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Capacity-building for graduation strategies for least developed countries in Asia and Africa


The category of least developed countries was introduced in 1971, to enable such countries to benefit from the special measures adopted by the international development capacity. Potential benefits fall into four main areas: (a) preferential market access, (b) special treatment regarding World Trade Organisation-related obligations, (c) official development assistance and other forms of developmental financing, and (d) technical cooperation and other forms of assistance. The list of least developed countries remains long. The lack of success in development is due to a multitude of factors, one of which is an inability to take sufficient advantage of the potential benefits associated with least developed country status. On the other hand, several countries have recently been recommended for graduation from the list, indicating their success in development. The withdrawal of effective benefits associated with least developed country status could lead to a disruption of their development and result in countries’ backsliding to the least developed country category.

This project aims at strengthening the capacity of least developed countries to have access to the advantages associated with least developed country status and translate the potential benefits into effective benefits. The other main elements of the project are assessing the likely impact of graduation on countries, and building capacity and promoting strategies in preparation for a smooth transition and adjustment to the phasing out of advantages associated with least developed country status for countries approaching graduation.

The lead entity for the implementation of the project is the Development Policy and Analysis Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which will implement the project in collaboration with UNCTAD, ESCAP and ECA, as well as with the United Nations Development Programme.


To improve the capacity of least developed countries to utilize the benefits derived from membership in the group of least developed countries and for graduation from that group.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Improved capacity for gathering, and sharing among least developed countries, development partners and relevant international organisations information about the potential and effective benefits associated with least developed country status.
  • Improved capacity of least developed countries for assessing the likely impact of graduation, and information for the implementation of smooth transition strategies.

Implementation status:

The web-based knowledge sharing platform continues to be developed. Surveys leading to increased understanding of the availability and utilization of international support measures were developed and implemented. An Expert group meeting at the WTO in Geneva on trade-related international support measures, training and peer review workshops were organized to facilitate the preparation of the surveys and assist LDCs in answering and reviewing the responses. These activities resulted in a high response rate from participating LDCs and ensured good quality in the responses from participating Governments.

An information manual on trade-related support measures was developed in collaboration with WTO. Link: www.un.org/ldcportal