Asia Pacific Review meeting in preparation of LDC5

Statement By

UN Resident Coordinator to the Lao PDR

Ms. Sara Sekkenes Tollefsen

Tuesday 31st August

Honourable Chair

Distinguished Participants, Respected Government Counterparts, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning, good afternoon, and my thanks to the Chair for the opportunity to make a statement, some reflections if you wish, on behalf of the UN in the Lao PDR.

As all will be aware, alongside Bangladesh and Nepal, Lao PDR is among three countries- all of which are ESCAP Member States- that formally were recommended by the Committee for Development Policy for graduation in 2026, from Least Developed Country Status at the Triennial Review this year, subsequently endorsed by the ECOSOC.

This is an instrumental step towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, and, with dedicated work, it can also be part of the solution towards a sustainable development for all.

This is an historic milestone for the Lao PDR, which has long made LDC graduation a national priority, as set out in successive National Socio-Economic Development Plans, most recently in its 9th NSEDP.

However, as noted by the Committee, this recommendation takes place during unprecedented times. The country will now need to prepare for graduation whilst simultaneously planning for post COVID-19 recovery and implementing policies to address the socio-economic fallout from the ongoing, unpredictable global pandemic.

Significantly affected by its social and economic consequences and now also with an increased health crisis looming, there is limited fiscal space. With already high debt levels and falling external private financing — has placed tight constraints on policy responses both to COVID-response and recovery as well as other necessary measures to stave off the effects of the triple planetary crisis on climate, nature, and pollution, at country level.

Several of these will as per the Paris Agreement require a phase out of many of the current policies that has helped the rapid economic growth of recent years – on natural resource extraction, based on minerals and forestry, a revision of agricultural policies on the use of pesticides and stronger enforcement measures with regards to pollution.

Last year, economic growth slowed rapidly in the Lao PDR, across the region, and the world. Poverty increased, and the negative consequences of the pandemic did not fall evenly across the population. All of this makes achievement of the SDGs, for which we regionally were already off-track, that much more challenging. It will require redoubled efforts and innovation.

In that context, I would like to use this opportunity to stress the importance of all of the Lao PDR’s development partners and urge them to step up their engagement at this critical moment.

The extended 5-year preparatory period is intended to provide necessary time to address the consequences of the pandemic and put measures in place for a smooth transition.

In order to achieve this, it is incumbent upon us to work more effectively, and with greater coordination, to support the Government as it tackles this daunting task.

I note the commitment already made by the Committee for Development Policy to enhance its monitoring and analysis of the impact of the pandemic and to provide specific additional transition support, in collaboration with other parts of the UN Development System under the Inter-Agency Task Force on LDC Graduation.

Similarly, I note the establishment of the Graduation Support Facility, which is currently being piloted by UN DESA, as well as the analytical work already done by ITC, UNCTAD, ESCAP, and OHRLLS.

This provides a good foundation to build from in working together with the Government and all relevant stakeholders, to pave the way towards a smooth and sustainable graduation.

But it will take all of us, including new and traditional development partners at national, regional, and global level, working with greater focus and in closer partnership, to successfully navigate the coming transition.

At our end, at country level – at the request of the Lao Government we have included UN support as a dedicated workstream across the country team under our new UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) for implementation over the course of the period running up to 2026 and we will aim to incorporate relevant recommendations of the Doha Programme of Action in supporting the development of the transition strategy.

We are also connecting with the efforts of the UN country teams in Bangladesh and in Nepal to seek peer support, synergies and promising practice in the practical support we provide at country level.

And I would use this opportunity, at the start of the planning process for the next 5 years, which will be highlighted at the High-Level Round Table Meeting in the Lao PDR in November, to call on all development partners of the Lao PDR to act quickly to ensure that the preparatory period is used to full effect, and that 5 years from now – the Lao PDR’s graduation from being a least developed country is realized and that it becomes the sustainable success it deserves to be.

Source: Lao News Agency