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Women smiling at food market in Vanuatu

Poor countries that succeed still need support say experts

4 February 2020

A record number of countries are set to leave the United Nations category of Least Developed Countries (LDC), but experts warn that without extra support they are at risk of sliding back into poverty.

United Nations development categories

The United Nations (UN) categorises countries based on:

  • Average income
  • Economic vulnerability
  • Human assets like health and education

There are currently 47 countries in the Least Developed Country category. Since 1971 only 5 Least Developed Countries have graduated to the category of Developing Countries.

Five more countries are set to move up the ladder by 2025:

  • Vanuatu
  • Angola
  • Bhutan
  • Sao Taome and Principle
  • Solomon Islands

Vanuatu is set to graduate in 2020, with the rest expected by 2024.

Decisions on 7 more countries (Tuvalu, Kiribati, Bangladesh, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Timor Leste) should be made in 2021.

Of these 12 candidates for graduation, 5 are Commonwealth members: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Bangladesh.

Commonwealth help for countries graduating from the LDC list

The Commonwealth is currently advising member countries graduating from LDC status on what to expect, how to prepare and how to make sure the process is smooth and sustainable.

Commonwealth Head of International Trade Policy Brendan Vickers said: “Extra support measures – both financial and technical assistance – are critical before and after graduation, especially for small and vulnerable economies.

“For a country like Vanuatu graduation was delayed after Cyclone Pam wiped out 60% of the economy overnight in 2015. External shocks can destroy years’ worth of development gains in an instant.”

LDC IV Monitor meeting in London

The LDC IV Monitor met in London last week to discuss the challenges faced by LDCs. The LDC IV Monitor is an independent association of think tanks and international bodies that includes the Commonwealth.

The group called for help for countries graduating from LDC status, including technical and financial support to maintain access to trade markets.

LDC IV Monitor Chair, Debapriya Bhattacharya, said: “The fact that 12 countries are about to graduate is definitely a unique development success story.

“We need to cherish it and celebrate it, but at the same time, we must not forget that these countries are graduating with a lot of vulnerabilities.”

During the London meeting the LDC IV Monitor also:

  • Took stock of progress since the last 10-year programme of action was agreed at the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs (LDC IV) in Istanbul in 2011.
  • Agreed to develop an action-oriented agenda for the Fifth UN Conference on LDCs (LDC V) scheduled for March 2021 in Doha, Qatar.