2 October 2008
General Assembly
GA/10760

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

High-Level Plenary

17th & 18th Meetings (AM & PM)


HIGH TRANSIT COSTS, ISOLATION FROM WORLD MARKETS, WEIGH DOWN GROWTH IN LANDLOCKED


COUNTRIES, MINISTERS TELL ASSEMBLY’S HIGH-LEVEL MEETING

 


Sounding ‘Alarm Bells,’ Secretary-General Calls for More Aid

To Realize 2003 UN Action Plan for Landlocked Developing Countries


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today sounded “alarm bells” in the General Assembly that time was running out to help the world’s 31 landlocked developing countries surmount the severe infrastructure and transport constraints that had curtailed their economic growth and continually eclipsed opportunities to integrate into the world trading system.


The Secretary-General addressed some 25 delegates attending the first day of the Assembly’s High-level Midterm Review of the 2003 Almaty Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries, organized to assess progress -- and lessons learned -- in implementing the Almaty Programme of Action.  The goal of that plan is to forge partnerships for overcoming the special problems of landlocked developing countries caused by their lack of territorial access to the sea and isolation from world markets.


The high-level meeting also featured a panel discussion on the “Role of International Support in establishing efficient transit transport systems to expand trade opportunities for landlocked developing countries”.  Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, moderated the discussion.


In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General stressed that it was vital that landlocked developing countries increase their exports to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  They accounted for less than 1 per cent of global merchandise trade, and the single biggest obstacle to increasing that share was the “very high” cost of transport, which, in some countries, exceeded 70 per cent of export value.  That alone constituted a bigger barrier to trade than tariffs.


While some encouraging progress had been made in implementing the Almaty action plan -- notably in improved transit transport policies -- roads and railways remained inadequate, and ports continued to use obsolete cargo-handling equipment.  The United Nations was helping countries to, among other things, develop integrated transport networks, and modernize customs operations.  However, a “more vigorous” effort was needed.  “We need full implementation by all partners in order to make significant progress,” he said.


To address such issues, Mr. Diarra said landlocked developing countries stood to gain from the effective, focused and coordinated execution of the “aid for trade” initiative, whose agenda the World Trade Organization had made tremendous efforts to advance.  Describing progress, he said since the launch of the Almaty Programme, there had been renewed engagement among nations to develop transport infrastructure and provide aid and debt relief, and regional development banks were playing a catalytic role in fostering partnerships to boost regional integration.  Further, Asian, Latin American and African countries were receiving much-needed assistance from regional financial institutions.


Acknowledging limited progress, Hamed Diane Semega, Minister of Transport of Mali, nevertheless reminded delegations that Assembly resolution 58/201 (2003), had endorsed the 2003 Almaty Programme of Action and had called for its “full and effective implementation”.  Five years on, that meant analysing the problems facing landlocked developing countries in the context of globalization, especially since most of them were excluded from international trade.


Outlining the serious constraints imposed by their geography, he said the 31 landlocked developing countries covered 12.5 per cent of the world’s land, and accounted for 5.5 per cent of the global population.  Nonetheless, they generated only 2 per cent of global gross domestic product, and their distance from the sea meant they had high transport costs.  External debt was growing harder to sustain, and their competitiveness was affected by everything connected to transport and transit.  Transport costs averaged 15 to 25 per cent, about three times as much as in developed countries, he added.


Those problems, which were compounded by the current energy, finance and food crises, shook the very foundations of their economies, he said, calling on the global community to act with determination, to ensure that encouraging results seen in adapting their economies to globalization not be wasted.  Indeed, while the Almaty Programme was not a “magic wand”, full and effective implementation would enable landlocked developing countries to take part in global competition.


In addition, Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, said that even with the progress reported by Under-Secretary-General Diarra, the least developed landlocked countries were suffering the worst.  In a highly competitive world, those nations faced severe constraints because of their narrow export base, lack of access to the sea, distance from major international markets, inadequate transport infrastructure and cumbersome transit procedures.  They faced insurmountable challenges in integrating their economies into the global market.


