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The least developed countries: historical overview
The establishment of a category of least developed countries (LDCs) was first advocated at UNCTAD I in 1964. It was not until UNCTAD II (New Delhi, 1968) that the question of a category of LDCs was examined in detail, when member States accepted by consensus the idea of an LDC category that would attract special measures for the most disadvantaged economies without discrimination among developing countries.
UNCTAD II asked the Secretariat of UNCTAD to conceptualize such special measures in all subjects within UNCTAD's mandate, and to pursue its work to identify the LDCs and examine various possible approaches to the question of identification.
On 13 December 1969, the General Assembly, following up on several relevant resolutions of the Trade and Development Board (TDB), acknowledged the need to alleviate the problems of underdevelopment of the LDCs in order to enable them to draw full benefits from the Second United Nations Development Decade. In this context, the Assembly (resolution 2564 (XXIV) of December 13, 1969) requested the Secretary-General, in consultation with, among others, the CDP, to carry out a comprehensive examination of the special problems of the LDCs and to recommend special measures for dealing with those problems.
In the Committee's view, LDCs were low-income countries which faced severe structural handicaps to growth. It proposed a list of 25 LDCs based on a simple set of criteria (per capita GDP, share of manufacturing in GDP, adult literacy). The CDP's list was approved by ECOSOC and formally endorsed by the General Assembly in November 1971.
Since the establishment of the category, the Committee has been responsible for undertaking, once every three years, a review of the list, on the basis of which it advises ECOSOC regarding countries which should be added to the list and those that could be graduated from the list.