Briefing on the Secretary-General's Report on Development Progress in Landlocked and Least Developing Countries

Statement by Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States

8 October 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my privilege to introduce two reports to you.

They are the Secretary-General’s 2020 Reports on:

  • the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries and
  • the report on the Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries.


I will start with the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries.

This report had been prepared in the run-up to the Fifth UN Conference on the LDCs.

The report, together with the online Statistical Annex, documents progress towards implementation of the IPoA.

It draws lessons learned from the experience of the LDCs, the experience of  development partners, and draws on inputs from across the UN system.

The report highlights successes for the LDCs in areas such as access to electricity, ICT, and safe water and sanitation.  The report provides  several key indicators on poverty, health and gender equality.

What stands out is an unprecedented progress towards graduation, with 12 LDCs at various stages in the process.

On the other hand, the objectives of achieving structural transformation and building productive capacity, and of combating poverty through high rates of economic growth and decent jobs powered by export growth, have not been realized.  

Declining commodity prices, especially since 2013, have diminished the value of exports and foreign currency earnings.

This has contributed to  exacerbating debt burdens.  Natural hazards, especially climate-related phenomena such as hurricanes, cyclones, flooding, drought and landslides, have caused devastating loss and damage to lives, livelihoods and infrastructure.

Many countries remain excluded from the increasing digitally driven economy, given limited universal and sustained access to both electricity and high-speed internet. 

Since the report was published, the COVID-19 pandemic literally rages.

The LDCs have been disproportionally affected.  Their decline in global demand and prices is dramatic and notably for key LDC exports.

Tourism has taken beyond a severe hit.  

Closures continues to trigger rising unemployment, especially in the informal sector. Remittances have severely dropped off.

The loss of livelihoods is projected to drive millions back into extreme poverty. 

Food and nutrition insecurity are on the rise, and at-risk groups are increasingly vulnerable.

The debt situation is becoming increasingly dire for many.

The  impacts of the pandemic will be far-reaching and felt for years to come.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted inequalities and how they keep growing within countries, between countries, regions and at the global level.

The LDCs’ structural vulnerabilities are visible to all of us and there is absolute urgency to build resilience and redouble efforts towards achieving the SDGs.  It is not tomorrow’s, it is now.

This brings me to the need for the new Programme of Action for the LDCs.

Such a programme  will be adopted by Member States in Doha.

The programme must provide an overarching framework for addressing recovery efforts, building back better, building back inclusively and driving efforts towards the Decade for Action in the LDCs.

We are relaunching the LDC5 preparatory process with renewed resolve and determination.

The General Assembly has agreed on the new dates and schedule for the preparatory meetings and conference.

The conference is set for  23-27 January 2022, in Doha, Qatar, with the two Preparatory Committee meetings slotted for May and July of 2021 in New York. 

I would like to thank the host country Qatar for its generous support to the Conference. I thank also the other contributors to the process, including Turkey and Finland, and invite others to join these efforts.

The UN system is also stepping up.

Last year’s UNIDO LDC Ministerial provided valuable inputs.

Just a few days ago, the Human Rights Council considered this year’s Report on the Right to Development which is dedicated to the LDC5 process.

The upcoming WTO Ministerial and UNCTAD XV Conferences will include important inputs to LDC5.

The ILO is preparing a special report. There are many other initiatives too numerous to list.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing, I would like to assure you of OHRLLS’ and my own full and unwavering support to the LDCs through this crisis and beyond.

We must not leave the peoples of the LDCs and we must craft a robust and ambitious new Programme of Action. 

I invite all Member States and stakeholders to join and work together this critical endeavour.

 I now turn to the Secretary-General’s Report on the LLDCs.

Mr. Chairman,

I now turn to document A/75/285, the Report of the Secretary General on the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the decade 2014-2024.

The report reviews progress in the implementation of the priorities of the programme.

The report provides a preliminary assessment of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on LLDCs and suggests recommendations for accelerating progress.

The LLDCs continued to exhibit mixed progress in their socioeconomic development.

The LLDCs and transit countries have continued to make efforts to implement regional, and sub regional initiatives to support transit.

