The group of countries designated as “least developed countries” (LDCs) by the United Nations constitutes the most disadvantaged and vulnerable countries in the world. Characteristics of LDCs include high levels of poverty, structural and resource weaknesses and acute susceptibility to external economic factors, climate change and natural disasters. There are currently 48 countries categorized as LDCs: 33 are located in Africa, 14 in Asia and the Pacific and 1 in the Americas.
Since the late 1960s, the UN system has increasingly paid attention to the specific needs of LDCs. The first UN Conference on LDCs was held in Paris in 1981, resulting in a comprehensive Substantial New Programme of Action (SNPA) for the 1980s for the LDCs. The SNPA was subsequently endorsed by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 36/194 of 17 December 1981. This was followed by the Second United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-II) in Paris in 1990 leading to the Paris Declaration and the Programme of Action for LDCs. Subsequently, the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-III) was held in Brussels, hosted by the European Union from 14 to 20 May 2001, resulting in the Brussels Programme of Action for LDCs.
UNIDO has long focused on the specific needs of LDCs in line with the global consensus on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the Brussels Programme of Actionfor LDCs, which called for building LDCs’ productive capacities (commitment 4) and enhancing the role of trade in development (commitment 5). UNIDO’s strategy for supporting LDCs has been multi-dimensional, ranging from a greater allocation of technical cooperation resources to LDC-specific initiatives to global forum activities focusing on the specific needs of LDCs.