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New assistance measures for graduating Belt and Road Least Developed Countries toward the achievement of Agenda 2030

Around 12 least developed countries (LDC) are scheduled to leave the category in coming years, more than doubling the number which have left the category in the 47 years since it was formed. Many of these potential graduates are concerned about losing access to the international support measures (ISMs) provided by the international community. After graduation, in some cases after a transition period, countries stand to face reduced support or forego access to support measures in trade, official development assistance and other areas such as travel support and reduced budgetary contributions to the UN. The loss of these benefits disincentives graduating LDCs, most of which are along the Belt and Road, from leaving the category, a process which is not automatic but is ultimately the sovereign decision of governments. The drop-off in international support also risks stalling development progress after graduation. LDC graduation and assistance for LDCs are mentioned in ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ approximately 44 times, particularly with a view to ‘leaving no-one behind’. Support for LDCs after they leave the category is an important way of helping these countries meet the SDGs by 2030. The project will work with the governments of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal and Timor Leste, as well as international specialists and UN entities, to develop a set of proposals for post-graduation assistance. Some of these will be specific to the country concerned, and some generic – ie. applicable across the board. The proposals will partly aim at mitigating the potential impact of forfeiting existing ISMs – such as the loss of duty-free, quota-free market access under the European Everything But Arms Initiative – and will partly take the form of fresh measures to assist with the new development landscape following graduation, such as new infrastructure investment to support trade diversification. The key beneficiaries are thus the populations of these countries, totaling some 269 million people, intermediate through the Ministries of Planning, Trade, the Central Banks and private sector institutions. These will also be the prime entities involved with implementation in each country, alongside teams of national and international consultants overseen by UN DESA staff. The project will first result in a concrete list, for each country, of new proposed assistance mechanisms for the post-graduation landscape. Communications and advocacy measures built into the project will aim at incorporating these mechanisms into international processes such as the forthcoming new Programme of Action for LDCs to be launched after 2020, and ideally some of the measures will be adopted by donors and trading partners. They will also be incorporated into government planning. Secondly, beyond the development and publicity of these measures, the project will strengthen policy
frameworks and institutions for the adoption and use of selected assistance mechanisms in target countries. Analysis and recommendations will be developed and published in an in-depth analytical study. Subject to government priorities and ratification, they will be included in the government planning documents of target countries, supported by development partners, and implemented with a view to enhancing sustainable development in the post-graduation era. An anticipated secondary outcome will be to
incentivize the next graduating LDCs to leave the category, given new assurances of support.

Strengthening the capacity of least developed countries to develop evidence‐based, coherent and well financed strategies to implement the 2030 Agenda

This project aims to support four least developed countries to build capacities needed to develop and implement an NSDS, including the investment strategy that enhances
implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The project seeks to leverage the expertise of several UN DESA divisions to assist these countries with addressing the capacity gaps, challenges and recommendations that they have identified in their respective VNR for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and with formulating concrete, actionable and effective solutions to address them. This capacity development support will contribute to effective monitoring, programming and financing of the NSDS as well as promote policy coherence in support of the 2030 Agenda, and therefore links with Belt and Road Initiative priorities 1 (policy coordination) and to some extent 3 (trade) and 4 (financing). UN DESA will work with the four target countries who either prepared and presented VNRs in 2016, 2017, and 2018 or will prepare a VNR in 2019. Existing VNR reports of these countries have identified a range of gaps, challenges and capacity building needs for effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda that UN DESA can help to address. These countries have also expressed interest in receiving UN DESA support to address them.

Municipal asset management for sustainable development in selected Least Developed Countries in Africa and Asia

The project aims to address the lack of systematic and long-term asset management at the municipal level in the four least developed countries (LDCs). The ultimate objective of improving municipal asset management is to help municipalities meet a required level of basic services, in the most cost-effective manner, through the management of physical assets (land, buildings, infrastructure) for present and future customers.  This objective is accomplished through enhanced lifecycle asset management and portfolio asset management.  Lifecycle asset management encompasses all practices associated with physical infrastructure and property so that decisions are made based on the lowest long-term cost rather than short-term savings.  Portfolio management involves managing groups of assets to maximize value and investment for the entire portfolio of assets rather than individual or single groups of assets.

The project will follow a four-pronged strategy, consisting of (i) helping target countries assess the needs of their municipalities in asset management by training central government officials in the application of a diagnostic tool to review municipal assets in a holistic and integrated way and identifying critical areas for improvements; (ii) training municipal officials in the formulation and implementation of customized asset management action plans (AMAPs) that can be effectively linked to a medium-term budget and a long-term sustainable development strategy; (iii) increasing the dialogue among different stakeholders, in particular between central government agencies and municipal authorities to better understand the impact of existing policies, laws and regulations on municipal asset management and explore areas of reform and improvement; and (iv) sharing lessons learned and general policy recommendations with other LDCs. Accordingly, the project should result in the creation and implementation of AMAPs in the target countries in support of sustainable development, as well as a comprehensive publication of policy lessons that provides general guidance to other municipal governments in LDCs. Municipal governments in target countries (no more than 3 per country) will be chosen in consultation with the cooperating entities and national governments to ensure the project can leverage existing work of partner agencies and fits well into national sustainable development strategies. To make sure the proposed AMAPs will be implemented and lead to concrete actions on the ground, specific attention will be paid to ensuring that the sequencing of recommended actions is tailored to the municipal context; existing skills and technologies are considered and municipal ownership is ensured.

