Statement at the Briefing on UN75 Organised by UN-OHRLLS in Coordination with the Office of the Special Adviser to the SG on the Commemoration of the UN 75th Anniversary

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

2 July 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you to the second briefing session for the Permanent Missions for LDCs, LLDCs & SIDS, convened together with my colleague Mr Hochschild, Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Digital Cooperation and the Preparations for the Seventy Fifth United Nations Anniversary.

A lot has happened since the first briefing session in September 2019.  

We are at the start of the second half of this year and sadly so, we remain mired in an unprecedented global situation for the 21st century. 

The lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions continue to be directly and indirectly disrupted and too often destroyed.

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

But it should not surprise us that the Least Developed Countries, the Landlocked Developing Countries, and the Small Island Developing States, with their inherent structural constraints, are disproportionately impacted. 

Many of you see this play out every day in your hospitals and on the streets of your countries. 

Millions and millions of people are out of employment in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.

The typical safety net is the family. Yet, if all in a family are impacted, what do you do? There already is dire hardship, this will continue and we can expect the number of poor and malnourished people to double.

It is quite the understatement to say we now face and must work through greatly changed circumstances. 

Prior to the pandemic, we already faced challenging circumstances with emerging debt crises, fragile economies, social needs and human security issues, and a rapidly growing need for urgent climate action. 

These existing challenges now run even deeper and new and emerging challenges also must be addressed. 

The most vulnerable member states of the United Nations need our support more than ever before.


We the Peoples stand at a crossroads. 

The United Nations is marking its 75th anniversary at a time of great upheaval and change. 

As USG Hochschild will show in his presentation, faith in the ability of our traditional multilateral structures to deliver for people is diminishing. 

Yet, this is a moment where the global community needs to work together . It is a moment to show cooperation based on a shared vision of an inclusive sustainable development. 

It is a moment for action. 

It is a moment to restore faith in and credibility of multi-lateral cooperation.  

It is a moment to show results. 

How we respond to the pandemic will greatly determine how fast the world recovers.

How we respond will determine our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and associated and emerging other global challenges.  

How we respond to the pandemic will also shape, in part, how we are perceived as an international system by people, by We the Peoples we are here to serve. 

The words of Dag Hammarskjöld come to mind.

He famously said that the United Nations "was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell."

Seventy-five years after the visionary founding enshrined in the Charter and the Universal Human Rights, our mission to protect and serve is once more being put to test. 

Our resolve must be unwavering. 

Our support must be grounded in listening. 

First to diagnose , and then TOGETHER find actionable solutions.

That is why the UN75 initiative is so important. It has the power to renew inspiration and move us all forward. 

By launching the ‘world’s largest conversation’, we commit first and foremost to listening. 

We must hear what women, men, girls, boys tell us about the future they want and what United Nations they need.

This is a crucial time for humanity and it is vital that your voices are heard.

Your views, concerns and ideas will be presented to world leaders and senior UN officials at the official commemoration of the 75th Anniversary by the UN General Assembly in September. 

Each conversation is an opportunity to encourage each one of us to take actions in our own lives in line with what we heard and learned. 

Just as in everyday life, it is dialogue, it is conversation giving us insights, ideas and evidence that the national and international organisations can and I even say must apply. 

We may find valuable ideas for new programmes, investments, partnerships and campaigns, among other options.

So, I thank USG Hochschild for agreeing to present on his very important work today.

I also asked the USG to update us on his other portfolio, as the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on digital cooperation.

We can participate in this virtual meeting. We can do so because we are among the lucky ones who have access to the technology and sufficient bandwidths. 

The pandemic has shown how this is truly vital – but access is highly UNEQUAL.

Many citizens of the globe remain EXCLUDED from access to a quality and reliable internet. 

The Secretary General’s roadmap alerts us that 87 per cent of individuals in developed countries used the Internet in 2019. 

Now look at access and use in the Least Developed Countries. It stood on average at just 19 per cent! 

In the Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, the figure is also below 50 per cent, on average. 

That means the majority of people in these countries simply cannot participate in virtual learning. 

They do not have the means to work from home, telemedicine is a distant dream and forget about staying connected with their families and friends. 

They are unable to listen and participate in conversations like this one.

I would like to reiterate what I said during the launch of the SG’s roadmap on digital cooperation a few weeks ago.

The time is NOW for us to make the right decisions, take immediate action and implement initiatives to bring ALL women, men, boys and girls into the digital age. 

We cannot leave them behind. We need to ensure their effective inclusion and participation in an ever more digitally connected world and humanity. 

We are not talking luxury. This is a key precondition to attaining an inclusive sustainable development and address climate change. 

The sad reality is that little financing and aid are used for this purpose. Only a small fraction of official development assistance is dedicated to digitalization, yet digital technology is at the core of participating in the global production and value chain. 

It is my hope that the implementation of the roadmap will boost all dimensions of Broadband Internet access -- availability, accessibility, content and capacity to use. This must include the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. 

Let there be no doubt, the UN cannot prepare for and go through its next 75 years without listening to ALL peoples of the world. 

And the peoples of the world cannot engage in that conversation unless we can speak with them – and hear them – where they are. 

So with this, I once again thank USG Hochschild for his time and I invite you to begin your presentation.

Thank you.