Vanuatu Graduates from Least Developed Country Status

NEW YORK 4 December 2020 – The small island nation of Vanuatu is celebrating today as it is officially no longer classified as one of the world’s least developed countries, or LDCs.

Despite the compounding threats of COVID-19, natural disasters and climate change, the Vanuatu government sees graduation as a positive sign that the country is increasingly able to build resilience and meet its citizens’ needs.

Vanuatu is the sixth country to graduate out of the LDC category, an achievement that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, called “historic” and the result of years of effort resulting in hard-won sustainable development gains.

In a video address to the people of Vanuatu, Mr. Guterres said:

“It is admirable that Vanuatu’s graduation will move forward despite the setbacks it has suffered from the ever-worsening impacts of climate change and natural disasters, and the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, on tourism, trade and remittances.“

He continued,

“Let me assure you of my full and undivided support to weather these challenging times, to combat climate change and to defeat the pandemic and recover better from its impacts.”

Repeated natural disasters, including Cyclones Pam and Harold, and recent volcanic eruptions, have decimated food stocks and forced mass displacement in Vanuatu over the last five years.

And while Vanuatu only recorded its first COVID-19 case in November 2020 - much later than the rest of the world - the small island State has still been seriously impacted by the pandemic, especially by the collapse in tourism from nearby countries like Australia and New Zealand.

Congratulating the people of Vanuatu, Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, called upon the international community to provide their full support to Vanuatu after graduation:

"The people of Vanuatu have always been resilient, and graduation is a sign that their economy is increasingly so too. Graduation is a major achievement but also a major challenge. Development and trading partners, and the entire UN system, must commit to providing their full support to ensure a smooth and sustainable transition for Vanuatu.”

H.E. Mr. Odo Tevi, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Vanuatu to the United Nations, expressed confidence in his country’s ability to weather the storm:

"Graduation shows the world Vanuatu’s potential and its ability to achieve its development goals and visions. We will adopt a route of sustainable, resilient and inclusive development that protects our serene ecology and ensures that our children grow up with a new world of opportunities, and a safe and healthy environment.”

46 countries remain classified as least developed, with eleven on, or about to join, the path to graduation. This reflects significant progress over the past number of years. Angola is due to graduate early in 2021, followed by Bhutan in 2023 and São Tomé and Príncipe and the Solomon Islands the following year.

Graduation from the category of Least Developed Countries continues to be a high-priority development objective for LDCs, development partners and multilateral organisations. But it brings important challenges. Ensuring smooth graduation requires transitioning away from LDC-specific support measures, including preferential market access for exports and access to some concessional financing instruments.