According to the UN, 48 countries are identified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) which comprise about 880 million people, or about 12% of the world's population. Due to historical, geographic, and structural factors LDCs are extremely disadvantaged, and ultimately struggle to fulfill potential developmental goals. Despite making up about 12% of the world’s population LDCs account for only about 1% of the world’s trade, and less than 2% of the world’s GDP. During the Istanbul Conference in Turkey in 2004, the UN’s economic body, ECOSOC, adopted a resolution during a Conference in Istanbul Turkey, called Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011–2020 and in July of 2015 ECOSOC held it’s annual ministerial review on the subject.
In this review, ECOSOC concluded that these countries are in need of attention from the international community. LDCs are burdened by deep poverty, natural disaster, global warming, disease, and external economic shocks. For the Istanbul Programme of Action LDCs, “represent an enormous untapped human and natural resource potential, in particular their young populations, to contribute to national development, poverty eradication, and job creation, as well as global economic growth and welfare”.
The success of this resolution depends on the involvement of stakeholders and multilateral organizations. This includes; the private sector, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, United Nations regional and functional commissions, Landlocked Developing Countries, Small Island Developing States, the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, and the subsidiary bodies of the Economic and Social Council.
This resolution prioritizes eight areas of importance for LDCs including: (a) productive capacity, (b) agriculture, food security and rural development, (c) trade, (d) commodities, (e) human and social development, (f) multiple crises and other emerging challenges, (g) mobilizing financial resources for development and capacity-building, and (h) good governance at all levels. The effectiveness of this program depends on follow-up measures which monitor progress on the global, regional, and national level. UNCTAD has an especially crucial role in implementing the commitments of the Istanbul Programme, and reviewing/monitoring the progress of LDC’s
The Istanbul Programme of Action outlined the goal of a 7% target growth rate among LDCs. Between 2013 and 2014 LDCs collectively reached a 5.2% growth rate, and so the goal was not met. The conditions which promoted this growth also changed with the aftermath of the financial crisis which caused a decline in global demand as well as a sharp fall in commodity prices. LDCs still inevitably depend on the financial/technical support of the international community. This external support is composed mostly of concessional official financing and remittances. This external support accounts for nearly three quarters of the LDCs total capital flows.
Despite the efforts laid out in the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries, reaching the goals of poverty reduction, structural transformation, and employment generation, is a far fetched and daunting task.The potential prospects of the global economy is fraught with uncertainty. Another major goal of the Istanbul Programme of Action is to promote the graduation from LDC status for most of the countries by 2020. It’s highly unlikely this goal will be met. So far only 4 countries have been able to graduate and overcome their status of LDC. These graduate countries include: Botswana (1994), Cabo Verde (2007), Maldives (2011) and Samoa (2014).