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LDC Dialogue Ends

Call for more active role of development partners

A three-day international dialogue on development strategies for least developed countries concluded yesterday with a call for more active engagement from global development partners.

The dialogue also concluded that the positions of the world's weakest economies must be redefined in light of the post crisis evolving global economic relationships.

Trade experts, economists, bureaucrats, academicians and civil society members, who took part in the event, also suggested that the 49-nation-bloc look for new opportunities amid the rapidly changing global economic order.

The observations came at the closing ceremony of the 'International Dialogue on Exploring New Global Partnership for the LDCs' in Dhaka Sheraton Hotel.

The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), an independent think tank of Bangladesh, organised the event in partnership with the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The dialogue sought to design a new international strategy for LDCs to graduate from the listing, which will be negotiated at the Fourth UN LDC Conference in Istanbul in May next year.

CPD's Distinguished Fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya told reporters after the event that the main demands of LDCs are clear -- food security, climate change adaptation fund, access to foreign markets, and foreign direct investments.

"Without proper attention from international development partners, and political will nothing will happen, no matter how good the documents are," he added.

During the meeting, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes said the issues of human and food security, and investment in agriculture should be at the centre of the next programme of action to be adopted in the Turkish city.

"Improving domestic infrastructure and regional connectivity is also critical," he said.

Human resources development and quality of education should also get adequate attention to turn the vast population of the LDCs into a productive asset, he added.

Quayes said LDCs should not sit idle just by formulating documents; they have to work and build on those. "We have to go beyond Istanbul and the development partners have to come forward."

He said political commitment is also crucial. "The governments of LDCs, developed nations, global partners, and the people have to have a feeling of ownership, otherwise nothing will happen."

Anna Batyra, coordinator of OECD Development Finance Network, said the entry of emerging economies in the global scenario could not be ignored. "How these emerging economies could contribute to help LDCs reach targets should be formulated."

Batyra also said the LDCs should bring domestic reforms, and mobilise internal resources to help themselves.

Economic Relations Division Secretary of Bangladesh Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said LDCs have to redefine their positions at the economic front of the new world order, and restructure their relationships with developed countries, to reap more benefits.

Debapriya Bhattacharya said, "We have to have political support, as at the end of the day it's a political process."

"We have created documents and put them on the table. Now is the time for the governments to take them forward," he added.

The prominent economist also said the Istanbul Conference will be a litmus test for all. The participants will look to see how many heads of states attend the conference, whether there is any interest from France, the next president of G20; Switzerland, the incumbent chair of United Nations General Assembly; and the emerging economies, he noted.

He said the Brussels Programmes of Action could not generate enough enthusiasm, as there was no fund and resource dedicated to the programme.

The governments of LDCs have to be more active in attracting the attention of developed countries, and emerging economies. Besides, the development demands of LDCs must be presented during Istanbul negotiations with human dimension, he stressed.

He said due to the global economic crisis, new funds may not be available, but the international partners and developed countries must implement the old promises, and solve the problems stemming from the crisis.

Rehman Sobhan, chairman of CPD, while chairing the event, said the world order has evolved much in the last couple of decades.

The new global trade architecture is relocating from the North-South axis to an East-West axis. This phenomenon needs to be reflected in the way the LDCs perceive their relationships with the rest of the world, he said.

Asia led by China is emerging as a significant trading partner of Africa. It is a significant point of departure from the North-South relationship, which in fact dominated the external economic relationships of LDCs so far, he noted. But now the whole external relations have moved eastward, where new trade relations are being forged laterally, as Asia is emerging as a big economic player, he added.

He said China will probably be overtaking the United States within a decade as an economic power and India has been emerging. "If we include Japan, a developed country, three of the world's four largest economies are going to be in Asia."

"Already, four-fifth of the world's foreign exchange reserves are in fact located in Asia. West Asia is also a relevant part of the architecture," he added.

"Capital surplus within the Asian region is underwriting the budgetary and balance of payment deficits of the United States today. The largest purchaser of primary commodities in the world now is China."

"The principle market for the middle-eastern oil and east-Asian energy will soon be relocated to Asia from Europe and America," he predicted.

"The LDCs will have to take into account these relevant realities to redefine their positions in the current global system. That has to be done in a way that the new players will help you add value and develop skills, and will not just see you as a market," he said.

The global financial crisis, which in fact has changed the whole scenario of the global economy, is not an accidental episode of history. It is in fact one of the turning points in history which will restructure the international system, he said.

The architecture of the global economic system must be redefined now to reflect the new realities, and the definition of LDCs needs to be adjusted, he suggested.

Mehmet Arda, professor of International Relations and Economics at Galatasaray University in Turkey, said the recommendations should be specific, time-bound, short and realistic to make those operational.

Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of CPD also spoke.

A total of 133 recommendations came out of the three-day event, which will be finalised before the Istanbul conference.

The recommendations include a universal preferential, secured and predictable system of market access to developed and developing countries for LDCs; expansion of investments in productive sectors; early conclusion of the Doha Development Round negotiations; expansion of duty-free quota-free access for LDCs; flexibilities of rules of origin in trade; investments for expansion of LDCs' capacity building, and for ensuring food security; access to sector-wise technology; and flexibility in intellectual property rights regimes.

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