South-South axis strengthens
While fresh support
from the rich countries was largely lacking, the
THE glass isn't exactly
half-full, but it certainly is not entirely empty either. Within the
broad failure of the week-long Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed
Countries (LDC-IV) in
That front failed to secure a trade agreement to the satisfaction of the LDCs. But delegates say the very act of joint and unified negotiations by the group has put them in a stronger position for bargaining in the years ahead.
There was no hiding the disappointment over the conference, though. 'We were looking for a bold, forward-looking and ambitious programme of action,' Arjun Karki, chair of the LDC-IV Civil Society Forum, told Inter Press Service (IPS). 'We thought member states would learn from the past three conference failures.'
The LDC Conference, organised through the UN, is held every 10 years. That gives countries a lot of time to prepare progressive policies for the LDCs - and then just a week to give expression to them. The developed world largely failed, despite progress at this conference on some counts.
'We had really been looking for a new aid architecture for the LDCs,' said Karki. 'The present structure is not really helping LDCs. That is based on the principle of market fundamentalism and neoliberal policies that have privatised profits and nationalised losses.'
But looking at the silver lining, Karki said, 'we are also encouraged by the political spirit of the LDC member states. They are working unified, very close together, and they tried to defend their interests until the very last minute. So there is some political achievement in terms of building and strengthening the LDC group as a political bloc.'
The partnership between the LDCs and civil society has really improved, Karki said. 'So we can work together as a political group and as a pressure group in days to come so that our voices are heard by key development voices who make policies and programmes.'
There are deeper gains that others point to, even if these did not show by way of a deliverable new trade deal for the LDCs.
'South-South [cooperation] is really picking up speed because the latest UNCTAD [United Nations Conference on Trade and Development] report for the least developed countries for 2010 says the South is now the major market for LDC exports,' Demba Moussa Dembele, chairperson of LDC Watch, told IPS.
'Most foreign direct investment received by LDCs comes from the South,' he said. 'Not only in terms of financial resources but technology transfer. The emerging companies are becoming major players in the LDCs' economies. And loans given by emerging economies are mostly on a concessional basis, or grants.'
That new cooperation
was strongly confirmed and strengthened at the
A clear sign of progress
is what is not taking place, or at the least not being so confidently
pushed, to corner the LDCs. Prime among these are the Economic Partnership
Agreements (EPAs) that the European Union (EU) has been seeking with
many of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. The EU has
succeeded in forcing
There is widespread unanimity among the poor countries against such agreements that can be seriously damaging to LDC economies in the long run. The new South-South front is a bulwark against such agreements, says Dembele.
'The EU wanted to
force these agreements on
For the LDCs, this
means an important new path, he says. 'For 500 years and more we have
been mistreated by
*Third World Resurgence No. 249, May 2011, p 18