Rebeca Grynspan at the Policy Dialogue on democratic governance in LDCs

08 Dec 2010

I am very pleased to be here today and would like to extend thanks to my fellow panelists, and all of those present in the room, for joining this policy dialogue.

Special thanks go to Under Secretary General Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra and all those in his office that worked closely with us in UNDP to make this event possible.

I was happy to join him yesterday at the European Development Days in Brussels, where we both participated in a panel discussion on the special challenges facing the LDCs.

I hope that today’s event will help to advance an understanding of what has been learned from the Brussels Programme of Action and how these lessons can be applied in preparation for the 4th UN Conference on LDCs to be held next year in Istanbul.

Under-Secretary General Diarra already provided us with a good insight into the number of initiatives and dialogues that are taking place in the lead-up to the conference and I anticipate that the exchanges in this room will bring us further to concrete recommendations for the post 2011 agenda.

And there is much success upon which to build.

This year’s 20th Anniversary edition Human Development Report, demonstrates that people all over the world are today, on average, healthier, better educated, and wealthier than ever before.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, life expectancy has risen by eight years since 1970, and school enrolment has more than doubled from 26 per cent to 54. Only three countries - the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe - have lower HDI scores today than they did in 1970. Both the DRC and Zambia, however, have increased their HDI over the last decade.

Over the four decades, the top ten movers up the Human Development Index include not only countries well known for rapid growth but also countries such as Laos and Nepal that have made important strides in health and education. Looking only at the last decade, five African countries - Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Uganda - are among the top ten movers.

This suggests that there is a lot leaders can do to improve people’s lives, even where growth is less impressive. Improvements, however, are never automatic – they require political will, smart policies, and the continuing commitment of the international community. And they require what we are discussing here today:  inclusive, responsive, and capable states.

Indeed, the HDR reveals that those countries that are in the high human development group are usually characterized by good governance, and the ones in the very bottom of the human development group are more likely to have suffered from conflict and have poor institutions. 

I have to say that I am very pleased to see that at the center of the theme of today’s pre-conference is the state.

This reflects that we are avoiding the false dichotomy of the 80s between the state and the market, where the assumption was that one would crowd out the other and vice versa. However, we have learnt that this is not the only combination we can have. We can have more of both – more markets, and more and better state – a combination that is especially important for the LDCs in their efforts to address their structural challenges and build resilience.

Indeed, “more state” can build the foundation and the conditions in which “more markets” develop and thrive to the benefit of the population. This requires capable institutions which, through the promotion of rule of law, enabling regulatory environment, and delivery of basic infrastructure, act as a strategic partner of the private sector, thereby providing the impetus for private sector activity, trade, and growth.

This also requires a number of measures which are essential for functioning governments: broadening of the fiscal base through improved domestic resource mobilization, professionalizing of the civil service, anti-corruption regimes, building in-country capacity to collect and analyze data, and effective and inclusive allocation of resources

UNDP has done a lot of work in supporting programme countries in building responsive and capable institutions. For example:

  •  We work with them to strengthen the rule of law; access to justice and legal empowerment;

  •  Working with one in three parliaments around the world we help to improve their effectiveness;

  •  UNDP responded to the requests of over 100 countries to help strengthen their national institutions that tackle corruption;

  •  Along with partners such as UNCTAD and in partnership with LDCs, donors and other agencies, we have supported 40 LDCs efforts to expand their trade capacities, mainstreaming trade into LDCs national development plans and assist them on their trade related needs and;

  •  We help partners to make development planning and practice more gender-responsive through gender based budgeting.

But…as important as is the promotion of economic growth, and building of responsive institutions, it should not come at the expense of nurturing inclusive, job-rich, and quality economic growth, which overcomes the perceived trade-off between growth and equity.

So, we also need to build inclusive institutions, aim at achieving both, inclusive participation (people as actors not as objects or recipients of policies) and which work towards the ambitions set out in the MDGs: invest in human development through, health, education, gender equality and women’s empowerment, fostering of agriculture and small scale farming, social protection systems which guard families against shocks, inclusive financial markets for micro and small businesses, local governance, and energy access.

