FAO Liaison Office in New York

UN weighs in on the pandemic’s impacts for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS


COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on the economies of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). In a virtual briefing that was held on 7 May and co-organized by the United Nations Office of LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS (OHRLLS) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in collaboration with the Chairs of the LDC, LLDC and SIDS Groups, discussions focused on the ways the pandemic has affected food security and nutrition in these areas and on actions to mitigate these effects.

High Representative for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, opened the event by pointing to the exceptional times that we live in, with more than half of the world’s population under confinement and millions of businesses brought to a halt. “This global health crisis could cause a major food crisis, set back years of economic development, and render several of the Sustainable Development Goals unattainable, unless the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS receive large-scale financial emergency relief,” stated the High Representative.

In his keynote presentation, FAO Chief Economist Máximo Torero stressed the need to link food, health and development. “Lockdown measures and a looming economic recession are bound to affect countries that rely on food imports and tourism,” explained Torero. “Our main challenge is not food availability but food access, and logistical problems need to be addressed now,” he added.

World Food Programme Chief Economist Arif Husain echoed these concerns by further commenting that commercial supply chains have to work because they are “the bloodline of global economy”. He also stressed the need to assist governments and institutions in terms of building their technical capacity to address these problems, and ensure that consumers will be able to hold on to their purchasing power.

The Permanent Representative of Malawi to the United Nations and Chair of the LDCs Group, Perks Master Ligoya, remarked on the multi-stakeholder and overlapping nature of food security. “Our governments recognize the need to triangulate social, economic and environmental issues to create policies that address COVID-19, but also take into account pre-existing and continuing crises and issues such as poverty, resilient food systems, climate change and digital divides,” noted Ambassador Master Ligoya.

“No country is spared from such a global crisis,“ stated the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations and Chair of the LLDCs Group, Kairat Umarov, “but LLDCs face many complex challenges due to their geographic remoteness, their lack of direct access to the sea and the high transport and trade cost.”. Ambassador Umarov concluded that supporting the LLDCs requires a holistic approach that involves both humanitarian and development interventions.

Permanent Representative of Belize to the United Nations and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Lois Michele Young, agreed that “Food supply chains need to be adjusted at all levels, nationally and internationally to ensure access is still maintained, even with restrictions in mobility.” Ambassador Young also suggested responding to the pandemic with stimulus packages that will incorporate support to climate-smart domestic agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, which will, in the long term, enhance food security and help diversify SIDS economy.

The briefing also provided an opportunity for Director Angelica María Jácome Daza to introduce the recently established FAO Office for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. Jácome Daza emphasized that the establishment of the office early this year reflects the high importance placed on LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS by the FAO Director-General and the whole organization. “Our office aims to engage with intergovernmental processes and conduct stock-taking exercises to gather data and mobilize resources around the world,” said Jácome Daza.

The virtual briefing on the COVID-19 Impacts on Food Security and Nutrition in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS was moderated by OHRLLS Director Heidi Schroderus-Fox and attended by some 150 participants. Outcomes provide an opportunity to prepare for the 2021 Food System Summit, and help strengthen FAO’s work in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDSs.

You can find more information about the briefing, including the concept note, the agenda and Máximo Torero’s presentation here