Least-Developed Countries, a Status That Many Nations Can’t Leave Behind

US Navy musicians performing in Salamansa, Cape Verde, as part of the Africa Partnership Station, an American-led security initiative. Cape Verde is one of only five countries that have graduated from the UN’s least-developed category in the last 46 years. CREATIVE COMMONS
  • The proportion of the global poor in the 48 least-developed countries (LDCs) has more than doubled since 1990, to well above 40 percent, while those countries without access to water has also doubled to 43.5 percent in the same period. These countries now account for the majority (53.4 percent) of the 1.1 billion people worldwide who do not have access to electricity, representing an increase of two-thirds.
  • How a country graduates is just as important as when it graduates. (This has particular relevance regarding Equatorial Guinea.)
  • Countries graduate from the LDC category by satisfying a complex set of economic and social criteria. But only four countries, as noted above, have graduated in the 45 years since this classification was established.
  • In 2011, prompted by this glacial rate of progress, the international community set a goal that half of all LDCs should meet the criteria for graduation by 2020. But halfway to the target date, this goal already appears elusive.



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Independent Coverage the United Nations. A project of The New School’s Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs, supported by the Carnegie Corporation.