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The United Nations General Assembly has approved a proposal to upgrade Nepal from an underdeveloped country to a middle-income developing country by 2026.

The 40th plenary of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously adopted a resolution on Wednesday endorsing the graduation of Nepal from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category with the preparatory period of five years, according to a statement issued by the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations in New York.

“As a result, Nepal will graduate from the LDC category by December 2026 and until then will continue to receive all concessions and support measures as LDC,” said the statement.

In addition to Nepal, the graduation of Bangladesh and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has also been endorsed by the General Assembly.

Graduation from LDC status becomes effective three years after the United Nations General Assembly takes note of the recommendation made by the Committee for Development Policy under the United Nations Economic and Social Council to graduate a country.

The five-year preparatory period, however, is provided for a smooth transition, recognizing the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting need to implement policies and strategies to reverse the pandemic’s damage to the economic and social sectors, according to the statement.

The five-year transition period has been provided on an exceptional basis mainly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which would normally be for three years.

The resolution has mandated the Committee on Development Policy, a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, to analyse the adequacy of the preparatory period at its 2024 triennial review and recommend further extension if necessary.

In the last two triennial reviews conducted in 2015 and 2018, Nepal had met two of the three criteria related to the human asset index and economic vulnerability index. It couldn’t, however, meet the per capita income criterion.

A country becomes eligible to graduate from LDC after meeting two of the three criteria. But Nepal had requested for postponement of graduation considering the impacts of the devastating 2015 earthquakes.

According to the United Nations, the gross national per capita income of a country needs to be at least $1,222 for it to be accorded developing country status. At present Nepal’s per capita income is $1,191, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The resolution also invites Nepal and two other graduating countries to prepare smooth national transition strategies, with the support of the United Nations system and in cooperation with their bilateral, regional, and multilateral development and trading partners.

After the adoption of the resolution, Amrit Bahadur Rai, permanent representative of Nepal to the UN, reiterated Nepal’s commitment to making all-out efforts for a smooth graduation with the enhanced level of support from the development partners, including the UN system.

“Nepal graduating from LDC status in 2026 is a great milestone, indeed. Let's ensure that we don't slip backwards & continue to progress towards a genuinely developing country capable of meeting & sustaining most #SDGs [sic] by 2030,” Kul Chandra Gautam, former assistant secretary-general of the UN, tweeted.