Opening Remarks at the Virtual Meeting: Responding to COVID-19 in the SIDS - Access to Concessional Finance

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

22 July 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

I must thank the United Kingdom for your collaboration with OHRLLS on this very important  initiative for SIDS.

I also express my gratitude to  H.E. Ambassador Young, the Permanent Representative of Belize to the United Nations and the Chair of AOSIS.

I  thank you for your opening remarks.

It is not just now that SIDS, that OHRLLS and many others call for international support to address the severe vulnerabilities of SIDS long recognized. In fact, calls have been made for decades.

The most comprehensive call goes as far back as the global Barbados conference in 1994!

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I would say we were well on the way to a glass half- full. Now we run the risk of a glass half-empty.

Indeed, even prior to the advent of COVID-19, UNCTAD estimates implied that  a mix of additional loans and enhanced economic growth would not suffice to ensure that developing countries could meet the financing needs for the 2030 Agenda.

And this would in particular is the case for such highly indebted countries like many SIDS.

Many, including analysts from the International Financial Institutions, have warned that a deep and prolonged global recession is inevitable. The SIDS will be among the hardest hit.

The SIDS face a near perfect storm with commodity price shocks, loss of export revenue, major loss of foreign investment and remittances, and almost collapsed tourism sector, debt servicing costs, deteriorating credit ratings and ensuing challenges in mobilizing resources in capital markets for some SIDS.  

SIDS always had to manage within limited fiscal space. This time, I fear, there just is not the space to simultaneously respond to  COVID-19 and to build back better.

In short, the progress so far achieved in implementing the 2030 Agenda in SIDS, as well as the SAMOA Pathway is threatened.

The UN system has prioritized the most vulnerable countries, including SIDS, in its response to COVID-19 at the national, regional and global levels.

UN-OHRLLS, even if we now have to mainly work virtually, is doing its best to accelerate our advocacy regarding the urgent need for dedicated funds for SIDS. This includes advocating with the International Financial Institutions.

We work on a number of initiatives to ensure a comprehensive and innovative action package for immediate and long-term debt sustainability.

The top priority is for actions that help creating the fiscal space needed for recovery and doing so by investing in sustainable development.

But what is the present situation ?

SIDS are forced to overcome their ever increasing challenges with decreasing access to ODA grants and concessional borrowing.

This is why the focus of this meeting and the upcoming conferences to be hosted by the United Kingdom with support from OHRLLS are so timely and critical.

Together, we must find solutions for how vulnerable SIDS can have their access expanded to much needed concessionary financing.

There is a range of possible actions to increase external financing for sustainable development in SIDS.

A key driver will be solidarity, will be sufficient political will among large economies and other developing states.

It is truly NOW that we must discuss practical and shared solutions to the challenges ahead of the SIDS.

We cannot afford to slip back. We must focus on going forward. We cannot exclude the SIDS, we must include the SIDS.

For a forward looking discussion and ensuing action grounded in fact, we need readily available and authoritative indicators from SIDS and partners.

We must ensure that partners have access to the reality of SIDS unique vulnerabilities.

In short, a key basis for all of us to move forward has to be a shared understanding of what is needed to move forward.


I look forward to this meeting and the upcoming discussions.

As I said, time is NOW and it is time for ACTION.

I hope we can focus  on practical and thus achievable solutions – which can focus our common efforts and engagement both with other developing countries and partners. 

In closing, I again wish to express my appreciation for this timely initiative by the United Kingdom.

I  thank all participants for contributing to this event.