The Maldives Mission to the United Nations convened a panel of development experts and high-level Representatives today to discuss support measures for countries in transition from least developed country (LDC) status.  On 1 January 2011, the Maldives graduated from this list of countries that receive the bulk of development assistance from the international community, and is thus expected to lose access to a number of concessionary assistance measures that are specifically earmarked for LDCs.

The lunchtime meeting was held against a backdrop of on-going negotiations at the UN in preparation for the fourth development decade to be launched at the UN- LDC Conference to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, in May of this year. The new UN program for the LDCs aims to graduate half of the forty-eight LDCs from the list during the next decade.  The meeting convened by the Maldives delegation focused on the importance of 'smooth transition’ and was intended to highlight the challenges graduating countries face, as well as to discuss potential improvements for the graduation process to ensure that their developmental programs are not disrupted.

Today's meeting, hosted by the Maldives Mission, in collaboration with the United Nations Office of the High Representative for Least Developed, Land-Locked and Small Island Developing Countries (UNOHRLLS), began with presentations and statements by the Chef-du-Cabinet for the United Nations Office of the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Armin Ritz, and the High Representative for Least Developed, Landlocked, and Small Island Countries, H.E. Cheick Sidi Diarra. They both discussed the need to extend support for the development plans of LDCs after graduation, and asserted that graduating countries would continue to require the support of the international community and the UN-system even after they ceased to be on the list.  The representative of the Chair of the Group of 77 also made a statement at the meeting on behalf of the G-77 and China.

Additionally, the Chief for Secretariat of the Committee for Development Policy, Ms. Ana Cortez, presented the process that prepares countries for graduation, and renowned development economist, Professor Patrick Guillaumont, discussed the possibilities for changing the criteria for development assistance.   Professor Guillaumont further noted that the process for planning a transition strategy for a country’s post-LDC years might need to take a more comprehensive approach by taking economic vulnerability factors into consideration.  The Chief for Special Programs at the United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Mr. Pierre Encontre, also presented a practical list of do’s and don’ts for all stakeholders involved in a country’s graduation, and further warned that graduation does not mean that a country’s economy has been transformed and no longer requires development support.

The Maldives’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, H.E. Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed presented Maldives’ experience with the current graduation process, and stated that while transition from LDC status should be smooth, the current transition process was “underdeveloped and under prepared to deal with the international community’s goal to halve the list of LDCs in the next decade.” Ambassador Mohamed further called attention to the serious need to take a comprehensive approach to addressing the deficits by establishing a more institutional process, along with UN-system support measures that provide for a predictable program for the gradual withdrawal of benefits.

The meeting was attended by a number of Ambassadors and representatives from the donor partners, LDC states and representatives of the various UN offices.