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17 to 18 October 2017

A regional Workshop “Strengthening development of least developed countries in Asia and the Pacific to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” was organised in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 17-18 October 2017. The workshop was co-organised by the Government of Cambodia and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). 


Due to a combination of low level of human development, low level of economic diversification and low level of income, 12 of the Asia-Pacific region’s economies are classified as least developed countries (LDCs). Economies in this classification are among the most vulnerable in the world as they continue to face structural challenges of low productivity, low economic base, low development and multiple other vulnerabilities, including those stemming from climate change. 

While rates of extreme poverty have seen consistent declines in LDCs, these economies need to urgently strengthen their development. As highlighted in the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries, of particular relevance to LDCs is strengthening productive capacities and addressing rural development, where most of the population in these economies lives in and depends upon the rural sector. Indeed, productivity needs to increase particularly in agriculture (and aquaculture) to eradicate poverty and hunger.

Overcoming the development challenges that LDCs face, and implementing the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will require considerable resources. While LDCs have been successful to some extent in increasing available domestic resources, official development assistance (ODA) and resources from development partners will remain particularly important for these economies. In particular, notwithstanding the important role of continued North-South cooperation, South-South, and triangular cooperation as well as regional cooperation and integration, in enhancing knowledge-sharing, capacity-building, technology transfer, will become increasingly important for LDCs.

In recent years, China, Japan, Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation from the East and North-East Asia subregion, have become key players of development cooperation for the ESCAP region. These countries are characterized by their experience as recipients and donors of development aid in recent history, as well as their importance in the development assistance either as OECD/DAC members (Japan and Republic of Korea) or emerging/re-emerging donors (China and the Russian Federation). The countries in this subregion also have strong tendency to give higher weight to assistance related to economic development. They are already providing a larger share of their assistance to LDCs. For instance, almost half of gross total disbursement of ODA by Japan, and almost 40 per cent by ROK was allocated to LDCs in 2013, compared to less than 13 per cent and 16 per cent in 2000, respectively. Similarly, the White paper on China’s foreign aid (2014) states that over 50% of its foreign assistance goes to LDCs. The growing importance of emerging donors is also exemplified by recent initiatives to establish, for instance, the New Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative.

In view of the increasing pool of players providing financial resources for development, and as recognized in the Accra Agenda for Action, improving the complementarity of donor efforts and the division of labour among donors can reduce the fragmentation of aid and improve its effectiveness. Given the wealth of experience gained during their transformation from recipients to providers of development assistance and their growing significance in various forms of development cooperation, cooperation among North-East Asian countries in development assistance for LDCs will potentially bring significant benefits to recipient countries. It is therefore important to bring the perspective of key development partners together with least developed countries of the Asia-Pacific region to provide a platform for the exchange of information between development partners on development needs, to ensure that development priorities are aligned, and to strengthen regional cooperation and integration.


1. To identify development priorities and challenges of least developed countries in the region by reviewing progress of these countries in implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action.
2. To enhance the capacities of policymakers and development practitioners in aligning national development strategies with the Istanbul Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
3. To identify the potential role of development cooperation with North-East Asian countries to assist least developed countries in their development and to increase the capacity of policymakers and researchers from least developed countries and other stakeholders on ways to effectively leverage development partnerships with economies in North-East Asia.
4. To enhance regional economic cooperation and integration of least developed countries to smoothen their transition in graduating from the category of least developed country.

Additional Documents


for more information, please contact

Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development Division +66 2 288-1234 [email protected]