Helen Clark: Keynote at Meeting of LDCs and Friends of LDCs

Feb 18, 2016

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

Keynote Speech at Working Dinner of the Consultative Meeting of the LDCs and Friends of LDCs on the Comprehensive Midterm Review of the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action

New York

8pm, Thursday, 18 February, 2016

Thank you for inviting me to attend this Working Dinner of the Consultative Meeting of the Least Development Countries (LDCs) and Friends of LDCs, held at this critical time in the run up to the Comprehensive Midterm Review of the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA).

Last year was a remarkable year for setting global development agendas. But now coherent and effective implementation of all the 2015 agreements together with the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) is needed to achieve poverty eradication and other transformative changes in LDCs.

So I am delighted that this Consultative Meeting is:

reflecting on what will drive growth and progress in LDCs;

considering the synergies between IPoA and the other agendas; and

looking at how partnerships can be strengthened around the eight priority areas for action identified in IPoA.

Allow me to elaborate briefly on these themes.

The special needs of LDCs

First – let’s be optimistic: LDCs as a group have made significant strides over the past two decades. The latest global Human Development Report shows that between 2000 and 2014 the average Human Development Index value for LDCs increased by 26 per cent, compared to the average increase of eleven per cent for all countries.

That fast progress has improved some countries’ prospects of graduating from LDC status. But much more can be done. The Midterm Review of IPoA is an opportunity for LDCs and partners to assess progress since the Istanbul conference in 2011 and also the challenges which lie ahead. These challenges include:

leaving no one behind – as called for by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Lifting more than 400 million people in LDCs out of extreme poverty by 2030 will require political will and smart strategies. The last-mile of exclusion must be reached, and painful and entrenched biases which have left some of those excluded behind must be confronted.

reducing vulnerability to economic shocks. The rate of economic growth in LDCs continues to be driven primarily by commodity prices. There is as yet too little economic diversification in most LDCs. Investment flows to LDCs still concentrate on too few countries and sectors.

closing the large investment gaps in infrastructure, transport, access to energy, and information and communications technologies (ICTs) which continue to hold back the development of productive and trade capacities in LDCs, and especially in Landlocked Least Developed Countries (LLDCs);

improving access to education, healthcare, productive employment, and decent work, which are central planks of the SDGs. Especially critical is the need to generate jobs and opportunities for young people and women, which will have a big bearing on whether societies are peaceful and inclusive;

coping with climate change, which is posing a significant challenge to LDCs. LDCs have contributed the least to the problem, but also have the least capacity, financial and otherwise, to deal with the consequences. Recurrent severe weather events in the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa, for example, are devastating peoples’ lives. This year we see particularly severe drought impacts in Southern Africa too.

Applying the lessons of IPoA and MDG implementation

In tackling economic, social, and environmental challenges, LDCs can apply all the lessons learned in the implementation of IPoA to date, and national experiences of successful MDG implementation, including:

the importance of mainstreaming global development agendas into national and sub-national strategies and budgets. This helps to drive policy coherence, prioritise limited resources, open up more partnership opportunities, and establish firm national ownership.

Progress can be rapidly scaled up when obstacles and bottlenecks to it are identified and then systematically addressed through targeted interventions. This is a lesson learned from implementation of the MDG Acceleration Framework over the past six years.

Proactive and capable governance institutions are critical for driving good policy and delivery. Sustained partner support for the hard grind of capacity building is important.

Strong accountability mechanisms do support successful implementation of international policy frameworks and national development priorities. Vibrant parliaments, civil society, and media are a key part of that.

Strengthening implementation of the IPoA

This meeting can help define the roadmap for how implementation of IPoA can be strengthened over the next five years. IPoA has eight areas for priority action which target key obstacles to LDC graduation. Renewed commitment to these areas is needed.

UNDP suggests four matters requiring attention:

First, this consultative meeting may wish to provide input for the Midterm Review of IPoA on financing needs. To meet IPoA targets by 2020 and begin SDG implementation, strong public and private partnerships, and innovative approaches to resource mobilisation will be critical. ODA to LDCs fell by 9.3 per cent in real terms in 2014 compared to the previous year, and still remains below 2008 levels.  The decline in the number of OECD DAC donors reaching the target of providing at least 0.15 per cent Gross National Income (GNI) in ODA to LDCs fell from ten in 2011 to eight in 2014.

Second, the importance of South-South Co-operation to LDCs should be affirmed. More regional integration and sharing of experiences will also help implementation of IPoA.

Third, this consultative meeting should consider how larger partnerships could be built to support improving the data systems in LDCs which are needed to monitor progress on IPoA and Agenda 2030. Development partners, including the UN system, have an important role to play in supporting LDCs’ efforts to drive evidence-based decision making. As well, having a harmonized data collection and reporting system for IPoA and the SDGs would reduce transaction costs, and help to sustain the focus on implementation.

Fourth, this consultative meeting could also discuss expediting the operationalisation of a Technology Bank which supports science, technology and innovation in the LDCs, as has been recommended by the United Nations Secretary-General’s high-level panel of experts. Defining key action points towards setting up such a facility would be helpful. UNDP believes that a Technology Bank has the potential to drive the structural transformations needed to achieve IPoA and the SDGs.

UNDP’s commitment to IPoA

UNDP is active in many ways in support of IPoA and of LDCs meeting global goals. Our work on poverty eradication, sustainable development pathways, inclusive markets, aid for trade, maximising the returns to countries from the extractive sectors, and building institutional capacity all contribute. We also give significant tailored support to countries on graduation from LDC status. We are closely involved in the preparatory process for the Midterm Review, and will continue to engage in all national, regional, and global level consultations. We are assisting with the preparation of a number of national reports for the MTR, and will continue to support the mainstreaming of IPoA into national development plans and into UN Development Assistance Frameworks and UNDP Country Programme documents.

Also, through the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), an associated programme of UNDP, we will continue to support LDCs to test innovative last mile financing solutions, to ensure that growth is inclusive, local, and relevant to poor households and communities. You will hear more about these approaches tomorrow from the head of UNCDF.


This meeting follows the important special event on LDCs and Agenda 2030 in the General Assembly a week ago. It precedes the first Preparatory Meeting of Experts in late March, which will give guidance to the Mid Term Review conference in late May.

This period from February to May therefore is one for intense focus on the special needs of LDCs. We hope it will inspire LDCs and partners alike to reach for the sky and see the real potential to meet the ambitions set in Istanbul four years ago.