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Countries in Special Situations Hardest Hit by Climate Crisis, Pandemic, Delegates Say, as Second Committee Continues Session

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GA/EF/3551

SECOND COMMITTEE
SEVENTY-SIXTH SESSION, VIRTUAL MEETINGS (AM & PM)

With their progress hindered by the climate crisis and the COVID‑19 pandemic, least developed countries aim to use an upcoming United Nations conference as a springboard to recover from their economic woes, echoed delegates as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) took up groups of countries and special situations today.

Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Morocco’s delegate stressed that the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, to be held in Doha in January 2022, will provide a unique opportunity to design an ambitious plan for recovery from the pandemic and called for constructive engagement at the highest level.

Least developed countries continue to face development challenges due to their remoteness from the sea and isolation from world markets, she said. The first step in promoting recovery is to ensure equitable access to the COVID‑19 vaccine, and to promote sustainability, debt forgiveness, public as well as private partnerships, timely implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and investments in sustainable energy and technology transfer.

Addressing the plight of landlocked countries and speaking on their behalf, Kazakhstan’s representative said that 2021 is crucial for his group of nations as they start preparations for the third United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries to be held in 2024. He called on all development partners to step up mechanisms in support of these efforts to strengthen transit, trade facilitation, and build trade and supply‑side capacity.

Further, despite having extremely low shares of greenhouse gas emissions, they are amongst the countries worst affected by climate change. He called for greater assistance in their efforts to address the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss and natural hazards.

Similarly, the representative of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said Haiti most recently was the latest victim of the debilitating effects of the climate crisis. That crisis and its impact on food systems and energy sources and livelihoods, among others, reflect how poverty, climate, health and education intersect. He said the pandemic continues to disrupt lives and livelihoods, particularly in the least developed countries, and called for vaccine equity, stressing that “no one is safe until everyone is safe”.

During the afternoon session, reports were presented by the Under‑Secretary‑General, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; Managing Director for the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries; and the Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact.

In a morning session, the Committee concluded its discussion of eradication of poverty, and agriculture development, food security and nutrition.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Burkina Faso, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Maldives, Algeria, Eritrea, Russian Federation, Belarus, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Guatemala, Cameroon, Timor‑Leste, Guinea (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Qatar, Ethiopia, China, Ecuador, Bhutan, Tajikistan, Nepal, South Africa, India and Bangladesh, as well as an observer for the Holy See.

In addition, representatives of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (on behalf of the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the United Nations World Food Programme) delivered statements.

The Committee will meet again on Friday, 8 October, at 10 a.m. to conclude its general debate.

Poverty Eradication, Agricultural Development and Food Security

The representative of Saudi Arabia, associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the pandemic has proven the need for international humanitarian cooperation to overcome challenges and ensure recovery and sustainable and comprehensive growth. To achieve food security, her country has provided help to the poor through various channels, initiating more than 107,000 projects in areas such as water, sanitation and health, as well as cooperating with United Nations agencies to provide necessary support. Faced with challenges in building sustainable food systems, including desert high temperatures, water scarcity and drought, her country is taking steps to build sustainable agriculture. It has also improved consumption patterns to reduce waste by 50 per cent by 2030, promoted innovation to increase efficiencies in operations and production and empowered women and youth to work in the agriculture sector.

The representative of Cuba made a statement that could not be interpreted “due to poor audio quality”, as explained by the interpreter.

The representative of Burkina Faso, noting that poverty reduction in his country is lacking in rural areas, said it has developed a new framework for poverty eradication, which will focus on peace and security, economic resilience and restructuring for sustainable growth. Elements included in this plan include an increase in added value, emergence of a modern economy and improved urbanization. He noted that the country now has 7 million fewer jobs due to the pandemic, suggesting that a renewed social contract should be at the heart of recovery efforts.

