Least developed countries

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Developing country Small Island Developing States
  Least developed countries
  Former LDCs

The least developed countries (LDCs) is a list of developing countries that, according to the United Nations, exhibit the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development, with the lowest Human Development Index ratings of all countries in the world. The concept of LDCs originated in the late 1960s and the first group of LDCs was listed by the UN in its resolution 2768 (XXVI) of 18 November 1971.[1]

A country is classified among the Least Developed Countries if it meets three criteria:[2][3]

As of 2018, 47 countries are classified as LDC, while five have been upgraded between 1994 and 2017.[4] The WTO recognizes the UN list and says that "Measures taken in the framework of the WTO can help LDCs increase their exports to other WTO members and attract investment. In many developing countries, pro-market reforms have encouraged faster growth, diversification of exports, and more effective participation in the multilateral trading system."[5]


LDC criteria are reviewed every three years by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Countries may "graduate" out of the LDC classification when indicators exceed these criteria in two consecutive triennial reviews.[6] The United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) coordinates UN support and provides advocacy services for Least Developed Countries. The classification (as of June 2017) applies to 47 countries.[4]

At the UN's fourth conference on LDCs, which was held in May 2011, delegates endorsed a goal targeting the promotion of at least half the current LDC countries within the next ten years.[7] As of 2018, 10 or more countries are expected to be upgraded until 2024, with Bangladesh and Djibouti satisfying all criteria in 2018 already.[8]

There are three countries which presently meet the criteria for LDC status, but have declined to be included in the index, questioning the validity or accuracy of the CDP's data: Ghana, Papua New Guinea, and Zimbabwe.[9]

Usage and abbreviations

Least developed countries can be distinguished from developing countries, "less developed countries", "lesser developed countries", or other terms for countries in the so-called Third World. Although many contemporary scholars argue that "Third World" is outdated, irrelevant or inaccurate, others may use the term "Fourth World" in reference to least developed countries (although Fourth World is also used to refer to stateless ethnic groups). The term "less economically developed country" (LEDC) is also used today.

However, in order to avoid confusion between "least developed country" and or LEDC "less economically developed country" (which may both be abbreviated as LDC), and to avoid confusion with landlocked developing country (which can be abbreviated as LLDC), "developing country" is generally used in preference to "less-developed country".

During a United Nations review in 2018, the UN defined LDCs as countries meeting three criteria, one of which was a three-year average estimate of gross national income (GNI) per capita of less than US $1,025. Countries with populations over 75 million are excluded.[10]


The three criteria (human assets, economic vulnerability and gross national income per capita) are assessed by the Committee for Development Policy every three years. Countries must meet two of the three criteria at two consecutive triennial reviews to be considered for graduation. The Committee for Development Policy sends its recommendations for endorsement to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).[11]

Since the LDC category was initiated, five countries have graduated to developing country status. The first country to graduate from LDC status was Botswana in 1994. The second country was Cape Verde in 2007.[12] Maldives graduated to developing country status on 1 January 2011, Samoa graduated in 2014[13][14] and Equatorial Guinea in 2017.[15] Vanuatu will graduate in 2020, Angola in 2021, Bhutan in 2023, and São Tomé and Príncipe and Solomon Islands will leave the category in 2024.[11] Nepal was selected to be graduated to developing countries on 2018. However, the authorities of Nepal requested to postpone it till 2021.[16] Bangladesh met the criteria for the first time in 2018 and is likely to graduate in 2024 according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.[17]

UN conferences

There have been four United Nations conferences on LDCs, held every ten years. The first two were in Paris, in 1981 and 1991; the third was in Brussels in 2001.

