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ECOSOC Commission: Committee for Development Policy – Expert Group (CDPEG)

Members Members

Republic of Korea
Russian Federation
Trinidad & Tobago
United Kingdom
United States of America
Viet Nam

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Purview Purview

The Committee for Development Policy – Expert Group (CDPEG) is a subsidiary advisory body of ECOSOC for issues relating to international development, particularly the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda, and also reviews the list of countries considered to be “least-developed countries.” Unlike the delegations of many of the larger United Nations bodies, the 24 members of CDP are not representatives of any particular country, but rather provide their own knowledge and experience in the area of international development, although the members are selected with a geographical balance in mind. The CDP was established in 1998 as part of the reform of the subsidiary bodies of ECOSOC, supplanting the Committee for Development Planning, which was established in 1966.

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Monitoring the development progress of countries that are graduating and have graduated from the list of least developed countries Monitoring the development progress of countries that are graduating and have graduated from the list of least developed countries

The classification of least-developed countries (LDCs) was created by the United Nations in 1971 in order to highlight countries in particular need of international support. At that time, the Committee for Development Policy was tasked with monitoring their economic progress and identifying States eligible to graduate from the LDC list, which currently contains 47 countries: 33 in Africa, nine in Asia, four in Oceania and one in the Caribbean. The LDCs represent diverse situations, ranging from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Haiti to Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC) such as Chad, and populations ranging from the tens of thousands in Tuvalu to the over 150 million people in Bangladesh. As these LDCs have developed in the decades since their inclusion, some have become eligible to “graduate” and be removed from the list of LDCs; it is then the job of the Committee to review the graduation criteria and to ensure that graduates are able to continue developing.

The current standards for identifying LDCs were established in 2005 and are based on in three different categories: income, human assets and economic vulnerability. Currently, a country may be included on the list if it meets all three of the inclusion criteria, and may graduate after meeting two of the three graduation criteria or surpassing double the income threshold in two consecutive triennial reviews. The process to graduate from the LDC list takes at minimum six years and includes the work of a number of United Nations bodies, including the final approval of the General Assembly. Even after graduation, Member States who participated in the assistance program are still expected to report to the Committee with updates of how they plan to continue growth on the ground.

The international community met in Paris in 1981 to develop guidelines for domestic action and international support to promote development in those countries. This Substantial New Programme of Action was adopted unanimously. Numerous LDCs initiated the recommended domestic policy reforms, but this did not prevent the total debt of LDCs to double in the next decade. There were numerous contributing factors, including the cost of serving external debt and a global economic recession in the early 1980s. Despite two more decennial conferences, only three countries, Botswana, Cape Verde and the Maldives, graduated from the list between 1971 and 2011, although the United Nations did not establish a formal graduation process until 1991. Taking place in Istanbul, the Fourth United Nations Conference on LDCs in 2011 saw the international community reflect on this failure to stimulate development in the world’s poorest countries, noting several shortcomings of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action. Notably, official development assistance totalled less than half of previous pledges and LDCs were not granted effective representation in relevant international decision-making. This new Istanbul Programme of Action aimed to enable half of the LDCs to graduate by the end of the decade. Civil society organizations also produced their own separate declaration, which strongly criticized developed countries for not acknowledging their role in exploiting the economies of LDCs. As of early 2018, Equatorial Guinea and Samoa have graduated, with seven additional countries—Angola, Bhutan, Kiribati, São Tomé and Principe, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu—recommended for graduation by CDPEG and two—Nepal and Timor-Leste—that, while eligible, had their recommendation deferred to the next triennial meeting in 2021. Despite this progress, the international community is far from achieving its goal of graduating half of the LDCs by 2021.

One major concern with graduating LDCs is ensuring that economic development does not slow after graduation, as graduated countries lose access to privileged aid resources designated for LDCs, such as special reduced tariffs for exports to major developed markets, including the United States and the European Union. Although the graduation criteria are quantitative thresholds, CDPEG must also make qualitative decisions as to whether graduation is appropriate for those States that are eligible for it. For this reason, CDPEG reviews the status of all LDCs and recent graduates every three years and makes recommendations based on the results of these reviews. Fortunately, there has not yet been an instance of a country being re-identified as an LDC after graduation, indicating some durability in the development progress made by former LDCs. In the most recent triennial review, each of the three most recent graduated LDCs maintained passing scores in two of the three categories in addition to well surpassing the doubled income threshold. Interestingly, of the nine LDCs eligible for graduation in 2018, only Nepal became eligible through meeting the economic vulnerability threshold, compared to the eight countries each that achieved the income and human assets thresholds. It is unclear whether this unbalance should be troubling and whether the importance of economic vulnerability should be revisited.

In response to concerns from LDCs about losing LDC support mechanisms after graduation, the Committee also investigated the possibility of increasing incentives for LDCs to graduate. Currently, the international community does provide graduates with some smooth transition measures which are similar to the lost LDC support, however the Committee introduced the idea of individualized incentive packages for graduating LDCs. These incentives could be designed to assist in progress toward transforming the economy, and to build relationships between the graduate and the international community. In particular, the Committee endorsed the idea of a “pledging conference” of donors at the time of graduation, although historically there have been concerns of donors not fulfilling their pledges. One complicating issue is the base reluctance of Western democracies to provide assistance to LDCs with authoritarian governments. Further, there are several LDCs that are small island developing States, which face unique challenges due to their geography, such as climate change, and require special support even after graduation.

