Opening Remarks at the Twentieth Inter-Agency Consultative Group Meeting of the United Nations System and International Organizations for LDCs

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

16 June 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

I warmly welcome all of you to our twentieth Session of the Inter-Agency Consultative Group on the Istanbul Programme of Action for the LDCs.

First, allow me to acknowledge the participation of our 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, the recently appointed Director of the Division for LDCs of WIPO.

At this juncture where more than ever before, it is so necessary for all of us to work together as ONE, it is very encouraging to see this great level of participation. Thank you all and thank you each entity for joining in.

We are in the final year of the IPoA.

I think none of us had foreseen what series of cascading crises would occur this year! The year where we also look at 75 years of the United Nations.

We find ourselves at a moment that goes way beyond the obvious immediate challenges of a pandemic. The pandemic has on the one hand revealed deep inequalities and the fragilities of all our systems. But it also has driven home how 75 years after the founding of the United Nations the principles and values contained in the Charter and the declaration of human rights are as relevant as ever.

Of course, in a pandemic immediate needs and threats have to be managed. But, it is beyond clear by now that we face a situation that threatens not just to undermine but almost wipe out years of progress made by the LDCs.

And this includes those who had so far been making major strides towards graduation.

The IPoA was designed to help LDCs overcome structural constraints and engage in an inclusive and sustainable development.

Today’s situation is that countries whose economies have remained fragile, countries lacking the required fiscal space and still reeling from structural constraints will be hit severely and  disproportionately by the ever more emerging global disruptions.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit us in the midst of our preparatory process for LDC5.

The result is the obvious postponement of events for us all in a participatory process we envisaged to have a productive and inclusive LDC 5.

But this is not a time to be idle. Quite the opposite is necessary and it is NOW that we must craft an ambitious and bold new Programme of Action for the LDCs for the next decade. 

At a time where we see so many divisions, a questioning of multi- lateral action, we  MUST invest in, give all our energy to an adequate, robust and in-depth preparatory process as envisaged in the General Assembly resolution on the matter.

What have we at OHRLLS done?

We held consultations with the LDCs, Friends of the LDCs, DGACM, and other UN secretariat entities on the possible re-scheduling of the preparatory process and LDC5 itself.

Any such rescheduling would require a resolution of the General Assembly.

We have already put some information on our website.

But,  in addition , I would like to share with you some possible dates that have been mentioned during discussions.

Of course, I say this without prejudice to any resolution of the GA.

The period of December 2021/January 2022 has been mentioned as a possible timeframe for the Fifth United Nations Conference on the LDCs.

The months of May 2021 and July 2021 have been mentioned as possible dates for the PrepCom1 and Prep Com 2 respectively.

We also had envisaged a so called academic conference on “Achieving Sustainable Development in the Least Developed Countries: Towards LDC-V” for October 2020 in Helsinki. We are now looking at May 2021.

Our work on other areas is also ongoing.

A key mandate of OHRLLS lies in advocacy and we certainly have intensified our advocacy work. We all together must mobilize global attention on the most vulnerable countries and their peoples.

We provide regular updates on the situation of the LDCs our website.

I have personally convened several Ambassadorial-level meetings with the LDC Bureau and the full LDC Group to assess  situations and identify key challenges.

Just last week, we organized a virtual meeting of the national focal points of the African LDCs also attended by resident coordinators and representatives of the regional entities and missions in New York.

The meeting highlighted the deep and complex challenges that countries  face in coping with COVID-19.

Last month, we facilitated a briefing of the Deputy-Secretary-General with the LDC Group. This brought the challenges of LDCs to the attention of the senior management of the UN.

Also last month, we convened a meeting of the Friends of LDCs. They all expressed their support to LDCs and even more so now with the devastating impacts of COVID-19.  Several important initiatives in support of the LDCs were announced.

Let me now turn to reports and publications.

The report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the IPoA, which covers the past ten years, was recently issued.  

I thank you all for your important contributions to this report.

The sad reality is that the progress documented in the report now is under threat given the manifold impacts of the pandemic. And we may just only have seen the tip of the iceberg! 

We recently issued the 2020 Policy brief on Advancing SDG7 in LDCs.

To me this is an important dimension - we here have been able to benefit from technology for our meeting, tele- education or tele- medicine. If you have no or only haphazard access to energy, then forget that!

So, our analysis finds that lack of access to sustainable energy remains a major bottleneck for LDCs and their growth.

Only 52 per cent of the population had access to electricity in 2018. It is clear that without urgent and enhanced action, LDCs will not be able to reach the SDG7 targets by 2030.

Today, you will also look at work on  “UN System Best Practices on Supporting the Least Developed Countries (LDCs): Overview and Analysis of Contributions from the Inter-agency Consultative Group on LDCs (IACG)”.  

Thank you for your contributions to this report and I really look forward to our more detail discussion on this today.

In this rich landscape of reports, a further  report on  “Lessons Learned from Implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011 – 2020” is under preparation.

This report is primarily based on the national reports submitted by 27 LDCs.

In my capacity as a member of the Secretary- General’s Broadband Commission, I continued to engage in advocacy in support of the LDCs for example on the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.

In my capacity as UNFCCC National Adaptation Plan Champion, at the June Momentum meetings on climate change, I issued an urgent call to maintain the pace of delivery of adaptation finance and build back in a more resilient and sustainable ways.

I know that all of you and your organizations  have and continue to  firmly engaged in assisting countries face this crisis.

OHRLLS  has brought and continues  to bring your critical work to the attention of the New York representatives from the three groups of most vulnerable countries.

More than ever we all need to work together. I was very inspired by the recent joint briefing with FAO and WFP on COVID19 and Impacts on Food Security in LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS.

Here we are, 75 years into the visionary creation of a United Nations putting the human being and its universal and indivisible rights at the center. And here we are with the challenge to us to support countries, people to turn a vicious moment into a hopeful future.
We can only do this TOGETHER.

I truly hope that today’s meeting is a platform for us to share information, look at our respective efforts for the LDCs in addressing COVID19, and to come up with concrete proposals to further our joint work and strengthen our  cooperation.

Thank you.