As a Global Crisis Continues, Africa’s Most Vulnerable Nations Set Development Priorities for an Equitable and Resilient Future
As multiple crises swirl, from COVID-19 to climate change and debt, Africa’s 33 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are gathering to assess the state of their development goals and agree how best to get back on track.
Hosted by the Government of Malawi from 22 to 26 February, LDC ministers will meet virtually and discuss common priorities to feed into the landmark Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) in early 2022, at which the next decade's development agenda for LDCs will be set.
“The least developed countries may be among the weakest and poorest of the global family, but we represent a vast reservoir of untapped potential.” said H.E. Lazarus Chakwera, President of Malawi. “Ahead of us, is a critical opportunity to reshape the development landscape to one that is equitable and leaves no one behind. As we pave the way towards the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries, the Africa Regional Review meeting is the moment to voice our collective vision for the conference and agree our common priorities for a resilient and prosperous future.”
The meeting brings together LDCs from Africa and Haiti, development partner countries, international financial institutions, the UN and civil society for five days of meetings and thematic discussions. Topics under discussion will range from overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic and tackling the climate crisis to strengthening trade and building more peaceful and inclusive societies which includes the full participation of women and youth.
Global turmoil wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic forms the backdrop to this meeting, which was originally intended to take place in person in March of 2020.
The pandemic has been particularly challenging for LDCs and their economies. Commodity prices have fallen dramatically and disruptions are widespread in manufacturing value chains. International tourism, a major lifeline, has come to a standstill. The result has been a sharp reduction in GDP growth, placing economies and livelihoods on the brink of ruin. Together with widening deficits, unsustainable debt, and a drop in Foreign Direct Investment and remittances, the impacts of COVID-19 have led to an increase in poverty and will jeopardize hard won development gains for years to come.
The UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu said: “We may be in the midst of a global health and economic crisis, but Africa’s LDCs have long been on the frontlines of the fight against poverty and other global crises. The international community needs to live up to its promise to support LDCs in achieving global goals and to make sure that the next development agenda for LDCs is truly transformational.
Before COVID-19, African LDCs and Haiti had been making progress in implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action from 2011, though from very low baselines and with large variations across the 34 countries. Both man-made and natural crises remain prevalent and risk derailing progress. High and recently increasing poverty rates, inequality, civil strife and political instability are widespread.
Without strong and purposeful governance that aspires towards structural transformation and sustainable development, economic and social outcomes in these LDCs will remain weak.
A virtual briefing for the media was held on 17 February 2021 by the Right Honourable Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, Vice President of the Republic of Malawi, and the United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu.
- The Africa Regional Review meeting is co-organised by the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States and the Economic Commission for Africa. It is hosted by the Government of Malawi.
- The outcome of the Africa Regional Review meeting will be a ministerial declaration negotiated by the African LDCs and Haiti. The outcome is expected to outline the expected components of a renewed partnership or sustainable development between the LDCs and their development partners and will be endorsed at the 53rd ECA Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, which is scheduled for 17-23 March 2021. Furthermore, the meeting outcome will inform the Preparatory Committee Meetings for the LDC5 Conference to be held in New York on 24-28 May 2021 and 26-30 July2021
- The Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries will take place in Doha, Qatar, from 23 to 27 January 2022. The conference will assess progress made towards the Istanbul Programme of Action by the LDCs and their development partners as well as mobilising additional international support for the LDCs. The conference is also expected to agree on a renewed partnership for development between the LDCs and their development partners and relevant stakeholders including the private sector and civil society.
- The 33 Least Developed Countries in Africa are: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.
For the purposes of this regional review, Haiti will be included in the meeting.