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UN-OHRLLS at 15 -  supporting vulnerable countries towards a sustainable future

Foreword by Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High-Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States

The Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States face the most binding constraints to growth and development. They represent, in total, 92 member states, with a combined population of 1.1 billion people. In recognition of the development challenges of LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS and the need to addresses these obstacles in a systematic and targeted manner, the UN membership established, in 2001, the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) with the mandate of advocating for and supporting the development of the most vulnerable countries.

Now 15 years into its existence, OHRLLS has established itself as the leading UN entity delivering global advocacy work, providing substantive backstopping support to the groups in global negotiations, monitoring and following up progress in the implementation of the programmes of actions of the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, coordinating the UN system support and forging strong partnerships with other important stakeholders, all in support of the implementation of their programmes of actions. The office also successfully led the preparation and staging of all recent UN conferences on these groups of countries and made other significant achievements in recent years.

The office has produced knowledge products that have informed its advocacy and follow-up activities and undergirded its on-demand backstopping support extended to the most vulnerable countries in their inter-governmental negotiations. Thanks to the multi-pronged advocacy, follow-up, mobilization, coordination and support, the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework have stronger references—than before—to LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS in terms of the goals and targets as well as the issues covered.

Also, over the last 5 years, a growing number of LDCs have met criteria for exiting from LDC status—a defining aspiration set in the Istanbul Programme of Action. This is the result of continued economic and social progress and deliberate and assertive commitment of the leadership across these countries to move toward graduation. Building on this momentum, graduating and aspiring-to-graduate LDCs have been looking for UN system support in formulating graduation and smooth-transition strategies and deploying global advocacy for targeted support in the areas of development finance, trade, technology and capacity-building. OHRLLS has coordinated UN system responses to these demands.

OHRLLS has also facilitated the participation of the most vulnerable countries to global discussions and engagement with major actors across UN system and the development finance landscape—including multilateral banks and institutions, regional banks, private sector and philanthropic organizations. The office’s dialogue with the World Bank at all levels—both the governing body of the Bank and its secretariat—is yet another example of its more institutionalised collaboration with all stakeholders. Similar outreach efforts to OECD/DAC on development effectiveness have contributed to lending stronger voice to the aspirations and concerns of these countries in OECD/DAC deliberations.

The Office has supported efforts to encourage new and durable partnerships for sustainable development of SIDS, including through acting as a secretariat, together with DESA, of the GA-led Steering Committee on Partnerships for Small Island Developing States.

OHRLLS has also promoted enhanced south-south cooperation, with increased collaboration with all the emerging economies. It has, for instance, supported the organization and servicing of the High-Level Round Table on South-South Cooperation in New York, which was co-chaired by Secretary-General and the President of China and held in September 2014. The event resulted in the announcement of important deliveries to LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. Further, the office was also instrumental in supporting the establishment and the work of informal groups of Friends of the vulnerable countries to promote and amplify understanding and collaboration among vulnerable countries, development partners and countries from the South.

Looking forward, success in advancing the development agenda of the most vulnerable countries will depend on the strength of multi-stakeholder partnerships that will be built across sectors in the years ahead. Success will also hinge on the degree of synergy and coherence between the three programmes of Actions and the newly adopted the 2030 Agenda, AAAA, the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement—at global, regional and local levels.

Success will therefore require that OHRLLS continue to lend support for the effective participation of the three groups of countries in these processes, including through the provision of additional on-demand analytical backstopping support in the context of the groups’ coordination meetings as well as intergovernmental negotiations. It also demands that the office carry out new activities to mobilize a larger number of other stakeholders, including private sector, the civil society, academia and foundations, to ensure that LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS are supported in creating integrated and tailored solutions aimed at building resilience and sustainable development based on their own specific circumstances. Finally, OHRLLS remains committed to advocating for enhanced support to LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS in the days ahead. It would consider itself successful only when these vulnerable countries bring about transformative changes in the lives of their people in an equitable and sustainable manner.

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