Geneva, 26 September 2017

Civil society leaders from Least Developed Countries called on rich countries to open up their markets and allow fair and equitable trade opportunities for products from the poor and developing countries.

Addressing an interaction programme organised by the LDC Watch, an umbrella body of civil society organisations based in 47 Least Developed Countries, on Tuesday, Demba Dembele, director of the African Forum on Alternatives, said policies like America First (that put developed countries first) hurt poor and developing countries the most.

He said access to the market of the developed countries was a matter of life and death for many poor countries. Mr Dembele, who is also President of LDC Watch, called on the developed countries to meet their commitments as reflected in the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA).

The IPoA)-- adopted during the 4th UN Conference on LDCs in Istanbul in 2011-- calls on rich and developed countries to support LDCs to graduate from the LDC status by 2020.

The executive director of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), an initiative that supports LDCs in using trade for development-- Dr Ratnakar Adhikari, said trade can enhance income opportunities for poorer families. Inclusive trade can help to reduce vulnerabilities being faced by the communities in LDCs, he added. He said the LDCs need help and support from the developed countries to enhance their productive capacities. Giving an example of how EIF was supporting a women's cooperative in Mali to make mango jams and sell them in Europe, Dr Adhikari said LDCs should export value-added products rather than relying on commodities to boost their export revenue.

International coordinator of the LDC Watch, Gauri Pradhan, said although the share of LDCs in world exports almost doubled in 15 years-- from 0.6% in 2000 to 1.1% in 2014, LDCs only account 1.5% of global trade. So although globalisation has rapidly boosted trade among countries globally, LDCs have not proportionately benefitted, he said.

"This calls for fair trade rules and increased market access for products from LDCs to ensure that they become important contributors to global trade. On behalf of all LDCs, we demand that the LDCs be provided with the better trade terms of trade, more access to world markets, a stable price of commodities and better transfer of appropriate technology."

Ms Daphne Davies, Managing Editor of the LDC News Service (www.ldcnews.com) moderated the debate, organised as part of the WTO Public Forum 2017 at the WTO headquarters in Geneva
Out of the 47 LDCs, 36 are members of the WTO while seven are in the process of joining the global trade body.