Effective Public Health Responses Must be Prioritised for LDCs to Regain SDG Traction

The goal for all Least Developed Countries is to graduate from the category. Graduation is a significant milestone in a country’s journey towards sustainable development. Sixteen LDCs are currently in the pipeline to graduate – but thirty more have further to go. And the Sustainable Development Goals, with less than a decade left to run, set a high bar for the whole world to support the aspirations of the most vulnerable countries. 

At a recent meeting of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, partners and friends of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) gathered to address the challenges and opportunities common to the group, and the conditions necessary to get back on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030. 

The meeting, “Restoring the Conditions for SDG Progress in African Countries, Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries,” discussed the reasons LDCs lag so far behind – and how COVID-19 set them even further back. 

Both LDCs and Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) are severely affected by the global recession as a result of the pandemic, and many are in need of debt relief. Limited ability to diversify what they make and what they can export has heightened their vulnerability to the impact of the pandemic on global trade.  

LLDCs have been impacted by cross-border restrictions and border closures, given their lack of direct access to seaports and dependency on transit transport to access international markets. The meeting heard how urgent and effective debt relief is needed, beyond debt servicing suspension. And bridging the digital divide is also more important than ever, to ensure a sustainable recovery and restore conditions for progress.  

The meeting heard discussed the conditions necessary to overcome the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and embark on a track to realize the SDGs.  

Unemployment, hunger, school absence, and gender inequality greatly increased during the pandemic across the global south, with the most vulnerable countries taking the brunt. Without sufficient access to sustainable energy, technology, health services and equipment, financial resources, and opportunities for women and girls, LDCs will continue to lag significantly behind. 

Many partners and friends of participated in the meeting, demonstrating the strength of support in the international community for the LDCs. Still, for the most vulnerable nations to get back on track for graduation, additional international support is critical.  

As Africa enters a difficult phase of the COVID pandemic, as of 30 June only 1.1% of Africans have been vaccinated against COVID-19. African LDCs are among the world’s most vulnerable countries and without proper medical resources, they are at a greater risk. Prioritising effective public health responses, like a successful COVID vaccine rollout, was a common refrain in the meeting.  

The meeting also called for the international community to encourage and promote global partnerships for economic growth (including debt relief) and crisis preparedness. Funding and stimulus packages would also be valuable to target these challenges.  

At a national level, it was suggested that governments should be more transparent with their people to promote fair and equitable governance. Institutions must encourage multi-stakeholder cooperation to strengthen their nations. This includes listening to the voices of the most vulnerable, such as women, youth, Indigenous people, and disabled people, in policy-making. 

As LDCs and LLDCs tackle climate change alongside the COVID and debt crises, national energy plans were called for, with energy democracy at their core.  
Energy Democracy represents a shift to a model run by communities, with environmental principles that supports local economies and contributes to the health and well-being of all. 

Additionally, courses and training, such as STEM for women, would be beneficial to prepare generations for potential jobs and to decrease gender inequality.  

Speaking about the urgency of new investment in LDCs at this critical time, H.E. Mr. Tandi Dorji, Foreign Minister of Bhutan, said, “Graduation is one of the pivotal milestones (to a country’s socio-economic progress). However, pre-COVID gains are at the brink of being reversed.”



Image credit: World Bank / Henitsoa Rafalia
Country/Date: Madagascar/ March 31, 2020