Least Developed Countries
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 Classification

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
Photo: Flickr

10 Ways the EU Supports the Least Developed CountriesThe European Union (EU), comprised of its 27 member states, is the biggest economy in the world. As such, the EU is the biggest exporter and importer of goods and services provided by third parties (non-union members). On the other end of the spectrum, the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) account for only 2% of the global economy and only 1% of global trade in goods and services. The EU’s social policies have always been supportive of these LDCs. Yet, they acknowledge that economic policies and opportunities are most effective in supporting these countries. Even though the LDCs function in the global economy, they struggle with exports (while obtaining the full benefits). Because of this, the EU began allocating resources to help these countries. The EU also opens the European market to their products and services. Here are 10 ways the EU supports Least Developed Countries.

10 Ways the EU Supports the Least Developed Countries

  1. No Customs Taxes, No Quotas: LDCs exporters are not taxed when accessing the EU market. There are no limits on how much LDCs can export to member states without this taxation. This applies to all products or services, as long as it complies with the EU’s quality standards. The only exception is the trade of arms and ammunition.
  2. EU Aid for Least Developed Countries: The EU encourages the LDCs to increase exports and production by investing in their local economies. The Aid for Trade is the EU’s stimulus for the LDCs to take on infrastructural projects such as roads, bridges and ports. It is believed this aid helps the countries develop further and become more competitive.
  3. Least Developed Countries Get Complimentary Access to the EU Market: The EU’s trade policy for LDCs differs from other developing countries. In some cases, it is even more accommodating than their partnerships with traditional allies. By giving LDCs uninhibited access, the EU is providing a competitive advantage over other third parties. This way, LDCs have more opportunities to trade with the EU than stronger economies. Hence, this gives them a better chance to grow.
  4. Full Access for Services: The EU makes it easy for companies in the LDCs to sell innovative services. For example, engineering, management advising and IT. There is dual reasoning behind this policy. First, it creates a more competitive market. Second, it helps LDCs enhance their local technology and engineering service sectors.
  5. Opt-out from World Trade Organization’s Patents: The EU created unique policies that apply only to LDCs to encourage innovation. The LDCs may request an opt-out from the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) rules on intellectual property. This could include things like expensive patents or designs. These things can block their developmental progress. Further, the EU gives LDCs access to otherwise patent-shielded drugs, to ensure that people have access to the medications they need.
  6. Governmental Support and Counseling: The EU supports the LDCs’ governments, so they can make trade a central part of their national agenda and plan to develop their economies. As part of this effort in 2015, the EU pledged €10m to a program designed and guided by top European economists.
  7. No More Unfair Competition Among Farmers: Subsidizing local farmers to export is a common practice around the world. As a result, farmers in weaker states struggle to compete; sometimes they even declare bankruptcies. In 2015, the EU and Brazil discussed a new deal with the WTO. This deal would scrap the unfair practices and export subsidies to farmers. The deal is still in process, but it hides an excellent premise for all the LDCs that would profit from it on the background.
  8. Backing the Fair Trade: EU trade deals with the LDCs that specially designed products to promote fair and ethical trade of products. This includes cocoa, coffee, fruits and other foods; these products are mainly supplied from these countries. Additionally, the EU supports the LDCs by partnering with the International Trade Centre. It invests in projects like 1 RUN that trains small-scale farmers in the LDCs to produce their crops more sustainably.
  9. The Trade Facilitation Agreement: The EU is the loudest supporter and promoter of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. It will make it much more manageable and more affordable to clear goods through customhouses – giving crucial administrative relief to exporters from the world’s poorest countries.
  10. EU Supports the Least Developed Countries on the World Stage: The Union is a prominent member of the world’s international organizations, including the WTO, the UN, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In each one, the EU prioritizes the needs of the Least Developed Countries and encourages other members to open up their markets and provide finance to help their advancement.

 – Olga Uzunova

Photo: Pexels

UNITAR Provides InstructionThe United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is the main training sector of the United Nations. UNITAR provides instruction and aptitude development activities to assist mainly developing countries with a concentration on “Least Developed Countries (LDCs),” “Small Island Developing States (SIDS)” and additional assemblies and precariously vulnerable nations, including those in disputed circumstances. The Institute incorporates topics in the broad areas of setting the stage concerning the 2030 Agenda, reinforcing multilateralism, furthering environmental sustainability and green development, improving resilience and humanitarian assistance, promoting sustainable peace and promoting economic development and social inclusion.

Capacity for the 2030 Agenda
UNITAR provides instruction and delivers a range of projects, e-training courses, in-person seminars, webinars and education sessions/conferences. This instruction is done with the intent of assisting national jurisdictions and stakeholders to develop the capability for mainstreaming, executing and analyzing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This Agenda challenges all countries and stakeholders to cooperate in the implementation of global objectives at all levels.

Strengthen Multilateralism
UNITAR seeks to empower representatives to participate in intergovernmental deliberations as well as management.
Globalization is increasing, and the consequences of multilateral conversation and collaboration are growing. The demand from the Member States for training and capacity development in the field of multilateral diplomacy will continue to rise. UNITAR supports the Member States by conveying knowledge related to the practices, policies and methods of multilateral working conditions and United Nations intergovernmental machinery.

UNITAR provides instruction based on a unique focus on contemporary diplomacy-related topics including colloquies related to climate change, trade and intellectual property issues.

