This June, LDC Watch, UNECA, UN-OHRLLS and UNCTAD, organized the Africa LDC Civil Society Regional Strategy Assembly on the Implementation of the Istanbul Program of Action (IPoA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to draw up LDC CSOs’ campaign and advocacy strategies to support their involvement in the IPoA implementation, and discuss the 2013 global review of the MDGs and the post-2015 CSO agenda.
The key message was the need to promote LDC interests and strengthen their voice on the international scene and for greater civil society involvement in implementing programs supporting LDCs. Participants stressed LDC Watch’s role in implementing the IPoA and reiterated their readiness to cooperate with it.
I) FAILURE OF CURRENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS
There are fundamental flaws of the dominant global system and the failure of current policies and programs of “assistance” to LDCs.
It is also well known that most African countries will not achieve all the Millennium Development Goals, even if some progress can be expected in some countries. MDGs are externally-imposed goals, with a limited ambition and the aim is to achieve them using neo-liberal policies promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) that are mostly responsible for LDCs’ situation.
On the post-2015 agenda, the discussions highlighted some key challenges facing African countries, on education, health, financial assistance and poverty eradication, among others. The Assembly added that CSOs should not be constrained by the official agenda currently being negotiated at the United Nations. They should follow their own agenda, still using the opportunity provided by the UNECA to give their opinions on some of the issues on the agenda of the ongoing discussions.
In conclusion, recommendation was made to continue the discussions at the national and sub-regional levels on the best way forward on the MDGs.
On the IPoA, the Assembly took note of the key commitments contained in the documents, notably the 8 priority areas. Once again, participants expressed their disappointment with the IPoA for its lack of a bold vision and new substantive commitments that could tackle the challenges facing LDCs.
On the issues of hunger, land and agriculture, the discussions underlined most of the current agricultural policies implemented by African LDCs could not lead to the eradication of hunger and poverty. This has been compounded by the issue of land grabbing by so-called foreign investors who are depriving small farmers, especially women, of large portions of arable land. This makes food production even more problematic.
On trade, the discussions showed that African LDCs are still trapped in the export of a few commodities. The current international trade system with its inequities and the growing protectionist policies of developed countries does not offer a way out of such trap. If the LDCs are to make any significant economic and social progress, they need to end dependence on commodity export and move toward trade diversification.
On Rio + 20, the discussions highlighted African CSOs’ position on the issues to be discussed at this Conference. There was little optimism about its outcome, given the lack of political will on the part of leading developed countries to rise to the challenges facing the Planet.
The Assembly concluded that none of the policies and programs reviewed above will bring about real solutions to the structural economic and social problems of LDCs. The IPoA is not likely to be more effective than the Brussels Program of Action (BPoA). The threat of climate change is likely to increase. The reason for this pessimism lies in the general framework within which these policies and programs are designed and being implemented.
In fact, the multiple global crises – economic, financial, food, energy, debt and climate – compounded by the persistence and even intensification of militarization and wars against several countries of the South, are symptoms of the fundamental flaws and injustices of the global economic system which is the main source for the deterioration in LDCs’ human development indicators, and for their under development in general.
II) CALL FOR A SHIFT IN DEVELOPMENT PARADIGM
The Assembly reiterated the global civil society organizations (CSOs) call in Istanbul for a fundamental shift in development paradigm.
1. There must be a transformation of the global economic system, and a rejection of policies responsible for poverty, hunger, long-standing structural inequities and imbalances, as well as conflicts and political instability suffered by most LDCs. CSOs should promote an inclusive and sustainable development, by placing the rights of the people, especially vulnerable and marginalized people, at the forefront of policy-making and development processes. The rights of women, children and the youth should be given high priority within the framework of economic, social, ecological and democratic development.
2. This also calls for a new international development cooperation, with a greater emphasis on South-South cooperation and solidarity. Emerging Southern countries should provide a greater assistance to LDCs on trade, finance and technology. UNCTAD has reported that this is already happening for some LDCs. This should be strengthened and extended to all LDCs
3. On agriculture, only a reversal of current policies could provide effective and lasting solutions to hunger and poverty eradication. African LDCs must stop liberalization, protect women’s livelihood and provide government support for small-scale and family agriculture, which is the key to achieving food sovereignty. Domestic markets must be protected against subsidized agricultural products from Western countries. The Assembly reiterated the necessity for African governments to implement the Maputo recommendation to invest at least 10% of national budgets in the agricultural sector. The Assembly insisted that the right to food and water should be promoted as first degree human rights to be upheld by all countries and international institutions.