The Fourth UN Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV) was held in Istanbul, Turkey, 9–13 May 2011. It was attended by Ban Ki-Moon, the head of the UN, and close to 50 prime ministers and heads of state. The conference endorsed the goal of raising half the existing Least developed countries out of the LDC category by 2022. As with the Seoul Development Consensus drawn up in 2010, there was a strong emphasis on boosting productive capability and physical infrastructure, with several NGOs not pleased with the emphasis placed on the private sector.[7][18]

Role of civil society

In the process of increasing awareness towards the needs of the LDCs, the importance of the inputs and contributions of the members of the Civil Society were first acknowledged during the NGO Forum held in parallel to the third UN Conference on Least Developed Countries in Brussels in 2001. The importance of civil society and its contributions has also been recognised in the UNGA Resolution 63/227. Post LDC III, civil society actors have been actively engaged and involved in the UN Decision making processes concerning LDCs. They have also been involved in the implementation and follow-up, monitoring and review of the progress made by LDCs and the success of the implementation of the BPoA. For LDC IV, the UN-OHRLLS has entrusted LDC Watch, a global network of LDC Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), with taking the lead in coordinating the civil society track.

LDC Watch has organised civil society consultations at various levels. At the regional level, in partnership with the UN-OHRLLS and relevant UN agencies, the following three consultations have been organised:

  1. Africa LDC Civil Society Assembly on 5–6 March 2010, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in the lead-up to the official regional review in Africa
  2. Pacific LDC Civil Society Assembly on 3–6 August 2010, Port Vila (Vanuatu) in parallel to the forty-first official Pacific Islands Forum
  3. Asia LDC Civil Society Assembly on 22–23 November 2010, Bangkok (Thailand)

These consultations were organised to critically assess the progress made by LDCs in the ten years since the adoption of the Brussels Programme of Action and with the intention of influencing the outcome of LDC IV.

As the LDC Governments and their development partners prepare to gather together for UNLDC IV, members of Civil Society are also preparing to meet during the Civil Society Forum, [1] which is going to be held in parallel to the official conference. UN-OHRLLS has mandated LDC Watch as the lead Civil Society Organization to coordinate the Civil Society track towards the LDC-IV conference. The Forum will open two days before the official conference begins and will continue till the end of the conference. It will bring together NGOs from all the LDCs, as well as representatives from the civil society at all levels including women’s movements, youth movements, trade unions, peasant federations, media personnel and human rights defenders.


Issues surrounding global trade regulations and LDCs have gained a lot of media and policy attention thanks to the recently collapsed Doha Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations being termed a development round. During the WTO's Hong Kong Ministerial, it was agreed that LDCs could see 100 percent duty-free, quota-free access to U.S. markets if the round were completed. But analysis of the deal by NGOs found that the text of the proposed LDC deal had substantial loopholes that might make the offer less than the full 100 percent access, and could even erase some current duty-free access of LDCs to rich country markets.[19][20] Dissatisfaction with these loopholes led some economists to call for a reworking of the Hong Kong deal.[citation needed]

Dr. Chiedu Osakwe, as of 2001 the Director, Technical Cooperation Division at the Secretariat of the WTO, and adviser to the Director-General on developing country matters, was appointed as the WTO Special Coordinator for the Least Developed Countries beginning in 1999.[21] He worked closely with the five other agencies that together with the WTO constitute the Integrated Framework of action for the Least Developed Countries. They addressed issues of market access, special and differential treatment provisions for developing countries, participation of developing countries in the multilateral trading system, and development questions, especially the interests of developing countries in competition policy.[22] At the 28th G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien proposed and carried the Market Access Initiative, so that the then 48 LDCs could profit from "trade-not-aid".[23]


The list of "least developed countries" according to the United Nations with some that are categorised into the landlocked developing countries and the Small Island Developing States:[24]


In Africa, there are 33 countries that are classified as least developed countries:


In the Americas, there is 1 country that is classified as a least developed country:


In Asia, there are 9 countries that are classified as least developed countries:


In Oceania, there are 4 countries that are classified as least developed countries:


