Statement on the Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Think Tank for Landlocked Developing Countries

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

21 December 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

First, I would like to join others in congratulating you on your assumption of the chairmanship of the Board of Governors.  I also thank the Chair for giving me the opportunity to join this meeting as an observer and to update the Board on the activities undertaken by OHRLLS in support of the LLDCs.

I also thank the International Think Tank for the continued close and growing collaboration with OHRLLS. 

It may be useful to share with all of you  a brief summary on UN-OHRLLS.

OHRLLS , through the High Representative, reports directly to The UN Secretary General.

What do we do ?

A key task is to assist the Secretary-General in ensuring the full mobilization and coordination of all parts of the United Nations system for the LLDCs, LDCs and SIDS benefit.

We are there to  facilitate what we call the coordinated implementation of and coherence in the follow-up and monitoring of the programmes of Action for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.

This we are to undertake  at the country, regional and global levels.

A key role of OHRLLS is  to advocate for, to be a voice for the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS and assist in mobilizing international support.

In short, we are your dedicated focal point.


The last Board meeting of the Think Tank that I attended took place in June 2018.

Since, the UN General Assembly convened the Midterm review of the Vienna Programme of Action in December 2019.

The midterm review showed that LLDCs continue to make efforts to address their development challenges. Yet, the LLDCs remain behind in achieving the SDGs and the goals of the VPoA.

The progress we could see is encouraging.

But what is of concern is that the LLDCs continue to lag behind the averages of all the developing countries and certainly global averages on many socioeconomic development indicators.

The review showed that economic growth actually declined since the adoption of the VPoA in 2014.

One third of the LLDCs population still live in extreme poverty.

Very little progress has been achieved in structural economic transformation.

The LLDCs’ share of manufacturing value added in GDP remained at about 10 percent in 2019.

The share of merchandise exports remained below 1 per cent.

LLDCs continue to face major constraints that include infrastructural gaps and the relatively high cost of ICT services, and generally high trade costs.

These structural challenges, including LLDCs’ dependency on their transit neighbors for trade, their high dependency on export of commodities, the weak public health services, and limited financial resources are considerable hurdles.

Of course given this picture, COVID-19 has now had significant impact on the LLDCs’ development including their ability to fight COVID-19.

Just take the closing of borders and the imposition of border restrictions by neighboring transit countries in their efforts to curtail the spread of the virus and you have extremely concerning  negative impacts on LLDCs’ trade. 

The transport and logistics industries which play such crucial role for the economies of many of the LLDCs and are the backbone of trade are greatly impacted.

LLDCs also face quite major losses of foreign exchange earnings due to the decline in commodity prices.

So, while the situation was already complex prior to the pandemic, we now see risks of serious reversals in development gains that LLDCs have made over the years.

It is NOW that we must pay special attention to LLDCs and support them in their fight against COVID-19 and in their efforts to build back better.

More than ever, OHRLLS continues to advocate for enhanced support to LLDCs.  


The International Think Tank for LLDCs is there to be a center of excellence for LLDCs.

It is to use top-quality research that translates into policy formulation and ultimately into action. The Think Tank’s role is therefore critical in the implementation of the VPoA and Agenda 2030.

It is there to advocate for the LLDCs, to  find solutions and provide policy recommendation to help the LLDCs build back better post COVID-19.

OHRLLS and the Think Tank thus have a shared objective of assisting LLDCs in remedying to their specific development constraints and challenges.

Ever since 2014, we have collaborated on numerous activities and events.

We collaborated in organizing specific events  to raise awareness of the work of the Think Tank and to advocate for accession to the Multilateral Agreement on Establishment of the Think Tank.

But much more  remains to be done to increase the visibility of the Think Tank.   

The Think Tank and OHRLLS signed a Memorandum of Understanding in October 2020.(as earlier mentioned by the Amb. Odbayar)

It is my sincere hope that this will further strengthen our collaboration and enhance the visibility of the Think Tank.

