Nepal has stressed the need for the Least Developed Countries to build resilient economies with adequate physical infrastructure, advanced industrial and technological capacity, and expanded social protection systems in a bid to win the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, eradicate poverty and ensure the well-being of their people.

Addressing the Annual Ministerial Meeting of the LDCs on behalf of a member country last evening, Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal said, "New and deadly variants of COVID-19 continue their march across the world, wreaking havoc on peoples, societies and economies. The pandemic has exacerbated economic inequality, exposed the most vulnerable people to job losses, aggravated food and housing insecurity, and pushed millions back into poverty. Its impact on LDCs has been more acute."

"In contrast to the massive fiscal stimulus deployed by the developed countries, the policy response of LDCs has remained much more limited," he opined, adding that, "This has been due to their weak fiscal conditions, poor resilience capacity and dwindling global support."

"The situation is bleaker regarding the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. For LDCs, adequate access to vaccines remains many months away, if not years.

This makes the call for equitable, affordable and universal access to vaccines even more urgent," he said.

Paudyal also said the structural transformation of their economy through building productive capacity was critical to propel them towards the higher stage of development. "An enhanced level of support from the international community in the areas of official development assistance, foreign direct investment aid for trade, and technology transfer must complement the LDCs' national development efforts."

He underscored that debt cancellation and suspension would be equally important to address the LDCs' looming debt crisis.

"Given the proportionate impact of climate change on LDCs, adequate climate financing is a must to address loss and damage, and help them adopt a low-carbon development pathways. Nepal hopes that the upcoming COP26 will take bold steps in ensuring climate justice and addressing the cause of LDCs," he said. According to Paudyal, Nepal is on the verge of graduation from the LDC category. As the first and the only country to be recommended for graduation without meeting the per capita income threshold, Nepal's is a unique case.

"Graduation is our longheld aspiration and a key development milestone, and we are committed to making it smooth, sustainable and irreversible. However, we are anxious that it will come with upfront cost and loss of support measures. It is more so as preparations for graduation will overlap with our efforts to recover from the pandemic.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 19 2021, of The Himalayan Times.