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Home / news / Pays les moins avancés, un statut que beaucoup de pays ne peuvent laisser de côté

Pays les moins avancés, un statut que beaucoup de pays ne peuvent laisser de côté

Depuis 1971, l’Organisation des Nations Unies a reconnu les pays les moins avancés comme ceux qui sont jugés très défavorisés dans leurs progrès en matière de développement pour des raisons structurelles, historiques et géographiques. L’objectif a été, et est toujours, d’aider ces pays à accéder à des niveaux plus élevés d’autosuffisance et d’indépendance économique, non pas dans le sens d’une minorité privilégiée, mais pour la grande majorité de la population du pays.
Least-Developed Countries, a Status That Many Nations Can’t Leave Behind  / Pays les moins avancés, un statut que beaucoup de pays ne peuvent laisser de côté

US Navy musicians performing in Salamansa, Cape Verde,
as part of the Africa Partnership Station, an American-led security initiative.
Cape Verde is one of only five countries that have graduated from
the UN’s least-developed category in the last 46 years. CREATIVE COMMONS

Since 1971, the United Nations has recognized least-developed countries as those deemedhighly disadvantaged in their development strides because of structural, historical and geographical reasons. The aim has been, and still is, to support these countries to graduate to higher levels of self-sufficiency and economic independence, not in the sense for a privileged minority but for the wide majority of the country’s population.

Equatorial Guinea is the fifth country to graduate in the last 46 years from this status, leaving 47 countries classified as least developed, so it is not a fast record. Previously, Botswana (1994), Cape Verde (2007), Maldives (2011) and Samoa (2014) graduated. Vanuatu and Angola are scheduled to graduate in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

In a report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development titled “Poverty Trap Leaves Least Developed Countries Further Behind,” published in December 2016, the following points were made, among others:

  • The proportion of the global poor in the 48 least-developed countries (LDCs) has more than doubled since 1990, to well above 40 percent, while those countries without access to water has also doubled to 43.5 percent in the same period. These countries now account for the majority (53.4 percent) of the 1.1 billion people worldwide who do not have access to electricity, representing an increase of two-thirds.
  • How a country graduates is just as important as when it graduates. (This has particular relevance regarding Equatorial Guinea.)
  • Countries graduate from the LDC category by satisfying a complex set of economic and social criteria. But only four countries, as noted above, have graduated in the 45 years since this classification was established.
  • In 2011, prompted by this glacial rate of progress, the international community set a goal that half of all LDCs should meet the criteria for graduation by 2020. But halfway to the target date, this goal already appears elusive.

In considering the status of least-developed countries even at a basic level, one is struck by the links between politics, power and money and how they seemingly conspire to maintain the status quo rather than improve a country’s well-being.

Perhaps this is not surprising. The UN is made up of 193 countries that include democratic governments as well as governments engineered by totalitarian leaders. It is well assumed that the voting system within the UN — notably the General Assembly — is like a stock market, where outcomes may be the results of back-room bidding.

Similarly, major businesses with international connections may induce local leaders in one way or another to let them exploit national resources with “politics” being overpowered by financial gain and power. This way, multinational enterprises can work with or against their own country’s political system while liaising with corrupt leaders of another country. For example, two former executives of a Dutch oil and gas services company pleaded guilty (in the United States) to conspiracy for their roles in bribing foreign government officials in Brazil, Angola and Equatorial Guinea.

The nature of such alliances can be hard to crack, as the companies could not only be bribing officials but also threatening relevant government ministers to toe the line or the company might pull out, possibly destabilizing the country.

Equatorial Guinea is a classic example of a country that with encouragement toward good governance could have had strong positive effects on its general population. It is a tiny country on the coast of West Africa with offshore territories in the Atlantic. It possesses large oil deposits as well as such minerals as gold, diamonds, bauxite, iron ore, titanium, copper, manganese and uranium. Artisanal gold mining is reportedly taking place in parts of the mainland. An article in answersafrica.com suggests that the Equatorial Guinean president, Teodoro Obiang, is worth $600 million.

Since the mid-1970s, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub‑Saharan Africa’s major oil producers. It is the richest country per capita in Africa, and its gross domestic product, adjusted for purchasing power parity per capita, ranks 43rd in the world. However, the wealth is distributed unevenly and few people have gained from the oil riches. The country ranks 144th on the UN’s 2014 Human Development Index, and the UN says that less than half of the population has access to potable water and that 20 percent of children die before reaching age five.

The country is entering its two-year elected term on the UN Security Council this month; some civil society members suggest the country bought its seat.

The fact that Equatorial Guinea graduated from least-developed countries status on the basis of GNI per capita ignores the reality that oil income can inflate that measure without increasing average incomes for most of the population.



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