Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group

The Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group was an informal group of individuals with a deep commitment to sustainable development and an understanding of the challenges to achieving it in the world's poorest countries. 

Article, 03 August 2015
The Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group (Image: IIED)

The Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group (Image: IIED)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represented a new approach to international cooperation, grounded in principles of sustainability, equity and universal, shared responsibility. They provided an internationally agreed 15-year framework for defining and addressing the challenges of developing sustainably.

These challenges are greatest for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – those with low levels of socio-economic development and high levels of vulnerability to natural and human-caused disasters and shocks.

The LDC Independent Expert Group (IEG) was created in 2013 to encourage LDCs to take a leading role in the negotiations on this new international development agenda. 

LDCs have negotiated effectively to get their issues on the table. The IEG supported their efforts by creating spaces in the SDG process for LDC perspectives to be showcased.

The adoption of the SDGs by United Nations member states in September 2015 marked the end of one phase, but discussions on how to support achievement of the SDGs continued.

Countries began to develop national strategies aligned to the SDGs. On the international front, a mid-term review of the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries took place in 2016. Decisions taken at the 2015 Financing for Development and climate change conferences started to take effect.

LDCs needed advice and support in developing their national responses to the SDGs, champions to promote their interests in international arenas, and experts with a critical eye to ensure that LDCs are getting what they need out of the new international agenda – and that their governments are contributing what they have promised.

The IEG was one of the few independent voices for LDCs with the understanding to act both as advocates and expert advisors.

Ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015, the IEG commissioned a series of interviews with leaders, experts, and civil society representatives from nine of the LDCs. The aim was to hear about the reality that they face, the actions being taken, the role for climate finance – and their hopes for a Paris deal.

About the LDC Independent Expert Group

The IEG brought together experts from governments, civil society organisations, research institutes and international agencies, who serve in their personal capacities. 

IIED provided administrative, logistical and financial support.

The members of the LDC IEG had expertise in different aspects of sustainable development, including community development, environmental management, climate change, energy, communications and the economics of development.

The group was chaired by former Haitian prime minister Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis. The other members were:

Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis

Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis served as Prime Minister of Haiti from September 2008 to November 2009. She is only the second woman to have held this position. During this time she also served as Minister of Justice and Public Security. A member of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's private cabinet (1991), she has also served in the private sector, and is currently a university teacher.

Ms. Pierre-Louis also created the Fondation Connaissance et Liberté, a non-governmental organisation in Haiti that focuses on education, culture, community development, environment, gender equity and civil society. She directed FOKAL for 13 years before serving as prime minister, and returned as president after her term was over.

She has an MA in economics from Queens College of the City University of New York, and holds a "Doctorate Honoris Causa" in Humanities from Saint Michael College in Vermont, and was a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in 2010.

Fatima Denton

Fatima Denton is a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and was a member of UNEP's Scientific Technical Advisory Panel. She also currently works as the co-ordinator for the African Climate Policy Centre, and with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Ms. Denton previously joined the International Development Research Centre in 2006 to lead on research on adaptation strategies. Prior to this she worked as a senior energy planner with the United Nations Environment Programme in Denmark. She also worked with the energy program of Enda Tiers Monde in Senegal on issues such as sustainable development and climate change vulnerability and adaptation, as well as food security, local governance, water, and energy poverty in the Sahel.

Ms. Denton has written articles on energy poverty, gender and energy, and climate change adaptation. She holds a PhD in political science and development studies from Birmingham University in the UK.

Mariteuw Chimère Diaw

Dr Mariteuw Chimere Diaw is the director general of the African Model Forest Network (AMFN) and a member of the International Networking Committee of the IMFN (International Model Forest Network). He is one of the coordinating lead authors of the ongoing Africa Regional Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for IPBES, the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. A member of the board of directors of Ecoagriculture Partners, he also is the convener in Cameroon of the Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG), a network coordinated by IIED and active in 11 countries.

Chimère holds a PhD in economic anthropology from Laval University, an MA in rural sociology from Michigan State University and a masters in philosophy and sociology from the University of Dakar. He has been a researcher and programs manager for 35 years, 20 of which as international scientist with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and the AMFN.

He has led or contributed to several international programs on adaptive collaborative management, governance, verification, environmental services and rural livelihoods, alternatives to slash and burn, environmental decentralisations and criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management. His research interests and publications have focused on African history, migrations, modelling of the share system in fisheries, tenure regimes and property rights, climate change mitigation and REDD, governance of biodiversity and multi-stakeholder landscapes, model forests, participatory action research and interactive social methodologies. Chimère has lived and worked in Senegal, the United States, Canada, Indonesia and Cameroon.

Dipak Gyawali

Dr Dipak Gyawali is a hydroelectric power engineer and a political economist who, during his time as Minister of Water Resources in Nepal, initiated reforms in the electricity and irrigation sectors focused on decentralization and promotion of rural participation in governance. He also initiated the first national review and comparison of Nepali laws with the guidelines of the World Commission on Dams.

Dr. Gyawali is chair of the Nepal Water Conservation Foundation and has served as a member of the panel of experts for the Mekong River Commission reviewing its basin development plan. He is the founding chair of Nepal's first liberal arts college, the Nepal School of Social Sciences and Humanities. He has been conducting interdisciplinary research on the interface between technology and society, and has published numerous articles on the topic of water, energy, dams, and climate change issues.

Dr. Gyawali has been involved, inter alia, as guest scholar and researcher at various institutions such as Queen Elizabeth House in Oxford, the Norwegian Center for Research in Organization and Management, the International Environmental Academy in Geneva, the London School of Economics, and the United Nations University in Yokohama as UNESCO visiting professor of water and cultural diversity.

