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UN DESA | DPAD | Development Policy Analysis Division

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CDP Background Paper Series

The CDP Background Papers are preliminary documents circulated in a limited number of copies and posted on this website, to stimulate discussion and critical comment on the broad range of economic, social and environmental issues associated with the issues dealt with by the Committee for Development Policy.

Readers are invited to submit their comments directly to the authors. The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations Secretariat. The designations and terminology employed may not conform to United Nations practice and do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Organization.

CDP Background Papers prior to 2010 can be found in the archive.


Clusters of Least Developed Countries, their evolution between 1993 and 2013, and policies to expand their productive capacity

  • Giovanni Andrea Cornia and Antonio Scognamillo
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  • Abstract: The conventional approach to least developed country (LDC) graduation has considered these countries as an undifferentiated group whose problems could be solved by means of similar measures focussing on domestic and international liberalisation, preferential aid allocations, and the promotion of their exports by means of trade preferences and free market access. This paper tries to go beyond this analytical and policy tradition and attempts to identify different LDC clusters in which underdevelopment is caused by specific economic and social conditions, and for which the solution depends not only on traditional support measures, but also on the implementation of differentiated, country-specific policies sensitive to the local context.

Applying the Growth Identification and Facilitation Framework to the Least Developed Countries: The Case of Uganda

  • Justin Yifu Lin and Jiajun Xu
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  • Abstract: This paper aims to draw insights from New Structural Economics by applying its practical policy tool – the Growth Identification and Facilitation Framework (GIFF) – to least developed countries (LDCs) with a special focus on the case of Uganda. The GIFF offers practical development paths for enabling developing countries to follow comparative advantage in its industrial development and to tap into the potential of advantages of backwardness in industrial upgrading in an effort to achieve sustained and dynamic growth. After a brief introduction of the GIFF, we present an overview of Uganda’s recent economic and social performance and analyse Uganda’s factor endowments, i.e., land (or natural resources), labour and capital that can be used in the production process. After identifying tradable goods and services which would fit Uganda’s latent comparative advantage, we diagnose sector-specific binding constraints in starting and scaling up the selected subsectors and discuss how to remove or mitigate these key constraints. Finally, we conclude with main findings and policy recommendations. The take-home message is that developing countries should not focus on what they lack but what they have when formulating their development strategies.

Productive Capacity and Trade in the Solomon Islands

  • Daniel Gay
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  • Abstract: Economic growth, environmental sustainability and human development in the Solomon Islands have lagged much of the Pacific region since independence in 1978. Trade contributes insufficiently to development, partly because of the dominance of the logging industry but also due to the lack of emphasis on building productive capacities with a view to economic transformation toward higher productivity activities. Targeted soft industrial policies may help address these shortcomings, in the form of sectoral prioritisation; linkages policies; joint government-donor support to build appropriate infrastructure; and the development of human resources in specific areas. Government institutional capacity will only be allowed to improve if policymakers are permitted true ownership over policies and if they are allowed to make mistakes.

Cost-benefit analysis for identifying institutional capacity building priorities in LDCs: an application to Uganda

  • Namsuk Kim and Roland Mollerus
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  • Abstract: Institutional constraints prevent the Least Developed Countries from fully utilizing the trade-related International Support Measures provided by development partners. A cost-benefit analysis has been developed as a methodology to identify institutional constraints and prioritize support measures comparing benefits with costs, based on survey data. Applied in Uganda, it identified critical institutional constraints: limited knowledge on how to access most of the assistance; inadequate institutional arrangements; ineffective communications regarding the use of support measures. International support measures related to sanitary and phytosanitary issues, among others, are expected to increase the trade value in Uganda.


