LLDCs Crucial to Delivery of 2030 Agenda: Vienna Midterm Review
Photo by IISD/ENB | Ángeles Estrada Vigil
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The UN Secretary-General observed that the midterm review offers a chance to forge greater coherence and synergy among the VPoA, the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and other relevant international frameworks, while the political declaration aims to “turn landlocked developing countries into land‑linked places of prosperity".

The political declaration adopted during the meeting describes the VPoA as crucial for the attainment of the SDGs.

UN Member States conducted a midterm review of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) for the Decade 2014-2024 (VPoA). Discussions highlighted linkages with the 2030 Agenda, and assessed challenges, needs and progress on implementation. 

The high‑level meeting for the midterm review took place from 5-6 December 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Member States adopted the political declaration that had been prepared before the meeting. By the declaration, governments stress the need to mobilize resources to implement the VPoA and to “support the LLDCs in achieving the SDGs and targets by 2030.” They refer to the VPoA as “integral to the 2030 Agenda” and “in line with” the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for financing for development (FfD), the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, and the New Urban Agenda. Governments also state that effective implementation of the VPoA and the 2030 Agenda are “mutually reinforcing and crucial for the attainment” of the SDGs. 

Opening the high-level meeting, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande said the political declaration is “a testament to the strength of multilateralism.” For LLDCs, he underscored the need to remove legal, social and economic barriers to achieving gender equality, combat illicit financial flows, strengthen trade financing for micro‑, small‑ and medium‑sized enterprises (MSMEs) and improve economic governance and business regulations.

UN Secretary‑General Antonio Guterres said the political declaration aims to “turn landlocked developing countries into land‑linked places of prosperity.” He highlighted that: 17 of the 32 LLDCs are also least developed countries, and these are heavily dependent on official development assistance (ODA); LLDCs need reliable transit infrastructure, efficient customs operations, and improved access to and use of technology. Those in debt distress also need international cooperation. Guterres called on donors to increase aid and make it predictable. He also remarked that the midterm review offers a chance to forge greater coherence and synergy among the VPoA, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

The LLDC Group Chair called for aligning the VPoA’s indicators with those of the 2030 Agenda.

A panel segment focused on interlinkages between the VPoA and the 2030 Agenda. UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President Mona Juul said the sustainable development of LLDCs will be a “crucial part” of the decade of action and delivery of the 2030 Agenda, on which the international community is now embarking. She added that the voluntary national reviews (VNRs) that take place as part of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) provide opportunities for LLDCs to learn from each other’s experiences.

José Antonio Dos Santos, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paraguay, and Chair of the LLDC Group, noted that the value of the 2030 Agenda for LLDCs is that it indicates the sectors for which governments should earmark resources to generate inclusive wellbeing. He called for aligning indicators for monitoring the VPoA and the 2030 Agenda.

Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, UN High Representative for the LDCs, LLDCs and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), said the VPoA provides context-specific measures needed to implement the 2030 Agenda, as it reflects the particular circumstances of the LLDCs.

Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, said the EU and China “have the responsibility” to create an ambitious infrastructure in the Sahel, focused on solar energy. He urged cooperation between EU and China to support the development of South Sahel and Asian LLDCs.

During the plenary meeting, many LLDCs emphasized their focus on and investment in transforming themselves into transportation hubs to spur development and economic growth. Many countries called for developed countries to support LLDCs through ODA, and noted the importance of regional trade and integration for LLDCs’ development. Some Member States emphasized the need to improve LLDCs’ access to electricity and renewable energy sources.

Speaking for the LLDCs, Paraguay reported that the annual gross domestic product of LLDCs declined during the first five years of VPoA implementation, and their human development indexes have remained below the global average.

Palestine for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China) identified common challenges for many of the 32 LLDCs, such as inadequate infrastructure, complicated border‑crossing procedures, structural deficiencies, poverty that affects one third of the population, trade deficits and the impacts of climate change, which bring desertification and land degradation. Welcoming the political declaration, he qualified as “encouraging” the fact Member States will come together through partnerships between LLDCs, transit countries and development partners, in addition to civil society, the private sector, academia, youth and other stakeholders.

India noted that “in the spirit of South‑South Cooperation,” it has launched the 150 USD million India‑UN Development Partnership Fund, which aims to drive transformational projects and fulfil the SDGs in LDCs and LLDCs. In response to the need to develop infrastructure projects in LLDCs, Canada informed participants about its support to the ‘Closing the Investment Gap’ initiative, which helps develop infrastructures globally. In addition, he said Canada has extended duty-free treatment to imports from LLDCs.

Norway, also for Denmark, Iceland, Finland, and Sweden, called on countries to increase their financing to LLDCs, adding the importance of trade facilitation programs and public-private partnerships. Noting that the international community “cannot allow the benefits of globalization and international finance to bypass the LLDCs,” Ireland highlighted its recently launched Strategy for Africa to 2025, which aims to strengthen political partnerships. 

The EU said “past financing patterns will not be adequate to fulfil the 2030 Agenda,” and all available financing flows must be mobilized, including capacity‑building, domestic resources and private investment. To that end, he encouraged LLDCs to develop a strategic vision for financing their sustainable development aims, adding that the EU is working with the UN to help interested countries develop integrated national financing frameworks that unite elements of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on FfD at the country level.

Gambia called on governments to increase their ODA share to benefit more LLDCs, not just a few, as is currently the case. Egypt said cooperation must be strengthened beyond trade to include development projects in infrastructure, transport and industrial development, and called for intensified industrialization in LLDCs, including through special economic zones.

China underscored the need to defend multilateralism, oppose unilateralism and protectionism, maintain the multilateral trade system, implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement and help LLDCs better integrate into the world trade system. He further mentioned China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which he said can play a significant role in supporting LLDCs.

The US argued that development assistance is not a substitute for economic growth led by the private sector, adding that sustainable development requires both public and private sectors to work together to identify and address challenges.

Among other notable points in the political declaration, government commit to “targeted and accelerated action to remove all legal, social and economic barriers to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and the realization and enjoyment of their human rights.” Gender equality is the subject of SDG 5, and is not referenced in the VPoA. 

They also urge support for LLDCs’ efforts to develop and implement nationally determined contributions (NDCs) related to the Paris Agreement, and national long-term climate change strategies. They call for support to “develop tools to prevent and combat desertification, land degradation, biodiversity loss, drought and receding glaciers.”
 
Also by the declaration, government call for support in formulating and implementing “bankable infrastructure and transport development projects.” They welcome the establishment of the International Think Tank for Landlocked Developing Countries, and call for additional ratifications and accessions to the multilateral agreement for its establishment. The idea for a think tank to support LLDCs’ analytical capacity was introduced by the President of Mongolia during a meeting of LLDC heads of state in Havana, Cuba, in 2006, and welcomed in a 2009 UNGA resolution.
 
Finally, the declaration invites the UNGA to consider holding the third UN Conference on LLDCs in 2024. [UN Meeting Summary, 5 December] [UN Meeting Summary, 6 December] [UN Press Release] [Meeting Webpage]

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