United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries


In 1979, the General Assembly decided to convene a United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in order to finalize, adopt and support the Substantial New Programme of Action for the 1980s for the Least Developed Countries.


At that Conference, the international community unanimously adopted the Substantial New Programme, containing guidelines for domestic action by the least developed countries, which were to be complemented by international support measures. However, despite the major policy reforms initiated by many least developed countries to carry out a structural transformation of their domestic economies, and the supportive measures taken by a number of donors in the areas of aid, debt and trade, the economic situation of these countries as a whole worsened in the 1980s


Factors which contributed to that worsening state of affairs included domestic policy shortcomings, natural disasters and adverse external conditions. In addition, external debt servicing emerged as a major problem for most of the least developed countries in the 1980s.


The Conference was held from 1 to 14 September 1981 in Paris, France.


Pursuant to a recommendation made at the seventh session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the General Assembly decided, at its forty-second session, held in 1987, to convene the Second United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. Attended by representatives of 150 Governments, this Conference reviewed the socio-economic progress made in the least developed countries in the 1980s, as well as progress in international support measures during that decade. It also formulated national and international policies and measures for accelerating the development process in the least developed countries for the 1990s. Drawing on the experience and lessons of the 1980s, the Conference was able to agree on the strategies and development priorities for those countries for the 1990s.


The outcome of the Conference was embodied in the Paris Declaration and Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the 1990s, wherein the international community committed itself to urgent and effective action, based on the principle of shared responsibility and strengthened partnership, to arrest and reverse the deterioration in the socio-economic situation in the least developed countries and to revitalize their growth and development. The various elements of the Programme should be viewed as essential components of the overall strategy for economic and social progress for the developing world. The Programme represents a qualitative step forward which goes beyond the Substantial New Programme of Action for the 1980s for the Least Developed Countries, adopted in 1981, and contains many novel features.


One notable aspect concerning actions at the national level relates to the emphasis placed on the need for development to be human-centred and broadly based. Other elements highlighted in the Programme include respect for human rights and observance of the rule of law, the need to improve and expand institutional capabilities and efficiency, and the importance of decentralization, democratization and transparency at all levels of decision-making. The Programme sets out detailed policy provisions for mobilizing and developing human capacities in the least developed countries as well as for developing their economic base. On the key issue of external financial support, the international community, particularly the developed countries, collectively committed itself to a significant and substantial increase in such support. The Programme provides for a set of alternative targets, which maps out clearly the different undertakings made by the donors in this regard.


The second Conference was held from 3 to 14 September 1990 in Paris, France.


A third Conference was held from 14 to 20 May 2001 in Brussels, Belgium.





UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.



Stamp catalogue - 1981 conference


Bangladesh                         1 September 1981



Stamp catalogue - 1990 conference


Bangladesh                         3 September 1990









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last revised: 5 July 2009