Questions to Consider Questions to Consider

  1. How effective has the Istanbul Programme for Action been? What additional actions are needed by the international community?
  2. What structures and resources should be available to incentivize LDC graduation?
  3. How should the Committee address LDCs with unique development concerns, like Small Island Developing States?

Bibliography Bibliography

United Nations Documents

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Science, Technology, Innovation for Sustainable Development Science, Technology, Innovation for Sustainable Development

Science, technology and innovation (STI) play a crucial role in United Nations development strategies. By taking advantage of modern technologies, developing economies can sidestep the development routes taken by the older, developed countries. STI also helps developed countries increase national wealth and reduce their environmental impact. For this reason, STI for sustainable development is relevant to almost every country. However, the unique social environments of each country result in diverse challenges and opportunities for STI, from gender equity to unemployment caused by labor-saving technologies. As the Committee on Development Policy noted in 2013, these issues require input from the social sciences, justifying the need for STI to involve the social sciences just as much as the natural and physical sciences, in order to ensure effective implementation of existing technology. These social concerns have become increasingly important as the rate of technological advancement has increased and thus widened the divide between those with advanced STI and those without.

The United Nations first began discussing the role of STI for development in 1949 at the United Nations Scientific Conference for the Conservation and Utilization of Resources, where Member States discussed the potential for underdeveloped regions to benefit greatly from new technologies. It was not until 1961 that the Economic and Social Council would call for the creation of United Nations Conference on the Application of Science and Technology for the Benefit of the Less Developed Areas, which took place in Geneva in 1963. Following the Geneva Conference, developing countries began lobbying for increased access to science and technologies, marking a divide between the Global North (developed countries) and the Global South (developing countries). In response to growing discontent, the United Nations General Assembly convened the 1979 Conference on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) in Vienna, which specifically focused on improving the spread of technology and the technological capacity of developing countries. The Conference concluded that building technological progress in a country required coordinated effort at the national and international levels. Despite this idea, the debt crisis of the 1980s in the developing world and the failure to adequately fund international agreements made in the wake of UNCSTD hamstrung progress on both fronts in general. Notable exceptions to the trend of stagnated development are the Four Asian Tigers: Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Through substantial investments in technology and education starting in the early 1960s, they succeeded in developing into high-income economies by the turn of the century.

The international community continues to debate the appropriate policies to facilitate technology transfer. In 2013, the Committee called for STIs that aid provision of basic human needs to be considered global public goods that are non-exclusive and available to all—a position favored by many developing States. This position would disrupt the traditional system of incentivizing researchers and inventors, which provides creators of new ideas with exclusive (and temporary) intellectual property rights (IPR) in the form of patents and copyrights. The current IPR regime was developed to ensure that scientists and researchers had adequate economic incentives to pursue new research by providing them with a system to ensure that they benefit from their work. Further, individual countries are restricted in how they manage IPR policy under World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, especially the 1995 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which sets minimum limits on the duration and strength of national IPR protections for all Member States of the WTO. While restrictive, TRIPS also allows for flexibility in limited circumstances, which States Parties, primarily developing countries, have most notably utilized to increase access to essential medicines. The Committee previously reported that the default TRIPS protections may not be appropriate for STIs in the development context, instead favoring increased use of non-exclusive licensing and other tools to facilitate dissemination.

Governments play an important role in promoting STIs for sustainable development. In addition to crafting IPR policies to promote STI usage, governments can direct funding and national research priorities. Governments can also foster strong markets and competition, which can contribute to STI growth and development. But markets are not the only answer; some important innovations, such as alternative treatments for tropical diseases or adaptations in response to climate change, may not be economically viable given market forces, but which are nonetheless of critical concern for lower-income countries. Additionally, by developing effective innovation strategies, governments can aim to “leapfrog,” avoiding spending resources on obsolete technologies that were historical stepping stones to the current state of the art.

STI for sustainable development is particularly important for allowing middle-income countries to build their wealth and to fuel growth through domestic STI development, a feature of most wealthy developed countries. A case study of the development progress between 1960 and 2000 of middle-income countries in Asia and Latin America highlighted the differences in STI needs for transitioning from low-income to middle-income versus transitioning from middle-income to high-income. While the former requires the traditional focus on ensuring access to education and strengthening institutions, the latter relies on effective universities and other tertiary education facilities and increased spending on research and development programs. In particular, the study highlighted the importance of high relative spending on research and development, noting that a threshold of one percent of GDP spent on such programs seemed to differentiate middle-income countries that successfully grow to higher income levels, such as the Republic of Korea, from middle-income countries that stagnated, such as Argentina and Brazil. Given that about 70 percent of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries, promoting STI and stimulating growth in these countries is critical to meeting the international goals of poverty reduction.

Questions to Consider Questions to Consider

  1. How should the international community balance the need for freer STI dissemination against the need to protect IPR? How do international agreements such as TRIPS and TRIMS affect countries’ ability to utilize STI?
  2. What additional programs can States and the United Nations support to increase domestic STI capacity?
  3. What special considerations, programs, tools and approaches can meet the unique development needs of middle-income countries?

Bibliography Bibliography

United Nations Documents

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