Thought for Food: Strengthening Global Governance of Food Security

  • Rob Vos
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  • Abstract: There are significant threats to sustainable food security and nutrition in the long-run, including demographic and environmental pressures and changing business practices in agriculture with the emergence of global values chains. The global nature and public good aspects of the challenges require coordinated responses and urgent improvement of the global governance of food security. This paper argues for the strengthening of the Committee on World Food Security to ensure greater coherence in the global approach to food security and the multilateral trade, financial and environmental regimes.

Supporting LDCs´ Transformation: How can ODA Contribute to the Istanbul Programme of Action in the Post-2015 Era?

  • José Antonio Alonso
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  • Abstract: Many intergovernmental processes, including the Istanbul Programme of Action, the post-2015 Development Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, call for a significant increase in ODA toward LDCs. However, even if the commitments were fulfilled, their effectiveness could be minimal if no significant changes are made in the way in which donors allocate and provide ODA. LDCs are among countries with higher levels of aid-dependency, proliferation of donors and aid fragmentation. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the role that ODA can play in the development process of LDCs and the way in which aid should be allocated among countries.

A Post-2015 Monitoring and Accountability Framework

  • José Antonio Ocampo
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  • Abstract: This paper proposes a bottom-up, multi-layered and multi-stakeholder framework for the accountability of the post-2015 agenda. It would be built upon national follow-up processes supported by the UN country teams, and complemented by consultations (and possibly peer reviews) at the regional level, and global accountability exercised by the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), with support from the ECOSOC system, UN organizations and other relevant international organizations. It would also be accompanied by parallel accountability mechanisms for civil society and the private sector as key partners in the achievement of the post-2015 development agenda.

Managing Labour Mobility: A Missing Pillar of Global Governance

  • José Antonio Alonso
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  • Abstract: The increasing problems associated with international migration call for nations to manage migratory flows in a more realistic way both at national and international levels. However, global initiatives undertaken to date in this field have seen very limited success. This paper adopts a political economy approach for identifying the interests of affected social groups with a view towards building feasible policy responses. A dual proposal for global governance of migration is suggested, based on a combination between the establishment of universal minimum standards and the promotion of bilateral and regional interaction driven by problem-solving goals.

Transitioning from the MDGs to the SDGs: Accountability for the Post-2015 Era

  • CDP Subgroup on Accountability
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  • Abstract: The success of the post-2015 development agenda depends on adopting global goals for sustainable development and on designing a robust accountability system. All stakeholders should be involved in the accountability framework. While sustainable development goals (SDGs) are universal in character, they need to be adapted to national contexts, according to specific sets of constraints and opportunities. Countries need also to specify their global commitments to create an enabling environment for sustainable development worldwide. The adaptation of global goals into national targets ensures ownership and facilitates answerability, thus promoting an accountability framework that is inclusive, transparent and participatory bottom-up process.


International Tax Cooperation and Implications of Globalization

  • Léonce Ndikumana
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  • Abstract: Recent developments in globalization raise important issues regarding taxation policy and economic development. First, trends in capital income tax raise concerns about a possible race to the bottom or harmful competition. Second, lack of tax policy coordination results in large losses in tax revenue due to profit shifting by multinational corporations. These practices undermine revenue mobilization in the least developed countries, which also suffer from capital flight and other forms of illicit financial flows. This paper discusses how improved governance of the global financial system and enhanced harmonization in taxation policies may help address these important development problems.

Nepal's Accession to the World Trade Organization: Case Study of Issues Relevant to Least Developed Countries

  • Posh Raj Pandey, Ratnakar Adhikari and Swarnim Waglé
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  • Abstract: Nepal was the first Least Developed Country to negotiate its accession to the World Trade Organization. The negotiation process was demanding, yet it succeeded in securing a relatively well-balanced accession package. The purpose of this paper is to describe the contours of the negotiation process and to share lessons learned. The paper details the onerous process involved in the accession of LDCs to the WTO and describes the context of Nepal's negotiating positions. Some distinctive aspects of Nepal's approach to the process of accession are highlighted and compared with the situation of some other LDCs.

