- Global statistics and reports on the Millennium Development Goals hide a deep discrepancy between the achievements of other developing nations and those of least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing states (SIDSs).
- The principle of universalism for the post-2015 agenda will continue to disadvantage the countries that need the greatest help.
- Different criteria must be used to calculate results, taking vulnerability factors into account.
- Greater coherence is needed in post-2015 engagements. The Istanbul Plan of Action adopted by the 4th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries must find its place in the new agenda.
Gyan Acharya, United Nations High Representative for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), was unable to attend European Development Days, but sent a written statement that launched the session.
All speakers agreed that LDCs confront the greatest challenges in meeting poverty eradication goals, but that their struggle is obscured in the global figures for marking achievements in meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). One of the reasons for this is a ‘new geography of poverty’ where 50 % of the world’s poor are now in emerging or middle-income countries. Research by Fondation pour les Etudes et Recherches sur le Développement International (FERDI) shows these poor have a statistically greater chance of escaping from poverty than those living in LDCs, specifically because of structural vulnerability factors.
On MDG 1, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, LDCs reduced poverty by 29 % while the figure is 49 % for other developing countries. LDCs need more targeted support and a differentiated approach when measuring poverty and setting goals.
Arancha González, Executive Director, International Trade Centre, outlined a trade-based approach to poverty reduction in states ‘where the market can’t address poverty’. The different causes of vulnerability – structural, situational, external or internal restrictions – demand different solutions. In landlocked countries transport costs for operators can be 77% of the value of the goods they export.
Technology, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as a vector and trying to build regional markets are three ways to help the countries tackle this. When it comes to post-conflict vulnerability what is needed is ‘not just reconciliation but creating engines of growth to anchor the reconciliation’, she added.
SMEs have a vital role to play and NGOs and policymakers must focus on facilitating cross-border trade with action on tariffs, encourage cooperation between trade bodies, investors and start-ups and fostering diversification.
Like González, Burkina Faso’s former prime minister, Tertius Zongo, also evoked the words of Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson at the European Development Days opening plenary. He spoke from the heart of the challenges facing less developed countries. He advocated greater participation of vulnerable countries in building a post-2015 framework and deeper consultation to help the international community understand their problems, as well as to emphasise the responsibility of leaders to improve institutions and help themselves to grow.
What happened in Mali also shows that aspects of security must be strongly integrated into development objectives. It is important to look at vulnerable countries not in isolation, but in the context of their neighbours. Donors must start to realise that the classic results-based system is not helping vulnerable countries. Equally important is to examine how we view the results of development aid, rather than imposing penalties by snatching aid away when countries do not meet targets they lack the capacity to achieve.
The Millennium Development Goal target on climate change is another area where a universal approach causes imbalance. Aid tends to go to the emerging economies to help them combat the causes of climate change, rather than to the vulnerable countries that are suffering the consequences. Burkina Faso’s former prime minister Tertius Zongo went back to the village to express this.
‘We are not living climate change in the same way as you. When I was very young in the village, the peasants had signs. When we sowed our seed it had to be done by 14 July because the rains would come. But today there is no rain on 14 July. When you went down 1 metre there was water. Now you need machinery, and our women must walk further and further. Our solutions are not your solutions. It is more a question of adaptation.’