Opening Remarks at the Tenth Inter-Agency Consultative Group Meeting for LLDCs

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

23 June 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

A warm welcome to all of you. 
This is our Tenth Inter-Agency Consultative Group Meeting on the Follow-up and Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for LLDCs.
I express my deep appreciation to you Ambassador Umarov, especially in your capacity as the Global Chair of the LLDC Group, for making time to be with us. 
Thank you also all for the great importance that you and your organizations attach to the development concerns of the LLDCs.
I wish to acknowledge the participation of several organizations that are joining our inter-agency meeting for the first time. 
I warmly welcome:
Mr. Michael Lodge, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority,
Mr. Ahmed Abdel-Latif, Permanent Observer of IRENA to the UN, 
Ms. Moono Mupotola, Director, Regional Development and Regional integration at the African Development Bank,
as well as the representatives from
The Asian Development Bank, 
Green Climate Fund, 
UN Office of the Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Digital Cooperation, and
The International Development Law Organization (IDLO).
We also have several recently appointed members new to the IACG. 
I warmly welcome Ambassador Sheikh Mohammed Belal, the new Managing Director of the Common Fund for Commodities,  
Ms. Angélica Jácome Daza, the Director of the new Office for SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs at FAO,  
and Mr. Chi Dung Duong, Director of the Division for LDCs of WIPO. 
We meet amidst a development crisis amplified by multiples with the spread of COVID-19 .
Prior to this pandemic, when we  met last December for the Comprehensive High-level Midterm Review of the Vienna Programme of Action for LLDCs, we had witnessed the adoption of the forward-looking Political Declaration. 
This is our first meeting since the Midterm Review.
Thanks to your hard work and active engagement in both the preparatory process and the Midterm Review itself, both were a success. 
The Midterm Review took note of the progress that had been made. 
It noted progress in many areas such as:
health, education, energy, gender equality and ICTs, development of transit transport and economic corridors,  high ratification of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement by the LLDCs and transit countries,  increased regional, sub-regional and multilateral initiatives to support transit such as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
But it was made clear that LLDCs continue to face major hurdles. 
One-third of the population of LLDCs is still living in extreme poverty. Food insecurity persists. LLDCs continue to pay more than double in transport costs compared to their transit neighbours. Infrastructure and digital connectivity remain a challenge. Structural economic transformation remains limited. Reliable, timely and comparable data are lacking. Capacity constraints persists. 
This situation is exacerbated by the continued impacts of climate change, desertification, droughts, land degradation and the ensuing risks of natural disasters.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the existing challenges confronting the LLDCs have grown by multiples.
The multiple and complex impacts of the pandemic will, no doubt, trigger significant setbacks on progress made on implementing the VPoA and on numerous SDG indicators. 
If we are to deliver on the objectives of the Vienna Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we need to do more, better, and faster. 
A key objective of our meeting today is to discuss the Roadmap for accelerated implementation of the VPoA and of the political declaration that you all have contributed to. 
The document was prepared at the request of the Chair and the Group of LLDCs.
They asked for a roadmap with concrete and practical solutions to accelerate the implementation of  the VPoA in the remaining five years. 
I very much look forward to our discussion on how we can work as ONE  to support the LLDCs and come up with a Roadmap that can deliver on the goals LLDCs have set.  
I will now turn to a brief update on some of our activities for this year.

In early March the LLDC Group of Ambassadors met with the UNSG.  Among the several points highlighted by the Secretary-General was the reformed UN development system, with empowered Resident Coordinators and a new generation of Country Teams, was better positioned to provide tailored support, integrated policy advice and technical capacities to LLDCs to address their priorities. 

The Secretary-General also expressed the UN’s commitment to provide support to turn landlocked developing countries into land-linked engines of dynamism. He also emphasized that finding and scaling-up solutions must be a collective priority, from defeating climate change to eradicating poverty and across the shared agenda. Given the pandemic, obviously several global meetings had to be postponed. 
They include the Ministerial Transport Conference which was planned to be held in March in Turkmenistan and the LLDCs Ministerial Meeting on Trade originally scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan in June. 
The report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the VPoA is being drafted.  I thank you for your important contributions to this report.
In April, OHRLLS, in collaboration with the Development Coordination Office,  organized a briefing of the Deputy-Secretary-General to the LLDC Group on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on LLDCs. 
A joint briefing with FAO and WPF on the Impacts of Covid19 on Food Security for the LDCs, LLDCs & SIDs was also organized on the 7th May.

We prepared and issued a joint statement with the World Customs Organization calling for improved trade and transit facilitation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We worked with UNCTAD and the Regional Commissions on a Joint UN Call for Smooth Transit and Transport Facilitation to and from LLDCs during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.
A joint meeting with the Secretary General of ISA with the Chairs of LDCs, LLDCs & SIDs was held on the 3rd June.  As a follow-up, we will be organizing a joint briefing by the SG of ISA for the three groups of countries on the 25th June.
Just last week, we organized with the Chair of the Group of LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, a Dialogue on Addressing Sovereign Debt Distress in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS in the time of COVID-19.
The dialogue benefitted from the participation of the World Bank, the IMF, UN DESA, the International Chamber of Commerce and the Jubilee Debt Campaign.
Most of you have worked on various activities to support the LLDCs during this crisis time. 
I look forward to hearing more on your respective efforts. 
The adoption of the roadmap will be important guidance for our joint activities to support the LLDCs. 
The Chair of LLDCs and OHRLLS will organize a side event during the upcoming HLPF that will focus on the UN Roadmap for Accelerated Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for LLDCs, the Decade for Action and COVID-19. 
The meeting will provide an opportunity for LLDCs and their partners to review the Roadmap. 
The  LLDCs are not an abstract we talk about the lives and livelihoods of 509 million people. 
We are  in the last lap of implementation of the VPoA and the last decade of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Now is the time to work as ONE and to work faster. Our collective credibility is at stake and we together must show how multi- lateral work can help ensure that we leave no one behind.  
I thank you.