Accelerating Development in the Least Developed Countries through International Support Measures: Findings from Country Case Studies

  • Ana Luiza Cortez, Ian Kinniburgh, Roland Mollerus
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  • Abstract: The least developed country category was established by the international community for countries requiring special support measures for dealing with their structural impediments to growth. Despite the availability of these measures and the efforts of the LDCs themselves, relatively little progress has been achieved. This paper reviews some of the main international support measures from the perspective of five LDCs. It highlights country approaches to the support received and the challenges confronted in accessing the measures. For an effective use of the special support, the report stresses stronger country ownership and improved donor support.

LDC and other country groupings: How useful are current approaches to classify countries in a more heterogeneous developing world?

  • José Antonio Alonso, Ana Luiza Cortez and Stephan Klasen
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  • Abstract: The proliferation of country groupings indicates the need to assess the effectiveness of the current system for development cooperation and to explore better ways to manage the international system, as heterogeneity among developing countries increases. Great caution should be exercised in devising new country categories. Donors can use sound criteria for aid allocation without creating new groupings. If new categories are created at all, issue-based classifications should be preferred to comprehensive categories; support should be issue-specific. Among the existing comprehensive classifications, the LDC category has significant advantages but it needs to better address the problems and incentives associated with graduation.

The likelihood of 24 Least Developed Countries graduating from the LDC category by 2020: an achievable goal?

  • Hiroshi Kawamura
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  • Abstract: This paper examines the prospects of achieving a main goal of the Istanbul Programme of Action—at least half of the LDCs to meet the graduation criteria by 2020. Based on two different sets of graduation criteria established by the CDP and current trends in socio-economic indicators of LDCs, the paper concludes that the goal is unlikely to be met even under an optimistic scenario. There are considerable uncertainties about the possible outcome, partly owing to the way in which the graduation criteria are established and partly owing to the difficulty of predicting future course of socio-economic development of LDCs.

Global trade rules for supporting development in the post-2015 era

  • Ana Luiza Cortez and Mehmet Arda
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  • Abstract: Multilateral trade rules have maintained stable and predictable trade flows. Developing countries increased their participation in world markets but marked asymmetries persist; not all countries are benefitting from trade. Successive trade rounds and numerous regional trade and bilateral investment agreements led to significant loss of policy space and fragmentation. Special and differential treatment has not provided necessary flexibility for implementation of development policies while the principle of less than full reciprocity is eroded. Stronger multilateralism, effective overseeing and enforcing role by WTO and greater focus by developing countries in negotiating flexible rules (instead of exceptions to the rules) are suggested.

Trade Benefits for Least Developed Countries: the Bangladesh Case Market Access Initiatives, Limitations and Policy Recommendations

  • Mustafizur Rahman
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  • Abstract: Global evidence suggests that trade-related performance is becoming increasingly important for the socio-economic development of many developing countries. The paper finds that trade preferences accorded to Bangladesh as an LDC have played a crucial role in recent accelerated development of her economy and her significant achievements in trade and social sectors. The paper highlights the concerns that emanate from the trade preferences and proposes ways to make these more effective and beneficial for the LDCs. It concludes that Bangladesh will need to build the needed supply-side capacities and undertake necessary reforms to realize the potential opportunities provided by preferential market access.


Effectively addressing the vulnerabilities and development needs of small island developing States

  • Matthias Bruckner
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  • Abstract: International support to the sustainable development of SIDS has been on the international policy agenda for a long time, whereas challenges are intensifying. Stabilizing global economic and financial markets and international measures to reduce climate changes are indispensable to reduce vulnerabilities of SIDS, as is scaling-up of existing support measures at the national level in areas such as climate change adaptation. This paper also performs cluster and other statistical analyses of SIDS vulnerabilities to explore new approaches to SIDS support. The heterogeneity among SIDS is substantial even if only sub-groups of SIDS are considered. Therefore, a differentiated approach has merits, as uniform support would neither be effective nor efficient.

