Prime Minister Charlot Salwai met UN Under Secretary General, Her Excellency Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu from Tonga, last week.
Vanuatu congratulated her Excellency for being appointment which is a great achievement for the Pacific. H.E. Utoikamanu among other things is responsible for LDCs and SIDS. She noted that her office advocates for LDCs and SIDS at the highest level to ensure that they remain at the top of the international priority in terms of Financing assistance and support for the implementation of the SDGs, Samoa Pathway and Istanbul Program of Action.
PM Salwai noted that Vanuatu is preparing itself for the eventual graduation from LDC status in 2020. It has established a National Committee to oversee the graduation and transition process. Further, Vanuatu is implementing reforms and infrastructure projects which are in line with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the LDC Istanbul Program of Action (IPOA) as part of its preparation.
However, there remains a number of challenges including Vanuatu’s vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters – e.g. Cyclone Pam in 2015 that wiped 60% of the country’s economy. He noted that this is an area that the UN should focus its attention on – especially on adaptation and mitigation measures. Mr Salwai further cautioned the criteria used for deciding on graduation because of the vulnerability issue and unfair distribution of resources including income levels which still existed in countries like Vanuatu.
In response the UN Under Secretary noted that her office is working with a number of development partners especially the World Bank and UNDP on issues of vulnerability in particular, impact on SIDS. Further her office is engaging with development partners including UN Agencies to ensure smooth transition of LDC graduation, stressing that arrangements need to be put in place to ease graduation transition.