Landlocked developing countries were also highly vulnerable to external shocks, he said, while their transit neighbours were mostly developing or emerging economies that faced similar economic challenges, including scare resources.  Given such conditions, he called on development partners to provide adequate support.


To that point, Philippe Delacroix, European Union Presidency Coordinator of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said official development assistance had played an important role in remedying the lack of infrastructure, while the private sector had been decisive in financing such projects, whether in landlocked or transit countries.  In this respect, the promotion of public-private partnerships, especially to create an investor-friendly environment, was essential.


For its part, the European Union had played a key role by providing financial and technical assistance for developing transport, telecommunications, energy and water infrastructure.  While the European Union would continue to do its share of work, landlocked and transit countries were primarily responsible for their own development.  To achieve this, they needed to unite and work together for their own common development.


General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann opened the meeting.


Also speaking today was the President of Mongolia.


The Deputy Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic also addressed the Assembly, as did the Foreign Affairs Ministers of India, Austria, Botswana, Nepal and Kazakhstan.  The Deputy Minister of Waters and Transport of Namibia also spoke.


The Transportation Ministers Uganda, Zambia and Lesotho also spoke, as did the Minister of Infrastructure Development of the United Republic of Tanzania.


Also speaking was the National Director of Frontiers and Limits of Chile.


Representatives of Japan, Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Morocco, Turkey, Indonesia, Paraguay, Philippines and Brazil also spoke.


General Assembly will reconvene Thursday, 3 October, at 10 a.m. to continue its High-Level Midterm Review of the 2003 Almaty Programme of Action.


Background


The General Assembly this morning convened a high-level midterm review of the 2003 Almaty Programme of Action, adopted in the Kazakh city for which it was named, by the International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries.  The plan aims to improve the access of those countries to outside markets, and, among other things, focuses on transport availability and cost, and how to provide better access to seaports and facilitate the export of products.


The United Nations has classified 31 developing States as landlocked; half of those are in Africa, ranking near the bottom of the Organization’s Human Development Index.  Most of the remaining landlocked developing states are in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and also lag far behind in foreign investment and economic growth.  Two of the countries –- Bolivia and Paraguay –- are in South America.


The Programme sets out specific action-oriented measures to be undertaken by both landlocked and transit developing countries, with the support of their development partners in five priority areas, including:  policy improvements to reduce customs bureaucracy and fees, and, ultimately, cut costs and travel delays for their exports; scale-up rail, road, air and pipeline infrastructure for those countries; optimize international trade measures to give preferential treatment to goods originating from landlocked countries; strengthen technical and financial assistance for infrastructure and policy improvements; and establish appropriate monitoring and follow-up mechanisms to measure implementation.


Before the high-level review was the Secretary-General’s report on Implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action: Addressing the Special Needs of Landlocked Developing Countries within a New Global Framework for Transit Transport Cooperation for Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries (document A/63/165), which among its conclusions, notes that the high cost of international trade remains a serious constraint to landlocked developing countries’ development.  Measures to deal with transit problems must address inadequate infrastructure, trade imbalance and weak institutional systems, among other things.


It also notes that tangible success has been made in the past five years, notably with the realization that high transit transport costs were a more significant barrier than most favoured nation tariffs for the landlocked developing countries.  Development assistance increased in the areas of transport infrastructure and trade facilitation from development partners.  In landlocked and transit developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, higher priority was placed on the issue of transit transport, followed by stronger policy reform efforts.


The report also recommends that the role of regional and subregional organizations be strengthened, and that the United Nations provide greater support to regional initiatives, including efforts to develop infrastructure.  Transit transport policy reforms and trade facilitation measures should include commercialization of transport services.  The international community should provide greater market access for goods originating in landlocked developing countries, and technical assistance should be extended to landlocked developing countries to ensure their participation in World Trade Organization talks.  As official development assistance (ODA) remained the major source of infrastructure investment, the report invited donor countries and financial institutions to provide greater financial resources to transit transport.


Opening Plenary


Opening the Assembly’s midterm review of the Almaty Programme of Action, MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN, President of the General Assembly ( Nicaragua), said the representatives of landlocked countries clearly understood the vulnerability of their economies to erratic markets and soaring transportation costs.  He noted that nine of the 14 countries with the lowest Human Development Index scores last year were landlocked.