Promote Economic Development and Social Inclusion
To attain sustainable growth and development and to accomplish global objectives including the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, advancing nations including Least Developed Countries (LDCs) must understand current and future challenges affecting the environment. Many countries are inadequately outfitted to design, execute and monitor adequate expansion plans. UNITAR helps LDCs to increase their capacities for trade, finance, investment and intellectual property, assisting achievement related to their development priorities, altering procedures to create workable plans.

Advance Environmental Sustainability and Green Development
As countries persevere in building solutions to conquer impending environmental hurdles and to advance low carbon growth, UNITAR shares solutions gathered from its experience, analyzing learning requirements, designing tailored learning approaches and using the latest in instructional design techniques.

To advance the objective of furthering environmental sustainability, UNITAR provides instruction while partnering with U.N. associates, as well as additional associations and nations to develop well-organized learning tactics, as a means of delivering climate resilient development production. UNITAR focuses on increasing skills in analysis of vulnerabilities and risks and strategies to create resilience to climate change.

Research and Technology Applications
This area of work includes most of the organization’s research efforts in the areas of technology applications and innovation. UNITAR is home to an advanced center of excellence for satellite imagery and data analysis, UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Program (UNOSAT). The center is active in research, applications and specialized training. Twenty-first-century technology will confront climate change, facilitate resilience and involve citizens in the work of the U.N. In this area, UNITAR provides instruction utilizing tools to promote information and knowledge about adult learning principles and instructional design approaches for all the Member States.

By focusing on these areas, UNITAR hopes to empower the world with knowledge, especially in creating sustainable solutions for the future.

Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr

women_in_povertyBangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) leader Sir Fazle Hasan Abed won the World Food Prize in 2015 for his achievements in promoting global food security. The primary objective of BRAC is to alleviate global poverty through methods that reduce maternal mortality and invest in maternal health, family planning, services to women, empowerment to women, agriculture and other livelihoods. Bangladesh achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger by 2015, according to recognition by the United Nations.

Outreach has reached 11 other nations making BRAC the leading anti-poverty advocate and activist in the world. BRAC has given 150 million people an opportunity to improve. Abed has lead BRAC for 43 years, starting in 1972 when the committee focused on helping Bangladesh recover from war with Pakistan. It now has a large staff of about 110 thousand people in the countries of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Philippines, Sir Lanka, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Haiti.

Many success stories stem from BRAC, such as the increase in the rate of immunized Bangladeshi children from 2 percent in 1986, to 70 percent in 1990. BRAC gives those in poverty microfinance, health, education, agriculture and livestock services.

The committee gave $1.5 billion small loans to those in need with $100 to $150 per person. The organization nurtures the eight percent of Bangladesh’s poorest in two-year programs created to lift them out of poverty and receive loans. BRAC uses grants, monthly salaries and health services benefiting families, as they are educated about budgeting in and out of the country. Their methods such as this have assisted 180 thousand people out of poverty.

According to statistics last year, Bangladesh is a leader amongst least developed countries (LDC) fighting for gender equality. The amount of women in parliament has increased, rising from only 10 percent in 1991, to 20 percent in 2011.

The key to success in Bangladesh has been women’s labor in agricultural and exporting positions. There were two million women working in ready-made garment (RMG) factories, which is the top export sector, reeling in a profit of $2 billion a year.

The life expectancy of women increased from 54.3 years in the 1980s, to 69.3 years in 2010. Secondary school enrollment for girls has increased, rising from 1.1 million in 1991, to 3.9 million in 2005. Today, girls are less likely to be married at a young age and fertility rates have fallen. An increase in nutritional intake and higher incomes are another result of benefiting women.

Bangladesh is ranked 100 out of 128 when it comes to gender equality. There is still some work to be done, and Abed knows this. He received the Trust Women 2014 Hero award for promoting women’s rights, becoming the first man to receive this award.

Abed was selected among 160 nominations from 45 countries. The award is given to an innovator whose activity has aided women to learn and sustain their rights. After receiving the World Food Prize in 2015, Abed upholds his goal in helping women when he stated in an article by Environmental News Service, “the real heroes in our story are the poor themselves and, in particular, women struggling with poverty.”

A work in progress within BRAC is teaching mothers in Bangladesh how to make oral rehydration fluid in order to fight diarrohoeal deaths. BRAC is particularly proud of halving the number of child mortality since the 1980s. The organization has been working on training midwives in order to reduce mortality rates of both mother and child.

BRAC’s microfinance has been especially empowering women. Microfinance is essential in rural and social development. Of the borrowers in Bangladesh, 92 percent are women and 90 percent live in a rural area.

Bangladesh has increased gender equality in two particular educational levels. Youth literacy and secondary schooling has improved greatly with higher girl to boy ratios. The country has reduced the gender gap faster than the global average and hopes are high to reserve one third of Bangladesh’s parliament for women by 2020.

However, women will continue have challenges to come. The employment rate of women in 2010 was 58 percent, which is ranked 30 percent lower than men. Women are also still unable to own land, and lack necessary tools to perform productively on the agricultural scale. They also face early and forced marriage, maternal deaths, abandonment, and hold a small amount of job opportunities.

Even so, BRAC has successfully impacted the country and Africa. Its microfinance and two-year nurturing programs have generated success. The fertility rate and child survival has improved in Bangladesh and it’s still reaching to further help women. Results for women’s equality in Bangladesh are expanding beyond borders as people leave poverty with the support of BRAC.

– Katie Groe

Sources: The Daily Star, IRIN, Harvard University SAI, The Guardian, Environment News Service
Photo: IPS News