Bhutan, Kiribati, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Solomon Islands will be recommended for "graduation" from the least developed countries category, a UN expert committee announced on Thursday.
Jose Antonio Ocampo, chairman of the UN Committee for Development Policy, described the development as a historic occasion.
In the 47 years since the start of the least developed countries category, only five countries have left the list, with two more countries -- Angola and Vanuatu -- in the process of graduating, he told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.
The graduation of the four countries has to be approved by the UN Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. The graduating country has a grace period of normally three years before the formal removal of its name from the list.
The committee's recommendations for graduation followed increases in the national income in all countries, as well as improved education and health, said Ocampo.
For Bhutan and Sao Tome and Principe, per capita gross national income (GNI) tripled, the mortality rate under the age of 5 declined, and gross secondary education enrolment more than doubled from 2003 to 2018.
During the same period, the per capita GNI doubled for the Solomon Islands while the country's gross secondary education enrolment almost doubled. In Kiribati, the per capita income almost tripled and it continues to perform well in health and education since 2003.
The least developed countries category is assessed using three criteria: human assets (health and education targets), economic vulnerability and per capita GNI. Countries must meet two of the three criteria at two consecutive triennial reviews to be considered for graduation.
Bhutan, Kiribati, SaoTome and Principe, and the Solomon Islands each continues to meet the per capita income and human assets criteria, but not the economic vulnerability criterion, said Ocampo.
Nepal and Timor-Leste also met the criteria for graduation. But they were not recommended given economic and political challenges. The two countries may be considered for graduation at the next review in 2021, he said.
Bangaladesh, Laos, Myanmar met the graduation criteria for the first time, but would need to meet them for a second time to become eligible for consideration, he said.
Currently, there are 47 least developed countries in the world, representing 1 billion people. Most of the countries (33 in number) are in Africa, followed by Asia (9) and Oceania (4).