Least developed countries (LDCs) face several challenges of low productivity, small economic base, highly concentrated export structure, lack of employment opportunities for emerging youth and multiple other vulnerabilities, including those stemming from climate change. The Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development specify several actions for LDCs including doubling their export shares, enhancing productivity etc. to achieve multifaceted goals including eradicating poverty and hunger. LDCs face specific challenges that are hampering their overall development. The fragile productive capacity, narrow export base, lack of political will to bring policy changes are several among many reasons which hinder them in meeting the graduation criteria and achieving structural transformation, and, ultimately, achievement of the sustainable development goals.
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, as 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.
As per the existing schedule, Bangladesh has fulfilled the criteria to graduate for the first time in 2018 and could graduate as early as 2024. Bhutan is scheduled to graduate in 2023 and Nepal’s case of graduation has been deferred to 2021 by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP). As LDCs, these countries receive special and differential treatment (S&DT) which is supportive of achieving structural transformation and diversification of market and product, benefit from Aid-for-Trade and other initiatives. They get S&DT in the multilateral context but also in their regional or bilateral preferential trade agreements. Upon graduation, these facilities will be withdrawn, and countries are required to put supporting policies in place to minimize the risk of being marginalised.
As a part of its mandate and against the backdrop of slow growth in LDCs, ESCAP has been providing customized capacity-building and policy advisories that support the South Asian member States in meeting their development goals. The efforts to prepare for meeting SDGs and overcome challenges relating to graduation will require a long-term multi-disciplinary approach and thus a collective support from different divisions of ESCAP will be required for effective delivery.
This activity has been prepared in consultation with the Ministry of Commerce, Government of Bangladesh, to make it more inclusive and demand-driven for its effective delivery. This workshop thus provides an opportunity to assist Bangladesh on its roadmap for graduation and identifying, by using an integrated approach, possible way forward for meeting the goals relating to IPoA and SDGs. This workshop will also provide opportunity to exchange views on common challenges relating to graduation, being faced by Bhutan and Nepal. This workshop will focus on:
(i) To identify priorities and developmental challenges by reviewing progress in Bangladesh towards smooth transition to graduation.
(ii) Review impact on existing flexibilities and other special and differential treatments for LDC in the WTO and RTAs.
(iii) To identify future capacity building needs for effective and smooth transition to graduate from LDC.