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Least developed countries: biggest challenges, least assistance?

The majority of the world’s poor no longer live in Low-Income Countries, but in middle-income countries (MICs), according to recent poverty analysis research.

It was estimated that 93% of the world’s poor people lived in Low-Income Countries (LICs) in 1990. By 2007, three-quarters of the world’s approximately 1.3 billion poor people lived in MICs, and only about a quarter of the world’s poor (370 million people) lived in 39 low-income countries.

There is a risk that this change in the global distribution of poverty will focus attention towards middle-income countries. Low-Income Countries (LICs) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) — a UN classification which incorporates the majority of the LICs and other countries with major development challenges — could be sidelined in global poverty reduction efforts.

The least developed countries tend to shoulder a disproportionate burden of poverty, with much of their population unable to access basic healthcare or an education. They are usually heavily aid-dependent and require ongoing support and attention from the international community. Although least developed countries account for 12% of the world’s people, 40% of children around the world dying before the age of five live in one.

As the UN LDC Conference in Istanbul takes place, the donor countries need to increase and improve their aid to LDCs, as part of a wider development strategy to support growth and poverty reduction in the world’s poorest countries.

A new publication by Save the Children highlights four inadequacies of current aid to LDCs which urgently need to be considered at the Istanbul conference this week:

  • More aid: Although aid to LDCs has risen, it falls well short of the targets agreed upon in the Brussels Declaration and Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries in 2001
  • Fair share across aid sectors: LDCs are not getting a fair share of aid across sectors, relative to other developing countries. Some sectors — such as health and agriculture — have seen an increase in aid allocations, but this rise is accounted for by increasing allocations to just 5 countries. Meanwhile, aid for LDCs in other sectors, such as water and education, have seen cut backs
  • Consistent aid: Some LDCs receive considerable sums of aid (often referred to as ‘aid darlings’), such as Afghanistan, while other ‘aid orphans’, such as Niger, are receiving very little aid. Aid allocations should be driven by need and the ability to use aid well.
  • More effective aid: Aid continues to be highly volatile and unpredictable. Only two-thirds of aid to LDCs is disbursed in the intended year and, in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, this can be as low as 20%. The problem isn’t just the timeliness of the aid. Aid needs to be more effective, in accordance with the Paris Principles agreed in 2005.

Read our report for more information and detailed recommendations for the UN LDC IV Conference

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