Statement by Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
12 April 2021
New York, USA
The COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and already has taken more than 2.8 million lives globally. The pandemic’s profound social and economic impacts already visible and those likely to emerge impact all people, all regions and all countries.
The LLDCs have not been spared.
COVID-19 cases and deaths since the onset of the pandemic keep increasing.
WHO available statistics indicate they now account for 2.1% of global cases and 1.9% of global deaths.
I already referred to the deep social and economic impacts of the pandemic through, among others, disrupted global supply chains, near halted tourism , price increases and the list is long.
All this has triggered a marked socio-economic impact on LLDCs.This is of concern as this now puts into question LLDCs ability to continue to move ahead on the road to an inclusive and sustainable development Agenda 2030 calls for.
Government expenditures in LLDCs by necessity has to increase while revenues declined.
LLDCs witness an accelerated decrease in foreign direct investment and remittances, decrease in exports earnings and in revenues from tourism, while debt burdens increase.
Many have lost jobs in both the formal and informal sectors. Many have been pushed into poverty, especially women, children and people living with disability.
Harnessing trade as a means to drive sustainable development in LLDCs always was seen as a key developmental strategy.
This is now much more difficult given the lack of smooth functioning of borders, given lockdowns, and given disruptions in regional and global supply chains and given the volatility of commodity prices.
In short, the pandemic has amplified pre-existing vulnerabilities such as heavy reliance on transit countries for international trade; high dependency on primary commodities for exports; inadequate transport, limited digital and energy connectivity, and limited social protection.
The pandemic notwithstanding, the LLDCs also need to address other ongoing challenges such as the impact of climate change, food insecurity, desertification, droughts, environmental degradation, flooding including glacial lakes outbursts and other disasters.
With a now much more complex policy and management challenge ahead, it is even more important that we keep focus of course on stopping the pandemic but above all that we do our utmost to preserving the hard-won gains already made on the SDGs and the Vienna Programme of Action.
This must include action on the Political Declaration adopted at the Midterm Review of the Vienna Programme of Action.
In the immediate, availability of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is critical. I am sure we all agree and hope that multilateral initiatives like COVAX get scaled up fast and reach the world’s poorest.
Three critical areas of action deserve our immediate attention and action.
We must increase the trade potential of LLDCs.
This must include enhanced trade facilitation, increased value addition and diversification. This is at the core of achieving sustainable economic growth, creating green and productive jobs, generating decent jobs and eradicating poverty.
We must increase investment in connectivity.
This must include transport, digital connectivity and energy access.This is critical to a whole host of daily life aspects from food deliveries, to trade facilitation, e-commerce, e-government, education, health, or social distancing. Efforts must be stepped up to bridge the connectivity gaps between LLDCs and the developed world and between urban and rural areas.
We must foster greater cooperation between LLDCs and transit countries.
It is the way in which we can deepen regional integration including as a means of strengthening recovery efforts.
The LLDCs, with the power of their youthful population, have a great asset to now invest in cutting-edge technologies and innovations and drive transformative change to become land-linked countries.
Many landlocked developing countries however lack the financial and capacity resources to invest in recovery and resilience.
Recovery, the building back better we talk about, achieving the SDGs will require enhanced and focused support from all partners be they development partners, transit countries, South-South partners, the UN Development System, Multilateral Development Banks, International Monetary Fund, private sector and foundations.
OHRLLS, at the request of the LLDCs, doubled efforts undertaking analytical work.
Last year, at the request of the LLDC Chair, OHRLLS coordinated the development of a roadmap for accelerated implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action.
Together with partners and hosted by the Government of Botswana, we recently provided capacity building support in the area of bankable transport infrastructure projects design.
Such projects are at the core of enhanced connectivity for LLDCs and transit developing countries in Africa.
The training is part a project on Strengthening the capacity of Landlocked Developing Countries to design and implement policies that promote transport connectivity for the achievement of the SDGs.
Together with the International Think Tank for LLDCs, we prepared a report on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on the LLDCs.
Our advocacy and outreach work has also been notched up.
OHRLLS, through the ‘COVID-19 - The Most Vulnerable 91’ campaign, puts a spotlight on the limited funding so far made available during the pandemic.
I stop here and now look forward to a rich exchange of ideas and proposals on how LLDCs can be supported to achieve sustainable recovery post pandemic including accelerated implementation of VPoA and the 2030 Agenda.
I thank you.