We now have a framework to facilitate joint research and analytical work to better inform the formulation and monitoring of policies aimed at accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the VPoA.

We have a framework to organize joint events and capacity building support and to promote the exchange of best practices on thematic areas relevant to the VPoA.

Indeed, we must enhance cooperation at a time when there is an urgent need to build back better given the impacts of COVID-19 in LLDCs.

I am happy to report that since the signing of the Memorandum, we have jointly worked on a report on the Impact of COVID-19 and Responses in LLDCs.

We want to scale-up joint initiatives and explore new opportunities to collaborate for the effective realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the VPoA objectives by LLDCs.

So as to enhance collaborative efforts and to also assist in increasing the visibility of the Think Tank, OHRLLS invited the Think Tank to be part of the Inter-Agency Consultative Group on LLDCs.

This Group has a wide membership of over 50 Agencies, including key UN Agencies, regional organization, development banks, as well as other key international organizations including the World Trade Organizations and the World Bank Group.

I hope for a very active participation of the International Think Tank in the Inter-Agency Consultative Group. It is an opportunity to broaden its network and collaboration with other organizations working on LLDCs issues.


The pandemic has brought most economies to their knees.

As the saying goes, any threat also harbors opportunities. The opportunities are ours to seize.

I see the opportunity to rebuild better in a post-pandemic future.

Yes we can and yes we must.

We can build socio-economic resilience through increasing the trade potential of LLDCs; enhance investment in transport infrastructure and increased connectivity; increase digital technology and enhanced regional integration, we must work for better cooperation between LLDCs and transit countries; we must enhance food security; build climate resilience; and importantly, we must increase efforts to address COVID-19.

So, we look forward to working with the Think Tank on some of these areas. 

At the beginning of this year which, I am sure, we all are happy to leave behind!

The Group of LLDCs requested the United Nations to develop a visionary Roadmap to accelerate the implementation of the VPoA.

Guided by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, OHRLLS led the coordination and development of the Roadmap.

More than 40 UN system entities and other international and regional organizations, and first and foremost the Member States of the Group of the LLDCs provided their inputs to the Roadmap.

The Roadmap provides a framework  for accelerated action in key areas that require dedicated and urgent focus including COVID-19. 

The LLDCs Foreign Affairs Ministers adopted the Roadmap during their Annual meeting held in the margins of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly.

We now must make every effort to ensure that the Roadmap is fully implemented !

OHRLLS will lead the regular reviews of the Roadmap and its implementation as well as the reporting. I thank the Think Tank for providing inputs to the Roadmap.

Beyond that, OHRLLS recently launched the #MostVulnerable91 campaign.

We argue that the scale of COVID-19 related funding spent so far by international partners to support the 91 most vulnerable countries, including the LLDCs is considerable but remains comparatively when looking at overall global spending.

More support is needed and OHRLLS has stepped up its efforts to advocate for enhanced support.


Allow me to now brief you on some of our key activities planned for 2021.

OHRLLs in collaboration with the Government of Kazakhstan plans to hold a Ministerial Meeting on Trade for LLDCs in the margins of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in June 2021.

OHRLLs is working with the Government of Turkmenistan to organize a Ministerial Transport Conference for LLDCs at a date still to be determined.

We also work with ESCAP, ECE, ECA, ECLAC and UN-DESA to organize a training for LLDC policy makers on how to promote transport infrastructure connectivity and development/maintenance of climate resilient transport infrastructure.

On the advocacy front, we  plan to organize side events during such major international meetings as the second UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference, High-level Political Forum, the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development follow-up, WTO Aid-for-Trade Stocktaking event 23-25 March 2021 and the UNCTAD-15 Conference.


in closing,  I assure you that you have OHRLLS continued support for the work of the Think Tank.

I very much look forward to our strengthened collaboration so together we can enhance our support to the LLDCs. 

OHRLLS will also continue our joint efforts with the Think Tank to advocate for the full ratification of the Multilateral Agreement on the Establishment of the Think Tank and the much needed enhanced support to the Think Tank.  

I thank you.