Opening Remarks by H.E. Rabab Fatima at the first Preparatory Committee meeting of the LDC5 conference on 24 May 2021

Hon’ble President of Malawi

President of the General Assembly

Hon’ble Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar

President of ECOSOC

President of the OECD-DAC

Madam High Representative

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates

Ambassador Robert Rae and I are very pleased to welcome you all to the first substantive session of the Preparatory Committee.

This meeting sets in motion our substantive work to achieve the mandates set by the General Assembly for the LDC5 Conference to be held in Doha, Qatar in January 2022.  We have decided to organize our discussions around some key thematic areas of priority for the LDCs. We wish to engage with as many stakeholders as possible during this entire week, with the objective to identify key elements to set an ambitious 10-year Programme of Action for the LDCs.

We have held consultations with different stakeholders in the lead up to this meeting. We had fruitful dialogues with civil society representatives and the Group of Friends of LDCs last week.  We are very encouraged by the strong political momentum for an ambitious Program of Action for the LDCs.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

We are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis.  The severity of its impact is being felt globally.  The LDCs are bearing its heaviest brunt. They have weak infrastructures, and serious lack of capacity to cope with internal and external shocks.

Less than 2 per cent of the populations of LDCs have been vaccinated. Afordable access to COVID-19 vaccines is the top priority now. If this issue is not addressed immediately, LDCs will face serious humanitarian and economic misery for years to come.

Since Istanbul, considerable progress has been made by many LDCs. Four countries have already graduated from LDC category and sixteen others are in different stages of graduation. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has jeopardized this decade long development gains.

The UN’s Committee for Development Policy (CDP) in its recent report, [the Comprehensive Study on the impact of COVID-19 on LDCs] provides a vivid picture of the multidimensional challenges posed by the pandemic.  The graduating and graduated countries are at high risk of sliding back – both by the COVID-19 impact and the loss of LDC-specific support measures. It is imperative now, to introduce an incentives-based graduation package for LDCs.

The 5th UN Conference on LDCs provides an enormous opportunity to demonstrate international solidarity and partnership to help LDCs overcome these immediate challenges.  The following areas, among others, need to receive particular focus at LDC5:

First, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many LDCs emerged as the hotspots of extreme poverty and burgeoning inequality. More than 35 per cent of LDC populations are now living in extreme poverty.  There was an alarming upsurge by 2.4% in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic, the first such rise in the past 20 years. The pandemic also disproportionately impacted women, thus widening further the gender inequality in the LDCs. It is imperative to integrate a sustainable recovery path in the next POA that would complement their efforts to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality in a holistic manner.

Second, with global trade disruptions during the pandemic, the export-oriented sectors in most LDCs faced a serious setback. Their trade value has plunged sharply, especially for graduating LDCs, owing to their very limited export base. They would need more investments to build resilience against external shocks, including for structural transformation, building trade infrastructure, and integration into global and regional value chains. Market access and technological support are also key issues.

Third, LDCs are also facing excessive external debt burden, with over half of them now assessed as being at a high risk of debt distress or already in debt distress situation. They would need long-term solutions to this pressing issue beyond the temporary measures of DSSI and allocation of SDRs.

 Fourth, the pandemic has revealed the importance of digital infrastructure to provide vital services to people, especially in health and education, when other means seriously fall short. The LDCs would need high investment not only to reap the maximum benefits of ICT and other frontier technologies but also to accelerate recovery from the pandemic.

Fifth, there needs to be enhanced global solidarity to mobilize more support for climate-vulnerable LDCs. The unresolved issues and unfulfilled commitments in financing for adaptation and resilience building, the loss and damage issue, the climate displacement issues have exacerbated the situation for the LDCs.

Finally, many LDCs rely on remittances sent by their migrant population working abroad.  In the pandemic, remittances fell by 1.6 per cent in 2020.  There is a serious risk of further decline due to shrinking overseas labour market and forced return of migrants. The cost of remittance transfer remains as high as 6.8%. The next POA should aim to resolve these issues, address vulnerabilities of migrants, and present further opportunities for safe, orderly, and regular migration.

[Excellencies] While LDCs are facing multiple challenges, they also offer enormous opportunities. The greatest assets of LDCs are their abundant natural resource potentials as well as their demographic dividend offered by a large youth population base.  Strengthened global partnership that effectively addresses the special needs of the LDCs and harness the potentials of their youth will contribute to the global value chains, prosperity and sustainable development for all.

The next POA should therefore, aim to chart out ambitious goals, targets and commitments that can bring a transformative change in the lives of more than 1 billion people in the LDCs. As we begin the first Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee Meeting today, let us all bear these visions in our mind.

Ambassador Bob Rae and I look forward to working closely with all of you in the days ahead.  We count on your support and active participation throughout the process for a truly transformative outcome.

I have the pleasure now to invite my fellow co-chair, Ambassador Robert Rae to make his opening remarks.