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Financial Reforms Crucial for Landlocked Developing Countries to Reach Vienna Programme Targets, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Foreign Ministers

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the annual ministerial meeting of Foreign Ministers of landlocked developing countries on the theme “Accelerating implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and building momentum towards the third United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries”, today:

My thanks to the Chair for inviting me to this important meeting.  We meet today as challenges for developing countries, especially landlocked developing countries, are surging.  High inflation and increasing energy and food prices. Deepening debt distress.  The continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  And conflicts.  All on top of a relentless global climate crisis.  Landlocked developing countries are confronted with the very real risk of falling short of the targets under the Vienna Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  But this failure is not inevitable.  With global support and cooperation, we can turn the tide.

Let me highlight four key areas.  First, enhanced connectivity.  The physical and non-physical connectivity constraints are unique factors that distinguish landlocked developing countries from other vulnerable economies.  We need to close physical transport infrastructure gaps to enhance regional and international transport connectivity across these countries.  Restrictions imposed during the pandemic demonstrated the need to find long-term solutions to get trade moving.  These solutions should include deeper regional integration, greater digitalization and enhanced implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement.  Landlocked developing countries not only need financial and technical cooperation, but also the full support of transit countries.  The recent Ministerial Transport Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries held in Turkmenistan — organized jointly by Turkmenistan and the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States — is just one example of how international cooperation and multilateralism can gather all stakeholders around the needs of landlocked developing countries.

The second priority area for landlocked developing countries is climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Landlocked developing countries need significantly higher levels of — and timely access to — international support and financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation.  They need support now.  Many landlocked developing countries are ideally suited for renewable energy solutions, including solar, geothermal and hydro.  Yet they have been unable to harness their natural endowments to meet their energy needs.  Adequate financing and technical support, including with the active participation of the private sector, can help landlocked developing countries make the transition to renewable energy, while setting an example for others to follow.

My third point is on enhanced structural economic transformation and improved diversification.  Greater efforts are needed to support landlocked developing countries to produce higher value-added products, manufactured goods and exports of services.  Yet none of these aims can be achieved if landlocked developing countries remain excluded from the financing they need to survive today’s multiple crises and to lay the foundation for a more resilient, diversified and sustainable future.

And fourth, we need to ensure that no landlocked developing country is forced to invest in debt service payments, instead of the health of their people and societies.  Today, nine landlocked developing countries are at a high risk of debt distress, while two are already in debt distress.  Unless urgent action is taken, more will encounter the same fate, with enormous consequences for the region and the entire world.

We need long-term debt sustainability through debt restructuring, and by ensuring landlocked developing countries can access low-cost, concessional finance, at ultra-long-term rates.  Across the board, efforts are needed to align financial flows into landlocked developing countries into the sectors that can accelerate the SDGs and build resilience and development — such as universal social protection, decent job creation and sustainable transportation.

In the short-term, however, we also need to provide immediate breathing room for landlocked developing countries in distress.  This means resuscitating an improved Debt Service Suspension Initiative, suspending all International Monetary Fund (IMF) surcharge rates, and rechannelling all unused special drawing rights.  It also means exploring innovative opportunities for an additional liquidity injection.  As with the COVID-19 vaccine, we must pursue immediate, life-saving solutions to alleviate the symptoms of an unfair economic system, while steadily investing in methods to combat its root causes.

The decision of the United Nations General Assembly to organize the third United Nations Conference for Landlocked Developing Countries in 2024 offers a vital opportunity to take stock of our progress.  And an opportunity to renew and enhance global commitments towards these vulnerable nations.  I assure you, Excellencies, of the full support of the United Nations system for the Conference and its preparatory processes.

As we prepare for the 2023 SDG Summit, we remain absolutely committed to working with landlocked developing countries in their aspirations for a sustainable recovery and long-term development.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.