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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to expose glaring weaknesses in the economies of vulnerable States, battering their recovery and requiring assistance from the international community, speakers told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) as it continued its general debate today.
Although initially a health crisis, the pandemic has evolved into a major socioeconomic and environmental one, South Africa’s delegate said. Encouraging the international community to invest in the continent’s recovery efforts, such as the proposed African Green Stimulus Programme, he welcomed the debt standstill and called for a new financial architecture that supports developing countries. Given how the pandemic has exposed structural fragilities in countries across the world, Liberia’s delegate stressed that without decisive action, the international community will run the risk of “leaving millions behind”.
The speed of recovery is the main challenge, Panama’s delegate said, especially in middle-income countries, which have witnessed an unprecedented drop in economic progress. The multidimensional impact of the pandemic is worse in the developing world, where the majority of women work in the informal economy with little social protection. However, he noted the international community has an opportunity to reinvent itself, tackling the exposed vulnerabilities and reducing gaps and inequalities in societies.
The representative of Bangladesh noted poor and marginalized segments of that country’s population remain the most vulnerable, with manufacturing, exports and remittances all hampered by the pandemic. Although the Government implemented a $13.25 billion stimulus to keep the economy afloat, the International Monetary Fund has estimated the global economy could shrink by 3 per cent, with global remittances dropping by 20 per cent.
Addressing the aftermath of the pandemic and the way forward, Bhutan’s delegate joined the call for vaccines and therapeutics to be viewed as global goods. Otherwise, with gross domestic product growth rate expected to plummet by 6.7 per cent by the end of 2020, she expressed concern over the country’s graduation from the least developed countries category by 2023.
Several speakers stressed the particular dilemma of crisis-afflicted States. Libya’s delegate said that the country is experiencing political instability and insecurity. With an economy dependent on gas and oil grinding to a halt and causing human suffering, he called on the international community to assist with the pandemic, which spread very quickly there.
Also speaking were the representatives of Monaco, Indonesia, Israel, Mongolia, Venezuela, Tajikistan, United Republic of Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Paraguay, Lebanon, Costa Rica, Yemen, Qatar, Georgia, Andorra, San Marino, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Timor-Leste, Bolivia, Kuwait and Nigeria.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Friday, 9 October, to continue its general debate.
General Debate
The representative of Panama said COVID-19 is reversing economic and development progress made and exposing weaknesses in many nations, including less developed ones. The main challenge is speed of recovery, especially in middle-income countries, which have seen an unprecedented drop in economic progress. He stressed the multidimensional impact of the pandemic, which is worse in developing countries, where the majority of women work in the informal economy with little social protection. The international community has an opportunity to reinvent itself, he noted, tackling exposed vulnerabilities and reducing gaps and inequalities in society. However, it must consider the dimensions of sustainable development in building back, he stressed, focusing on effective repositioning for development in creating a more just and resilient society.
Liberia’s delegate noted that COVID-19 has had a regressive effect on development gains made, underscoring the need for global cooperation, solidarity, and collaboration among all stakeholders, with particular support for developing countries, least developed countries and vulnerable people. Decisive actions are vital in making progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Otherwise, the international community will run the risk of “leaving millions behind”, he said. The pandemic has exposed structural fragilities in countries across the world, with its socioeconomic impacts posing enormous strains on countries’ ability to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Remaining deeply committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda, he observed that Liberia continues to make strides in addressing inequalities, gender imbalance, youth unemployment, inclusiveness, and is initiating State programmes to empower people through provision of equitable opportunities in education, health, youth development and social protection.
The representative of Tajikistan, associating himself with the “Group 77” developing countries and China, as well as the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said the coronavirus pandemic poses serious and complex challenges to the entire world community, requiring coordinated efforts and mobilization of available resources and capabilities of all nations. COVID-19 initially appeared as a health-care crisis and gradually turned into a justifiable global socioeconomic and financial crisis. As the pandemic poses serious and complex challenges to the entire world community, it should realize that the path towards sustainable development is not going to be easy and smooth. Additional efforts should aim to strengthen the global environment in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. The threat of natural hazards related to water remains as inevitable as it was before the pandemic crisis, as climate change and other challenges continue to exacerbate natural and social vulnerability.
The representative of Tanzania said that alongside COVID-19, the 2030 Agenda is being hindered by an increase in protectionist measures, the tightening of financial conditions and the escalation of geopolitical tensions. The current high levels of inequality must be addressed through collective endeavours, he said, adding that climate change is having unprecedented effects on developing countries. External indebtedness remains a huge concern in many of those countries, he said, voicing appreciation for temporary suspensions of payments and reaffirming commitment to engaging constructively in the collective effort to leave no one behind.