He was heartened to see the central and effective role that the United Nations was playing in the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action since the 2003 Almaty Conference.  This Conference aimed to forge global partnerships to address these countries’ special needs, by tackling their continuing marginalization from the world economy in a focused, holistic fashion.


The resulting Almaty Programme of Action outlined a clear set of priorities for action in transit policy issues, infrastructure development and maintenance, international trade and facilitation, and international support measures.  There had been considerable progress since the Programme was adopted five years ago, and the Assembly’s decision to hold this midterm review showed the international community’s commitment to the Programme, he said.


But much more work was needed to reach the Programme’s overarching goal of creating efficient transit transport systems in all landlocked regions of the world.  Geography coupled with critical deficiencies in infrastructure, as well as cumbersome border crossing procedures, continued to pose daunting impediments to the external trade of landlocked developing countries.  He also said the export development of those countries was severely constrained by rising transit costs, which limited the range of potential exports and markets in which goods could be competitively and profitably traded.  In today’s world, high trade transaction costs remained the single most important obstacle to these countries’ equitable and competitive access to global markets.


This midterm review was an extremely important exercise to assess what had been achieved so far, and what could be done better, he said.  The review would guide the second half of the implementation period of the Almaty Programme, so it could more effectively help landlocked countries integrate into the global trading system.  The success achieved so far had depended on a range of partners that had enabled the creation of effective transit transport systems that benefit landlocked developing countries and their transit neighbours in all regions of the world.


Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON recalled that he had sounded “alarm bells” at the recent high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals that time was running out to honour commitments made to the developing world.  The response had been overwhelming:  Governments, civil society and businesses had forged new partnerships, and, as a result, an unprecedented commitment in pledges to help the world’s poor might now total some $16 billion.  “I am now more hopeful about attaining the Millennium Development Goals by 2015,” he said.


Today, he said he was sounding alarm bells for the Almaty Programme of Action, and he wished to see a similarly “hope inspiring” response.  Indeed, too many landlocked developing countries were not on track to meeting the Goals, and together, accounted for 10 of the 20 countries with the lowest level of human development.


It was vital that the world’s 31 landlocked developing countries increased their exports to meet the Goals, as they currently accounted for less than one per cent of global merchandise trade, he said.  The single biggest obstacle to increasing that share was the “very high” cost of transport, which, in some countries, exceeded 70 per cent of the export value, a situation that constituted a bigger barrier to trade than tariffs.  As such, a more vigorous effort was needed, he asserted.


While there had been some encouraging progress in implementing the Almaty Programme, and countries were improving transit transport policies, he said roads and railways remained inadequate, and ports continued to use obsolete cargo handling equipment.  International support was needed to improve infrastructure.


Noting that the Millennium Summit had committed States to address the special needs of landlocked developing countries, he said the Almaty Programme of Action translated that pledge into specific actions.  The United Nations supported the Programme by helping countries develop integrated transport networks; modernize customs operations; and build capacities for trade negotiations, among other things.


“The achievements so far are encouraging,” he said. “But we need full implementation by all partners in order to make significant progress.”


NAMBAR ENKHBAYAR, President of Mongolia, said that the last few years had been somewhat favourable for the overall economic development and growth of landlocked developing countries.  However, despite positive developments, those countries continued to face considerable challenges inherently linked to their geographical handicap.  Over the past decade, the share of landlocked developing countries in world exports remained unacceptably dismal –- well below 0.6 per cent, with commodities accounting for the bulk of exports.


In the case of his country, for instance, transit transport costs through Russia and China amounted up to 8 per cent of Mongolia’s gross domestic product (GDP), he said.  Hence, with a view to promoting a comprehensive subregional agreement designed to harmonize transit regulations and reduce transit transport costs, the country had initiated a Tripartite Framework Agreement on Transit Transportation with its two neighbours, he said.


