Statement at the Towards UN LDC5 - Recovery from COVID-19 Tackling Vulnerabilities and Leveraging Scarce Resources Event

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

21 & 23 October 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

I join H.E. Ambassador Escudero, Permanent Representative of Spain to the OECD and Chair of the Governing Board of the Development Centre, in warmly welcoming you all to this virtual event. 

More than nine months have passed since the world over COVID took too many lives, disrupted countless lives, decimated and continues to shake livelihoods.  

More than ever, and in solidarity, we must focus on Recovery from COVID-19, we must find ways to tackle vulnerabilities and leverage scarce resources.  

And this is precisely the theme of our meeting.  

This virtual event is also held in the context of preparations for the Fifth UN Conference on LDCs, in short LDC5. 

I wish to thank our main co-organisers, FERDI and the OECD Development Centre. Prof. Guillaumont, the President of Ferdi, and Mario Pezzini, the Director of the Development Centre and Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the OECD. 

You both are good friends of not only OHRLLS but also the LDCs. 

I also thank all other partners for contributing to this endeavor. 

Just as you all, I am grateful to see the LDC IV Monitor, which is a consortium including the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD, Bangladesh), with us. 

You already contributed to the Fourth UN Conference in Istanbul and its mid-term review and I am very happy to see you engaged in the preparations for LDC5.  

Last but certainly not least,  I must acknowledge the collaboration with the Southern Voice network of think tanks, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) and the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER).  

It is encouraging to see such a broad group representing many stakeholders not only from governments, the UN and think tanks but also civil society. Indeed, it is all together that we must engage in discussions about the needs of LDCs and what can be done to enhance their resilience. 

As I said a moment ago, our virtual meeting takes place in the context of the preparations of LDC5.  

The General Assembly has agreed to hold the conference from  23 to 27 January 2022, in Doha, Qatar, at the highest level.   

Three key goals will drive the leaders from all UN Member States: 

  • Undertake a comprehensive appraisal of the IPOA implementation by the LDCs and their development partners;  

  • Mobilize additional international support measures and action in favour of the LDCs and,  

  • Agree on a renewed partnership between the LDCs and their development partners, including the private sector, civil society and governments at all levels. 


It is with even stronger resolve and determination that we relaunch the LDC5 preparatory process. 

From now to January 2022, an intensive preparatory process takes place. This includes regional review meetings for Africa and Haiti and Asia-Pacific LDCs.   

A range of formal and informal meetings will happen and involve many stakeholders, including parliaments, the private sector, youth, foundations and civil society.  

You can find all the details on our website. 

Additionally, and in a novel effort,  we  organize what we call an Academic Conference.  

We do so next year jointly with UNU-WIDER, SDSN, and the Government of Finland, in Helsinki.  

The goal is to provide an analytical underpinning to the discussions leading up to the LDC5. 

So why is this LDC5 conference so important? 

The IPoA set as its key goal to overcome the structural challenges of LDCs as the  means  to eradicate poverty, achieve internationally agreed development goals and enable graduation from the LDC category.  

The most recent report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the IPoA highlights that there has been some progress and most notably with respect to graduation.  

But as always there is a but. 

The objectives of achieving structural transformation and building productive capacity, and of combating poverty through high rates of economic growth and decent jobs powered by export growth, have not been realized. And this we could already see even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.   

It is the very well documented vulnerabilities of these countries causing this limited progress. 

Just let me mention a few. 

There is their narrow range of export products which makes them vulnerable to any fluctuations in commodity prices. Prices have declined since 2013 and thus have diminished the value of exports and foreign currency earnings. 

We have climate vulnerability due to climate change induced or accelerated phenomena such as hurricanes, cyclones, flooding, drought and landslides. They have caused devastating loss and damage to lives, livelihoods and infrastructure. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront inequalities and poverty and so starkly teaches us lessons  about the interlinked nature of the various vulnerabilities LDCs face and the devastation this causes.   

Yes, we have  the direct health impacts of the pandemic but at the same time we have the direct impacts on the very livelihoods of people. Tourism,  trade and remittances have plummeted in these nations. The consequences are many from job losses, to increasing poverty and a decline in government revenues, worsening an already acute debt situation.  

The lockdown and closures have had major negative social impacts, including on gender, decent work, health, education, and food security. The vast majority of workers in LDCs are in the informal economy and do not benefit from social protection. 

For example, in the Sahel region, nationwide school closures due to COVID-19 came at a time when a very large number of schools had already been closed for several months because of severe insecurity, strikes, or climatic hazards. 

For girls that cannot attend school for months because of school closures it became more likely that they will not ever return to school with all the negative long-term consequences this might have. 

COVID-19 has also shown us how urgent it is that we close yet another divide, the digital divide. Countries that are left furthest behind need support from all relevant actors to enable remote schooling, telemedicine  and make use of digital finance. 

Indeed, like a mirror we have to look into, the COVID-19 pandemic all too clearly gives us the reflection of stark inequalities and how they keep growing within countries, between countries, regions and at the global level. 

So, I just shared with you some examples of the vulnerabilities of LDCs that we together must address and they will be discussed in the first panel today. 


Ladies and gentlemen, 

This brings me to a key topic : development finance. 

Prior to the global crisis we now all face, development financing had already fallen short of the financing requirements to achieve the SDGs by 2030. 

Prior to the global crisis,  fiscal space of the LDCs was already limited due to rising public debt levels and servicing costs.  

Not only does this lacking access to finance make it much harder for LDCs to respond to the crisis but it also means that no single source of financing will be enough to close the COVID-19-induced financing gap. 

The collapse of domestic revenues we now see severely limits LDCs’ ability to put together sufficient health and stimulus packages.  

The decline of remittances will leave too many families in destitution and increase poverty. 

The steep decline in FDI to LDCs will hamper urgently needed investment in building productive capacity so that the much needed jobs are created and building back better happens. 

For LDCs, it remains difficult to attract private finance due to their high vulnerabilities, smallness and their risk perception. 

Yet,  they have large needs for example for investments in infrastructure, from transport to sustainable energy. 

My Office through the ‘COVID-19 - The Most Vulnerable 91’ campaign, put a spotlight on the very limited scale of funding that has been made available to the LDCs during the pandemic.    

LDCs have all made national efforts to respond to the pandemic, their spending power is vastly outmatched by what advanced economies are able to mobilize.  

LDCs remain among the poorest nations in the world and their financial resources are limited and their spending power to tackle major crises is very low.  

Our research shows that less than seven dollars per head has been shared with LDCs by the international community to help them combat the pandemic. 

We are now at a juncture. 

More than ever, commitments with respect to ODA and beyond must be met.  Increased climate finance must be provided and  real debt relief must be seriously considered. 

The impacts of the pandemic will be far-reaching and felt for years to come.   

LDCs are the most vulnerable with least access to resources. The LDCs’ structural vulnerabilities are visible to all of us and there is absolute urgency to build resilience and redouble efforts towards achieving the SDGs.   

The credibility of and trust in multi- lateral cooperation are at stake.  


Ladies and gentlemen, 

This brings me to the need for the new Programme of Action for the LDCs, which will be adopted by Member States in Doha. 

This programme must be ambitious and aim towards addressing recovery efforts, building back better, building back inclusively and driving efforts towards the Decade for Action in the LDCs.  

It is my sincere hope that our virtual event will generate ideas and political momentum for an effective and coordinated response from international actors to provide adequate financing and technical assistance to build back better for a more equitable, sustainable and resilient world. 

I look forward to hearing fresh ideas we can put into action to secure  a truly sustainable future for the LDCs. 

Thank you.