4. The future of agricultural policies and food sovereignty in African LDCs is clouded by the issue of land grabbing that has accelerated in recent years. As a result, large portions of arable land are taken away from farmers each year to the benefit of so-called foreign “investors”. The Assembly urges African governments to put an end to land grabbing and protect national ownership of land and its priority use by farmers, especially women and small farmers
5. On commodities, the Assembly recommended adopting agreements at the regional and international levels to stabilise commodity prices and weaken price fluctuations that hurt LDCs’ exports. Given African LDCs’ over-dependence on commodity exports, adopting such agreements is of utmost importance in the implementation process of the IPoA
6. On trade, African LDCs should strive to diversify their exports, along with enhanced domestic productive capacity and create a better balance between export-led growth and domestic or regional demand-led growth, as part of strategies to build up the resilience of their economies to exogenous shocks. Promoting a greater South-South trade could offer more opportunities for both product and market diversification. Regional integration is also a key to a greater trade diversification through industrialization. However, regional integration has nothing to do with the notion of “open regionalism” in the neoliberal paradigm and part of the “free trade” ideology.
7. The Assembly stressed the great importance of the gender dimension of the above policies and of the IPoA. The IPoA’s emphasis on human and social development, gender equality and women’s empowerment must be translated into concrete policies and actions and effectively implemented by LDCs’ governments, their development partners and UN agencies. The Assembly underscored that gender equality and women’s empowerment are among the pillars of equitable, sustainable, inclusive and democratic development
8. On climate change, the Assembly recommended supporting the proposals made by the African Coalition, calling on developed countries to commit predictable, condition-free, additional and non-debt creating financial flows to cover the full costs of adaptation in LDCs as well as the costs of shifting to sustainable systems. More fundamentally, they call for Western countries and their corporation to pay the climate debt, for which they have been responsible, for centuries.
9. On financing, the Assembly reiterated the call for immediate and unconditional cancellation of all debts of LDCs and a moratorium on debt payments pending debt cancellation. The Assembly also urged LDCs’ governments to take all necessary measures for a greater mobilization of domestic resources as a way to move toward self-reliance on financing their own development.
10. To achieve the above policies, LDCs’ governments should rethink the role of the State as an active agent of development and build developmental States whose mission would be to implement policies, including mobilizing domestic resources, with the view to achieving structural economic and social transformation
The African Assembly is of the opinion that these policies could lead to significant economic and social improvements in LDCs. LDC Watch urges its member organizations to promote these policies – consistent with the recommendations made in the CSO Global Report launched in Istanbul in May 2011 – with their governments and development partners in implementing the IPoA
III) ADVOCACY STRATEGIES FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE IPoA
Indeed, despite the critique leveled against the IPoA, the Assembly urged LDC Watch member organizations to be actively involved in its implementation, assessment and monitoring, at the national, regional and international levels.
1. First and foremost, there is a need for a large dissemination of the IPoA with CSOs, MPs, policymakers and the media. Workshops, media statements and other opportunities should be used as tools for dissemination
2. Nationally, CSOs should develop critical engagement with governments and development partners and emphasize the need for transparency, inclusiveness and participation of all stakeholders in the implementation of the IPoA
3. In the process of implementation of the IPoA, CSOs must stress the need for real policy ownership and policy space for African LDCs
4. It is necessary to create broad-based coalitions at the national level involving key CSOs, social movements, the media and opinion makers, among others, in order to mobilize a strong public opinion for an effective monitoring of the implementation of IPoA.
5. Call on LDC Watch member organizations to issue shadow reports (annually or otherwise) and shadow mid-term reviews expressing the independent assessment of the IPoA
6. Strengthen cooperation with key UN agencies (UNECA; OHRLLS; UNCTAD) and international networks in order to get a broader support for LDC Watch agenda in promoting the interests of LDCs in internati