The representative of India, associating herself with the Group of 77, said it is critical to step up efforts to get back on track towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Focused policy action is imperative. In that regard, her country has taken several measures to address job losses, providing aid to unorganized sectors, small and medium‑sized enterprises and rural sectors. Her Government has also provided social security coverage to millions and opened bank accounts for the poor. Further, it has taken a focused approach to raise the standard of living of farmers. Noting that agriculture is the largest source of livelihoods in India, she said the Government has accelerated efforts to end hunger and malnutrition, providing rations to 800 million people and cash transfers to 400 million people.

The representative of the Philippines noted that the world is at a critical juncture for ending hunger, improving nutrition and building more resilient food security systems in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Food system transformation should be anchored in industrialization and strengthening of local and regional systems with this objective in mind. Adding that family farming predominates in most developing countries, it should play an important role in food systems, but this sector often faces the highest poverty and food insecurity levels.

The representative of Sri Lanka, associating himself with the Group of 77, expressed concern that global hunger levels rose in 2020, with an additional 97 million people falling into extreme poverty in the shadow of the pandemic. Noting that agriculture is among the most important components in the fight against world hunger and malnutrition, he called for enhanced efforts to adopt effective agricultural policies, such as the promotion of sustainable agriculture, rural development and agricultural investment. His Government is committed to promoting agriculture in the country, as well as ensuring the welfare of farmers, increasing land productivity, modernizing agriculture, promoting youth entrepreneurship, producing seed and planting material and facilitating agricultural research and development. For example, it has launched a home gardening programme, encouraging Sri Lankans to create small and large‑scale agricultural companies and develop home gardens in small groupings. Further, its smallholder agribusiness partnership programme has been implemented to help smallholder farmers develop commercial relationships, acquire access to funding, improve technical and financial literacy, mechanize agriculture and promote sustainable agricultural practices.

The representative of Costa Rica stressed that access to land and other food‑centred resources is essential in ensuring achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in a world where there is a great need to eradicate poverty. Post‑pandemic economic recovery entails broadening service coverage and more efficient public investment in food systems. Adding that climate change has degraded land and become an undeniable threat to food security, she said healthy ecosystems are vital in ensuring food security. Welcoming the recent food summit, she said Costa Rica has also participated in four national dialogues focusing on family farming and nature‑based solutions for food security.

The representative of Brazil cautioned that the world is seeing a revival of protectionist rhetoric and measures affecting agricultural trade, often disguised as concerns regarding the sustainability of food production. By contrast, it is Brazil’s position that to end hunger there must be a more open agricultural trade system, based on just and fair rules. For its part, Brazil kept its supply and demand chains open and in 2020 was the third biggest food provider in the world, reaching more than 1 billion people with Brazilian agricultural products. There is a need to combine traditional and innovative strategies regarding the social, economic and environmental dimensions of food systems, he went on to say. As such, Brazil established a new 10‑year pathway for promoting its low carbon agriculture, which encompasses an integrated approach for mitigation and adaptation against climate change and for promoting sustainability.

The representative of Brunei Darussalam, aligning himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Group of 77, said the Sustainable Development Goals are in line with its national vision, Wawasan Brunei 2035, which lays out how important high sustainable economic growth and a diversified economy are to achieving a high quality of living, and a dynamic and sustainable economy. In January 2021, Brunei Darussalam published an economic blueprint which identifies five priority sectors, including the food sector. To ensure the country’s food security, Brunei Darussalam is accelerating the production and growth of the agriculture and fisheries sector. Brunei Darussalam focuses on nutrition and food safety for the welfare of its people from early childhood. In March 2021, the country introduced the “Code of Responsible Marketing of Food and Beverages to Children in Brunei Darussalam”. The Code bans junk food advertisements aimed at children. It has also continued to impose a “sugar tax” since 2017. The tax aims to improve the overall food environment. As part of its comprehensive efforts for a healthier nation, his country recently introduced a new regulatory body for food safety, the Brunei Darussalam Food Authority, which aims to ensure food products in the country are safe, clean and of good quality.

