Opening Remarks at the Virtual Webinar: Breaking Geographical Barriers - Leveraging the Role of Multilateralism to Achieve VPoA and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in LLDCs

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

28 July 2020 
New York, USA

Honorable Ministers, 
Head of Organizations, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

We enter the last decade of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  We enter the last five years of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing countries.

Above all we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation.

The world goes through a pandemic affecting the lives and livelihoods of billions of people.

No country or individual is spared from the global impacts of COVID-19.

It is its impact which greatly differs across countries and within countries.

The LLDCs are amongst the hardest hit due to their vulnerabilities.

Honorable Ministers, Excellencies,

The UN General Assembly held the midterm review of the Vienna Programme of Action for LLDCs in December 2019.

The midterm review revealed that while LLDCs continue to make efforts to address their development challenges, they are far behind in achieving the SDGs and the objectives of the Vienna Programme of Action.

The midterm review revealed that one third of the population of LLDCs continues to  live in extreme poverty. The prevalence of moderate to severe food insecurity continues to persist.

The average human development index lags behind the world average.

Economic growth has declined, inequalities have risen since the adoption of the Vienna Programme of Action.

The share of merchandise exports declined to less than 1 percent.

Still, there was dynamic and we saw the glass as half full.

Then came COVID 19 and now the risk for a glass becoming half empty.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed vulnerabilities, deepened existing  vulnerabilities. LLDCs rely on transit countries and many transit countries closed their borders in their fight to contain the spread of COVID-19.

LLDC exports are commodity based and the global demand for commodities declined drastically. 

The very geography of LLDCs makes them reliant on other countries.

They  require greater cooperation at sub-regional, regional and global level for their development.

International solidarity and cooperation are  key for these countries’ peace and security and their inclusive and sustainable development.

An equitable multilateral trading system truly is the lifeblood for the LLDCs sustainable future through integration into the global economy. 

Just as solidarity expressed through the multi- lateral system helped rebuild the world after the World War 2, the Multi- lateral system has over  decades now delivered major economic and social progress including for the LLDCs.

Openness, cooperation and partnership between countries are critical to this success.

Today’s global economy is more interconnected than ever, connected at vastly greater speeds than ever  and we are faced with more complex than ever multiple global challenges.

Inequality, climate change and pandemics know no borders. 

A strong and well-functioning multilateral system that can deliver for people is more than ever needed.

At a time where more rather than less international cooperation is needed,  multilateralism has come under great stress.

Protection  is on the rise. This makes us all vulnerable and even more so those already in highly vulnerable life situations.

Of course, the whole of human history has been one of change and it is only befitting that we ask the question what kind of multi- lateralism today’s and tomorrow’s challenges need. In that it is  vital that we listen to, that we hear the voices of the most vulnerable. 

This webinar gives us the opportunity to exchange, to listen to each other, to hear each other.

The findings of our webinar  will also feed into to the upcoming Annual Ministerial Meeting of LLDCs to be held in the margins of the High-level week of the UN General Assembly.

 So, let us not just overcome geographical barriers but also all those other barriers too often preventing us from listening to each other.

I look forward to our exchanges.

Thank you.