Briefing Remarks to UN Permanent Representatives of SIDS Highlighting the World Bank Group COVID-19 Response and Recovery
Briefing Remarks by Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
1 July 2020
New York, USA
Ladies and gentlemen,
First, I wish to thank Ms. Laura Jaitman for her close cooperation in convening this briefing.
Allow me to also congratulate you on your appointment as Special Representative of the World Bank Group to the UN.
I look forward to our continued strong collaboration with the World Bank in support of the most vulnerable countries.
I also thank H.E. Ambassador Young for her opening remarks.
All of us are probably beyond aware of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Analysts, and this of course includes the World Bank, continue to warn that a deep and prolonged global recession is inevitable.
The small island developing States (SIDS) will be among the hardest hit.
For weeks now, we have noted in numerous fora the dire situation that the island nations and their peoples will be among those hardest hit.
The commodity price shocks, loss of export revenue, near to non-existing tourism, major losses of foreign investment and remittances, deteriorating credit ratings making it even more challenging to mobilize resources in capital markets in some SIDs characterize in a snapshot the situation.
The bottom line is: SIDS will have limited fiscal space to both respond to COVID-19 and to build back better.
The economic and social impacts will be long lasting.
Prior to the pandemic, the SIDS already struggled to address the often devastating impacts of climate change. They already were faced with high debt burdens.
Now, they will have to ramp up spending to mitigate against the severe shocks of the pandemic – not as a luxury but to save lives and to ensure the basic livelihoods of their peoples.
All this must be done with limited access to ODA grants and concessional and market-based borrowing.
The situation was already challenging, but the challenge has beyond just doubled. Yes, there are short- term, immediate requirements but we must respond to COVID-19 without losing sight that we must also achieve the SDGs.
The pandemic threatens progress so far achieved in implementing the 2030 Agenda in SIDS, as well as the SAMOA Pathway.
The international community is urgently called upon. We must together undertake targeted and effective measures to support SIDS. We cannot leave them behind, we cannot deprive them of the most fundamental of human rights: sustainable development.
We cannot leave them behind alone to bear the brunt in responding to the crisis and bringing about recovery.
The UN system has prioritized the most vulnerable countries, including SIDS, in its response to COVID-19 at the national, regional and global levels.
We work on a number of initiatives in this regard. This includes high up on the agenda, comprehensive and innovative actions for immediate and long-term debt sustainability.
The focus is on creating fiscal space for recovery and fostering investments in sustainable development.
We also look at the special needs of SIDS in the administration of the United Nations Response and Recovery Multi-Stakeholder Trust Fund.
We continue our work to advocate for dedicated funds for SIDS, including within the context of the International Financial Institutions.
I cannot stress enough how vitally important it will be to expand access to concessional financing and existing emergency financing instruments for the SIDS.
It is all about complementing domestically financed stimulus packages. The domestic stimulus packages will not be sufficient on their own to address the considerable needs of SIDS during this crisis and beyond.
It is against this challenging and complex background, that I very much look forward to our discussions here today.
At this point, the World Bank is to be commended for their considerable response to the COVID crisis, from which some of the SIDS have benefited.
In moving forward, we must above all listen to and factor the concerns of these vulnerable countries even more into our policy instruments and initiatives.
I express my sincere gratitude to the panelists for agreeing to brief us on what the World Bank is doing in this regard.
I look forward to listening to you and to our exchanges.