The representative of Mozambique, aligning himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries, expressed concern that the number of people in the world affected by hunger continued to increase in 2020 in the shadow of the COVID‑19 pandemic. Food insecurity and malnutrition will not be eradicated by the end of 2030 without bold action at the global, regional and national levels, he said, noting that his Government has prioritized agriculture, which employs more than 72 per cent of the economically active population. The recently launched Integrated Management Program for Family Agriculture and Natural Resources aims to improve the quality of life of rural households, he added, also stressing the negative impact of chronic malnutrition, especially in children from zero to five years old.

The representative of Zimbabwe, recalling that extreme poverty rose globally in 2020 for the first time in more than 20 years, said that trend is expected to continue due to the disruption caused by the pandemic. “In order to reverse this serious setback to development and poverty reduction, we all need to prepare for a different economy post‑COVID‑19, by allowing capital, labour, skills and innovation to move into new businesses and sectors,” he said. Spotlighting particular challenges facing African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States, he added that the convergence of COVID‑19 with the pressures of conflict and climate change will put the goal of ending poverty by 2030 beyond reach without swift, substantial policy action. Eliminating hunger remains a top priority in Zimbabwe, he said in that regard, outlining the country’s Vision 2030 plan and its successful creation of more decent jobs, reduction of inequality and better access to quality social services.

The representative of Senegal, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the pandemic has plunged more than 120 million people into poverty and 811 million into hunger. In that regard, Member States must go beyond mere declarations and good intentions and see the eradication of poverty not only as a political priority, but as a “sacred duty”. For its part, his Government has set up community agricultural farms to promote and attract economic competition. The project aims to develop large farms to help anchor young people to their land, provide a framework for their economic activity and help create jobs in the agriculture value chain. For a sustainable recovery from the pandemic, he said developing countries also need innovative global governance that facilitates access to resources to finance development, while respecting the rules of debt sustainability and fiscal viability of States, and putting an end to tax evasion, money laundering and illicit financial flows. In that regard, he called on the United Nations to adopt a much stronger position to help developing countries mobilize the financial resources that will enable them to implement their priority projects, particularly in the areas of education, universal social protection, health care and decent work.

The representative of Maldives, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, underlined the need for sustainable and resilient food systems in light of both climate change and the pandemic. Noting that small island developing States and coastal States are especially vulnerable to food system shocks due to their dependence on imports, she said the pandemic has been especially hard on vulnerable groups, including women and youth, who now face increased levels of food insecurity. The Maldives has implemented policies to respond to COVID‑19, establish sustainable fishing and agricultural practices and support a healthy lifestyle. However, it requires the continued support of international partners to achieve zero hunger and create sustainable and resilient food systems, she said.

The representative of Algeria made a statement that could not be interpreted “due to poor audio quality”, as explained by the interpreter.

The representative of Eritrea, aligning herself with the Group of 77, drew attention to the incoherence and inequality of a world with the greatest wealth surrounded by the greatest poverty in poor and rich countries. Since her country is in the Sahel region, lack of water is the main limiting factor for food production, she said, adding that the Government is implementing soil and water conservation programmes. In addition to numerous dams and irrigation projects, it is also addressing the issue of nutrition through the Minimum Integrated Household Agricultural Package, she noted. Further, the Government is assisting smallholder farmers as well as small and medium‑scale commercial farmers through the introduction of high‑yielding varieties, she noted.

The representative of the Russian Federation said technical progress based on traditional knowledge can help unlock the potential of natural plant fibres for sustainable development, including such a promising crop as flax. On this basis, in 2020 the Government launched a five‑year comprehensive programme to support linen production. He noted that it was symbolic that the Committee’s discussion on 6 October coincided with the Day of Agricultural Workers in his country. On the same day, the main agricultural forum of the country officially opened — the annual “Golden Autumn” exhibition — where a wide range of issues relevant to the industry was discussed, including the development of specialized science, organic production and the women’s agenda in the agro‑industrial complex. Sustainable development of agriculture is one of the Government’s priorities both domestically and internationally. In 2020, despite the pandemic, his country’s agricultural exports to 150 countries soared by 20 per cent to a record $30.7 billion. Moreover, his country has become a net exporter of food. As well, it continues to increase assistance for international development in the agri‑food sector. For example, in 2020 his country’s contribution to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) exceeded $72 million.

