Asia-Pacific leaders chart development course for Least Developed Countries in the Region

Despite the many gains that have been made in the last ten years, Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States remain vulnerable to economic shocks and other internal and external crises, according to officials and experts from around the Asia-Pacific region.

“Multiple, interrelated global crises and challenges, such as increased food insecurity, volatile energy and commodity prices and the global financial and economic crises partly reversed the development gains that Least Developed Countries achieved over the years,” noted Shun-ichi Murata, the Deputy Executive Secretary of UN ESCAP, in addressing a group of stakeholders who are meeting in Bangkok this week to discuss ways to address these inequalities using the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 (IPoA).

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) are holding the Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting on the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries in Bangkok from 14 to 16 December.

The 48 countries considered the world’s least developed have a population of 880 million people and they represent the poorest and weakest segment of the international community. These countries are characterized by low per capita income, low levels of human development and economic and structural handicaps that limit growth and make countries less resilient in the face of internal and external shocks.

The Istanbul Programme of Action aims to address the challenges facing these countries by promoting policies that help to eradicate poverty, achieve internationally agreed upon development goals and enable countries to graduate from the Least Developed Country category.

During the coming decade, the Programme of Action will focus on specific goals with the aim of reducing the number of Least Developed Countries by half by 2020. Some of the objectives laid out in the Programme of Action include achieving sustained economic growth of 7 per cent per year, fostering human and social development, advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, enhancing good governance and strengthening democratic processes, and increasing the resilience of these countries to weather crises brought on by economic, natural and environmental disasters.

The three-day meeting brings together senior officials from Least Developed Countries in Asia and the Pacific, experts in development issues, regional organizations, development partners, civil society representatives and the UN system to discuss the way forward on the Istanbul Programme of Action.

Mr. Murata highlighted the difficulties ahead in meeting their goals. “Only three countries in the entire world have graduated out of the least developed country category so far in the past three decades. That is not enough. Clearly, we must do better.”

However, he went on to note that countries will be aided in their work by the road map laid out by the Programme of Action, which provides identifiable goals and targets supported by concrete commitments. “We are not starting from scratch, but rather from a very solid base with our paths already charted for us,” he said. “It is now up to us to move forward, to help the Least Developed Countries in Asia and the Pacific meet their structural challenges in order to eradicate poverty, to achieve their goals and eventually graduate from the Least Developed Country category.”

About ESCAP: From its HQ in Bangkok, ESCAP provides a forum for its Member States that promotes regional cooperation and collective action, assisting countries in building and sustaining shared economic growth and social equity.

ESCAP provides different forms of assistance to Member States including analysis in various areas such as trade and investment, social development, transport, and environment and development. ESCAP translates these findings into policy recommendations and provides knowledge sharing and technical assistance to Member States in the implementation of these recommendations.