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Civil Society offer vital perspectives from Least Developed Countries

Gauri Pradhan
International Coordinator, LDC Watch

There was a large civil society presence recently at the Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action. What role can civil society now play in supporting the further implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA)?

The civil society presence was indeed exemplary during the Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action. UN-OHRLLS and the Turkish Government must both be commended for their contribution to the promotion of LDC civil society space during the conference as well as at the conference itself. LDC Watch, as the representative of global LDC civil society, also played a significant role in bringing together prominent representatives of LDC civil society to the Civil Society Forum.

There are still five years to go until the conclusion of the IPoA and a lot to accomplish. Civil society needs to go further in its engagement by fulfilling its role as a watchdog, holding the respective governments, as well as other relevant stakeholder institutions, to account in regard to their respective actions as stated in the IPoA. Civil society can also promote transparency and accountability as well as furthering advocacy by raising awareness of societal issues and challenges in regard to the effective implementation of the IPoA. It also needs to act as a capacity building entity and bring expertise and experience to shape policy and strategy, identifying and building solutions as well as giving power to the voices of marginalized and underrepresented people of the LDCs.

Civil society are closest to the ground and the most aware of local issues, thus enabling them to effectively represent the true voice of the people in LDCs.

Recognizing that no one sector can solve the problems that are faced by the LDCs, civil society needs to increase and strengthen partnerships and collaborative frameworks within the LDC civil society and beyond, engaging stakeholders from the government and international organizations as well as the private sector.

How can civil society utilise the Sustainable Development Goals and other global commitments made in 2015, such as the Paris Agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, to ensure that Least Developed Countries are at the forefront of sustainable development over the next 15 years?

Achieving these internationally declared development goals is a challenge, especially for LDCs where there is an acute level of deprivation. Their economies are vulnerable and their infrastructure is weak and inadequate. CSOs must truly be active to bring sufficient attention to the issues faced by LDCs. LDC as well as Non-LDC Civil Society must use global commitments such as the SDGs, the Paris Agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda as opportunities to increase awareness regarding the challenges faced by LDCs and support sustainable development by improving the quality and implementation capacity. These global programmes of action should go hand in hand with the already adopted IPoA.

Individual LDC negotiating power is weak, but as a group they are able to leverage more power and support. “Leaving no one behind” is an underlying principle of the SDGs and the theme is also reflected in other global commitments. Civil Society in LDCs and beyond should take on a critical role, listening to people at ground level, coordinating with national and local governments and undertaking necessary lobbying and campaigns with development partners.

LDCs need to adopt a cross-cutting approach in order to identify creative solutions at the local level that government institutions may miss. Civil society are closest to the ground and the most aware of local issues, thus enabling them to effectively represent the true voice of the people in LDCs. Civil Society also need to increase their partnerships with governments, the private sector and other international bodies, working in synergy with these entities and sharing the same path towards attaining global commitments. For this, a dynamic and able leadership must be established and strengthened in LDCs.

How, in your view, has UN-OHRLLS supported the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) over the last 15 years?

Since the adoption of the Brussels Programme of Action in 2001, LDCs have made significant progress in economic, social and human development with the support and guidance of UN-OHRLLS.

LDCs are faced with inherent geographical, economic and political vulnerabilities and challenges; however, in spite of the multiple challenges and constraints, many have made considerable progress in achieving positive and sustainable development outcomes. Many of the LDCs have significantly increased domestic resource mobilization and used this for sustainable development in the last fifteen years. Furthermore, since the adoption of the IPoA in 2011, LDCs have made some progress in the areas of human rights, good governance, transparency, democratic participation, the rule of law at the national and international levels, human development, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Also, many LDCs are meeting the criteria for graduation and many others have expressed their aspirations to graduate. UN-OHRLLS has played a crucial role in the attainment of these outcomes and in the potential for future graduation.

“Civil society needs to go further in its engagement by fulfilling its role as a watchdog, holding the respective governments, as well as other relevant stakeholder institutions, to account in regard to their respective actions as stated in the IPoA.”

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