Working Group on LDCs’ “Smooth Transition” Begins Work

16 January 2012: The Ad Hoc Working Group (AHWG) on the graduation of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) held its first, organizational meeting, at which it approved the draft programme of work. The Group aims to prepare recommendations on improving the smooth transition process of LDCs to the 67th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), with a view to tabling a new resolution on the topic.

The Group “to further study and strengthen the smooth transition process for the countries graduating from the least developed country category” was established by the UNGA President at the invitation of the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs (LDC IV), held in May 2011, and at the subsequent request, on 22 December 2011, by the UNGA in Resolution 66/213.

President Al-Nasser appointed two Co-Chairs for the group, Brian Bowler (Malawi) and Jan Grauls (Belgium). Their appointment was endorsed by the Group during its first meeting. President Al-Nasser also designated the UN Office of the High Representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) as the Secretariat of the Group.

The criteria for LDCs – a status that confers special treatment measures and additional aid – consist of gross national income (GNI) per capita, a human assets index (HAI), and an economic vulnerability index (EVI). Upon ceasing to meet two of three of these, a country is eligible to graduate from LDC status, which results in the loss of support measures. After the country graduates, it maintains the advantages of LDC membership for three years, following which the period referred to as a “smooth transition” begins.

Three countries have graduated from LDC status, namely Botswana (1994), Cape Verde (2007) and Maldives (2011). Samoa has been recommended for graduation and is anticipated to graduate from the category in 2014.

The purpose of the smooth transition process, as outlined at LDC IV, is to avoid jeopardizing the development process of the graduated country through the removal of benefits accorded to LDCs. The AHWG will work to “strengthen the smooth transition process and to facilitate the widest possible consensus between graduating or graduated countries and their development partners to provide additional reassurance for LDCs that they will not fall back in their development process.” It also can recommend ways for graduating countries' to tap into the benefits of their new status, as well as make proposals on retaining special support measures for graduated countries for a longer period of time.

The Programme of Work adopted on 16 January anticipates four substantive meetings between February and April 2012, followed by a mid-June meeting for the presentation and adoption of the draft report including recommendations of the Working Group. The first substantive meeting is scheduled for 16 February. [Statement of UNGA President, 22 December 2011] [Terms of Reference for AHWG on Smooth Transition for LDCs] [Letter on Appointment of Co-Chairs, 3 January 2012] [Website of AHWG] [Programme of Work]