UNCTAD member States, in the 2004 São Paulo Consensus (UNCTAD XI), decided that "UNCTAD should enhance its work on the special problems of LDCs, small island developing States, and of landlocked developing countries and the related problems and challenges faced by transit developing countries as well as structurally weak, vulnerable, and small economies
" (SWVSEs). In the 2008 Accra Accord (UNCTAD XII), member States reiterated this decision in nearly similar terms by stating that "UNCTAD should … enhance its work on the special needs and problems of small island developing States, landlocked developing countries and other structurally weak, vulnerable and small economies
By adding the word "other", members:
- recognized that many economies in the long-standing, UN-sponsored categories (least developed countries, land-locked developing countries, small island developing States) were also small, structurally weak, and vulnerable; and
- urged the organization to pay special attention to the few countries that do meet these three characteristics while remaining outside the above categories.
UNCTAD, in 2007, regarded 92 countries as concurrently meeting the characteristics of smallness, structural weakness, and vulnerability. Nearly four fifths of these States (72) pertained to one or two of the three UN categories referred to above, while some others (20 States at that time) stood out as freshly recognized SWVSEs that never enjoyed special international attention by way of categorization.
UNCTAD´s approach to the multi-faceted issue of structural weakness and vulnerability rests on the goal of resilience-building. Alleviating the economic vulnerability of SWVSEs implies reducing their exposure to external (economic and natural) shocks. This can be achieved through an enhanced economic base in which more resilient --less exposed-- activities will play a greater role. Resilience-building therefore requires sustained investment efforts to diversify productive capacities, notably in the sphere of trade in services and in activities with a greater knowledge content. International cooperation plays a key role in supporting such efforts. While continuing to actively support SWVSEs that are within the UN-recognized categories, the UNCTAD secretariat, in accordance with the Accra Accord, pays special attention to the challenges faced by "other SWVSEs", which are commonly in need of resilience-building action.
UNCTAD´s list of "other SWVSEs" is presently under review by the Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, in the light of relevant indicators (size, external shock, exposure to shocks).