South Africa’s delegate said the pandemic has starkly exposed weaknesses in public institutions, the inadequacy of social security support in poor countries, weak health systems and lack of digital capabilities. What was initially a health crisis has evolved into a socioeconomic and environmental crisis of major proportions, he said, noting that the African continent has a continental strategy, driven by the regional economic communities. Encouraging international partners to support and invest in Africa’s recovery efforts, such as the proposed African Green Stimulus Programme, he called for a commitment to building back better by seeking appropriate global solutions and responses to the impact of the pandemic. Welcoming the debt standstill, he called for a new financial architecture that supports developing countries, that will include suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external and public debt, debt restructuring and debt cancellation for the highly indebted countries.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago said the response to the pandemic must be intrinsically linked with the efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The solution lies in strengthening multilateralism and not in the dilution of longstanding global solutions. Highlighting the plight of small island nations and their particular vulnerabilities in the face of these uncertain times, he added that many small island developing States are denied access to concessionary funding and other resources. The United Nations system must be driven by a multidimensional approach that strengthens national ownership, he stressed, noting that the pandemic is occurring within a global architecture in which the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change have become more important than ever before.
Costa Rica’s representative said the pandemic has had a negative impact on five years of progress his country had made towards achieving the 2030 Agenda. Stressing the need for a resilient and sustainable recovery, he said that the international community must take advantage of digital tools of interconnectivity and accelerate a green recovery. Reaffirming that health is a global public good, he stressed the need to extend decarbonization and called for decoupling development and fossil fuels. Costa Rica, along with partners, recently launched the “Leaders Pledge for Nature” which was endorsed by more than 70 Heads of State. The country will be implementing land use strategies aimed at reducing social and economic inequalities.
The representative of Yemen, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, noting the impact of the pandemic, called for enhanced cooperation and sharing between rich and poor nations, as least developed countries and those in conflict and post-conflict situations are most vulnerable. For six years, Yemen has endured a miserable situation under a coup by the armed Houthi militia against the legitimate Government, using its institutions to serve their agenda. This has driven a crisis of poverty and humanitarian suffering, with most of the population now on the brink of famine. The militias are still overburdening the citizenry with artificial taxes and fees, he said, using funds for an absurd war against Yemen’s people.
The representative of Syria, associating himself with the Group of 77, insisted that United Nations action in the country should not focus solely on the humanitarian aspect but also address development. It is time to move away from politicizing the issue, as the Syrian Government is working to overcome obstacles due to the previous war against terrorists. Pointing to unilateral coercive measures against the Syrian people, he noted the Secretary-General said it was important to lift sanctions hampering responses to the pandemic.
Bhutan’s representative, associating herself with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, joined the call for vaccines and therapeutics to be viewed as global goods. Since mid-March, the generating sectors of its economy, including tourism and construction, have ground to a halt, also hampering agriculture, which involves 51 per cent of the population. She noted that the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate is expected to plummet by 6.7 per cent by the end of 2020. Bhutan recently issued its first ever $41 million sovereign bond, which was oversubscribed, illustrating even developing countries can use such financial measures. However, she expressed concern over the country’s graduation from the least developed countries category by 2023, a path forward that now appears uncertain.
The representative of Bangladesh, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said poor and marginalized segments of its population remain the most vulnerable. Manufacturing, exports and remittances have all been hampered by the pandemic, with the Government implementing a $13.25 billion stimulus to keep the economy afloat. However, the global economy is expected to shrink by 3 per cent according to the International Monetary Fund with global remittances dropping by 20 per cent. Therefore, the Committee has a crucial role to play in an unprecedented situation. As the pandemic has revealed the stark digital divide between rich and poor countries, she said Bangladesh is ready to share its good practices in that domain.
Bolivia’s delegate, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said developing States are experiencing a huge drop in exports, remittances and official development assistance. He called for a review of the system classifying countries based on income. With the planet facing increasingly extreme climate events, population growth and pressure on the environment and biodiversity, he noted Bolivia is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries given its geographic location. He urged developed nations to abide by market access commitments, especially for countries in special situations.
The representative of Libya, associating himself with the Group of 77, said despite difficult circumstances, his Government has set up a national commission for sustainable development. As a crisis-affected country, Libya is experiencing political instability and insecurity, with an economy dependent on gas and oil causing suffering for its people when it grinds to a halt. He called on the international community to assist with the pandemic, which had spread very quickly in Libya. With its resources wasted due to capital outflow, sovereign assets frozen and credit and capital being lost, he said he has been writing to the Security Council since March 2016 calling for an amendment to the sanctions regime, without effective response. As a transit country, waves of illegal migration and human trafficking have exacerbated its crises.
Also speaking were the representatives of Monaco, Indonesia, Israel, Mongolia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Lebanon, Qatar, Georgia, Andorra, San Marino, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Timor-Leste, Kuwait and Nigeria.

Source: United Nations

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