The Permanent Representative of Nepal Ambassador Gyan Acharya, Chair of the Global Coordination Bureau of the LDCs
Dr. Arjun Karki. Chair of the Civil Society Steering Committee
Dr. Karaman, Doctors Worldwide
Ms. Azeb Girmai, Civil Society Steering Committee Member
Friends from civil society,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Firstly, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you who have traveled from across the globe to share in this watershed event in Istanbul. It is indeed a personal honour for me to be a part of the opening plenary of the LDC IV Civil Society Forum.
I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to the LDC IV Civil Society Steering Committee for their guidance and the Civil Society Secretariat for its dedication and tireless efforts throughout the process leading up to this momentous occasion. Without their efforts, our task would have been more difficult, but with their efforts we are assured that the voice of civil society has not only been heard but also listened to.
Allow me to begin my brief remarks by highlighting that on the eve of the official opening of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, the world is eager to engage with civil society as important players in our collective endeavor to find a solution to the many challenges facing the world’s 48 LDCs. From our active engagement with the CSO community over the past two years, I have no doubt that the ideas which emerge over the next seven days will further strengthen and enrich our common resolve.
In your numbers you have demonstrated time and time again that the only way forward is inclusiveness, and that CSO involvement at all levels is the key to ensuring that the outcome of LDC IV reflects the aspirations of all stakeholders.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The highest-level of participation and commitment is expected at LDC IV. The Conference provides a wide range of players in the international community with an opportunity to take an honest assessment of the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action for the LDCs for the Decade 2001-2010. It also gives us a chance to chart the way forward.
But as we push ahead we should recognize that there have been positive signs over the decade. These improvements have been incremental and have given us tremendous confidence and momentum to build on the current progress. What has been quite remarkable about the last ten years compared to the two previous decades has been the growing recognition of the importance of partnerships, be it strengthening ties between the LDCs and their traditional development partners or forging new links with emerging countries in the South. This ongoing collaboration and cooperation has resulted in some positive spin-offs. We have seen an unprecedented rise in official development assistance to the LDCs, an increase in the volume of trade, progress on human development indicators such as greater access to water and sanitation, improved enrollment rates at schools, and more women in positions of influence.
Often we ignore the success and focus on the failure. I would however caution that we ought to focus on what works and extend our energies to those areas which require additional effort.
We should not however shy away from reality as there numerous obstacles that continue to hamper the development prospects of the LDCs. Accomplishing the goals set by Brussels Programme of Action has been a tough challenge both for the international community and the LDCs themselves. Poverty rates among the LDCs are still unacceptably high, unemployment figures are climbing, basic infrastructure is still sorely lacking, and infants and their mothers in the LDCs remain more vulnerable to fatality compared to their development counterparts.
In a nutshell, after three Programmes of Action, we can all agree that there is definitely room for improvement as we embark on the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action. This should not discourage us but rather embolden us to take brave new steps.
I must commend civil society for stepping up to plate and bravely taking up these challenges. Throughout the preparatory phase of the Conference, CSOs have engaged in the preparatory process every step of the way in a constructive and productive manner. The engagement has been meaningful and provided all of us with much to consider.
There is a strong consensus amongst stakeholders that improvement in the LDCs cannot be done solely by the governments of the LDCs and their development partners. What is required is a genuine engagement of a wide range of stakeholders if we are to succeed.
This recognition has given civil society increasing prominence in the broader development agenda. Alongside other partners, civil society has been called upon to shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that governments are held accountable to their commitments.
My Office has always maintained that civil society’s engagement in the LDC agenda should not only be lip service but should constitute a substantive input into the process. The civil society steering committee has provided the overall policy guidance and direction of civil society participation in the LDC-IV preparatory process admirably. Through their networks we have managed to connect with civil society representatives across continents at the grassroots level and high-level events in important ways.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again extend my deepest appreciation to all seven members of the Steering Committee, who despite the demands on their time, so kindly agreed to be part of this process.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It goes without saying that given the particular position, which you occupy, civil society has certain leverage which provides us with new and fresh ways of approaching what may seem as insurmountable problems. As I have said before on various occasions, civil society is able to provide a frank and honest account of the impact of policies as they affect the daily lives of ordinary households. At each of the pre-conference events held in the lead-up to the Conference, representatives from CSOs have been at the table and have shared their views on a variety of pertinent issues pertaining to the least developed countries. Indeed, at times NGOs and CSOs have told us uncomfortable truths, but we have listened and heeded your advice. We will continue to remain open to these invaluable insights.
Ensuring a successful and inclusive Civil Society Forum is imperative. Personally, I urge you to continue your calls for deeper and meaningful policy space for LDCs to develop their own social and economic policies, micro and macroeconomic policies that are based on people-centered sustainable development. You have been at the forefront of efforts of raising attention to the need for decent work opportunities and capacity building for the working poor. This should continue, as well as increased advocacy addressing the causes and impacts of the financial crisis, climate change, the ongoing food shortage, and other specific vulnerabilities. These are just some of the issues that civil society has particular strengths in and should continue to strenuously advocate.
Tomorrow at the official Civil Society opening ceremony, we will be welcoming the launch of the Global Civil Society Report, which presents a comprehensive appraisal of the Brussels Programme of Action from the civil society perspective. It is my firm belief that this landmark report will produce maximum contribution from civil society towards the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action.
I am therefore eager to hear your ideas on a wide range of issues and most importantly on how to enhance the contribution of civil society in the new Programme of Action and the follow up and monitoring mechanism.
In conclusion, the unique capacity of civil society to forge grand coalitions that transcends borders, running from the grassroots to the international level needs to be put to the service of the development cause of LDCs. I am grateful for all the cooperation we received from you and your eagerness in advocating reforms for the better. Indeed, my Office and the UN system at large, is therefore eager to assist your efforts in ensuring the successful outcome of this forum and beyond Istanbul.
I look forward to an exciting and productive exchange over the next few days. I thank you and wish you well in your deliberations.