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Least Developed Countries - LDC


Forty-nine countries(*) are currently designated by the United Nations as "least developed countries" (LDCs). The list is reviewed every three years by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The criteria underlying the current list of LDCs are:
  1. a low income, as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita;
  2. weak human resources, as measured by a composite index (Augmented Physical Quality of Life Index) based on indicators of life expectancy at birth, per capita calorie intake, combined primary and secondary school enrolment, and adult literacy;
  3. a low level of economic diversification, as measured by a composite index (Economic Diversification Index) based on the share of manufacturing in GDP, the share of the labour force in industry, annual per capita commercial energy consumption, and UNCTAD's merchandise export concentration index.

Different thresholds are used for inclusion in, and graduation from, the list. A country qualifies to be added to the list of LDCs if it meets inclusion thresholds on all three criteria. A country qualifies for graduation from the list if it meets graduation thresholds on two of the three criteria. For the low-income criterion, the threshold on which inclusion in the current list is based has been a GDP per capita of $800, and the threshold for graduation has been a GDP per capita of $900. In its July 2000 review, in the light of recommendations by the Committee for Development Policy, ECOSOC declared the eligibility of Senegal for designation as an LDC (subject to the Government so desiring) and decided to postpone until 2001 its consideration of Maldives' graduation.

The criteria for determining the list of LDCs are under review. The Committee for Development Policy has recommended that the Economic Diversification Index be replaced by an Economic Vulnerability Index reflecting the main external shocks to which many low-income countries are subject, and incorporating the main structural elements of the countries' exposure to the shocks, including their smallness and lack of diversification.




  • DECLARATION 20 May 2001- LDCIII Conference adopts Declaration.   FULL TEXT >> [PDF]
    20 May 2001- LDCIII Conference adopts Draft Programme of Action.  FULL TEXT >> [PDF]


STATISTICAL PROFILES: (without Bangladesh others are available online)

E-press Kit

Connecting to a digital world [the world's least developed countries are at a natural disadvantage in the high-tech realm, but the digital revolution may yet prove to be a springboard to development...]
Opening doors for LDC exports [news headlines were made recently by a European Union agreement that will phase in duty-free and quota-free entry across EU borders of all products but arms from the least developed countries. But there is still a way to go before obstacles to LDC trade opportunities — sometimes constituting outright injustices — are brought down. Market access will be on the agenda of the upcoming UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries...]
The challenge of financing development in LDCs [the large investment requirements of the LDCs imply that a successful transition to increased reliance on domestic resources and private capital inflows will require more, rather than less, official development assistance...]
LDCs: the next generation [the world's poorest countries tend to have the youngest populations and the highest birth rates. Not only the fate of their children, but also the economic development of the LDCs, will be determined to a large extent by improvements in their primary health care and education...]
The NGO Forum [ the NGO Forum: the voice of civil society at the 3rd United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (press release)...]
Taking action where poverty is toughest [in a world awash in financial markets, trade and investment of unprecedented magnitude, 49 countries with over 630 million people — exceeding one-tenth of the world’s population — are cut off from the mainstream of the global economy...]
A place in the sun [the least developed countries are well positioned to take advantage of the trend toward alternative tourist destinations. To gain maximum advantage, these countries need to develop infrastructure and ensure protection of natural environments and cultural treasures...]
UNCTAD at a glance


Trust Fund for LDCs

1. In accordance with the recommendations of UNCTAD IX that least developed countries will constitute a cross-cutting issue in the work of UNCTAD and with the focus assigned to them in UNCTAD's technical cooperation activities, the Secretary-General has established a Trust Fund for their benefit. Member States have expressed support for this initiative and the Trade and Development Board, at its forty-third session in October 1996, invited contributions to the Fund.

2. The Trust Fund will facilitate the start-up of new activities in the four main areas of the UNCTAD, namely: globalization and development; international trade in goods and services, and commodity issues; investment, enterprise development and technology; services infrastructure for development and trade efficiency.

