Statement at the Special Body on Least Developed, Landlocked Developing and Pacific Island Developing Countries
Statement by Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
21 May 2020
New York, USA
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is good to join you all and I thank ESCAP for inviting OHRLLS to participate.
Just twelve months ago, I am sure none of us would have thought we would meet under these circumstances. Everybody, everywhere for weeks and months now lives an unsettling and extraordinary situation.
So many uncertainties are now ahead of us !
Every country, community, and every single individual in the world is affected in some way or other by COVID-19.
This pandemic teaches us many lessons but it surely has already revealed what economic and social inequalities drive in a pandemic.
We have few certainties at this stage. But we can be certain that the manifold impacts on Least Developed countries , Landlocked Developing countries, and Small Islands Developing States will be disproportionate and that they will be long-lasting.
Already, millions of people are out of employment in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.
There are hardly any safety nets. The typical safety net is the family but if all in a family are impacted, there is dire hardship and we can expect the number of poor and malnourished peoples to double.
Governments already prior to this pandemic had limited fiscal space. Now they are struggling to meet just basic
public health requirements and where they exist, this will further erode existing social protection systems.
Let me not even vision the income and overall economic impacts with country-wide lockdowns. We only have estimates and they do not look good on the devastation this will bring to their narrow and already vulnerable domestic industries and services sectors.
Export earnings are falling at never before witnessed speed. Export orders for billions of dollars have been lost. Remittances diminish rapidly. The tourism sector has collapsed. The coming global recession will further exacerbate this already dire situations.
Sadly, we have a perfect economic and social storm to manage! It is a truly humanitarian crisis.
All this goes way beyond the immediate and medium-term health sector challenges.
Peoples’ very livelihoods are in jeopardy and all sectors of economies and societies are impacted.
Many countries already lagged on the 2030 agenda prior to this pandemic.
Now, it is almost certain that without robust and far reaching global and regional responses, countries and people will be left behind!
Countries urgently need special and FAST action lest we accept to leave them behind!
THE TIME IS NOW.
So, what is OHRLLS doing?
In an immediate action response, we organized a series of virtual briefings.
Our Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, held dialogues with representatives of the distinct LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS groups last month.
The Group of LDCs & LLDCs have already finalized a statement on COVID-19 outlining their special challenges and needs to address the impacts of the pandemic and how to build back better.
The SIDS also made their challenges known to the world.
The DSG assured all possible support of the United Nations system to address and to overcome the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of our advocacy role, OHRLLS has set up a webpage on the impacts of COVID-19 on LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.
Of course, in such challenging times we must focus on the short - term, on people and if I can say so the land they live on. But if we want to build back better, we must look beyond the individual trees and look at the forest. Our planet is more ocean than land and so the ESCAP theme study before us takes this broader look.
I congratulate ESCAP for your theme study on promoting economic, social and environmental cooperation on oceans for sustainable development.
All our constituent countries but especially the SIDS need enhanced support in all areas identified in the study namely statistics on the oceans, the deteriorating fish stocks and the gaps in fishery management.
I would specifically draw the attention of the international community to SDG targets 14.7 and 14.a .
They call for increasing the economic benefits to SIDS and LDCs from the sustainable use of marine resources. They call for increasing scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technologies.
There is no denying it, and you may join me probably in this thought: keeping things going and often going virtually right now is at times a challenge. BUT WE MUST KEEP GOING.
So, OHRLLS has pushed along with the preparations for LDC5.
Of course, the preparatory meetings scheduled for the next few months, including the regional review meetings in Malawi and Bangladesh, and the joint ECOSOC-PGA meeting had to be postponed.
These were important dialogue meetings and designed to provide critical inputs to the First PrepCom meeting that was to be held in New York from 27 to 30 July 2020.
Member States have started discussing the possibility of rescheduling the Conference and the PrepCom meetings. Once we have the new dates of these events, we will work out the dates of all the Preconference events, including the Asia-Pacific Regional Review meeting.
BUT, our preparations for the Conference are ongoing!
What is already ready or under imminent finalization is:
- The report of the Secretary-General on the 10-year implementation of the IPoA,
- the synthesis of national reports submitted by LDCs,
- a report on UN System Best Practices on Supporting the LDCs, and
- the 2020 Policy brief on Advancing SDG7 in LDCs.
We also push head with the preparation for the academic exchange conference, which will be held in Helsinki, Finland.
On LLDCs, we are more than halfway into the implementation timeline of the Vienna Programme of Action.
The Midterm Review, held last year, adopted a political declaration.
The declaration identified critical areas requiring enhanced efforts. This concerns infrastructure and connectivities ranging from transport, ICT to energy.
The declaration called inter alia for:
- full implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement;
- structural economic transformation and productive capacity building;
- private sector development; and strengthening of climate change adaptation and resilience.
The need for enhanced financial resource mobilization was clearly highlighted.
My Office is developing a UN Roadmap for Accelerated Implementation of the VPoA, building on the outcome of the Midterm Review.
On SIDS now.
The High-level Review of the SAMOA Pathway, held last year, once again stressed the need for the international community to mobilize additional development finance. This is necessary to facilitate much needed access to science, technology and innovation.
As you all know, SIDS are heavily impacted by climate change.
We are working with UN- DESA to develop a voluntary disaster fund or financial instrument for SIDS. We also review the Green Climate Fund support for SIDS.
We also support the work of the steering committee on SIDS partnerships to foster existing and build new partnerships to accelerate the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway.
In all this, we have one shared thread: the time is NOW and the time is for DEEDS!
More than ever we need to work together. 2020 has already driven home in a sad but very poignant way how we are a shared humanity. It has driven home the very basics on which the United Nations was built some 75 years ago.
More than ever we need the spirit of global solidarity and partnerships.
Our credibility is at stake.
We must ensure that the growth trajectory of the most vulnerable countries does not fall back and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda does not fail in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.
Thank you all.