The representative of Belarus noted that the slowdown in economic development due to the pandemic has affected global food production systems, leading to an increase in poverty and hunger. COVID‑19 has heightened the vulnerability of national food systems and created inequalities with respect to healthy diets. In addition, it has increased food prices, especially in nations experiencing conflicts. The application of financial and economic sanctions for materials used in agriculture has also negatively affected the world’s supply of food. Adding that Belarus is increasing agricultural production to expand its food system, she said the country is also contributing to global efforts in overcoming hunger. The sustainability of the global food services systems is vital in achieving progress in all elements of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of Nicaragua, aligning herself with the Group of 77, reaffirmed her country’s strong commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 1, the eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions. This is the greatest challenge facing humanity and an obligation that cannot be postponed. Since 2007, the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity of Nicaragua has implemented a series of emblematic policies, programmes and projects that have reduced the overall poverty rate from 42.5 per cent to 24.9 per cent, and the extreme poverty rate from 14.6 per cent to 6.9 per cent, between 2009 and 2017. To meet the challenges faced by the agricultural sector, programmes such as the Bono Productivo Alimentario and the Microcrédito Justo Usura Cero are increasing national productivity, reducing poverty and increasing social equity in the countryside. Nicaragua is the only country in the region that produces about 80 per cent of the food it consumes, bringing it closer to its goal of achieving national food security and sovereignty. The imposition of unilateral coercive measures against developing countries prevents them from eradicating poverty, achieving zero hunger and fully achieving the global goals. The immediate cessation of any of these measures is imperative. It is among the greatest obstacles to the development of peoples and, during a pandemic, becomes a crime against humanity.

The representative of Nigeria, aligning herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said the first of many steps Nigeria has taken to achieve the global goals was to identify and target the poor and vulnerable by developing a national social investment programme. This programme includes a conditional cash transfer programme, through which monthly cash transfers are provided to poor people; a home‑grown school feeding programme; a Government enterprise and empowerment programme, which gives traders, market women and women cooperatives access to financial services; and the N‑Power Programme, which helps youth acquire and develop lifelong skills. Nigeria is also committed to implementing the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (2018‑2027). This programme stresses the need for the continent to support its inclusive and sustainable industrialization so as to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. This is also evident in the country’s economic recovery and growth plan.

The observer for the Holy See noted that an additional 119 to 124 million individuals have been pushed into poverty due to COVID‑19, stressing that poverty appears in “new forms”, as millions of people still lack access to essential basic health care, medicines and vaccines. Emphasizing access to information and communications technology (ICT) as a major driver of social inequality, he said that it is essential to adopt a multidimensional approach to poverty eradication and foster a development model with people at its centre. Turning to the food crisis caused by COVID‑19, he stressed the need to strengthen the resilience of food systems, promote investment in sustainable agriculture — including supporting local and family food production — and address the issue of food insecurity in the long term.

The representative of Guatemala expressed concern over current food shortages brought on by the pandemic, which will make ensuring the world is free from hunger by 2030 challenging. Her country is facing difficulties in ensuring food security in rural communities, which are also experiencing disruptive climate events. Thus, it is carrying out programmes to boost food security throughout the country, such as setting up school and family gardens. Adding that Guatemala participated in the Secretary‑General’s Food Systems Summit, she said it now has a general Government policy on food systems for 2020 to 2024, with short, medium and long‑term goals. It is also promoting education about health food resilience and cleaner production as well as fostering public and private partnerships.

The representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) said that apart from disparities in vaccination rates, the pandemic crisis has laid bare numerous fundamental inequalities, including the digital divide, different speeds of economic recovery and different levels of resilience of economies. The pandemic also reminds the international community of other imminent crises, particularly climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. If not controlled, climate change is expected to push about 130 million people into poverty over the next decade. Inclusive and sustainable industrial development, as envisioned in Sustainable Development Global 9, is a driving engine to recover from the socioeconomic crisis, advance the digital transformation and protect the world from environmental degradation and climate change. Evidence shows that inclusive and sustainable industrial development is fundamental to confronting these challenges. Building infrastructure, advancing structural transformation, achieving food security and agro‑industry development are critical to address rural poverty. UNIDO’s flagship Industrial Development Report 2022, which will be officially launched in November, shows that countries with stronger manufacturing capabilities and more diversified industrial sectors have weathered the pandemic’s impact better than their peers. As the specialized agency of the United Nations to advance inclusive and sustainable industrial development, UNIDO is ready to work with Member States, the private sector and development partners to advance economic recovery, poverty eradication and a more sustainable and inclusive future for humankind.

A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), speaking also on behalf of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and WFP and affirming their commitment to a zero‑hunger world, said the main drivers of food insecurity and hunger are conflict, climate change, economic downturns and economic inequality. The pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity, resulting in rising poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Noting that as many as 161 million more people became hungry in 2020 compared to 2019, he stressed that it’s time to turn momentum into action and deliver better outcomes for people and planet. FAO, IFAD and WFP are working together with the United Nations system and will take a leadership role to ensure that the follow‑up to the Food Summit categorizes action in five areas, as outlined by the Secretary‑General: nourish all people, boost nature‑based solutions, advance equitable livelihoods and decent work, empower communities and build resilience to vulnerable shocks and stresses and support means of implementation.

The representative of Cameroon said food production in his country increased from 2015 to 2018 due to programmes promoting well‑being and sustainably strong societies. It has increased access to basic services, focusing on food security and improved resilience. Cameroon has also been concentrating on food and animal production and increased incomes for farmers, updating rural production systems. It is promoting green, sustainable farming of the country’s agroforest community, where more than 6 million trees have been planted. The Government is currently only spending about 5 per cent of its resources on food, as several environmental and terrorist‑related security challenges are eating into its available resources.

The representative of Timor‑Leste, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the food security system. In Timor‑Leste, 40 per cent of food demand is met through imports. Consequently, more than one third of the population faces chronic food insecurity. Further, obesity is rising in all age groups with a marked increase in adult women and men. Despite those daunting challenges, her Government continues to develop the agriculture and fishing sectors to improve food security and end malnutrition. It has also launched a campaign to ensure universal access to food in the face of climate change, and continues to work with development partners, the United Nations and civil society to advance its commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Groups of Countries in Special Situations, Towards Global Partnerships

COURTENAY RATTRAY, Under‑Secretary‑General, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, presented the Secretary‑General’s reports on “Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020” (document A/76/71-E/2021/13) and “Implementation, effectiveness and added value of smooth transition measures and graduation support” (document A/76/271).

The report shows that action is urgently needed in implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020. It notes that four countries have graduated from their least developed status since 2020, while 16 reached evaluation thresholds once. Least developed nations made important advances in access to ICT, sustainable energy, health, primary education and gender, although progress has been uneven among and within nations, with critical gaps remaining. Now this hard won but patchy progress has been all but negated by the pandemic, with decreases in exports, gross domestic products (GDP) and revenues.

More than even before, least developed countries need an ambitious outcome at the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Doha, Qatar, as important strides forward must be made in the upcoming decade for action in ensuring that graduations are successful, he said. It is vital to keep a careful watch on the graduation process and how least developed nations can be supported in reaching development goals. To ensure they are eased onto a path that is sustainable requires identifying and adjusting institutional and legal frameworks to comply with international obligations, access to climate finance, enhanced trade and wider markets.

