Least developed countries category: Rationale and impact.

50 years after the creation of the category, FERDI's work on LDCs focuses on the rationale of the category, including improving the identification of LDCs, and the effectiveness of measures taken in their favour.

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) category was established by the United Nations in 1971 to take into account the diversity of developing countries and to provide relevant treatment for the poorest. Starting with 25 countries, the category has 46 LDC countries in 2021, mostly in Africa.

LDCs are characterized by low per capita income and structural handicaps that impede their development, justifying the particular attention and support measures from the international community. These structural handicaps are measured through an Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) and a Human Assets Index (HAI).

Identification of LDCs

FERDI’s work focuses on the rationale of the category and the improvement of LDC identification.

A reference book: Caught in a trap, identifying the least developed countries

The reference book Caught in a Trap, Identifying the least developed countries, published in English in 2009, presents the foundations of the LDC category and argues that they should have a special treatment, because they are poor countries facing severe structural handicaps to their development. 

This research was led by Patrick Guillaumont, who chaired a UN expert group reporting to the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) to define, review and apply criteria for identifying LDCs.

The book is currently in a second edition, which takes into account the latest developments in the category of Least Developed Countries (LDCs). This second edition will be translated into French.

Effectiveness of support measures taken in favor of LDCs

FERDI's research concerns the performance in terms of growth, poverty reduction, and progress towards sustainable development objectives. FERDI focuses on the effects of the three main categories of measures: trade preferences granted to LDCs, specific objectives of bilateral aid to LDCs, and a wide range of multilateral measures taken in favor of LDCs, mainly at the United Nations and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Preparation of the collective book: Out of the trap. Supporting the Least Developed Countries

The book Out of the trap. Supporting the Least Developed Countries, is the first comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of measures taken in favor of LDCs. It is a collective work with contributions by 10 academics. 

The book analyses the overall performance of LDCs, how their policies are influenced by structural factors, and how effective support measures have been in two key areas: external assistance (bilateral and multilateral) and trade support. It also examines the scope of the process for graduation out of the category, and the role of LDCs in global governance.

FERDI's participation in monitoring the Istanbul Programme of Action
  • FERDI is a founding member of "LDC IV Monitor", which is an independent partnership established by 8 think tanks and academic institutions from Least Developed Countries (LDC) and partner countries.  Its purpose is, in cooperation with the United Nations agencies responsible for monitoring the Program, to produce an independent and complimentary evaluation of the "official" follow-up to the 10-year program adopted in Istanbul in 2011 at the 4th United Nations Conference on LDCs. 
  • Organization of side-events during the follow-up conferences to the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA)
  • Interventions in events organized by UN-OHRLLS and in forums on international development

Achievements 2021-2022

Preparing for the 5th UN Conference on LDCs. For this conference, which marks the 50th anniversary of the category, and in addition to the book Out of The Trap (new edition in progress), which assesses the impact of belonging to the category on the various dimensions of LDC development, FERDI is questioning the logic of the category in the light of current issues, and is organising, and participating in, conferences on the relevance of the category and its future.

A study on the impact of LDC identification variables and their components on the structural transformation of LDCs is underway.

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