Bhutan becomes the seventh nation to graduate from the United Nations’ (UN) list of Least Developed Countries (LDC).

What is a Least Developed Country (LDC)?

  • The LDCs are developing countries listed by the UN that exhibit the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development.
  • According to the UN, an LDC is defined as a country that exhibits the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development, with:
  • low levels of income, human capital and economic diversification,
  • high levels of economic vulnerability, and
  • a population that is disproportionately reliant on agriculture, natural resources, and primary commodities.

The UN identifies three criteria for a country to be classified as an LDC:

  • It must have a gross national income (GNI) per capita below the threshold of USD 1,230 over a three-year average.
  • It must perform poorly on a composite human assets index based on indicators including nutrition, health and education.
  • The country must demonstrate economic vulnerability such as being prone to natural disasters and possessing structural economic constraints.

How many LDCs are there?

  • There are currently 46 LDCs, the vast majority of which are in Africa.
  • The list is reviewed every three years by the UN Economic and Social Council.
  • Six countries have graduated from LDC status between 1994 and 2020.

How does a country get off the LDC list?

  • To graduate from the LDC list, a country must meet certain criteria in the three areas:
  • A nation must have a GNI per capita of at least USD 1,242 for two consecutive triennial reviews in order to meet the income requirement.
  • The nation must also show that this level of income can be sustained over the long term.
  • By using measures like education, health, and nutrition, a nation must show that it has improved its human capital in order to achieve the human assets requirement.
  • This entails expanding literacy rates, lowering malnutrition rates, and enhancing access to healthcare and education.
  • A nation also must show that it has improved its ability to withstand external economic shocks like natural catastrophes or shifts in commodity prices in order to pass the economic vulnerability test.

For eg.

  1. Diversifying the economy,
  2. investing in infrastructure, and
  3. raising the standard of institutions and governance

Challenges faced by LDCs

  1. Poverty:

Today, the 46 LDCs are home to some 1.1 billion people, that’s 14 per cent of the world’s population, and more than 75 per cent of those people still live in poverty.

  1. Climate change:

Currently, the planet is on course to warm by about 2.7°C this century, which would devastate LDCs.

These countries have contributed the least to carbon emissions, and yet face some of the highest risks from climate change.

  1. Effect of pandemic:

LDCs are among those most affected by COVID-19 and the pandemic fall-out is predicted to last longer than in richer countries.

  1. Debt:

Debt is a major problem for all LDCs: four are classified as in debt distress (Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Sudan) and 16 LDCs are at high risk of debt distress.

They are also vulnerable to:

  1. external economic shocks,
  2. natural and man-made disasters,
  3. communicable diseases

The Doha Programme of Action

The Doha Programme of Action is the development road map for LDCs agreed in 2022.

It includes six key focus areas:

  1. Eradicating poverty and building capacity.
  2. Leveraging the power of science, technology, and innovation to fight vulnerabilities and to achieve the SDGs.
  3. Supporting structural transformation as a driver of prosperity.
  4. Enhancing international trade of LDCs and regional integration.
  5. Addressing climate change, environmental degradation, recovering from COVID-19 pandemic and building resilience against future shocks.
  6. Mobilizing international solidarity and reinvigorating global partnerships.


  • The Doha Programme of Action reminds us that global recovery depends on LDCs getting the support they need.
  • They need investments in health, education and social protection systems — all the resources required to fully implement Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • As LDCs take the first step towards those goals, they will meet certain targets which will enable them to graduate from the least developed country status.

Six countries have gone through this process:

  1. Botswana (in 1994),
  2. Cape Verde (2007),
  3. Maldives (2011),
  4. Samoa (2014),
  5. Equatorial Guinea (2017), and
  6. Vanuatu (2020).


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