Closing Remarks at Preparatory meeting of the Special Body on Least Developed, Landlocked Developing and Pacific Island Developing States

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar (right), Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations & Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific at the first ESCAP Staff Townhall Meeting, Bangkok 

UN ESCAP Photo/Suwat Chancharoensuk

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The preparatory meeting of the Special Body on Least Developed (LDCs), Landlocked Developing (LLDCs) and Pacific Island Developing Countries (PIDCs), has successfully adopted a set of key recommendations, in the form of the Chairman’s Summary, which will be a guiding document for us. This will be shared with the wider Commission during the Special Body session tomorrow.

There are several priority issues for each group of countries contained in the key recommendations. At the outset I want to emphasize how all of us, the secretariat, OHRLLS, your countries and the international community at large can work together to pursue these recommendations. The ESCAP secretariat stands ready, with support from relevant agencies and stakeholders, to assist our countries with special needs.

Concerning small island developing States (SIDS), it is important to note that the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be held in Apia, Samoa from 1 to 4 September 2014, will be a valuable opportunity to deliberate on development priorities for our Pacific SIDS, and to also explore funding mechanisms and partnerships.

The important question is how we can all assist member States in the implementation of the outcome of the Samoa Conference, and the development agenda beyond 2015. The ESCAP secretariat would need support for enhancing technical assistance to strengthen our support for the finalization of the national plans for sustainable development and their implementation, improve subregional connectivity through support for maritime and ICT, and support climate adaptation and strengthening institutions, among others, for the monitoring and accountability of regional progress on SDGs. Our support will aim to promote competitiveness and diversification in the Pacific, maintain the resilience of the natural environment, and address growing inequalities.

ESCAP will augment its assistance for Asia-Pacific LDCs in implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Decade 2011-2020. Several LDCs have included in their development strategies their goal to graduate from the LDC status by 2020. One of the challenges faced by Asia-Pacific LDCs remains the creation of productive and decent jobs and livelihoods for the millions of people who enter the labour force each year, as their populations are projected to increase sharply in the coming decades.

To achieve this, our LDCs need to undertake steps to build their productive capacities and diversify their economic structures towards higher-value added goods and services. Here too, ESCAP will need more support to provide technical assistance and enhance institutional capacity in areas such as the identification of export opportunities in non-traditional markets, including in the promotion of linkages to domestic markets and dynamic integration into regional and global value chains.

The majority of Asia-Pacific LLDCs face volatile growth due to their dependence on limited commodity exports. Their development also remains constrained by their lack of coastal access and isolation from world markets, which increases transport costs, limiting potential exports and reducing competitiveness and profitability.

ESCAP has been supporting LLDCs through the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action, of which the final regional review was completed at the 69th session of Commission, and which is the region’s input to the Global Review in Vienna in November 2014.

After the adoption of the new programme of action for LLDCs, the ESCAP secretariat, within its resources, will assist these countries in their efforts to strengthen human, institutional and regulatory capacities in trade policy and trade negotiations, including in such areas as market entry and access, tariffs, customs, competition, investment and technology, harmonization of customs procedures, certification and standardization requirements, identification of markets, development of trade-supportive infrastructure and establishment of institutions to strengthen supply-side capacities. ESCAP will also continue to assist LLDCs through the Asian Highway mechanism, to facilitate transport links and thereby boost trade and commerce.

It is clear from the outcomes of this meeting today that the greatest concerns facing our most vulnerable groups of countries are external threats to sustainable development and the need for a more sustainable and equitable development agenda beyond 2015.

Closing development gaps and implementing a post-2015 sustainable development agenda in the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS requires significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, and the effective use of financing. In this connection, I am pleased that the High-level Exchange on Development Cooperation during the Special Body tomorrow will provide an opportunity for leaders from selected countries with special needs to share with the Commission, their experience and visions especially on the importance of financing needs for sustainable development.

To conclude, the preparatory meeting has recognized that countries with special needs face tremendous development challenges, and that they need all the assistance they can get to address them. ESCAP is ready to act with the support of development partners, including the other UN agencies, to ensure that the technical assistance we provide is effective and sustainable in the long run.

Given the fact that, as Executive Secretary of ESCAP, I also Chair the UN regional coordination mechanism (RCM) for Asia and the Pacific, I would like to suggest that a meeting of the RCM be convened following the deliberations of the Special Body this week, to explore opportunities to pool our UN resources and to ‘deliver as one’ on the development needs of our countries with special needs. I would also like to suggest that, since Ambassador Acharya is with for our meetings this week, we request him to explore opportunities for a special session in New York in future, on the subject of sustainable development financing for countries with special needs. Without this level of resource mobilization, we will be hard-pressed to meet many of the expectations expressed today.

I thank you all for your very active participation and I look forward to the Chairman’s summary being presented to the full Commission tomorrow.

Thank you.