According to the United Nations, least developed countries (LDCs) are low-income countries facing severe structural setbacks to sustainable development. LDCs have low levels of human assets and are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks.
Every three years, the Committee for Development (CDP) reviews the list of LDCs and assesses the three criteria: human assets, economic vulnerability, and gross national income per capita. There are currently 47 LDC countries. Five countries have been upgraded between 1994 and 2017:
There have been four United Nations conferences on LDCs, held every ten years. Two were held in Paris, one in Brussels, and the most recent in Istanbul, Turkey in 2011. The most recent conference endorsed the goal of boosting half of the current LDCs out of the category by 2022.
Country development is based on the Human Development Index (HDI), an index used to rank countries and is quantified by looking at a country’s human development such as life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators. HDI places countries on a scale of 0-1 and categorizes them into one of four levels of human development: low human developed (0-.55), medium human development (.55-.70), high human development (.70-80), and very high human development (.80-1.0).
The ten least developed countries in the world, according to HDI rankings, are:
- Central African Republic
- South Sudan
- Sierra Leone
- Burkina Faso
According to the Human Development Index, Niger is the least developed country in the world with an HDI of .354. Niger has widespread malnutrition and 44.1% of people live below to the poverty line. Additionally, Niger has the highest birth rate in the world of 7.4 births per woman and the result is a growing population contributing further to widespread poverty. Droughts have stunted agricultural and economic growth, and the country is plagued by conflict with the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
LDCs have exclusive access to international support measures to assist LDCs with trade, development cooperation, and support for participation in the United Nations and other international processes. These measures are intended to help LDCs with growth and stability to boost them out of the category.