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Vanuatu’s graduation from Least Developed Country status a major development milestone, highlights regional UN arm

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Bangkok (ESCAP news) – The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) today extended its congratulations to Vanuatu on its graduation from least developed country (LDC) status – 35 years after its inclusion in the category – calling it a major development milestone for the Asia-Pacific region.

This is a remarkable development achievement as Vanuatu is the third country in the Asia-Pacific region to have graduated alongside Samoa (in 2014) and Maldives (in 2011). It is only the sixth country to have graduated globally since the LDC category was introduced by the United Nations in 1971.

“Vanuatu’s graduation is due to the successes that have been made in raising levels of income and reflect the significant improvements in social development indicators that have been achieved since independence,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana on the occasion.

However, Vanuatu remains highly vulnerable to external shocks including from the unprecedented socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The resulting collapse of tourism is severely impacting Vanuatu, which is at the same time confronted with the looming threat of climate change and the ravaging impact of cyclones, as witnessed by Tropical Cyclone Harold earlier this year.

Graduating despite the challenges of natural disaster and COVID-19 reflects a strong commitment of the Government of Vanuatu to progressing in sustainable development, improving institutional and productive capacity, and creating an effective business climate.

ESCAP has been working closely with LDCs in the region, particularly for their preparation of graduation. Since 2017, dedicated technical support and advisory services were provided to assist Vanuatu produce its smooth transition strategy. The strategy is built upon Vanuatu 2030 The Peoples Plan and the National Sustainable Development Plan for the period 2016 to 2030 that reflects the unique identity of the Ni-Vanuatu people.

Concerted efforts at both domestic and international levels will continue to be essential beyond Vanuatu’s graduation. Newly graduated countries face challenges associated with the withdrawal of international support measures that are granted to LDCs, including access to development finance, trade and market access, technology transfer and technical assistance. In addition, some inherent vulnerabilities of small island developing States such as a narrow export base and a limited pool of financial resources to sustain their development challenges poses further challenges for Vanuatu regardless of the LDC status.

“As we focus on building back better, ESCAP stands ready and committed to continue to support Vanuatu in its development aspirations and in implementing the smooth transition strategy,” underscored Ms. Alisjahbana.

Beyond graduation, ESCAP will continue to support Vanuatu in areas such as linking the smooth transition strategy with budgets, developing productive capacities to enable better structural transformation and diversification of the economy, as well as providing specialized technical assistance to strengthen capacities in trade negotiations.