Foreign Ministers from Least Developed Countries Meet to Forge New Path Forward on Development Goals in Light of COVID-19
NEW YORK 17 September 2020 – Reiterating their call for a global stimulus package for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Foreign Ministers met virtually at the General Assembly this week to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically hampered efforts for more vulnerable countries to meet their development goals.
On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, LDC Ministers and their development partners met to express their concern at slow, or reversing, progress towards the Istanbul Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals.
In a declaration that was agreed at the meeting, Ministers expressed deepening concern about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on health and the loss of life, mental health, humanitarian needs, human rights and many spheres of society, including livelihoods, food and nutrition, education, poverty, employment, and the environment.
Hosted by the Malawi Foreign Minister, Chair of the LDC Group, the annual meeting was also attended by ministers from traditional donors and partner countries from the emerging South, known as "Friends of LDCs." The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations also attended the meeting in a strong signal of support for the poorest and most vulnerable countries of the world.
Addressing the meeting, the newly-elected President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, explained how Least Developed Countries and their economies have been hit harder by the pandemic:
"The International Labor Organization estimates that the livelihoods of almost 1.6 billion informal workers are at risk. COVID-19 has, in many ways, pulled back the curtain on global inequality. It is imperative that the international community extends its full support to LDCs to tackle this pandemic – both the health impacts and the socio-economic response."
Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, put the pandemic in the context of a wider lack of development progress that preceded the coronavirus:
"Before COVID-19, our collective efforts towards the SDGs were already falling short. The projected global economic slowdown risks making matters worse. LDC economies will be hardest hit. In response, we must expend extra effort and garner extra support for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda."
Hon. Eisenhower Nduwa Mkaka, Foreign Minister of Malawi and Chair of the Bureau of LDCs, reminded the international community that action taken on debt for vulnerable countries will not see them through this crisis:
“We would like to note and thank the World Bank, IMF and G-20 for the debt moratorium. We note however, that the moratorium only runs up to 2020 or 2021 and we further note the unpredictability of the crisis and therefore call for an extension of this moratorium and ultimate consideration of debt cancellation for LDCs.”
Vice President of Development Finance at the World Bank, Akihiko Nishio, highlighted that debt relief is a crucial part of the response to COVID-19 and reiterated the call by the Bank to extend and broaden the current debt service suspension initiative by the G20.
The meeting heard from high-ranking ministers from Least Developed Countries and development partners, so-called “Friends of LDCs”.
H.E. Dr. Francis M. Kai-Kai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development for Sierra Leone, expressed a concern held by many LDCs that the world will never return to normal after COVID-19 unless all countries, especially the most vulnerable, are assisted in gaining access to the -19 vaccine when it finally arrives:
"Critical to any return to normalcy is the availability and accessibility of vaccines to all who need it, but especially for low-income countries at the tail end of the global supply chain."
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, H.E. Gedu Andargachew, said the 2030 Development Agenda itself is at risk if the Least Developed Countries are not given the support they need:
"We continue to face multiple challenges, including poverty, unemployment, and climate change. We are, therefore, the battleground for the success of the 2030 Agenda."
The Fifth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, at which the next decade’s Programme of Action will be agreed, will be held in Qatar in early 2022. Speaking at the meeting, State minister for Foreign Affairs for Qatar, H.E. Soltan Bin Saad Al-Muraikhi, welcomed the opportunity to host the LDCs in Doha. In setting the scene for the LDC5 conference as an opportunity to take great strides in international collaboration with the LDCs, he looked forward to agreeing ambitious new targets for the Decade of Action there:
"The Fifth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, to be hosted by Qatar, will provide a unique opportunity to chart a course that responds to the needs and priorities of the Least Developed Countries."
Closing the meeting, the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, thanked the Qatari government for its generous support in hosting the LDC5 conference and for its commitment to LDC development. She also focused attention on the people of Least Developed Countries who are suffering the most through this series of crises – and the ones who stand to lose most if the International Community fails to deliver on its commitments:
"We must ensure our actions are driven by the ultimate goal: including the peoples of the world on a more sustainable path for development."
"We may be in the same storm. But we are in different boats."
We asked ambassadors from the Least Developed Countries to share their ambitions for this year's General Assembly.