See also


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-09. Retrieved 2011-01-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Criteria For Identification Of LDCs". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Development Policy and Analysis Division. Retrieved 2018-03-02.
  3. ^ UN-OHRLLS Criteria for Identification and Graduation of LDCs.
  4. ^ a b "About the LDC category". Least Developed Countries. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Retrieved 2018-03-02.
  5. ^ "Doha WTO Ministerial 2001: Briefing Notes Least Developed Countries - Towards free market access for least-developed countries". World Trade Organization.
  6. ^ "Graduation from the LDC category | Department of Economic and Social Affairs". Economic Analysis & Policy Division | Dept of Economic & Social Affairs | United Nations. March 5, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Goal to halve number of LDCs in next 10 years". The Guardian. 2011-05-06. Retrieved 2011-05-13.
  8. ^ Wang, Brian (11 June 2018). "Ten Fewer Least Developed Countries by 2024". nextbigfuture.com. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Handbook on the Least Developed Country Category: Inclusion, Graduation and Special Support Measures". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Development Policy and Analysis Division. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Criteria For Identification Of LDCs". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Development Policy and Analysis Division. Retrieved 2018-03-02.
  11. ^ a b "It's official and historical – three more countries will graduate from the LDC category". Development Policy & Analysis Division. 2018-12-13. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  12. ^ "UN advocate salutes Cape Verde’s graduation from category of poorest States", UN News Centre, 14 June 2007.
  13. ^ "Timeline of country's graduation from the LDC category". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Development Policy and Analysis Division. Retrieved 2018-03-02.
  14. ^ "Samoa To Gain Developing Country Economic Status In January 2014". UN-OHRLLS via Radio Australia. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  15. ^ "Least Developed Country Category: Equatorial Guinea Profile". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Development Policy and Analysis Division. 2018. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  16. ^ "Nepal braces for graduation from an LDC". UNDP in Nepal.
  17. ^ "Leaving the LDC category: Booming Bangladesh prepares to graduate | Capacity Development". www.un.org.
  18. ^ "Least developed countries: UN conference endorses ambitious plan to lift millions out of poverty". The Guardian. 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2011-05-13.
  19. ^ "Public Citizen | Global Trade Watch | Global Trade Watch - Hot Issue June 21 - Study shows WTO's Doha Round proposal would leave many poor countries worse off". Citizen.org. Retrieved 2014-07-28.
  20. ^ http://www.unnayan.org/Other/Unnayan_Onneshan_TNLP_Hong_Kong.pdf
  21. ^ World Trade Organization, "Moore announces key appointments for development issues", 1999 Press Releases, Press/136, 13 September 1999
  22. ^ Osakwe, Chiedu, "Are WTO Members wrestling an octopus, did they set their sights too high?", DAC News November–December 2005, Development Assistance Committee, OECD.
  23. ^ Vasil, Adria. "NOW Toronto: "Roots runs away: Beaver-clad clothier blames feds' Africa trade aid for west-end plant closure" (February 12-19, 2004, VOL 23 NO 24 Vasil)". Stage81.nowtoronto.com. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-28.
  24. ^ "LDCs at a Glance". United Nations Development Policy & Analysis Division. 2008-05-25. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Also a landlocked developing country
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Also a Small Island Developing State
  27. ^ "Least Developed Countries at a Glance". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Development Policy and Analysis Division. Retrieved 2018-03-02.
  28. ^ "UN Handbook on the LDC Category" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-07-28.
  29. ^ ""About Sikkim" from the Government of Sikkim's website". Sikkim.gov.in. Archived from the original on 2009-05-25. Retrieved 2014-07-28.
  30. ^ a b c "Istanbul forum offers chance to recommit to helping world's poorest nations". United Nations. 2011-01-10. Retrieved 2014-07-28.
  31. ^ Ashton, Melanie (20 June 2012). "UN-OHRLLS Announces Samoa to Graduate from LDC Status". IISD's SDG Knowledge. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  32. ^ "Equatorial Guinea Graduates from the LDC Category". United Nations. 4 June 2017. Retrieved 7 November 2017.