Statement by Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
6 April 2021
New York, USA
To all of you present, a warm “Malo e lelei”, Hello!
I welcome you in my native Tongan language.
I join Ambassador Al-Thani of Qatar and the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, in thanking you for your active participation.
It is a pleasure to be with you this morning.
This meeting is your occasion, your opportunity to share your perspectives on the role of youth in shaping the sustainable development agenda.
In turn, the global community has the chance to listen to you on how we can better work with you to first recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in sustainable ways and then to hear what you expect from a new programme of action for the LDCs for the next 10 years.
As you know, within the membership of the United Nations, we have 46 least developed countries.
Countries where people live low levels of socio-economic development and high vulnerability to economic and environmental shocks.
The LDCs represent about 13% of the world’s population but 40% of the world’s poorest.
The LDCs share about 1% of global GDP, global trade and Foreign Direct Investment.
Close to 50% of the population do not have access to electricity so it is no surprise that few enjoy access to modern technologies like we do !
LDCs on the other hand have a large youth population.
In LDCs, roughly 60% of the population are under 25 years old.
This demographic structure in LDCs presents a challenge but also a powerful opportunity for LDCs to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
So, youth must be at the forefront of social and economic development.
Young people in LDCs are facing formidable challenges.
Of course, foremost we find unemployment, lack of access to quality education and health care, inadequate social protection, gender-based violence, and limited access to finance and opportunities for skills development, to name a few.
This limits young people from unleashing their potential to act as agents of change for sustainable development.
In many instances, it is young people’s innovation and entrepreneurship driving the productive capacity in LDCs.
Young people play constructive roles in community building, in environmental preservation, in innovative job creation and all this promotes social cohesion and generates positive impacts on stability and peace.
Now, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of many young people everywhere.
Lockdowns and movement restrictions have inflicted a heavy toll on your education, future prospects and employment.
In the LDCs, many young people are engaged in the informal sector of the economy.
It is precisely the informal sectors which have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 disruptions.
And it is young women workers in labor-intensive and low-skilled activities who have been worst hit.
School closures during the pandemic have disrupted education of millions of school-aged girls and boys in LDCs.
Now, while this is adversity , young people have demonstrated their resilience and they have risen to the challenge as volunteers, essential workers, innovators and communicators.
They found locally adjusted innovations to cope with the pandemic. they helped meet the need of communities.
We often hear this phrase of building back better.
Building back better implies looking to the future.
To do that, it is vital that young people not only fully participate, are listened to but that their right to development must be realized.
What does this mean in practice ?
It means better education for young people, it means leveraging digitalization and technological transformation, it means programmes to reskill and upskill and it means equal access for ALL to these opportunities.
Building back better can not be done if we do not invest more in young people’s inclusion, participation, organizations and initiatives.
Young people must be included in our decision-making processes and we must have more and stronger and open dialogues with youth on development priorities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The new Programme of Action for the LDCs will be adopted at the Fifth UN Conference on the LDCs (LDC5) in January 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
This 10-year Programme of Action for the LDCs will be adopted at a critical time as it dovetails with the last decade for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Now, the preparatory process we designed for LDC5 includes a youth track and a youth campaign.
Today’s meeting is part of the LDC5 youth track.
Today’s meeting is your meeting.
The new programme of action for LDCs will be built for the future young people, all people in LDCs want to live in.
So, let your voices be heard , express your ambitions , share with us your proposals for innovative action solutions, share with us what you want to do so we together create a better future leaving no one behind.
I look forward to listening to you.