World leaders and policymakers have a remarkable capacity to emulate progress without actually achieving anything. Earlier this month, leaders of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), parliamentarians, UN officials and representatives of civil society descended on Istanbul for the high-level LDC IV Summit. The agenda was to evaluate progress on the Brussels Programme of Action (BPoA) – a programme, adopted a decade ago, that explicitly outlined commitments made by the international community to help countries graduate from the LDC bracket. Now, although the determination to make progress towards the goals of poverty eradication, peace and development, are on paper, the stark reality is that the challenges and constraints that instigated BPoA remain ten years on. So where are we at?
Disappointingly, drafts of the Istanbul Programme of Action for 2011-2020 indicate that leaders have once again failed to take on board that the current approach to development is not sustainable. There is a glaring absence of a new global paradigm to promote development and reduce poverty. In fact, as the meeting drew to a close it became clear that the programme of action developed for the next decade did not even encapsulate the urgency required for a new development architecture for LDCs if any meaningful improvements are to occur. The Istanbul Programme of Action, while acknowledging that key goals of the BPoA remain outstanding, maintained existing notions that LDCs should take responsibility to foster development in their countries. It noted that viable institutions at national and domestic level in the LDCs should be given responsibility to implement these plans and should be included in the action plans identified for development. Time-bound targets and instruments that will hold governments accountable are, starkly, absent from the new Istanbul Programme of Action.