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What are the least developed countries?

16 July 2008

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Forty-nine countries currently are designated by the United Nations as "least developed countries" (LDCs). They are distributed among the following regions:

  • Africa (33): Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia;
  • Asia (10): Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao People´s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Timor-Leste and Yemen;
  • Pacific (5): Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu;
  • Caribbean (1): Haiti.

Establishing the LDC list

The list of LDCs is reviewed every three years by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations based on recommendations by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP).

For its 2006 review of the list, the CDP determined that a country may be designated as an LDC if it meets the following three criteria:

  1. A "low-income" criterion, based on the gross national income (GNI) per capita (a 3-year average, 2002-2004), with thresholds of US$750 for cases of addition to the list;
  2. A "human assets" criterion based on a composite index (the Human Assets Index) which consists of indicators on nutrition, health, school enrolment and literacy;
  3. An "economic vulnerability" criterion based on a composite index (the Economic Vulnerability Index) which includes indicators on natural disasters, trade shocks; exposure to shocks, economic smallness, and economic remoteness.

For all three criteria, different thresholds are used for addition to and graduation from the list of LDCs. A country will qualify to be added to the list if it meets the three criteria and does not have a population greater than 75 million. A country will qualify for graduation from LDC status if it has met graduation thresholds under at least two of the three criteria in at least two consecutive reviews of the list.

The LDC category was established in 1971. Since then, only two countries (Botswana and Cape Verde) have "graduated" from the category. Cape Verde graduated in December 2007.

Current membership and coverage in the LDC Report

From 4 December 2003 to 21 December 2007 there were 50 countries designated as "least developed": the countries listed above, plus Cape Verde. On that date, Cape Verde "graduated" from the list. However, in Least Developed Countries Report 2008(1) - Growth, Poverty and the Terms of Development Partnership, Cape Verde is still included in the group of LDCs because most data in the report do not cover beyond 2006. During that period Cape Verde was still part of the group of LDCs.

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1.The Least Developed Countries Report 2008: Growth, poverty and the terms of the development partnership (Sales No. E.08.II.D.20, ISBN 978-92-1-112751-5) may be obtained from UN sales offices at the addresses below or from UN sales agents in many countries. Price US$ 35.00, and at a special price of US$ 14.00 in developing countries and countries in transition). Please send orders or enquiries for Europe, Africa and Western Asia to United Nations Publication/Sales Section, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, fax: +41 22 917 0027, e-mail: unpubli@un.org ; and for the Americas and Eastern Asia, to United Nations Publications, Two UN Plaza, DC2-853, New York, NY 10017, USA, tel: +1 212 963 8302 or +1 800 253 9646, fax: +1 212 963 3489, e-mail: publications@un.org . Internet: http://www.un.org/publications

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