According to the UN, least developed countries (LCDs) are low-income countries confronting severe structural impediments to sustainable development. They are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks and have low levels of human assets.  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.

A country is classified among the Least Developed Countries if it meets three criteria:

  • Poverty – adjustable criterion based on GNI per capita averaged over three years. As of 2018 a country must have GNI per capita less than US $1,025 to be included on the list, and over $1,230 to graduate from it.
  • Human resource weakness (based on indicators of nutrition, health, education and adult literacy).
  • Economic vulnerability (based on instability of agricultural production, instability of exports of goods and services, economic importance of non-traditional activities, merchandise export concentration, handicap of economic smallness, and the percentage of population displaced by natural disasters).

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. 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.

Since the LDC category was initiated, only four 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.  Maldives graduated to developing country status on 1 January 2011, while Samoa graduated in 2014.  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.

Source: Various sources