United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed Launches “Powerful” Policy Resource for Least Developed Countries

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United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed Launches “Powerful” Policy Resource for Least Developed Countries

Geneva, Switzerland, 6 June 2018

​Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, today launched a unique policy compendium in Geneva today that aims to assist governments of the world’s most disadvantaged countries in boosting prosperity and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

The compendium – Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – synthesizes nearly 15 years of UNCTAD research and policy options in a single resource that links potential development objectives with concrete steps and practical actions to achieve specific targets of the global goals.

"UNCTAD is, as it always has been, in the forefront of crafting vital policy options needed for the structural transformation of the world’s poorest and most fragile economies,” said Ms. Mohammed, who was instrumental in bringing about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, of which the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are at the core.

“Without concrete proposals to bring about this transformation, the development prospects of millions of people remain in jeopardy.”

“I welcome this UNCTAD compendium as a powerful resource for countries working to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, and for their development partners worldwide.”

There are currently 47 LDCs, which are home to just over 1 billion people, or about 13% of the world’s population – but they account for only 1.2% of global GDP. And while LDCs have many challenges in common, UNCTAD underlines that there is no single recipe for success, with government needing to take a pragmatic approach that involves a combination of policy measures tailored to national conditions.

The compendium offers a wide range of ways for policymakers and international development partners to fashion targeted solutions for the social, economic and environmental challenges facing LDCs.

"UNCTAD has always been ahead of the curve, producing cutting-edge policy options with a special focus on the LDCs, based on sound analytical research. This compendium, rich in options for action and trendsetting in its approach to LDC challenges, is such an example of frontier research," UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

The compendium identifies possible types of instruments in various policy areas that may foster development progress, enhance growth, and support poverty eradication and economic structural transformation. It also suggests several elements to strengthen international support measures for LDCs within the global economic system.

Almost half of the population of LDCs still lives in extreme poverty. At the same time, LDCs have the world’s fastest population growth rate. The basic causes of persistent and widespread poverty in LDCs are low productivity, and high levels of unemployment and underemployment.

After 2014, GDP growth in LDCs fell to an average of less than 5%. That was below the average annual growth target of at least 7% set by intergovernmental processes such as the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The implementation of most policy options recommended in the compendium points toward the need for additional financial efforts on the part of LDCs, as well as additional support from LDC development partners and the international community (as specified in Sustainable Development Goal 17 on “partnerships for the goals”).

Because efforts to achieve the goals will eventually lead a growing number of countries to improve beyond the thresholds established for remaining in the LDC category, these countries should develop productive capacities in such a way that enables them to achieve “graduation with momentum”.

This means prioritizing measures that transform the structure of the economy by shifting production to higher-value-added products and sectors, upgrading technology, implementing diversification and raising productivity.

And since several targets under the Sustainable Development Goals refer to this process of “structural transformation”, industrialization, technological upgrading, economic diversification and productivity growth, policy choices should reflect a production- and employment-oriented approach to reducing poverty and achieving the social and human development-related goals like improved healthcare and education.

The compendium combines and elaborates findings and policy recommendations from UNCTAD documents including:
• The annual Least Developed Countries Report
• The annual Economic Development in Africa Report
• Various Diagnostic Trade Integration Study updates
• Enhancing the Role of Domestic Financial Resources in Africa’s Development
• Handbook on Mainstreaming Trade – Making Trade Work for the Least Developed Countries

Structure of the Compendium
• Chapter I discusses the overall framework for development policies in LDCs. Of special relevance are the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020.
• Chapter II takes up the main components of development-friendly macroeconomic policies for the building of productive capacities and structural transformation.
• Chapter III explores the main elements of horizontal policies, which overlap with policies in support of specific sectors and sub-sectors of economic activity.
• Chapter IV addresses policies to support the creation or acceleration of productive capacities in manufacturing activities with a high potential for productivity and value-added growth.
• Chapter V elaborates on the policy options for agriculture, energy supply and services in the context of structural transformation.
• Chapter VI discusses policies that governments may consider in order to take advantage of the opportunities arising from trade and finance, while simultaneously managing the risks.
• Chapter VII develops several policy options for the international community on how best to support LDCs in their quest for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.