2021 commemorates the 50th anniversary of the creation of the least developed country (LDC) category by the United Nations. In March 1971, the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) identified the first 25 LDCs, followed by the formal endorsement of the category by the General Assembly in November that year. Currently, there are 46 countries on the list.

In February 2021, the CDP will undertake its triennial review of the list of LDCs to recommend countries for inclusion and graduation. Twenty-four international experts will review the latest available data for 15 indicators for all developing countries. The process also involves analyzing detailed assessments and conducting frank discussions with five countries that could qualify for graduation due to their remarkable development progress in recent years: Bangladesh, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, and Timor-Leste.

However, the review this year will be different. As the pandemic has plunged the whole world into a health, socio-economic and financial crisis of an unprecedented scale, COVID-19 threatens to have devastating effects on all LDCs and can negatively impact the preparations of the graduating LDCs.

The CDP has carried out a comprehensive study of the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the LDCs as data for the LDC criteria is available only up to 2019. A new set of supplementary graduation indicators for all developing countries, the detailed assessments of the five graduation candidates and country consultations will further enable the CDP to fully incorporate the impact of the pandemic in its review.

Despite facing the long-term impact of the pandemic and the loss of preferential treatment, most of the five graduation candidates continue expressing their unwavering commitment to graduation, recognizing graduation as an important milestone in their development. Their enthusiasm should encourage development and trading partners to engage in active dialogue with these LDCs to provide the support they require to ensure a smooth and sustainable transition in these challenging times. They deserve it.

Learn more about the work of the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) here.