All of these areas are identified in UNDP’s agenda for achieving the MDGs and are also reflected in the seven commitments of the Brussels Programme of Action for the LDCs.

The Human Development Report shows us that even under very difficult economic circumstances, a lot of important progress on human development can be made – including in the LDCs.

The challenge is to scale up these successes and replicate the efforts – to move from isolated islands of success to transformational change.

A good example of successful efforts in that regard is Nepal, where impressive progress in health and education be traced to major public policy efforts. Access to free primary and secondary education resulted in soaring enrolment rates, as did literacy later on. Extension of primary healthcare through community participation, local mobilization of resources and decentralization produced remarkable reductions in infant mortality. The gap between Nepal’s life expectancy and the world average has narrowed by 87 percent over the past 40 years. By contrast, economic growth was modest, and the lack of jobs led many Nepalese to seek opportunities abroad. Nepal is of course still a poor country, with enormous scope to improve human development, ranking 138th of 169 countries in the HDI.

Let me now turn to democratic governance. Because, up to here, what I have outlined has sounded quite technical – but we know that this is also about POLITICS.

The responsiveness to citizens and their active participation is a fundamental underpinning for capable and inclusive states. Indeed, politics matter for human development since expanding peoples’ choices is also about how and by whom they are governed. 

At the request of governments, UNDP supports electoral processes all around the world. This is not only support to elections, but also institutional capacity building of electoral institution, legal reform, voter and civic education, women’s participation in elections – both as voters and as candidates. On this we have some good stories to report on from the LDCs: for example as of April this year 16 LDCs exceeded the world average of 20 per cent women in national parliaments, with 6 even exceeding 30 per cent.

Effective and democratic governance has the potential to help societies overcome tensions, prevent conflict, take tough decisions, and provide services in a way that is perceived to be fair and just. It is through transparent, accountable and effective governance that growth and development can become inclusive, responsive and sustained.

This is reflected in the Secretary General’s Guidance Note on Democracy: “Development is more likely to take hold if people are given a genuine say in their own governance, and a chance to share in the fruits of progress.”

Unfortunately in this area, not all news are good news. The report of the Secretary General on the implementation of the PoA states that while there has been some progress during the last decade when it comes to democratization in LDCs, unconstitutional changes in governments have been on the raise.

Let me turn now to my last point: the need for a strong and committed global partnership.

Overall, there is much scope for improving the allocation and distribution of ODA. Indeed, in 2008 LDCs share of ODA as a percentage of donor GNI was 0.09, which is quite below the 0.15 – 0.2 per cent target set at the second LDC Conference in 1990.

Within the aid budget there has also been insufficient focus on important productive sectors such as agriculture: around 75 per cent of the world’s poor make their living off agriculture, but this sector only receives an estimated 4 - 6 per cent of the ODA. This is despite the fact that this is the sector which contributes most to poverty reduction.

The vulnerability of LDCs to exogenous shocks and threats, and the disproportionate effects which they experience, also brings into light the importance of increased policy coherence so that development progress is not undermined by contradictory policies in areas such as trade, migration, agriculture, technology transfer, and environment.

Looking forward, it is of utmost importance that the upcoming Fourth LDC Conference, to be held in Istanbul next year, builds on the momentum from the MDG Summit and fosters the partnership needed to address the special needs and concerns of the LDCs.

This includes a new and ambitious Programme of Action which articulates our common determination to accelerate the LDCs’ MDG achievement.Let us all work together towards this goal and ensure that the Istanbul conference marks a significant turning point for LDCs and the global community as a whole.

Let me assure you that UNDP is committed to play its part.

Thank you.

UNDP is now helping countries to accelerate progress towards 2015 through a practical diagnostic tool – the MDG Acceleration Framework.

The Framework is aimed at helping countries to identify the bottlenecks to progress, focus on solutions and plan accordingly targeted interventions and investments. This is done in a multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder fashion, which allows for an effective coordination of efforts and resources.