All the 26 LLDCs that are WTO Members have ratified the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

Regarding the key goal of transport corridors, some transport corridors such as CAREC corridors in Asia, parts of Northern Corridor in Africa, and Santa Cruz-Tambo Quemado-Arica in Latin America have achieved the VPoA goal of reducing travel time along corridors to 300-400 kilometers every 24 hours.

The COVID-19 pandemic however threatens this progress.

We see continued border restrictions aimed at combatting the spread of the virus. The pandemic has far reaching impacts on the movement of people and goods in transit and on vital access to seaports.  It cuts essential lifelines for LLDCs. 

LLDCs continue in their efforts to expand road and rail networks, construct and/or modernize their airports.

A key challenge are missing links, operational limitations and limited funding.

On energy, the average proportion of population with access to electricity in LLDCs increased from 56.3% in 2017 to 58.7% in 2018.  LLDCs continue to lag behind the world average of 89.6%.

The percentage of individuals using internet in LLDCs was estimated to be 25.3% in 2018, while the world average of 51.4%.

The often-prohibitive cost for broadband continues to be a challenge for LLDCs. We all have seen and actually lived how digital connectivity has become crucial during this time as it enables the delivery of essential services while complying to social distancing protocols

LLDCs continue to be marginalized from global trade.

Their share of global merchandise exports was estimated to be about 1% in 2019.   Exports remain highly concentrated in primary commodities. LLDCs’ participation in global exports of commercial services also remains negligible.  It is estimated at 0.7% in 2018.

Addressing high trade cost faced by LLDCs remains crucial.

Sadly, the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement continues to lag.

The LLDCs’ rate of implementation of the Agreement is estimated to be approximately 35%. The introduction of border measures aimed to curb the spread of COVID-19 threatens this very limited progress.

The interest in regional integration and cooperation among LLDCs and their neighbors is growing. On average, an LLDC is party to four regional trade agreements. 

Very little progress has been made on structural economic transformation envisaged by the programme.

The share of manufacturing value added in GDP remained between 10.2% and 10.4% between 2016 and 2019.

ODA to LLDCs decreased from $29.2 billion in 2017 to $28 billion, in 2018 constant prices.

FDI flows to LLDCs also declined between 2018 and 2019.

I must add that these averages hide that both ODA and FDI continue to be concentrated in a few LLDCs.  Furthermore,  FDI is mainly directed to the extractive industry.

As we know, the ongoing COVID pandemic has caused a dramatic decline in global demand.

There is drastic decline in commodity prices.

It has greatly impacted LLDCs’ foreign currency earnings.

Their debt vulnerability has grown by multiples.

So, what is being done by OHRLLS and the UN system.

Several activities were undertaken by OHRLLS and other UN agencies to facilitate the implementation of the VPoA. 

OHRLLS through its Inter-Agency Consultative Group for LLDCs, and in consultation with the relevant UN system and other international and regional organizations, developed a Roadmap for the Accelerated Implementation of the VPoA.

The roadmap provides a detailed mapping of concrete activities and deliverables. The roadmap was adopted by LLDCs’ Foreign Affairs Ministers last month.

Mr. Chairman,

I believe none of us had any idea on how 2020 would unfold.

As we note in the report, the pandemic now poses the risk of serious reversals in development gains that LLDCs have made over the years.

It also notes that climate change crisis, desertification and other disasters continue to be a threat to the LLDCs’ development endeavors.

In closing, and in line with the report findings, I must stress that the LLDCs require continued and enhanced investment and technical assistance to further accelerate the implementation of all the priorities of the VPoA. 

There must be greater cooperation between the LLDCs and transit countries and deepened regional integration.

The report calls on multilateral and regional development banks to support LLDCs to make investments and catalyze private finance for addressing the gaps in LLDCs in areas such as transport infrastructure, renewable energy, ICT and climate action.

The report encourages the creditors to take bolder actions to support LLDCs with debt relief in order to free up liquidity and invest more in their health systems and economic recovery.

The report emphasizes that the implementation of the VPoA needs to be anchored in strong efforts to address the impact of COVID-19 and transformative recovery aimed at reducing risk to future crises.

In sum, what is at stake is the right to development of the peoples of the LLDCs and our responsibility of not leaving them behind.

I thank you.