The least developed countries need a new generation of international support measures to face the development challenges of the 2020s

UNCTAD Policy Brief No. 97

The least developed countries find themselves at a crossroad. Beset by long-standing structural weaknesses, shortcomings in international support and widening inequalities within and among all countries, they have to confront new or intensifying problems worsened by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, climate change, the rapidly evolving character of globalization and the new technological realities of the digital age.

Developing productive capacities is the key to unlocking the potential of the least developed countries achieving structural transformation to face these new realities. To be able to rise to both old and new challenges, the least developed countries need a new generation of international support measures that are fit for purpose in a fast-changing global environment.

These new international support measures need to be effective, relevant and closely tailored to least developed country aspirations if international support measures are to change the course of the development trajectories of these countries.

Key points:

  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the least developed countries had fallen behind other country groups, including other developing countries. The pandemic has aggravated this situation by increasing these countries’ vulnerabilities.
  • Multilateral efforts, in which international support measures play a significant role, remain critical for mobilizing international support for the least developed countries. However, the failure of international support measures to address new realities has become more evident.
  • A new generation of international support measures is needed to improve the impact, effectiveness and relevance to least developed countries.
  • The new generation of international support measures needs to be broader than current ones and focused on bolstering the productive capacities of the least developed countries.