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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

04 March 2023

Mr. Secretary-General,

Dear colleagues,

There is good news for the least developed countries (LDCs) in Asia and the Pacific.

As you know, ten of 11 LDCs from the region have met the graduation thresholds. Five of these are scheduled to graduate by 2026.

ESCAP has supported them since the inception of the LDC category. Since then, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Mortality rates have dropped. Life expectancy has increased. Literacy is the norm. Environmental degradation can be partly arrested.

By the end of the decade, there may only be one or two LDCs left in our region, owing to the negative impacts of internal conflicts.

Despite this optimism, the pandemic, coupled with rising fuel and food prices, among other shocks, serve as a reminder that these countries have far fewer options and resources to counter external disruptions. Many of these countries remain facing structural challenges due to being landlocked and small island States. 

Nevertheless, some LDCs have been successful in leveraging preferential access to markets and in the process, they have been able to generate formal employment and export revenues. The others continue developing their productive capacities to enable better structural transformation and diversification of their economies.

Sustaining the growth momentum beyond graduation requires continuous structural transformation and strengthening of productive capacities.

Hence, support to ensure smooth, sustainable and irreversible graduation is essential. Otherwise, countries could fall back into LDC status or stagnate and be unable to achieve sustainable development.

ESCAP has been working closely with our partners and LDCs, particularly for their preparation for graduation. Dedicated technical support and advisory services are provided to assist them in producing their smooth transition strategy. Our continuous support in strengthening capacities in trade negotiations, enhancing access to external finance and developing sustainable energy transition roadmaps are important.

As a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Graduation led by OHRLLS, ESCAP seeks integrated service delivery of our systemwide support.

The Bangkok Declaration commemorating the Commission’s seventy-fifth anniversary last year recognized the unique challenges of LDCs and resolved to accelerate the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action. 

Through these efforts, we hope to ensure graduation is indeed a smooth transition. ESCAP stands ready and committed to support LDCs in its development aspirations.

Thank you.

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