Your Excellency, Mr. Phoxay Khaykhamphithoune, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
Esteemed Government partners,
Development partner representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning, and I join the Deputy Minister in welcoming you to this side event to the 13th High-Level Round Table Meeting, focused on preparations for Lao PDR’s anticipated graduation from the list of the world’s Least Developed Countries.
Today’s event builds on the technical-level virtual consultation held on 20th October and provides an opportunity for strategic discussions at a more senior level, but also more of a detailed exchange than will be possible within the time confines of the Roundtable Meeting itself next week.
Graduating from LDC status has been a longstanding national ambition, clearly set out and prioritized in successive NSEDPs. Becoming an upper middle-income country, with a less vulnerable economy, stronger human assets and a climbing GDP provides the engine that can propel the country into delivering a sustainable development for all that truly leaves no one behind.
It has been a long journey from where Lao PDR stood in 1970, when it was first listed as an LDCs, to where we stand today, with much hard-won progress and development gains.
As the Deputy Minister has explained, on the basis of the progress made, in April this year, the Committee for Development Policy, which is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and advises the Council on a wide range of issues that are relevant for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The CDP as it is known, formally recommended Lao PDR for graduation. This creates a clear pathway to the realization of that ambition, something so far only achieved by six countries.
The country is moving towards a long-awaited moment, built on steady progress over decades, in growing prosperity, building human assets, and managing vulnerabilities.
However, this process also requires careful planning and management that does not compromise development momentum to ensure a sustainable, irreversible and quality graduation.
And this is all the more important in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has both derailed progress, and created enormous uncertainty.
Indeed, in recognizing the unprecedented circumstances for a graduating country created by the pandemic, Lao PDR has been granted an extended 5-year preparatory period ahead of the anticipated graduation in 2026.
The CDP also made a clear recommendation for enhanced monitoring of progress during this preparatory period, with a view to making adjustments to graduation support should that be necessary.
And it is in this context that we meet today to discuss the development of a Smooth Transition Strategy.
Even with the extended preparatory period, it is important to get an oversight of all that needs to be done and get things started quickly as many of the steps necessary to pave the way for a smooth graduation are likely to take time to put in place.
This will also require the continued support of development partners and therefore, as part of the development of the Strategy, it is important to use every opportunity to consult and build a coalition to support both the design of the strategy, and later, its implementation.
This includes the once-in-a-decade LDC V Conference that will be taking place in Doha in January. at which member States will agree a new Doha Plan of Action that will set global priorities for LDCs, including on support to graduation, for the coming 10 years.
Now is therefore a crucial time to have these discussions at the national level, so that Lao PDR can make best possible use of the Doha conference to begin the process of advocating for necessary graduation support and negotiating the conditions for the transition.
As stated by the Deputy Minister, the Government places a keen emphasis on preparations for graduation, and has made it a key agenda item of the High-Level Round Table Meeting, which is what has prompted this meeting.
Through these consultations, we hope to ensure that national decision makers and development partners are fully aware of the anticipated changes, challenges and opportunities that could come from LDC graduation.
We are also here to facilitate a discussion and gather feedback on the draft elements of a smooth transition strategy – including on the proposed process for developing the full Smooth Transition Strategy over the coming months.
Lao PDR’s journey from the LDC category depends first and foremost on the work and decisions of Lao PDR itself, including using the opportunity of the extended preparatory period to move quickly and decisively to address development challenges which includes the need to elaborate the elements of a COVID-19 Recovery plan which will also be discussed next week.
However, as the international community, we also have an important role to play in supporting these efforts. And our constructive engagement in the development of a clear, well-considered Smooth Transition Strategy, and later in its effective implementation is an important component of that.
So, I am very glad to have this opportunity for us to discuss how to go about, in the run up to the High-Level Roundtable, and that so many have chosen to participate despite their very busy agendas.
I look forward to the outcome of our discussions, and I reiterate my thanks to all participants and Your Excellency Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for being here today.