The fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) took place in Doha, Qatar from March 5 to March 9, 2023. It was an amalgamation of political leaders, the business sector, civic organizations and youth. The conference’s main aim was to build a framework of support for the current 46 least developed countries in the world through the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA). Between 2022 and 2031, DPoA will aid LDCs in six key areas, driving investment and innovation in these countries and hopefully leading to their graduation from the LDC status.
LDC or a least developed country is a U.N. classification of an impoverished country bereft of economic and human resources. The Committee for Development Policy meets every three years to review the LDCs and their inclusion and graduation criteria. These criteria are based on a country’s gross national income, human assets and economic and environmental vulnerability.
There are currently 46 countries on the LDC list, most of which are in Africa. Asia also has a significant number of LDCs. The U.N. put the first group of countries (25 nations) in this category in 1971. Today, the number has risen to 46 countries. However, since 1994, six countries have graduated from the LDC list and seven more are on the path to graduation by 2026, with Bhutan next in line.
Challenges LDCs Face
The combined population of all the world’s least developed countries is 1.1 billion. According to the U.N., “more than 75% of those people still live in poverty.” Due to low economic and human resources, LDCs are more vulnerable to deprivation. Many of the current LDCs are indebted. The U.N. states that out of the 46 countries, “four are classified as in debt distress” and “16 LDCs are at high risk of debt distress.”
The U.N. states that in 2019 “almost half of the children out of school worldwide” lived in LDCs. This shows that children in these countries have a higher chance of growing up without proper education, leaving them more vulnerable to economic instability. Poor enrollment and completion rates along with low education budgets in LDCs leave much to be desired. “Clearly, the education systems in the LDCs require significant development to equip their young people with the skills they need for the future,” said Rabab Fatima, secretary-general of the LDC5 at the conference.
LDCs face a multitude of challenges including “limited fiscal space, high external debt, macroeconomic imbalances, widespread poverty and underdeveloped or no social protection systems,” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stated at the LDC5 conference.
LDC5 and DPoA
The LDC5 conference is the U.N.’s effort at uniting people that can make a difference in order to build a strategy for driving positive change in LDCs. This was the fifth such decennial conference, with the first taking place in Paris in 1981. The LDC5 conference hosted 9,000 people, including 46 heads of state and comprised many events and discussions.
The main focus of LDC5, however, was the DPoA. It “manifests a new generation of renewed and strengthened commitments between the least developed countries and their development partners, including the private sector, civil society and the governments at all levels,” the U.N. says. The DPoA provides a framework and guiding principles for LDCs to improve their socioeconomic standing and graduate from the category.
There are six key areas of focus in DPoA, including increased investment in human assets, driving technological advancements and increasing trade. In particular, the DPoA promises “an online university, a graduation support package, a food stock holding solution, an investment support center and a crisis mitigation and resilience building mechanism,” the U.N. reports.
Agrifood Systems Transformation Accelerator (ASTA)
The U.N. Industrial Development Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched the Agrifood Systems Transformation Accelerator (ASTA) at LDC5. ASTA aims to revitalize agricultural food production in LDCs by combining investment from the public and private sectors as one of its methods. ASTA had been successfully operating as a pilot scheme in 15 countries since 2018. It predicts more than $300 million in investment from the private sector in the future.
Many countries officially announced support packages at the conference. According to the U.N., Germany pledged €200 million to support LDCs. Qatar pledged $60 million while Canada dedicated $59 million toward ecosystem conservation and delivering vitamin supplements in LDCs.
With a blueprint ready, LDCs have way ahead of making socioeconomic progress and graduating from the category. The LDC5 conference proved that the world is full of people who are committed to improving the situation in these 46 countries and beyond. The U.N. General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi said, “Through science, technology and innovation, we have the tools to build sustainable recoveries.”
– Siddhant Bhatnagar