nations that is the source of much friction and tension." End of quote.

The situation in the past 65 years does not seem to have changed much. It is, therefore, of utmost importance for the international community at large to remain resolute to support LDCs and help address the issue of economic disparity and consign poverty and hunger to the dustbin of history. 

Post-2015 Development Agenda is of utmost significance to LDCs as most of them remain off-track in meeting MDGs. We, therefore, call for full incorporation of the priorities and concerns of LDCs in the post 2015 development agenda, which should link human development with economic development to ensure sustainability, not only from an environmental perspective but also from an economic, financial, social, and political point of view. We do not want to see the coming decades as yet again missed opportunities for sustainable, equitable and inclusive development. The international community will lack moral authority to pursue other agenda while leaving large chunks of humanity to grapple with dehumanizing conditions of poverty and hunger. 

I am confident that this meeting will significantly contribute towards highlighting the strong linkage between the graduation goal of LDCs and the post-2015 development agenda.

Finally, I would like to reiterate the commitment of my government to advance LDC development agenda in all relevant regional and international fora in collaboration and partnership with fellow LDCs." 

Finance Minister Mahat says upgrading to developing status challenging but possible 

Also speaking on the occasion, Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said although upgrading the country to a developing one from the least developed category is a challenging one, it is not unattainable. He stressed the need of increasing income and productivity of LDCs. 

Although Nepal´s socio-economic development indexes are satisfactory, mass mobilization of domestic and foreign capital in the infrastructure development and trade sector is essential to upgrade the country to a category of the developing country by 2022 AD. He hoped to get support and cooperation from the international community and donor agencies towards that end. 

Meeting President and Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey stated the integrated efforts are essential to remove obstacles for attaining socio-economic development, the prerequisites for relieving the country from the list of LDCs. 

National Planning Commission vice-chair Prof Dr Govind Raj Pokharel said poverty, inequality, lack of productive property, gender discrimination, lack of employment opportunities, remittance-depended economy, and climate change-induced natural disaster and environmental degradation are the obstacles for nation development and they should be properly addressed on time. 

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNOHRLLS high representative Gyan Chandra Acharya emphasized the need of an increase productivity, gender equality, structural transformation and sustainable improvement in human and social capital in the LDCs. 

UN Assistant Secretary-General Mr Haoliang Xu pledged the UN maximum support to Nepal to make a stride to the developing country and implementation of development plans set by the Millennium Development Goal and Instanbul Action of Plan is the need of the hour. 

LDC Watch international coordinator Arjun Karki, attending the ceremony on behalf of civil society, demanded wave off of loan provided to LDCs by the international community and their easy access to international market. 

Source: www.myrepublica.com