Purpose and Timing. A joint Roundtable discussion, organized by OHRLLS, ECA and ESCAP, will take place on 18 September 2006 from 8:30 to 9:45 am in the ECOSOC Chamber. The event will be a ‘curtain-raiser’ for the High-level Meeting on the midterm comprehensive global review of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (Brussels Plan of Action), to be held in New York on 18 and 19 September 2006.
Participation. The high level panelists will include Heads of States of African and Asia-Pacific LDCs, and Development Partners as well as the Heads of OHRLLS, ECA and ESCAP. High officials of other LDCs, Member States, agencies and organizations of the UN system and representatives of civil society will be invited to participate in the panel discussion.
Theme of Event. The theme of the event will be “Redeeming the Commitment”. Drawing on the experiences gained, so far, in the implementation of the Brussels Plan of Action (BPA), the discussion will focus on the ways and means to expedite the process of achieving the commitments contained in the BPA as well as the new challenges that have emerged and the priorities for future action. The speakers will be free to address any of the seven commitments contained in the BPA, with a focus on building a global partnership, inter alia, to overcome supply-side constraints and diversify LDC exports. The Roundtable will also offer concrete solutions of a practical nature on how to ensure the expeditious implementation of these commitments by the end of the plan period.
Rationale. While there has been a noticeable improvement recently in the socio-economic performance of several LDCs, though variations still exist at country-levels. This has, however, been due mainly to increases in global commodity prices and opening up of some the export markets in developed countries. Such growth needs to be sustained in order to make a perceptible dent in the extreme poverty, structural weaknesses and limited human and institutional capacities in LDCs.
The experience of other developing countries has shown that the success of efforts to improve the productive capacities of LDCs to ensure sustained growth and benefits from globalization is critically dependent on overcoming their structural impediments and supply-side constraints, as well as the horizontal and vertical diversification of their exports. In order to achieve this desirable objective, LDCs would need to implement carefully defined policies within their national development strategies or poverty reduction plans. However, it is quite clear that given their structural and institutional limitations, LDCs would require the strong support and partnership of the international community (both developed and developing countries) if they are to successfully overcome their supply-side constraints and diversify their exports.
The importance of improving productive capacities for sustaining growth in LDCs was recognized in the BPA adopted at the Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (UNLDC III) as one of its seven major commitments. Strengthening the productive capacities of LDCs will contribute to enhancing human capital and wealth creation, which in turn will reduce poverty and increase employment opportunities in these countries. It will also enable them to utilize the trading opportunities that have become increasingly available from multilateral and regional trade liberalization.
Some of the factors specified in the BPA as being critical to stimulating productive capacities in LDCs include stable macroeconomic conditions, a conducive legal and regulatory environment, adequate institutional, physical and social infrastructure, and a vibrant private sector. The Aid-for-Trade initiative of the WTO also recognizes the central importance of improving productive capacities of developing countries by helping to overcome supply-side constraints. The benefits of doing so include reducing the transaction costs of doing business, increasing the productivity of factors of production, reducing bottlenecks in the production process and opening up new investment opportunities, especially for small and medium scale enterprises.
The diversification of LDC exports is equally important because some LDCs have the most concentrated export patterns in the world and their exports are mainly in sectors that experience price volatility. Such price volatility increases the vulnerability of LDCs to external shocks and is usually transmitted to volatility of other macroeconomic variables. Volatility has costs and a negative impact on growth. In addition, because most LDCs do not export dynamic products with a high content of domestic value-added with strong backward linkages to the domestic economy. As a result, these countries have not been able to exploit the established links between exports of dynamic products and high and sustained growth.
It is evident that to improve productive capacities in LDCs it is essential to overcome supply-side constraints and diversify their export base. However, given the vulnerabilities of the LDCs, including their limited financial resources, weak human and institutional capacities, and the complexity and costs of emergent trade regimes, it is evident that strong global partnership is required to support their efforts to achieve sustained growth. This would also be consistent with the values, principles, and objectives articulated in international development outcomes, such as the Millennium Declaration, the Monterrey Consensus and the BPA itself. Thus this High Level gathering will provide yet another opportunity, immediately prior to the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Midterm Comprehensive Global Review of the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for the Decade 2001-2010, to exchange views and concrete ideas among LDCs and its development partners towards the expeditious implementation of the BPA.
Organization of Panel Discussion. The Panel Discussion will be organized around the importance of achieving Commitment 4 of the BPA and also linked to Commitment 5, which includes horizontal and vertical diversification. Possible topics to be addressed by individual speakers could cover:
- The Challenge of Overcoming Supply-Side Constraints
- The importance of supply-side constraints for LDCs
- Why supply-side constraints may prevent LDCs from achieving the goals and targets of the BPA
- The Challenge Arising from the Lack of Diversification
- The importance of diversification
- The choice between vertical and horizontal diversification
- The reasons why LDCs alone cannot achieve goals and targets of BPA
- The urgent need for support and partnership from the international community in support of building productive capacities in LDCs
Preparatory Process and Coordination. OHRLLS and the Regional Commissions New York Office will undertake the necessary preparations for the event, including publicity, invitations, agenda, venue and specification of time slots.
Documentation and Expected Outcome. The documentation for the Panel Discussion includes the Brussels Plan of Action (A/CONF/191/13), and the Secretary-General’s Report on the Midterm Comprehensive Global Review of the Brussels Plan of Action. The Panel Discussion is expected to contribute to a critical appreciation of the implementation of the BPA thus far and will provide perspectives on action required to meet the Commitments by the end of the decade.