JOSHUA SETIPA, Managing Director for the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries, introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on “Review of the first three years of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries” (document A/76/272). The report notes that least developed countries have been impacted the most by the pandemic on their progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It presents concrete evidence that investing in the development of science, technology and innovation in these nations is key to achieving development targets. The report further highlights the success of the Technology Bank in responding rapidly to COVID‑19 challenges at the pandemic’s outset and demonstrates its programme impact in alignment with national priorities.

The Technology Bank’s programmes are demand led, strongly promoting national ownership — a customized approach welcomed by least developed countries, which shows context‑relevant results. Building science, technology and innovation capacities as well as improving access to technology are fundamental to the development of least developed countries. The report strongly urges Member States to commit to funding the Technology Bank at this critical time in the form of predictable funding and unrestricted donations. The pandemic further highlighted the science, technology and innovation funding gap for least developed counties.

Mr. RATTRAY introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on the “Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014‑2024” (document A/76/267). Noting the pandemic’s devastating impact on landlocked developing countries, he said those countries’ growth in real GDP decreased from 4.3 per cent in 2019 to negative 2.4 per cent in 2020, with health care, education and food systems hardest hit by the pandemic. Even though many countries resumed infrastructure projects in the third quarter of 2020, he said progress was slow. As well, while there was improved access to energy, huge disparities remain between rural and urban inhabitants. There also was a steady increase in Internet access between 2018 and 2019, but high broadband costs and other challenges remain. The report indicates that landlocked developing countries were hardest hit, with a contraction in global demand and supply accounting for a 40 per cent decline in exports. He called for increased support to landlocked developing countries, including access to vaccines, enhanced investments in infrastructure, technical assistance and access to climate finance.

SANDA OJIAMBO, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, introduced the Report of the Secretary‑General on “Enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and all relevant partners, in particular the private sector” (document A/76/319). She said the report was prepared during the pandemic and offers a practical, resource‑effective way for the United Nations to work in partnership to build forward more strongly. It was prepared after an extensive survey of the United Nations system and Member States and in‑depth interviews with various United Nations partnership experts and external stakeholders. The Global Compact is working to spark greater collective action and business resources to change the way companies operate and how they impact the environment, including through their subsidiaries and supply chains. It is also looking at how companies contribute to the Paris Agreement’s objectives. It does this by connecting United Nations country teams with the private sector, including small and medium‑sized enterprises, at the national and local levels. The Global Compact is working increasingly closely with these country teams to prepare companies to be “partner ready” for deeper engagement with the United Nations system.

The representative of Guinea, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, stressed that his country is looking forward to a high level of engagement at the upcoming least developed country meeting in Doha, Qatar. Heightened participation and attendance would be a dynamic beginning to the next decade of action for least developed nations. His bloc has fulfilled its commitment to implement the Vienna Declaration 2014‑2024 in all priority areas, he said.

Due to the pandemic, least developed countries are not only suffering due to a shortage of vaccines but from debt distress and economic retraction, he noted. Sufficient maintenance for transport infrastructure and increased access to technologies is vital in enabling them to enter global markets. Highlighting the importance of long‑term public and private global partnerships, he said these would be crucial in supporting development agendas.

The representative of Kazakhstan, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said the year 2021 is crucial for his group of nations as they start preparations for the third United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries, to be held in 2024. The pandemic exposed these countries’ geographical vulnerabilities as the transportation of even essential goods slowed due to border restrictions. In that regard, he called on all development partners to step up mechanisms in support of these countries’ efforts to strengthen transit, trade facilitation, and build trade and supply‑side capacity. He said these countries need support for building productive capacities, increasing participation in global and regional value chains, and embracing digitalization and automation. Despite having extremely low shares of greenhouse gas emissions, they are among the countries worst affected by climate change. In that regard, he called for greater assistance to their efforts to address the impacts of climate change, desertification, land degradation, biodiversity loss and natural disasters. He also called for collective action and international support for these countries’ efforts to achieve sustainable development.

