LDC Graduation: SDGs, AAAA and IPOA linkages

There is a good reason that the average reader may have difficulties in understanding the meaning of the above title …. the plethora of recent resolutions, international agendas and action plan activities related to the graduation of LDCs can indeed be confusing. All are related to each other, but it is easy to lose track how they relate.

SDGs and graduation

When cross-cutting action agendas are negotiated, the formulation of specific commitments often tends to replicate language already agreed in other international forums. Indeed, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development supports the implementation of relevant strategies and programmes of action, including the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPOA), which is seen as an integral part of the Agenda (SDGs, paragraph 42). For instance, as in the IPOA, the 2030 Agenda reaffirms the commitment by many ODA providers from developed countries to achieve the target of 0.15 per cent to 0.2 per cent of ODA/GNI to LDCs (SDGs, paragraph 43). But, with respect to countries leaving the LDC category, the 2030 Agenda does not go into detail about issues related to LDC graduation and smooth transition.

AAAA and graduation
On the other hand, the 2030 Agenda maintains that the SDGs can be met within the framework of a revitalized Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, supported by concrete policies and actions outlined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), which is also an integral part of the 2030 Agenda.  AAAA supports, complements and helps to contextualize the 2030 Agenda’s means of implementation targets, including, among others, international development cooperation (SDGs, paragraph 62). On international development cooperation the AAAA recognizes that the graduation process of LDCs should be coupled with appropriate measures, so that the development progress towards sustainable development goals will be sustained (AAAA paragraph 73). There are no further details about the meaning of ‘appropriate measures’ and it is not clear whether the AAAA commitments go beyond existing commitments.

IPOA and General Assembly resolution as the foundation for smooth transition
For details about existing commitments one has to refer back to the IPOA, which emphasizes that smooth transition of countries graduating from LDC status is vital to ensure that these countries are eased onto a sustainable development path without  any  disruption  to  their  development  plans,  programmes  and  projects. The IPOA states that measures and benefits associated with the LDC membership status need to be phased out consistent with their smooth transition strategy, taking into account each country’s particular development situation and requested the General Assembly to strengthen the smooth transition process. The outcome of this resulted in the 2013 General Assembly resolution on smooth transition, which included a call to development and trading partners to support the national transition strategies.

In assessing the progress of LDCs in reaching the graduation criteria, the mid-term review (MTR) of the IPOA in 2016 recalled the importance of smooth transition for countries graduating from the LDC category.