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SG/SM/20271
23 September 2020

Secretary‑General Pledges United Nations System Support as COVID-19 Exacerbates Plight of Landlocked Developing Countries

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the annual ministerial meeting of Foreign Ministers of landlocked developing countries, held today:

I am pleased to be with you — a group of countries that share many common challenges linked to similar geographic circumstances and opportunities.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the plight of landlocked developing countries.  Trade, transport and distribution have been upended.  Exports and imports have been affected by problems at borders, lockdowns, trade restrictions, disruptions in global supply chains and commodity price shocks.  And the risk of debt distress looms.

I know how deeply these new challenges are affecting you — threatening economic growth, jobs, livelihoods, and ultimately, the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Agreement on climate change.

The United Nations and I are here to partner with you on solutions.  We want to continue working with you to pursue new technologies for low-emission, safe means of transport and infrastructure during this challenging time.  We want to work with you to mobilize private and public funding to unlock and scale up solutions.  And we want to support your transition from dependence on economically volatile fossil fuels to renewable energy systems.

As we embark on a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and strive to recover better from the pandemic, we must keep our focus on stopping the pandemic.  The availability of future vaccines to all developing countries, including the landlocked developing countries, is fundamental to any sustainable global recovery.

We must ensure that the Vienna Programme of Action and all of the global agendas to which we agreed — from Addis Ababa to Paris to the 2030 Agenda — are at the core of recovery.  We must also protect against defaults and debt crises.  In many heavily indebted countries, economies are suffering greatly from acute unemployment, the drop-off of tourism and remittances.

With the impact of COVID-19, global debt has soared to unprecedented heights.  In some of the most vulnerable countries, more than a quarter of public revenue is being used to service public debt, severely limiting fiscal space.  We need to ensure that resources and debt relief reach all countries that need it in order to create space for investments in recovery and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Combating illicit financial flows is also necessary to ensure that resources are channelled where they are needed most.  Next Tuesday’s meeting of “Leaders on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond” can help galvanize ambition and action in these areas.

As we look to the crucial period ahead, we must also increase the trade potential of [landlocked developing countries].  Investment in transport infrastructure is crucial.  Other key enablers include digital technology and regional integration, including through better cooperation between landlocked developing and transit countries.

The new road map for accelerated implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action over the next five years can provide further guidance and momentum.  Once it is adopted by the Ministers, the Office of the High Representative and the United Nations system are committed to fully support its implementation.  We will also continue to strengthen the capacities of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

Finally, climate action is essential in your COVID-19 response and recovery, especially in creating green jobs and aligning national plans and budgets with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, to help drive recovery towards a resilient and sustainable future.

I ask all landlocked developing countries to implement the six principles I have set out for a climate-positive recovery:  invest in green jobs and sectors; don't bail out polluting industries; end fossil fuel subsidies; take climate risks and opportunities in all policy and financial decisions; work together; and leave no one behind.

As the United Nations marks its seventy-fifth anniversary, we are determined to meet the test of this pivotal moment, including through the reforms to the United Nations development system.  The United Nations system will continue to support you in your efforts to realize sustainable, inclusive development for your people as you respond and ultimately recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

For information media. Not an official record.