A plan to cut the number of least developed countries (LDCs) by half from the present 48 within 10 years has been unveiled by leaders of the world's poorest nations and their donors.
The 33 states of Africa and 14 from Asia plus Haiti, with a per capita income of less than 745 dollars a year, aim to increase their productive capacities and promote investments to reach this goal.
"National policies of the LDCs and international support measures during the decade will focus on... specific objectives with the aim of enabling half the number of LDCs to meet criteria for graduation by 2020," the Istanbul Action Plan stated.
Three Pacific island states, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, are already in line for graduating from LDC status in the next three to five years, Cheick Sidi Diarra, the secretary general of the Fourth UN Conference on the LDCs, told reporters Friday.
Equatorial Guinea, Angola and East Timor are also improving, while Nepal and Bangladesh are on the right track, he added. Only three countries have so far managed to shake off the LDC label in 40 years -- Botswana, Cape Verde and the Maldives.
The hallmark of the action plan is an emphasis on productive capacity -- building infrastructure, human capital and governance capabilities in the countries concerned, a press statement issued at the end of the five-day conference.
"This is the best way to create growth and wealth in LDCs so as to make sustainable human development gains that have been achieved by LDCs," Diarra said.
LDCs aim to reach an economic growth of "at least... seven percent per annum by strenghthening their productive capacities," the action plan says.
Diarra also underlined the importance of developed countries' commitment for aid to LDCs.
"We think that sustaining the level of aid agreed upon in Brussels and delivering around the high end of this commitment, which is 0.20 percent (of GNP), will enable us to double the current level from 28 billion to almost 80 billion dollars," he said.
One of the most criticized points in the former Brussels action plan was the lack of a monitoring system for the commitments of both LDCs and their development partners, according to conference participants.
"In the Istanbul action plan, special emphasis is made on monitoring," Diarra said.
Each year an assessment will be made in the annual ministerial meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and a biennial evaluation will be made under ECOSOC's Development Cooperation Forum, Diarra said.
However, the Civil Society Forum, a group of NGOs, criticized developed countries for "systematically removing any targets, timetables and delivery mechanisms that may have been used to hold them to account."
The action plan also calls on LDCs to ensure the energy sector receives priority in their budget allocations, while setting a target for them to "make substantial progress towards eradicating hunger by 2020."
Halving the number of people in LDCs with no access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015 is another goal of the plan.
The conference, the fourth of its kind, hosted more than 10,000 participants, including 36 heads of states and government and 96 ministers.
The event takes place every ten years to negotiate international support for LDCs. France staged the first two in 1981 and 1990, while the third was held in Brussels in 2001.