At the Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in Istanbul, Member States agreed on the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011–2020 during formal negotiations on 11 May 2011 in the Committee of the Whole, and agreed on the political declaration on 13 May 2011. The overarching goal of the Istanbul Programme of Action is to overcome the structural challenges faced by the least developed countries, to eradicate poverty, achieve internationally agreed development goals, and enable half of the 48 least developed countries to graduate out of this category by 2020.

The Istanbul Programme of Action entails the following objectives: achieve sustained, equitable and inclusive economic growth in least developed countries, by strengthening their productive capacity in all sectors through structural transformation; build human capacities by fostering sustained, equitable and inclusive human and social development, gender equality and the empowerment of women; reduce least developed countries’ vulnerability to economic, natural and environmental shocks and disasters, including climate change, and enhance their ability to meet these and other challenges through strengthening their resilience; ensure enhanced financial resources and their effective use for the development of least developed countries, including through domestic resource mobilization, official development assistance, external debt relief, foreign direct investment and remittances; and to enhance good governance at all levels.

The Non-Aligned Movement in its various summits and meetings since 2011 has expressed its commitment towards the effective realization of the objectives entailed in Istanbul Programme of Action. The Movement has called for a scaled up partnership for development, as well as the necessary comprehensive support architecture to Less Developed Counties (LDCs) in their efforts to ensure that at least half of them achieve the objective and step up the ladder on the development front from their current underdeveloped status by 2020. At the 17th NAM Summit held in Venezuela, 2016, NAM called for effective arrangements for implementation, follow-up, monitoring and evaluation of the commitments made under the Istanbul Programme of Action. The Final Document of the Summit called upon developed countries for the full implementation of the commitments that have been made in the Istanbul Programme of Action in its eight priority areas, including providing enhanced financial and technical support to develop productive capacities, meeting and reviewing quantitative official development assistance targets for the least developed countries, improving the quality of aid, implementing duty-free quota-free market access, enhancing the share of assistance for Aid for Trade, continuing with the provision of debt relief and the consideration of debt cancellation for the least developed countries in view of the impediment that debt constitutes for their development, implementing investment promotion regimes, enhancing transfer of technology, providing enhanced concessional start-up financing for innovative enterprises in the least developed countries and improving governance at all levels.

At the Midterm Review of Istanbul Programme held in Ankara, Turkey in May 2016, a number of NAM Member States shared their best practice and national achievements. Rwanda’s delegate recounted State-driven national experiences geared towards the end goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2020, noting that his country had achieved an 8 per cent growth over the last decade, and highlighted that Rwanda had taken an inclusive approach to development and seen a 12.5 per cent reduction in poverty over the last decade, driven by innovative agriculture programmes, demonstrating that the sector was a building block for prosperity. Guinea’s representative reported important national achievements, including a rising growth rate, falling inflation and effective debt cancellation programmes.

The representative of Zambia said that Africa, which hosted most of the least developed countries, had the potential to come out of that category, but would need support from all actors. The representative of Gambia said that, if least developed countries attained sustainable growth, they would play an important role in the global economy, not only as producers, but as consumers, given their rising purchasing power.

It is clear that NAM Member States are committed towards the realization of then goals of the Istanbul Program, and are working with earnest efforts through innovative approaches, creative financing measures and strong cross-sector partnerships to achieve the same.

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava