Since 1971, the United Nations has recognized "least developed countries" (LDCs) as a category of States that are deemed highly disadvantaged in their development process, for structural, historical and also geographical reasons. LDCs face more than other countries the risk of deeper poverty and remaining in a situation of underdevelopment. More than 75 per cent of the LDCs' population still live in poverty. These countries are also characterized by their vulnerability to external economic shocks, natural and man-made disasters and communicable diseases. As such, the LDCs are in need of the highest degree of attention from the international community.
Currently, the 48 LDCs comprise around 880 million people, 12 per cent of the world population, which face severe structural impediments to growth. However, the LDCs account for less than 2 per cent of world GDP and around 1 per cent of world trade.
Four United Nations Conferences on the LDCs were held in: 1981, 1990, 2001 and 2011. The Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries adopted the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 - the so-called Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA).