Remarks at the Virtual Meeting of the Group of Friends of LDCs

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

12 May 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

First, I wish to sincerely thank the Permanent Representatives of Belgium and Turkey for organizing this meeting. More than ever, friends are needed!

As many have said, as I have said before, all of humanity is travelling a trying and unprecedented situation with so many unknowns. Every country, community, every single individual in the world is affected in some way or other.

We see the good, the less good, the bad and the truly worrisome. We see how in creative ways, in sometimes desperate ways, we all are trying to do our best individually and collectively to cope with this situation in a hope to move on.

So, thank you to give me the chance to share with you what OHRLLS works on.

There is no denying it, virtual working has its own challenges but we kept and keep on going!

Dialogue is key in a situation like this and on a regular basis we have endeavored to just do so with you the member States.

I can assure you that all OHRLLS colleagues are committed to deliver on the mandates you entrusted us with.

Before moving to my briefing details, I would like to once again stress that we are here not just to offer our thoughts but also our support to the people and government of Vanuatu and three other countries in the Pacific region, devastated by category 5 cyclone Harold.

Let me now turn to an update on our ongoing activities. 

The report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the IPoA covering the past ten years, is already issued.

The key points to consider are:

There is modest progress only. This concerns especially the areas of poverty, health, gender equality, access to safe water and sanitation, as well as renewable energy.

This is of special concern because these are all key factors driving on the one hand the pandemic but also driving how we can overcome it. Indeed, this pandemic has driven home the utter cost of ever growing inequalities. 

We can record some improvements. They concern aggregate employment trends but young people have not benefited to the fullest. The progress in manufacturing value added is there but remains limited.

Hunger remains a big challenge. As you all have read, there is the strong warning WFP already has issued together with the Rome based agencies on what probable impact of COVID 19 can be on food supply and supply chains everywhere.

The indicators on education, research and development, biodiversity, ecosystems all lag.

We all knew and know that meeting IPoA targets implied strong partnerships. Regrettably, the much called for partnerships for development suffer from stagnation or often decelerated. There is a glimmer of hope in that ODA has slightly rebounded.

OHRLLS is working on a paper entitled “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)”.  

I know, it is a long title!

This is about analyzing how UN system entities organized and mobilized to support the LDCs, in the context of the IPoA.

We look at initiatives and actions taken to work with the LDCs on advancing sustainable development. We look at a select number of best practices which helped trigger positive, and in some cases transformational changes in the LDCs.  

We also work on a report entitled “Lessons Learned from Implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011 – 2020”. 

This report reflects primarily on the national reports submitted by 27 LDCs. We are expecting more reports to come. All these national reports are posted in our website.

Then, the team is finalizing the 2020 Policy brief on Advancing SDG7 in LDCs. 

It already shows that lack of access to sustainable energy remains a major bottleneck for LDCs’ growth. 

Only 52 per cent of their population enjoy access to electricity! At this rate, LDCs simply will not be able to reach the SDG7 targets by 2030. So, this is a call for strong, concerted action NOW.

All these documents will feed into and serve as important background documents for LDC-V and its preparatory process. 

A key mandate you entrusted OHRLLS with is the mandate of advocacy. We are finalizing a communication and advocacy strategy to share compelling narratives to drive home the urgency for action to help the people of the Least Developed Countries to be included in what the goals of Agenda 2030 wish to achieve. We must act now and not leave them behind! 

We will also highlight the potentials of LDCs. They are a frontier market in excess of one billion people - and growing ! - in terms of consumption, production and contribution to global value chains.  

We hope to showcase strong and compelling stories. The goal is indeed to mobilize global support and action in favour of LDCs. We also must brand the LDC-5 and the broader agenda of LDCs in the overall global development discourse and architecture. 

Last week, my Office jointly organized with FAO and WFP, a briefing on the impacts of COVID-19 on Food Security for the LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS. 

I already alluded to the risk we run to have a global food crisis!

It came up clearly in that briefing, how starkly countries suffer from food crises, with millions of additional poor and hungry people joining the list due to COVID-19.  

