17 September 2020

United Nations Fully Committed to Helping Least Developed Countries Emerge from COVID-19 Hardships, Deputy Secretary-General Says at Ministerial Meeting

Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s message, as prepared for delivery, on the occasion of the annual Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Least Developed Countries, in New York today:

This year’s annual Ministerial Meeting of Least Developed Countries takes place in extraordinary circumstances.  COVID-19 has spread throughout the world, distressing the basic fabric of the global economic and social landscape.

Before COVID-19, our collective efforts towards the Sustainable Development Goals were already falling short.  The projected global economic slowdown risks making matters worse.  Least developed country economies will be hardest hit.  Export receipts, remittances, investment flows and tourism revenues have plummeted, along with gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates.  Climate change continues to take a disproportionately heavy toll.  These strains threaten your efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020.

In response, we must expend extra effort and garner extra support for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  This includes submitting ambitious and updated nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement, with deeper emissions reduction targets and adaptation plans for our countries.

The United Nations system is committed to working closely with you during these difficult times.  We have leaned on the reforms and responded swiftly and in a coordinated manner to help countries address the health, humanitarian and more importantly socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic.

Guided by the United Nations framework for the immediate socioeconomic response to COVID-19, United Nations country teams are supporting countries to shape and implement their national response and recovery plans.  These socioeconomic response and recovery plans are leveraging the expertise available across the United Nations system, including the Regional Economic Commissions, in collaboration with partners, including the international financial institutions plus private sector.  Country teams in 33 least developed countries have worked hard to repurpose existing funding in line with priorities of countries.

However, we have identified a funding gap of more than $5 billion.  There is a need for urgent support from the international community.  Financing the COVID‑19 response and recovery in line with the Sustainable Development Goals is our priority.

The Secretary-General has continued his efforts to support developing countries, especially the least developed countries, as they face the dual challenge of financing the pandemic response while avoiding a major debt crisis.  In May, to articulate a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response, the Secretary-General, alongside with the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica, launched an initiative that put “Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond”.  Six discussions established under this initiative have been working on a menu of policy options to address a wide range of interlinked issues, with attention to the diversity of country and regional contexts.

These include external finance and remittances; jobs and inclusive growth; recovering better for sustainability; global liquidity and financial stability; debt vulnerability; engagement with private sector creditors; and illicit financial flows.  The recommendations were discussed at a meeting of Ministers for Finance earlier this month and will be the subject of discussion at a high-level meeting of leaders during the General Assembly.

Looking ahead, we will continue pushing for support to least developed countries through this and other avenues through these very challenging times, and we will mobilize the international community to make bold decisions for an effective response and recovery from this development emergency.

Let me now turn to the implementation of the United Nations development system reform, which is in full swing in many least developed countries, and which, I mentioned earlier, helped us in responding in record time and in coherent fashion as a United Nations system supports countries in this pandemic.

Implementation of the new cooperation frameworks for six countries began this year, and eight additional least developed countries have been conducting their common country analyses and preparing cooperation frameworks in line with priorities of those countries.  Seventeen more least developed countries will soon start the process to undertake common country analyses and design cooperation frameworks with implementation expected to start in 2022.  We are encouraged that 12 least developed countries are in the process of graduation.

COVID-19 should not be allowed to halt or reverse this progress.  If anything, we should use opportunities to leapfrog some of these opportunities.  Financing sustainable graduation is a priority for the Secretary-General and is part of his road map for financing the 2030 Agenda.

The United Nations inter-agency task force on least developed country graduation will continue to bring together all relevant United Nations actors at global, regional and country levels to support countries through their graduation and assist a smooth transition.

In short, the United Nations is fully committed to assisting the progress of all least developed countries.  We will continue working with you to forge a new global development architecture and ensure you receive coherent and effective international support tailored to your needs.  Together, we will deliver inclusive, resilient and sustainable societies that fulfil the aspirations of the Istanbul Programme of Action.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.