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[LONDON] The world's least developed countries (LDCs) must amplify their voices in post-2015 development debates if the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) are to match local needs and social realities, a press briefing heard yesterday (9 May).

With this in mind, development experts from these countries met in London this week (8-9 May), to launch an independent expert group tasked with bringing critical LDC issues to the UN debating table.

The group will focus on promoting the issues they believe the SDGs must encompass, through a series of reports and open dialogues.


  • The LDCs must make their voices heard in post-2015 development debates
  • An expert group has now been tasked with driving this agenda
  • Key activities will include publishing reports and forging dialogues with the UN

It will also monitor and critique the activities of UN post-2015 development bodies — such as the High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development — and illuminate positive stories of LDC development, to help "break out" of the "victim and aid recipient" portrayals of the past and instead "reframe" these countries as important global actors.

"I think the whole idea is for the LDCs to jumpstart the sustainability path — the future is open to absorb all potentialities and possibilities," said Youba Sokona, special advisor on sustainable development at the intergovernmental South Centre, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dipak Gyawali, a political economist and former minister of water resources in Nepal, explained: "The reason we're now getting together is because the last half century of development thinking and practice has failed much of the South and the LDCs in particular".

Fundamental to the post-2015 development agenda, the expert group believes, is to ensure the SDGs match "ground realities".

Gyawali told SciDev.Net that "there is already too much going on in the South that will make [global policies] irrelevant" if development is not reframed.

"In the South, there's an amazing vibrancy and dynamism at the grassroots level … with strong examples of innovations and initiatives — such as community forestry and the 'communitisation' of electricity distribution — that have showed remarkable results," Gyawali added.

"But the trouble is it does not filter up to the global development community."

The new expert group will work to bring these success stories to the UN debating table, he explained.

Pushing the LDC agenda at the UN level is a daunting task, but one that the group say they are committed to achieving.

Gyawali described the coming development debates as a "political fight, and one that will not be easy".

A pressing concern is the "aid addiction" of LDC bureaucrats, said Gyawali. "We have no illusions that the negotiations going on are conducted by southern bureaucrats who are addicted to aid," he said, resulting in "the distortion of development priorities in the South".

Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, and senior fellow at the International Institute of Environment and Development, which hosted the meeting, said the group would work to "bring the voices of local government — bodies engaged in essential development activities — to act as major players" in SDG debates.

Gyawali concluded: "The SDGs must internalise local initiatives. It's a tall order but we think that the process must begin."

The group will present its first report at the UN SDG meeting in New York next month (25 June).

The group's members are drawn from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Haiti, Mali, Nepal, Senegal and Uganda, with experts participating in their individual capacities.

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