A. Main activities to be covered by the Trust Fund

3. The Trust Fund will be used to provide technical cooperation to LDCs in the following areas:

(a) Support for implementing macro-economic reforms, particularly in the areas of trade policy and trade diversification, and financial and fiscal sector reforms, including for the mobilization of public and private resources for development of LDCs;

(b) Strengthening export supply capacities at the national level, to produce tradeable goods and services on a competitive basis. The focus will be on improved trade and investment supporting/promoting services, including in such areas as enterprise development, enhancing the role of women in the development process, trade efficiency, and technology;

(c) Promoting participation of the private sector in development, including in the context of UNDP round tables, and organizing country-level investment promotion meetings;

(d) Assisting countries in the preparation of projects and programmes in areas which strengthen their supply capacities;

(e) Providing support for national authorities in the evaluation of existing and new programmes in the areas of trade, investment and services; and

(f) Providing support to complement national programmes normally funded by IPFs but which require rapid agency response and support (e.g. requests for assistance on debt management, WTO accession, etc.).

B. Modalities for the operations of the Trust Fund

4. An important objective of the Fund would be to seek contributions from as many countries and institutions as possible. In particular, the Trust Fund should be seen as a collective endeavour involving all States members of UNCTAD and relevant NGOs. A broad-based Fund will provide a vehicle for drawing in some non-traditional developed donor countries as well as developing countries willing to share resources and experiences with least developed countries. If their participation were to materialize, some additionality to ODA flows to LDCs may be possible.

5. The Fund will have an initial target of US $ 5 million; the aim is to secure regular replenishments so as to maintain annual expenditures at around that level. Contributions will be sought from developed countries as well as from developing countries in a position to do so.

6. The Trust Fund will also provide an umbrella for different types of contributions from interested countries. For example, developing countries could make contributions in kind, by providing experts for work in LDCs, by facilitating training of LDC nationals in relevant institutions and by promoting the exchange of successful development experiences. Triangular cooperation is another area, covering cooperation between the beneficiary LDC and a developing country financed by a donor country.

7. The Trust Fund will also aim at obtaining financing from the non-governmental sector, for example development NGOs, foundations, and private companies seeking involvement in particular areas of UNCTAD's LDCs-related work (trade-supporting services, investment, sustainable development, etc.).

8. To accommodate donor interests and procedures, contributions to the Trust Fund will be either unearmarked or earmarked.

9. There will be a "core project", financed by unearmarked contributions to the Trust Fund. Such contributions will be allocated by the Secretary-General of UNCTAD to support the above-mentioned activities on the basis of either requests by LDCs (individually and collectively) or pursuant to relevant decisions of UNCTAD IX and of the Trade and Development Board regarding expanded technical cooperation for LDCs.

10. Earmarked contributions to the Trust Fund will be allocated to specific objectives and activities agreed with the donor. Separate reporting will take place on each project.

11. Substantive and financial reporting on the "core project" will be performed annually, it being understood that it will not be possible to determine which particular activities had been funded by which donor, given the unearmarked nature of contributions.

12. The Special Coordinator for LDCs will coordinate the "core project". The Divisions of the UNCTAD secretariat will implement "core project" activities, as well as activities funded by earmarked contributions, in accordance with their substantive responsibilities. Any residual functions not covered by the Divisions will be implemented by the Special Coordinator.

13. Operations of the Trust Fund will be guided by the financial regulations and rules of the United Nations and will be carried out by the secretariat in accordance with internal arrangements for UNCTAD's technical cooperation.

14. Beneficiaries of, and donors to, the Fund will meet for consultations regarding the activities financed by the Fund at the time of the annual consideration by the Trade and Development Board of issues relating to least developed countries.

15. Information on the Trust Fund, as well as on other activities concerning LDCs, will be included on a regular basis in the secretariat's annual report on technical cooperation submitted to the Working Party on the Medium-term Plan and Programme Budget and to the Board.



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