International support measures (ISMs) for least developed countries (LDCs): what and why

The least developed country (LDC) category was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1971 as a result of the acknowledgment by the international community that special support measures were needed to assist the least developed among the developing countries. The LDCs were defined as countries with a low level of income and structural impediments to growth and requiring special measures to address those problems. While there is some overlap with the group of “low-income economies” as defined by the World Bank, several LDCs are classified as middle income economies.

International support measures (ISMs) have been developed for LDCs in the context of international agreements and organizations as well as by individual countries, educational institutions and others. There has been an increasing number of South-South initiatives in support of LDCs.  ISMs are mostly in the areas of in the areas of trade; development cooperation; and support for participation in the United Nations and other international processes.

The Support Measures Portal for least developed countries (LDCs) contains information on these ISMs, as well as relevant news and analysis.

The Committee for Development Policy (CDP) reviews the LDC category regularly based on predetermined criteria. There are currently 47 LDCs, some of which are set to leave (“graduate from”) the category soon.