Least developed countries steal the spotlight

The statement came at noon on 15th March 2018. The Committee for Development Policy (CDP) had just finished its deliberations on the triennial review of the list of least developed countries (LDCs). Four countries – Bhutan, Kiribati, São Tomé and Príncipe and Solomon Islands – would be recommended to leave the group.

A historic occasion? Definitely, if one considers that since the creation of the LDC category in 1971 only five countries have graduated from the list and never before have so many countries been recommended for graduation in a single review.

The CDP also confirmed that three more countries – Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar – fulfilled the graduation criteria for the first time and subsequently could be recommended for graduation at the next triennial review in 2021.

With Angola and Vanuatu already on a confirmed path to graduation in 2021 and 2020, respectively, this brings the number of LDCs on a path out of LDC status in the near future to nine.

Noteworthy? The CDP thinks so. And the media agreed. Immediately following the press release the hashtag #LDCgraduation was trending on Twitter.

In the mainstream media the announcement made headlines, especially in Asia, the Pacific region and in Africa. More than 40 newspapers and online outlets reported on the event. While all recommended LDCs reported the news positively, coverage about Bangladesh took the No.1 spot, receiving almost double the coverage of any other country.

In Bangladesh itself, the coverage was overwhelmingly positive. Headlines like the one from the Dhaka Tribune “Attaining LDC graduation criteria: Dhaka terms it a historic day” were typical. The eligibility for possible graduation recommendation in 2021 was celebrated as a joyous occasion and seen as a matter of national pride, especially since this recommendation would coincide with the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence.

In Nepal, which together with Timor-Leste was found eligible in 2018 but was not recommended for graduation by the CDP, newspapers expressed relief about the decision.

On the whole, though, it was an event to remember; one where, for a change, LDCs stole the limelight.

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