Saleemul Huq

Dr. Saleemul Huq is a senior fellow at IIED, focusing particularly on issues of climate change. Before joining IIED, he was director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies, which he founded in 1984. He is founding director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh.

Dr. Huq is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for which he has served as a Lead Author and Coordinating Lead Author in Working Group II, which focuses on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation. He is the lead author of the chapter on adaptation and sustainable development in the third assessment report of the IPCC. He has published reports and articles on climate change, particularly on adaptation to climate change.

Pa Ousman Jarju

Pa Ousman Jarju is the Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Forestry, Water and Wildlife and the Special Climate Change Envoy for the Republic of The Gambia.

From 2005 until becoming minister in May 2014, he was the director of the Department of Water Resources. He was also the focal point of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of The Gambia, and the lead negotiator of The Gambia.

Mr. Jarju has many years of experience in climate change and environmental issues. He was a lead negotiator for the African Group in Kyoto Protocol matters prior to serving as the chair of the LDC Group in the UN climate change negotiations from 2011-12. He also served from 2008 to 2010 as a member of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) established under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Farah Kabir

Farah Kabir is currently working as the Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh and has held this post since 2007. Prior to this, she worked with the British Council for ten years both in the UK, on the Consultant Participative Democracy Governance Team, and in Bangladesh, as the Assistant Director of Governance.

Ms. Kabir is presently a board member of the Campaign for Popular Education, a member of Education Watch and a member of the Funding Committee of Civil Society Education Fund. She has also been a member of the Governance Board of Napier University (Scotland), the Board of Trustees for Zero Tolerance (Scotland), and the Beijing Plus Five National Review Committee with special responsibility for the Women in Politics sub-committee.

Ms. Kabir has been working in the field of development and research for the last 18 years. She studied at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies. She specializes in governance and women’s issues, particularly women in politics, and has published widely on the topic. She is a longstanding activist on women's rights, gender equality and child rights and has also been a newscaster on both national television and radio, and works with the Children's Film Society in Bangladesh.

Rosebell Kagumire

Rosebell Kagumire is a communications specialist, digital strategist, public speaker and award-winning blogger. She has experience in new media, rights in crisis campaigns, gender, peace and security issues in Africa.

She recently worked as a social media manager at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In the past she has worked as a communication strategist and consultant for various international organisations.

The World Economic Forum recognised Rosebell as one of the Young Global Leaders under the age of 40 in 2013 because of her advocacy on social justice issues in Africa. She has used new media tools to document and advocate for women's rights in situations of armed conflict in Uganda, DRC, South Sudan and Liberia. Rosebell is a critic of media narratives on Africa and has a strong social media presence.

Essam Yassin Mohammed

Dr Essam Yassin Mohammed is senior researcher in environmental economics with IIED and former head of the Fisheries Promotion Unit at the Ministry of Fisheries of Eritrea.

In addition to his academic and professional experience as fisheries scientist, he is an expert in economic valuation of the environment. In his capacity as environmental economist, he works on a wide range of topics from economic valuation of environmental goods and services to influencing policy processes to promote fair, inclusive and sustainable economies both at national and global levels. Mohammed also leads IIED's growing work programme on economics of marine and coastal fisheries.

He is editor of the book 'Economic incentives for marine and coastal conservation: prospects, challenges and policy implications', and is also a lead author of the deliverable on Methodological Assessment of Scenarios and Modelling of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) of the United Nations. 

James Murombedzi

Dr James Murombedzi has served as the Coordinator of the Responsive Forest Governance Initiative, an initiative focusing on environmental governance in Africa, since 2011. Prior to this, he was the Chief Technical Advisor (Environment and Energy) to the UN Development Programme in Liberia. He was previously the Regional Director for Southern Africa at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Environment and Development Programme Officer for Southern Africa with the Ford Foundation. He was a Research Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe for nearly ten years.

Dr. Murombedzi holds a D.Phil in Applied Social Science from the University of Zimbabwe. His research interests include the political economy of environmental and rural development, decentralising land tenure and natural resources management, climate change, resource rights and livelihoods.

Youba Sokona

A citizen of Mali, Dr Youba Sokona focuses on the energy, environment and sustainable development nexus and he has broad experience in Africa in policy development. He is special advisor on sustainable development at the South Centre, an intergovernmental organisation of developing countries intended to meet the need for analysis of development problems and experience, as well as to provide intellectual and policy support. In addition, he is a co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group III.

Dr. Sokona has served as the Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre based in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He has also served as the Executive Secretary of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory. Prior to this, he worked for the "Environnement et Développement du Tiers Monde" in Dakar, Senegal and served as professor at Ecole Nationale d’Ingenieur of Bamako in Mali.

Throughout his career, Dr. Sokona has served in various advisory capacities to African governments. He has published several books and articles on the issues of energy, environment and development with a focus on Africa.

Chime P. Wangdi

Chime Wangdi has been the secretary general for the Tarayana Foundation in Bhutan since 2005. Prior to this she worked in the Ministry of Agriculture for 18 years in various capacities. Ms. Wangdi has also been a social worker focusing on the importance and challenges of increasing women's participation and encouraging women leaders in Bhutan.

Another expert, Hama Arba Diallo, the Fifth Vice-President of the National Assembly in Burkina Faso, sadly passed away in September 2014.

Get more information on the activities and publications of the IEG.


Tom Bigg ([email protected]), director, Strategy and Learning Group