UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- The UN system is standing in solidarity with landlocked developing countries, which lack access to vital trade links, and supporting them in their efforts to rebuild once the global coronavirus pandemic abates, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.
Addressing a virtual meeting of foreign ministers from this group of countries, Guterres said that on top of challenges which include severe disruptions to trade, transport and distributions, the risk of debt distress looms.
"With the impact of COVID-19, global debt has soared to unprecedented heights. In some of the most vulnerable countries, more than a quarter of public revenue is being used to service public debt, severely limiting fiscal space," he said.
The complex challenges not only threaten economic growth and livelihoods, they are also impacting nations' ability to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Agreement on Climate Change, he added.
Against this background, the secretary-general said that the United Nations "is here to partner with you on solutions."
These include low-emission, safe means of transport and infrastructure; mobilizing private and public funding; moving away from dependence on economically volatile fossil fuels to renewable energy systems; and combatting illicit financial flows.
"We need to ensure that resources and debt relief reach all countries that need it, in order to create space for investments in recovery and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," said the secretary-general.
Alongside, trade potential of landlocked developing countries should be increased, and cooperation between landlocked developing and transit countries strengthened, added Guterres.
"Next Tuesday's meeting of Leaders on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and beyond, can help galvanize ambition and action in these areas," he said.
Guterres also called on the landlocked developing countries to implement six key principles for a climate positive recovery: investing in green jobs and sectors; not bailing out polluting industries; ending fossil fuel subsidies; accounting for climate risks and opportunities in all policy and financial decisions; working together; and leaving no one behind.
"The UN system will continue to support you in your efforts to realize sustainable, inclusive development for your people as you respond and ultimately recover from the COVID-19 crisis."
In the shadow of the COVID pandemic, the high-level virtual meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly's high-level meeting, was convened to review progress in implement the Vienna Programme of Action for the landlocked developing countries for the decade 2014-2025 - the landmark development framework to tackle the special circumstances of the landlocked countries and facilitate their integration into the global economy.
It also provided an opportunity for ministers and senior government officials to share knowledge, experience, and suggest recommendations and opportunities for accelerating the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda.
Thirty-two of the world's landlocked countries with a population of about 440 million face an array of challenges mainly associated with their lack of direct territorial access to the sea and remoteness from world markets. Their dependence on other countries for international trade via transit is an element that adds on to these various challenges.
To address these particular constraints, there has been an increase in recognition of landlocked developing countries and their specific needs at the United Nations. The Vienna Programme of Action, the holistic document centered upon addressing the challenges faced by landlocked countries, aims to contribute to the eradication of poverty stemming from their landlockedness, through the implementation of specific actions in the priority areas of the renowned document.