Opening Remarks at the Virtual High-level Panel Discussion on the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation 2020

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

10 September 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to join you for today’s special session to commemorate the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation.

All people presently live a major  global crisis since the founding of the United Nations. 

Over half a year has already gone by where we all try to move forward in spite of the disrupting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People’s lives have been upended and too many lives have been lost.

The pandemic thrives on inequalities and has deepened inequalities even further.

New divides have emerged. Socio- economic tensions have the potential to endanger hardwon peace and stability everywhere.

Uncertainty continues to prevail and we have yet to get a grip on what  the medium to long-term socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 could look like.

It is though already certain that vulnerable countries such as the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS will be impacted disproportionately.

Their intrinsic vulnerabilities to endogenous and external shocks have been amplified by a multiple.

Their lack of institutional capacity and financial resources to respond to the multiple COVID-19 threats is likely to erode the development progress they could record in the past decade.

LDCs  expérience significant economic slow-down brought by the collapse of commodity prices, shrinking global demand, disruption in domestic production and value chain systems.

It is estimated that over 70 million additional people living in LDCs will be pushed into extreme poverty this year.

Health concern driven border closures and associated restrictive measures have inflicted devastating impact on the LLDCs. They  rely heavily on cross-border trade for much needed medical equipment and essential supplies. Losses in export earnings are projected to reach an estimated 37 per cent this year.

As far as the SIDS are concerned, they are likely to experience a pronounced contraction in 2020 and beyond as a result of plummeting tourism revenues and remittance flows.

The disruption of global supply chains, the near standstill tourism sector and mounting debt burdens and an ever accelerating impact of climate change exact a disproportionately heavy toll on SIDS.


To keep it short:

the challenge lies in how we can find ways and means to ensure that the most vulnerable, women, elderly, children and all those who fall between the cracks because they lost crucial lifelines to decent livelihoods, and because they have no adequate social protection are not left behind.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

COVID 19 drives home to all of as that it knows no borders, no gender, no race, no religion.

COVID 19 sends a message:  we need solidarity, multi- lateral collaboration and above all the political will to turn what is  a  global challenge into a situation where we leave no one behind.

It is NOW that countries need international support that must include support  from the global South.

Together  we must mobilize the resources needed to strengthen fragile health systems to cope with this emergency and this must include focus on the vulnerable segments of the population.

Let me be clear, strengthening health systems, strengthening public health is more than equipment, medicine and the like. It is about nutrition, it is about safe drinking water , it is about clean air, it is about sanitation - it is about basic human rights that we can no longer deny to the most vulnerable!

We must go beyond quick fixes that so often are not sustainable to move to building back better.

So, more than ever before, we must strengthen South-South cooperation, we must leverage it to help LDCs, LLDCs and SIDs in their fight against this pandemic.

The southern partners have the experience, the knowledge and the means to provide targeted and effective support. They can  boost regional cooperation and the sharing of cost-effective and context-specific solutions.

I give you some examples.

SIDS in the Pacific came together to establish the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19. The goal is  to facilitate rapid movement of medical & humanitarian assistance. This is key in a region where geographical distances to be overcome are enormous.

Take then Senegal. They piloted an economical COVID-19 testing kit and helped to train health workers from neighboring countries.

Other countries such as India , Turkey, China, Cuba and Qatar sent urgent medical aid or teams to Africa and many others in the global South also help each other.

As far as OHRLLS is concerned, we have tried to rally global support for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS as part of our advocacy role.

We have done so by organizing a series of workshops and high-level dialogues with multilateral development banks, UN agencies, and development partners both from the North and the South. We keep repeating that a cohesive  stimulus package in support of the swift recovery of the vulnerable groups of countries is needed NOW.

OHRLLS collaborates with all our UN system partners to provide a platform to build solidarity, mobilize resources, foster peer-learning and promote exchange of best practices through South-South and triangular cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We merely have a Decade of Action left to turn  the 2030 Agenda from words to impact.

This also applies to achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

For the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS this will only happen through renewed global commitment and enhanced partnerships.

South-South and triangular cooperation are imperative if we want an inclusive and sustainable recovery and way forward for the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.

In just so many short and long- term  aspects ranging from providing medical supplies, affordable vaccines, comprehensive debt relief to investment in technological know-how, resilient infrastructure, ICT,  to the all important capacity building, South-South and triangular cooperation will be more than ever indispensable and vital.   

This year and in just two weeks’ time, we  celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

It was out of years and years of deep human suffering with millions and millions of lives lost, people left with nothing and starving that the UN was envisioned.

Now, it is our turn to vision the future we want so that the Charter and the Universal Déclaration of Human Rights can be enjoyed by ALL.

COVID-19 is both threat and opportunity.

It is now our opportunity to seize this threat by working together  to steer recovery towards a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable future for all.

Let us rise to this challenge.

Thank you.