Continuing, he noted the landlocked developing countries continued marginalization from the international trading system, which prevented them from fully using trade as an instrument for achieving their respective Millennium Development Goals.  He found it disheartening that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report for 2007/2008 showed 10 out of 20 lowest-ranking countries were landlocked.  Their situation was further exacerbated by the current global food, energy and financial crises.


In that regard, he emphasised the need to seize the opportunity presented by today’s review meeting, to explore new avenues of how to urgently respond to those global development challenges, both existing and emerging.  He added that the Ulaanbaatar meeting on trade and trade facilitation, along with the Burkina Faso meeting on infrastructure development, constituted an important part of the substantive preparations in the run-up to today’s midterm review meeting.  Regional and international cooperation in ensuring effective implementation of the Programme of Action was crucial in that regard.


HAMED DIANE SEMEGA, Minister of Transport of Mali, recalling that the midterm review of the Almaty Programme of Action came five years after the adoption of General Assembly resolution 58/201 (2003), which endorsed that plan and had called for its “full and effective implementation”, said that problems today must be analyzed in the context of globalization, as most landlocked developing countries were excluded from international trade.


Outlining the serious constraints imposed by their geography, he said the 31 landlocked developing countries covered 12.5 per cent of the world’s land, and accounted for 5.5 per cent of the global population.  Nonetheless, they generated only 2 per cent of global gross domestic product, and their distance from the sea meant they had high transport costs.  External debt was growing harder to sustain, and their competitiveness was affected by everything connected to transport and transit.  Transport costs averaged 15 to 25 per cent, about 3 times as much as in developed countries, he added.


Those problems, which were compounded by the current energy, finance and food crises, shook the very foundations of their economies, he said, calling on the global community to act with determination, to ensure that encouraging results seen in adapting their economies to globalization not be wasted.


He recalled that the Secretary-General had indicated that the midterm review was an important exercise to determine how the second half of the implementation period could be used more effectively.  With globalization, countries needed to be competitive, especially through the World Trade Organization.  The concept of special differentiated treatment would help countries implement technical assistance, and in that regard, he thanked the World Trade Organization for helping landlocked developing countries analyze their local concerns.  In closing, he said the Almaty Progamme was not a “magic wand”, but implementation would enable landlocked developing countries take part in global competition.


PRANAB MUKHERJEE, Minister of External Affairs of India, said it was no coincidence that 16 of the 30 landlocked developing countries were still classified as least developed countries.  The current global food and energy crises had only made their problems more acute.  Therefore, it was imperative that this midterm review make a genuine assessment of challenges to the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action.  Various reports by the United Nations and other bodies clearly identified lack of resources as a key barrier to the Programme’s implementation.


He said it was difficult to attract private sector investment to transit transport infrastructure projects that involved significant investment and long gestation periods, especially in countries where the private sector was not well developed.  Official development assistance was critical for long-term funding of those projects, yet, official development assistance for the transport sector had actually decreased to landlocked developing countries.


Transit developing countries also needed enhanced international support.  They faced their own development challenges, and assumed the additional costs of providing transit transport facilities to landlocked countries, even when areas with their own borders remained as remote from the sea as their landlocked neighbours, he said.


Turning to trade, he said developed countries needed to provide enhanced market access to products of special interest to landlocked developing countries and transit developing countries.  The overarching principle of special and differential treatment remained very important.  Trade and transit issues were closely linked, and enhancement of trade facilitation, efficient customs control, and streamlined documentation and procedures for international trade all required technical and financial assistance.  He also stressed the importance of regional cooperation, and said regional initiatives to improve transit connections and intraregional trade were a priority for India.


HANS WINKLER, State Secretary for European and International Affairs of Austria, describing the meeting not only as timely, but also of the utmost importance, pointed out that despite real progress towards the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, especially in the field of poverty reduction, it was still the least developed countries, the landlocked developing countries and the small island developing states that were the most adversely affected, and for that reason, they needed the international community’s first and foremost attention.


He said that there had been a number of important meetings and events held this year on development cooperation, which had included the participation of many Heads of State and Government, and all been determined to give new impetus to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  It was time to substantially step up the efforts to reach the Goals, lest all those important discussions amounted to no avail.  It was for that reason that Austria considered the Almaty Programme of Action a significant landmark in the recognition of the special needs and problems of landlocked developing countries.