The representative of Morocco, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that least developed countries are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and its detrimental effects on various sectors. Adding that recovery from the pandemic is expected to last longer than in more advanced countries, she said additional debt flexibility and international support will be needed in achieving sustainable development. Stressing that the upcoming conference in Doha will provide a unique opportunity to design an ambitious plan for recovery from the pandemic, she called for constructive engagement at the highest level.

Least developed countries continue to face development challenges due to their remoteness from the sea and isolation from world markets, she said. Her bloc believes the first step in promoting recovery is to ensure equitable access to the vaccine, and to promote sustainability, debt forgiveness, public as well as private partnerships, timely implementation of the Paris Agreement and investments in sustainable energy and technology transfer.

The representative of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that despite the current situation, his bloc is committed to taking stock of the Istanbul Programme of Action and aligning it with the 2030 Agenda and other related documents, in pursuit of transformative and sustainable progress. Finance and trade remain key priorities in the countries’ development. Although their exports fell, the countries look forward to strengthening this aspect in the next programme. He said climate action remains important as well, noting that Haiti, among the least developed countries, most recently was the latest victim of the debilitating effects of the climate crisis. That crisis and its impact on food systems and energy sources and livelihoods, among others, reflect how poverty, climate, health and education intersect. He said the pandemic continues to disrupt lives and livelihoods, particularly in the least developed countries, and called for vaccine equity, stressing that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, speaking on behalf of ASEAN and aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said ASEAN has been implementing the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, which aims to address the social and economic ramifications of the pandemic. To address public health emergencies, ASEAN has established the COVID‑19 ASEAN Response Fund, which has received significant contributions from ASEAN’s external partners, as well as the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies.

ASEAN continually stresses the importance of narrowing the regional development gap and the potential benefits of deeper regional economic integration by building a highly integrated, cohesive, innovative and resilient ASEAN economic community, she said. This community could ease the seamless movement of goods, services, investment, capital and skilled labour. ASEAN is also committed to implementing the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity and Work Plan III of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration. This would promote regional connectivity and narrow the development gap between ASEAN Member States. ASEAN also welcomes the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, which would boost the region’s overall economic recovery, expand regional trade and investment and create jobs.

The representative of Qatar said his Government has always worked as a partner with the international community to respond to the challenges faced by the small island developing States, least developed countries and landlocked developing countries. It also has helped the international community meet the challenges of the pandemic and provided support of more than $114 million. It is working to counter climate change in these countries by providing financing. Qatar is proud to host the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Doha from 23 January to 27 January in 2022, and anticipates the progress that can be achieved. The Secretary‑General’s report provides hope that the conference will design a multidimensional platform to meet upcoming global challenges. The conference will be held at an important juncture to build adaptive plans for the least developed countries after the pandemic.

The representative of Ethiopia aligned himself with the Group of 77, the Group of Least Developed Countries, the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries and the African Group. He noted that poverty, unsustainable debt, fragile production systems and dependence on volatile commodity markets continue to characterize the economic landscapes of least developed and landlocked developing nations. The pandemic has halted progress in most priority areas of the Istanbul and Vienna Programmes of Action. Measures taken to contain the pandemic through confinement and border closures have only worsened and deepened the already existing vulnerabilities. As Ethiopia has seen rapid economic growth in the last decade, it has formulated a Ten‑Year Development Plan to be implemented through 2030. This Plan is aligned with the upcoming conference in Doha for least developed countries, particularly focusing on structural economic transformation, inclusive and sustainable development, and export growth.

The representative of China urged all parties to adhere to the principles of multilateralism and free trade, to jointly build an open world economy, improve trade facilitation, increase investment in developing countries and help them strengthen their economic engines. The international community should strengthen cooperation in global public health and provide comprehensive support to developing countries for COVID‑19 testing, medications, vaccines, and building public health systems. She reiterated that her Government prioritizes poverty‑reduction, food security, pandemic response and vaccine‑development, financing for development, climate change and green development, industrialization, the digital economy and interconnectivity. Noting that China will enhance cooperation with the least developed countries and landlocked developing countries, she called on the developed countries to fulfil their official development assistance (ODA) commitments.