Last but certainly not least, we continue to support the Chair of LDCs to help with effective participation in ongoing virtual discussions and negotiations in the UN, as appropriate. 

I will now turn to some updates on the preparations for LDC5

As you know, all preparatory meetings scheduled for the next few months, including regional review meetings in Malawi and Bangladesh, the joint ECOSOC-PGA meeting and the Ambassadorial level Friends of LDCs consultative retreat, have been postponed. 

These meetings were to provide critical inputs to the First PrepCom meeting scheduled to take place in New York from 27 to 30 July 2020. 

It is unlikely that we can have these preparatory meetings before July. 

It might be a good idea to reschedule the First PrepCom meeting.

If you decide so, we will also have to look into other pre-scheduled meetings. I think we already now must start discussing possible alternative options. 

But I leave this to LDCs and the Friends to discuss and decide as early as possible. My Office stands ready to support the discussions jointly with the DGACM. 

Notwithstanding all this, the substantive preparations as well as other organizational preparations are ongoing. 

We developed project documents to carry forward work on the seven supplementary tracks of the Conference. 

That is:

Parliamentarians, Private Sector, Civil Society Organizations, Youth, South-South Cooperation, Advocacy and outreach as well as the academic track which we hope can still proceed on the original scheduled time in October in Helsinki, Finland.

All these tracks have a lot of associated activities leading up to the LDC5. 

We have submitted the project documents to the host country and requested some resources in this regard. We would also urge other Friends of LDCs to contribute to the Trust Fund to carry out the preparatory works. 

In terms of the overall substantive preparations, and as I mentioned earlier, the report of the Secretary-General on the 10-year implementation of the IPoA, the synthesis of the national reports submitted by LDCs, the lessons learned and preparations of an Advocacy Strategy for LDC5 are finalized or in the process of being finalized.  

My final point here concerns the setting up of the PrepCom Bureau. 

So far, we have received confirmation from Asia, Europe and partially from Eastern Europe.

To date the designated members are Bangladesh, Nepal, Canada, Turkey and the Czech Republic. 

We have informally learned that from Africa the nominated members are Ethiopia and Uganda and from GRULAC Haiti and Chile. 

However, we need an official communication from groups to announce the PrepCom Bureau. 

While we are following this up with the regional group chairs, I kindly must request your urgent intervention to expedite the process of electing the Bureau as soon as possible.  

Let me now say a few words on COVID-19. 

All countries are severely impacted, to say the least. 

BUT, the impacts on LDCs will be disproportionate, they will be long-lasting last not least because of weak, under-resourced health systems and extremely limited fiscal space to counter the national, regional and global shocks yet to come. 

Our study suggests that COVID-19 may not yet be highly prevalent in most of the LDCs. For most of them, the curve is still rising. Due to an even more severe lack of testing capacities in LDCs, the data - when systematically captured at all - might not be telling the actual story on the ground. 

But this is the opportunity, this is the moment where we must invest in and build resilience and do so fast.  

I commend the Group of LDCs for finalizing its statement on COVID-19 and working out a stimulus package for LDCs, which delineates the call for assistance in the short, medium and long-term to address the catastrophic impacts of the pandemic. 

I call upon the international community, especially to Friends of LDCs, to extend emergency assistance to LDCs to save lives and livelihoods. If we fail to do so, an already precarious state will further worsen and most of the LDCs are likely to miss the goals of the 2030 Agenda. 

We are trying our best to support LDCs and raise awareness of the international community about the imminent threats posed by COVID-19. 

We have set up a webpage on the impacts of COVID-19 on LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS which is accessible through our website. Please visit this site and please do share with us your honest feedback. 

In immediate action, we organise a series of virtual briefings. 

Our Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, held dialogues with representatives of LDCs on 28 April 2020. The same was held for LLDCs and SIDS. The DSG assured all possible support of the United Nations to LDCs to address this challenge. 

OHRLLS is on board, we are here, we stand ready to support you. Let us join hands and mobilize global coalitions to enable LDCs to manage through these exceptional and profoundly challenging and transforming times.    

I thank you.