Helping least developed countries (LDCs) pursue structural economic progress toward and beyond graduation

The project aims to help five Least Developed Countries (LDCs) (four in Asia, one in the Pacific) increase their chances of achieving structural economic and social progress toward and beyond graduation from LDC status. This, for the two implementing organizations, involves: (i) provision of country-specific analytical material on the implications of LDC graduation; vulnerability and resilience-building; and smooth transition strategies; (ii) relevant advisory services to policy makers; and (iii) action to help project recipients and LDCs in general understand and use the export-related new requirements issued by trading partners.

The economies of graduating LDCs, while demonstrating forms of structural economic progress, often remain little diversified and dependent on a small number of products or commodities for export. The transformation these countries aim to achieve or pursue implies a range of structural economic changes, notably from lower to higher levels of productivity and value addition. Most graduating countries with an agenda for such progress will need post-LDC support measures, possibly new forms of special treatment after LDC status.

The context of reclassification from LDC status is an opportunity, for these countries, to step up their plea for alternative support measures after graduation, with a view to maintaining their momentum of progress. In short, making the most of LDC benefits while these are still available, then achieving a smooth transition to post-LDC status with some alternative support measures is a broad agenda of these States, an agenda they expect UNDESA and UNCTAD to help them bring to fruition. The project offers the two organizations and the five recipients a practical framework for achieving this goal.

 Key stakeholders under the project are government officials in the ministries associated with LDC graduation and its implications: Foreign Affairs, Planning, Finance, Trade and Commerce. The project will enhance the capacities of selected officials within these ministries to: (i) better understand the implications of graduation from LDC status; (ii) incorporate policies aimed at mitigating vulnerability and building resilience into planning documents; (iii) formulate and enact smooth transition strategies; and (iv) keep up with changing international trade requirements.

 Expected accomplishments are: (i) a strengthened capacity of government officials to mainstream resilience-building and smooth transition strategies into national policy-making; and (ii) Improve the capacity, in LDCs, to access and share information about new product requirements in export markets, and utilize the information to promote exports.

Strengthening of capacities of developing countries to provide Access to Information for Sustainable Development through Open Government Data

The objective of the project is to demonstrate the potential and benefits of using Open Government Data (OGD) in advancing transparency, accountability and sustainable development in selected countries of Latin America and East Asia regions, currently identified to be Bangladesh, Nepal, Panama, and Uruguay.
In partnership with the national counterparts , the project aims at developing a strategy for open data, particularly in thematic areas relevant to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including MDGs. Primarily, the government expenditure and budgeting data, environmental data, procurement data, demographic data, socio-economic indicators, healthcare data, geographical data and local transportation data.
The project aims at assisting with the development of a policy framework and technical infrastructure for implementation of OGD initiatives. It will strive at strengthening the open data community within selected countries. The target beneficiaries include, but are not limited to government officials responsible for data coordination in the country such as Chief Information Officers (or equivalent), Information Privacy Commissioners, Procurement Divisions and relevant government officials from ministries and governmental institutions responsible for selected policies (e.g. Ministries of Planning). Indirect beneficiaries include citizens and communities at large.
The project will also stimulate a south-south knowledge transfer and cross-fertilization of OGD by bringing together OGD-beginners with more OGD-advanced countries.International workshops, online training courses, and availability of workshop reports will increase the outreach of the project on a global scale, particularly for countries in regions most in need of such support.

Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST) in Asia – Formulation of National EST Strategies vis-à-vis Capacity Building for Socio-economic Concerns

In the context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and of the 2020 World Population and Housing Census Programme, the time is ripe to: (i) take stock of the current state of affairs regarding disability measurement from the point of view of those developing guidelines and also from the national perspective in terms of how data are collected, and (ii) to offer countries more practical guidance for collecting and utilizing quality and reliable statistics on persons with disabilities. For inclusive development leaving no one behind, the census is an ideal vehicle for data collection. As censuses embody total coverage of a country, they are a vital source of data that can be disaggregated by age, sex, geography, disability status, and socio-economic characteristics for comparative analysis of the situation of persons with and without disabilities in terms of equalization of opportunities. In this respect, country participation in the 2020 census round is very important. In the context of collecting adequate and relevant data for all inclusive development planning and monitoring taking into account the situation of persons with disabilities, it is equally important that countries also plan for and conduct more detailed studies mainly through sample surveys. 17. A review of experiences of countries in collecting data on disability through censuses and surveys will be necessary in order to identify good practices and also challenges that countries still face in this regard so that, if necessary revisions/updates can be done on existing international guidelines for disability measurement. Also in the context of reviewing past national experiences it will be important for UNSD to collect, collate and disseminate disability data that countries have collected during censuses of the 2010 round and also through recent sample household surveys and other nationally-representative data sources. 18. The project aims to enhance the capacity of national statistical offices to produce and disseminate good quality and fit-for-purpose statistics on disability for evidence-based policy making and monitoring. In so doing, this project will build on the work of the Washington Group, taking into account other initiatives on developing disability measurements.