The representative of Ecuador, associating himself with the Group of 77, said the private sector has the potential to contribute to efforts to achieve inclusion, prosperity, and therefore, peace. For example, he said, the private sector has played an important role in the fight against the pandemic in Ecuador. As mentioned by the President of Ecuador in his speech during the General Assembly’s general debate, more than 9 million people in the country were vaccinated in a short period of time due to a planning and logistical effort that included meticulous coordination among the Government, the private sector, universities and other international organizations, with private enterprises especially providing advice and logistical resources.

The representative of Bhutan said partnerships and solidarity are key in moving forward to overcome the pandemic and implementing the 2030 Agenda. Pointing to the special need in least developed countries for capacity‑building, he highlighted the need for this across all spheres. Partners must deliver on commitments to combat climate change, he added, which remains the single biggest threat to sustainable development. As graduation is one of the pivotal milestones least developed countries face, they should be supported with financial and technological assistance.

The representative of Tajikistan, aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, noted that the latter are most exposed to the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic, with more than 80 per cent of them dependent on commodities, which account for over 60 per cent of their total exports. The decline in the global demand for commodities has left many of these countries in distress, she said. Moreover, their isolation from world markets complicates access to the multilateral trade system and has negatively impacted other aspects of sustainable development. Against this backdrop, she highlighted the importance of the 10‑year review in 2024 of implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and invited States to consider convening a third conference on landlocked developing countries during the Assembly’s 2024 main session. On energy access, an important priority for achieving sustainable development, she noted that experts endorsed the electricity transport corridor between energy‑surplus countries in Central Asia and energy‑deficit countries in South Asia. Turning to water, she said there is a need to use the Water Action Decade (2018‑2028), initiated by her country, to facilitate water‑related targets and goals of the landlocked developing countries, which are most vulnerable to negative climate change impacts.

The representative of Nepal said the pandemic has exacerbated pre‑existing challenges faced by least developed countries and landlocked developing countries and has threatened hard‑won gains. Millions of people in those groups have been pushed into extreme poverty. As well, these countries remain most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Noting those challenges, he called for universal and equitable access to vaccines to help ensure recovery from the pandemic, use of innovative finance, debt suspension or cancellation and technology transfer, and global cooperation towards achievement of the 2030 Agenda. As a landlocked developing country, Nepal is facing various challenges, but remains determined to make its graduation smooth and irreversible.

The representative of South Africa, aligning himself with the Group of 77, said least developed and landlocked developing countries are suffering the brunt of climate change, although they are least responsible for producing it. Africa still has the most least developed countries, with the majority in sub‑Saharan Africa. Stressing that Africa must turn a corner on the pandemic before recovery can commence, he said efforts are needed to address vaccine inequity and unequal treatments. With less than a decade before 2030, the international community must also address problems least developed and landlocked developing countries are facing, providing additional resources to implement the Sustainable Development Goals through investments in infrastructure, science and technology and equitable access to climate change mitigation.

The representative of India, aligning herself with the Group of 77, said the upcoming conference in Doha offers a timely opportunity for a comprehensive review of the Istanbul Programme of Action to overcome structural challenges and move these countries forward. Over the last 10 years, there have been many advancements, including in the areas of energy, health and gender. Yet, the implementation of the Istanbul Programme has been hindered by the pandemic. The least developed countries have been most affected by the resulting economic slowdown. The geographic remoteness of the least developed countries and their limited access to technology has hindered their economic growth. India will continue to work with these countries and use its development experience to develop beneficial partnerships.

The representative of Bangladesh, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the COVID‑19 vaccine should be declared a global public good. Some least developed countries, including Bangladesh, have the required capacity for mass production of vaccines. On further support to those countries, he said it is imperative to create an incentive‑based support structure to ensure that their graduation is irreversible. As they face resource gaps in implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the international community must deliver on its commitments, including in the areas of financing for development, ODA, technology transfer and preferential trade.

For information media. Not an official record.