Statement at the Virtual Meeting of the Ambassadors of LDCs

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

12 June 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

We remain in the midst of an unprecedented situation since the start of this year. No country or individual is spared from the truly global impacts of COVID-19.

Millions are directly and indirectly affected by the pandemic, their lives and livelihoods disrupted and too often destroyed. The citizens of countries with already fragile economies and limited fiscal spaces are being the hardest hit.

So, it should not surprise us that the LDCs, with their inherent structural constraints, are disproportionately impacted.

This concerns OHRLLS greatly.

So, we try to adapt to these new circumstances.

Alerting, advocacy and facilitating partnering are top priorities. We have intensified our advocacy work and try to provide regular updates on the situation of our constituent countries on our website.

The briefing of the DSG to the Group last month was successful in bringing the challenges of LDCs to the attention of the senior management of the UN. The letter of the DSG to LDCs is testimony to the full commitment of the UN to address the special needs of LDCs.

A joint briefing with FAO and WPF on the Impacts of Covid19 on Food Security for the LDCs, LLDCs & SIDs was also organized on the 7th May.

A joint meeting with the Secretary General of ISA with the Chairs of LDCs, LLDCs & SIDs was held on the 3rd June.  As a follow-up, we will be organizing a joint briefing by the SG of ISA for the three groups of countries on the 25th June.

A briefing organized with Kazakhstan on “Sovereign Debt” with the three groups of countries will be held on the 18th June.

I will not hide from you that virtual work bears it’s own challenges but substantive work of OHRLLS has remained  fully operational.

The report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the IPoA, which covers the past ten years, has been issued.

I have introduced the report in ECOSOC.

The report notes some progress made in the areas of poverty, health, gender equality, women and girls, access to safe water and sanitation, as well as renewable energy.

But the report also alerts to stagnation in key areas like hunger, education, research and development, and ecosystems and protected areas.

Regrettably, global partnerships for development also demonstrated stagnation or often deceleration.

Presently, OHRLLS is working on a study with the admittedly long title of  “UN System Best Practices on Supporting the Least Developed Countries (LDCs): Overview and Analysis of Contributions from the Inter-agency Consultative Group on LDCs (IACG).”  

The report will highlight how UN system entities organized themselves internally to support the LDCs, in the context of the IPoA.

A further report on “Lessons Learned from Implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011 – 2020” is also under preparation.

The report draws primarily from the national reports submitted by 27 LDCs. 

I seize this opportunity to urge you all to mobilize other LDCs who have not done so to submit their individual national reports!

Your reports will allow us to highlight your unique challenges and constraints and make them heard by the international community. 

We have also prepared a 2020 Policy brief on Advancing SDG7 in LDCs.

Our analysis finds that lack of access to sustainable energy remains a major bottleneck for LDCs’ growth.

Only 52 per cent of people had access to electricity in 2018.

So it is clear that without urgent and enhanced action, LDCs will not be able to reach the SDG7 targets by 2030.

Last month, the meeting of the friends of LDC took place. It was good to see all the participation and the strong expressions of support for the LDCs, especially in light of the devastating impacts of COVID-19.    

Just yesterday, we organized a virtual meeting of the national focal points of the African LDCs.

The meeting brought together national focal points, resident coordinators, representatives of the regional entities and missions in New York.

The meeting again brought to the forefront that LDCs are faced with extraordinary challenges in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is important to alert to is that we now already have a series of setbacks the pandemic already triggered in the implementation of the IPoA and SDGs.

The meeting shared effective initiatives, policies and measures and made recommendations for recovery from the crisis.

We all here can participate in virtual work thanks to technology we have access to and sufficient bandwidths.

As a member of the Secretary-General’s broadband commission, I am advocating for vertical and horizontal expansion of internet and digital connectivity in LDCs. The pandemic has shown how this is truly vital.

I  participated as a panelist at meeting yesterday on the presentation of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. The Secretary General’s roadmap identifies that in 2019 only 19 per cent of the population in LDCs could use internet. I called for continued focus on LDCs during the implementation phase of the roadmap.  

It is my hope that the reports we have worked on, as well as those we are currently working on and the meetings we organized constitute an important background and value- added for LDC5 and its preparatory process.

Allow me to now say a few words on the organizational aspects of LDC5. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we obviously had to postpone all preparatory meetings scheduled for the first half of the year.

This includes the regional review meetings for Africa & Haiti in Malawi and the Asia/Pacific & Yemen meeting in Bangladesh, as well as the joint ECOSOC-PGA meeting and the consultative Ambassadorial retreat with Friends of LDCs.

COVID-19 continues to unfold. So, uncertainty does remain and it is very important to reschedule the dates of the Conference and its preparatory meetings sooner rather than later. 

Once the situation comes to the “new” normal,  there will be a lot of competing Meetings and Conferences. It is therefore important to lock the alternative date for the Conference as well as the PrepCom meetings.

OHRLLS is the substantive secretariat of the LDC5. We work with the Chair of LDCs, host country and the DGACM. We have found some alternative dates. The draft resolution with the alternative dates is being distributed.


Let there be no doubt, LDC5 will take place in a changed global development landscape.  

It will be very important to critically examine the impacts of COVID-19, draw on lessons and best practices.

This cannot be business as usual and we must work out a new global deal aiming at building back inclusively and better. The focus ought to be on sustainable a society capable of not only fostering economic growth in LDCs, but also pursuing a trajectory of cleaner and greener growth.

It is now that we need the analytical work, the evidence based studies and substantive inputs from the ground to turn the words into action.

I believe the new suggested timeframe will give us sufficient time and opportunity to redesign our work plan to prepare for and contribute to LDC-V and its preparatory process.

As a part of this process, we intend to focus our next flagship report “state of LDCs 2020” on COVID-19 and how to build back better. We will also organize various thematic meetings and workshops to get substantive inputs for the Conference. 

In closing, allow me to draw your attention to the formation of the PrepCom Bureau. 

To date, we have received confirmation from Asia, Europe, Latin America and partially from the Eastern Europe.  The designated members are Bangladesh, Nepal, Canada, Turkey, Haiti, Paraguay and Czech Republic. 

We are yet to receive official confirmation from the African group. 

We do follow up on this with the regional group chairs, but allow me to request your intervention to expedite the process of electing the Bureau as soon as possible. 

I thank you all and I look forward to listening to your views and suggestions.