Out of the Trap: Supporting the least developed countries

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs), presently 47, a category of countries created at the United Nations in 1971, are identified as poor countries facing structural handicaps to growth and sustainable development. As such they deserve a special treatment from the international community, progressively implemented both through aid and trade. Every ten years a UN international conference designs a programme of action for these countries, the last one being that of Istanbul in 2011.

A previous book Caught in a trap. Identifying the least developed countries scrutinized the rationale of the category and the criteria on which it relies.

This new book Out of the trap. Supporting the least developed countries examines the effectiveness of the international measures taken to support the Least Developed Countries. Through the contributions of many experts, it is the first overall assessment of the five-decade aid and trade measures to help LDCs to move “out of the trap”. It aims to disentangle the outcome of the international special support from the structural handicaps faced by LDCs. It casts light on the international policy reforms needed for LDCs in the framework of the post-2015 agenda.

ISBN : 978-2-7178-7100-5

Table of contents


About the authors

Main conclusions and recommendations

Part 1 - Impact on growth and policy performance

Chapter 1 - Economic growth, poverty reduction and structural transformation in the least developed countries:  The puzzle of the impact of category membership

  • Have the least developed countries been locked into a low-income trap over the past half century?
  •  Interpreting economic growth in the least developed countries during the 2000s
  •  Assessing the impact of category membership: An elusive counterfactual
  • The pattern of least developed country growth: From structural handicaps to structural transformation
  • Conclusion

Chapter 2 - Policy performance: Is it weaker in the least developed countries?

  • Introduction
  • Governance indicators in LDCs: how they depend on structural factors
  • Assessing economic policies in LDCs: two relevant indicators
  • Conclusion

Part 2 - Impact and effectiveness of foreign aid

Chapter 3 - Global aid flows to the least developed countries: What effectiveness of the aid target?

  • Introduction
  • Resolutions and trends: actual flows far below the targets
  • Assessing the effect of belonging to the LDC category on aid inflows
  • Grounds for giving an aid preference to LDCs: ethics and effectiveness
  • Beyond the target: for consistency in aid policy to LDCs
  • Conclusion

Chapter 4 - Multilateral assistance to the least developed countries: To what extent is it specific?

  • Introduction
  • Conclusion: impact of LDC status on multilateral LDC assistance

Part 3 - Support through trade

Chapter 5 - Trade-related measures for the LDCs: What has been done?

  • Introduction
  • Special and differential treatment in WTO agreements: How have LDCs been differentiated?
  •  Access, use and effectiveness of special and differential treatment for LDCs 
  • Accession to the WTO: has it been made easier for LDCs?    
  • Trade capacity building: the Integrated Framework and its enhancements
  • Concluding remarks

Chapter 6 - Trade marginalization of LDCs and its reversal: What impact of international support?

  • Introduction
  • Global trends in LDC exports: impact of specific goods and services
  • Looking for specific factors in LDCs’ trade trends: Lessons from gravity models
  • Diversification of LDCs’ exported products
  • Developed country policies impacting LDCs’ market access
  • Beyond market access: international support and LDC policies impacting their exports
  • Conclusions

Part 4 - Graduation and governance

Chapter 7 - Graduation from the category of least developed countries: Rationale, achievement and prospects

  • Introduction: a short story of the LDCs’ graduation
  • Graduation constrained by the rules: impact of the asymmetry between inclusion and graduation criteria
  • LDC graduation trends and prospects: back to the category rationale
  • Impact of graduation: assessments and monitoring
  • Conclusion

Chapter 8 - LDCs and global economic governance

  • Introduction: LDCs­—­affected by global governance or influencing it?
  • LDCs and global governance on general issues
  • The LDCs and global governance on major specialized issues
  • Conclusion


Jean-Louis Arcand, Cindy Audiguier, Matthieu Boussichas, Céline Carrère, Lisa Chauvet, Ana Cortez, Alassane Drabo, Michaël Goujon, Patrick Guillaumont, Sylviane Guillaumont Jeanneney, Teresa Lenzi, Jaime de Melo, Roland Mollerus, Laurent Wagner 


“The book is both important and timely, as it could contribute to the discussions on the content and contours of commitments towards the least developed countries for the next decade”.
Fekita ‘Utoikamanu, Under-Secretary-General, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

“Poverty is a fact but not a fate in LDCs. The book explores the challenges and measures to help LDCs escape the poverty trap. A must read for development economists and practitioners”.
Justin Yifu Lin, Dean, Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development, Peking University, Former Chief Economist, the World Bank .

 “This book is a great contribution to our understanding of how the international community can support LDCs achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Jose Antonio Ocampo, Chair of the Committee for Development Policy at the UN, Professor at Columbia University. 

“This book deeply assesses what international policies have done to tackle the vulnerability of poorest countries and  what is to be done”.
Michel Sidibé, Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Mali, former UN Under Secretary General.


Guillaumont, P. (2019) Out of the trap: Supporting the least developed countries, Economica-Ferdi, 324 p.

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