Science, technology and innovation for sustainable development

  • Keun Lee and John Mathews
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  • Abstract: The paper argues that science, technology and innovation (STI) play a critical role in expediting transition to a sustainable mode of development. Latecomer nations suffer from several disadvantages as they attempt to catch-up with the technological leaders, but they can enjoy latecomer advantages, if appropriate strategies are formulated and executed. One of the key concepts is leapfrogging, whereby the latecomers absorb what the technological leaders have to offer and leap to a new environment-friendly techno-economic paradigm. To facilitate such leap, the current intellectual-property-rights regimes need to evolve to one that fosters technology diffusion and greater use of intellectual property.


Climate change vulnerability and the identification of least developed countries

  • Matthias Bruckner
  • ST/ESA/2012/CDP/15
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  • Abstract: This paper reviews the role of climate change vulnerability in identifying least developed countries (LDCs). Taking a sustainable development perspective, it argues that climate change should be seen as an aggravating factor of existing handicaps and many indicators used to identify LDCs already capture relevant structural vulnerabilities to climate change. However, the paper proposes some refinements in the LDC criteria to better capture vulnerabilities from natural disasters and in coastal areas. These refinements affected the vulnerability ranking in the recent triennial review, but had no impact the eligibility of countries for inclusion in and graduation from the LDC category.

Strengthening smooth transition from the least developed country category

  • ST/ESA/2012/CDP/14
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  • Abstract: This report makes some preliminary suggestions for actions to be taken by the international development community and the graduating countries to strengthen the process of preparing for graduation from the least developed country (LDC) category. The report also offers concrete proposals for addressing in a systematic manner, the current concerns among LDCs about the ad-hoc nature of the extension and phasing out of measures provided by certain development and trading partners.

Conflict and the identification of the Least Developed Countries: Theoretical and statistical considerations

  • Ana Luiza Cortez and Namsuk Kim
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  • Abstract: This paper reviews conflict as one of potential factors that could be incorporated in the identification of least developed countries (LDCs). It is not clear whether conflict can be considered as a structurally predetermined handicap as those identified in LDC criteria. More importantly, even if countries may be caught in a conflict trap, adding conflict indicators to the LDC criteria does not provide additional insights to enhance our understanding of the category . And adding conflict indicators is unlikely to introduce changes in country classification. Many of the factors associated with conflict are already incorporated in the indicators used to identify LDCs, and, therefore, the inclusion of an explicit conflict indicator - to capture the risk of falling into conflict given conflict in the past - in the LDC criteria would not affect the composition list of LDCs.


The concept of structural economic vulnerability
and its relevance for the identification of the
Least Developed Countries and other purposes
(Nature, measurement, and evolution)

  • Patrick Guillaumont
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  • Abstract: This paper was prepared by Professor Patrick Guillaumont, as a contribution to the expert group meeting of the Committee for Development Policy on climate change, conflict and other issues related to the review of the criteria for the identification of least developed countries (LDCs) which took place in New York, 2-3 February 2011. Structural economic vulnerability is a major obstacle for the development of LDCs. The paper discusses the conceptual, methodological and empirical issues related to the economic vulnerability index (EVI) developed and used by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) in the identification of LDCs. The note also addresses the relation between physical and economic vulnerability to climate change as well as the role of the EVI in allocating official development aid and as tool for development research.

International Migration and Development:
A review in light of the crisis

  • José Antonio Alonso
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  • Abstract: Increasing international migratory flows in the last four decades is one of the most visible manifestations of the globalization process In spite of its potential positive effect on global efficiency and well-being, little progress has been made in designing and promoting a normative and institutional framework to allow a better global governance of international migration. The current crisis has added new concerns in relation to migrant situation particularly in the countries more affected by the recession. It is likely that migratory pressures continue beyond the crisis, as international asymmetries that promote international migration have not been overcome.
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