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UN Summit for the World’s Poorest

Just a Drop in the Bucket? photo: rogiro/flickr

The Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV) opened its doors on Monday in Istanbul. Before its close on Friday, it aims to approve a new action plan to improve the situation for the world’s least developed countries. As the world’s poorest states are today at risk of falling even further behind, politicians and development experts are calling urgently for more investment and an unhindered access to global markets.

In accordance with the UN General Assembly resolutions and the note of the UN Secretary-General outlining the modalities of the conference, the objectives of the conference are (1) to comprehensively assess the implementation of the 2001 Brussels Program; (2) to share best practices and lessons learnt; (3) to identify new challenges and opportunities for LDCs; and (4) to mobilize additional international support measures and action in favor of the LDCs.

It has now been 40 years since the international community first recognized the category of the Least Developed Countries as a group of states with a distinct set of problems. Today, qualification for the list includes a per-capita annual income of less than $905, assessments of malnutrition, child mortality and education levels, as well as an economic vulnerability rating based on population size, remoteness and instability in exports and production. The category does not include large economies, and the populations of its members must be below 75 million.

Today, there are thus 48 countries across the world which qualify for the group, 33 of which are in Africa, 14 are in Asia and one – Haiti – is in the Americas. Yet while these nations account for nearly 13 percent of the global population (approx. 645 million people), they still only represent less than 1 percent of world trade. And although much has happened in the development field during the last 40 years, it is still merely Botswana, Cape Verde and the Maldives which have developed enough to have been removed from the list. Sadly enough, we will thus probably be talking about the LDC problem for the next 40 years too.

For a wealth of background information and analysis on the LDC issue, please visit the ISN Digital Library.

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