Landlocked developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa were especially adversely affected by their dependence on other countries’ transit routes for access to overseas markets, he continued.  Their isolation from world markets, their poor infrastructure, communication problems and logistics delays significantly increased the costs for African firms, and imposed an additional burden on their economies.  Additionally, internal transport costs were at least twice as high as those in Asia and Latin America, while energy costs for African firms were 6 per cent of total costs -- six times more than in emerging countries such as China.


He went on to highlight the significance of regional integration, as it provided security and peace, and prevented crises through a common political and economical stability, as well as a common legal framework, which constituted the basic prerequisites for transit and free access to the sea.


Panel Discussion:  Establishing Efficient Transit Transport Systems


Following the morning opening plenary session, the Assembly held a panel on the “Role of International Support in establishing efficient transit transport systems to expand trade opportunities for landlocked developing countries”.

The discussion was moderated by Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.


Presentations were made by:  Ad Melkert, Associate Administrator, United Nations Development Programme; Bernard Hoekman, Sector Director of the Trade Department in the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Vice-Presidency of the World Bank; Antonio Juan Sosa, Vice-President for Infrastructure, Corporación Andina de Fomento; Habib Ouane, Director of the Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Robert Schoellhammer, Deputy Resident Director, North American Representative Office, Asian Development Bank; and Shishir Priyadarshi, Director of the Development Division of the World Trade Organization (WTO).


Opening a panel, Assembly President D’Escoto said the forum could serve to underscore the crucial contribution by international and regional organizations and financial institutions towards effective implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action.  Such partners had, over the years and within their respective mandates, increasingly enhanced the scope and strength of focused activities to support landlocked developing countries -- from innovative research analysis and policy advisory services to technical and much-needed financial assistance for major projects.


The institutions, along with the bilateral development partners, were essential actors in the partnership, providing a cooperative environment to push forward the Almaty agenda, and bringing to the table invaluable in-depth expertise and the technical and financial resources required for achieving the Almaty goals.


Under-Secretary-General DIARRA said modern transport infrastructure was crucial for economic success and poverty reduction in the current global setting.  Since the Almaty Programme had been launched in 2003, the United Nations system and international financial institutions had recognized the special needs of landlocked developing countries in that regard.  There had been renewed engagement among nations to develop transport infrastructure, and provide aid and debt relief.


He went on to say that regional development banks were playing a catalytic role in fostering partnerships and other initiatives to boost regional cooperation and integration.  Further, Asian, Latin American and African countries were receiving much needed support and assistance from regional financial institutions.  Landlocked developing countries stood to gain from the effective, focused and coordinated execution of the “aid for trade” initiative, whose agenda the World Trade Organization had made tremendous efforts to advance.


UNDP’S Mr. MELKERT said that trade could be a powerful engine of growth in landlocked developing countries, but that many of those countries were not realizing the benefits for human development.  Collectively, landlocked developing countries only accounted for 2 per cent of the world’s total gross domestic product, and their average GDP was roughly half of that of their maritime neighbours.


National trade capacity development was key to a more inclusive and equitable globalization, including for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  He said that UNDP’s support programme aimed to enhance trade mainstreaming in national development strategies and Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers; build capacities to negotiate trade agreements that prioritized poverty reduction and human development outcomes; and strengthen competitiveness and overcome supply-side constraints.


It was also critical to expand access to modern energy services in landlocked developing countries, Mr. Melkert continued.  Through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and in the East African Community, UNDP had supported the formulation of regional strategies that included specific energy access targets related to domestic fuels, electricity and motive power, designed to assist countries in providing energy services to meet the Millennium Goals.  With only seven years left to 2015 –- the target for achieving the Goals –- an extraordinary effort must be made to improve the lives of the poor through stronger international cooperation.  Trade and access to energy were crucial to that effort, by increasing pro-poor growth and advancing human development.


Mr. HOEKMAN, of the World Bank, noted the phenomenal trade growth in the last five years of landlocked developing countries –- averaging 20 per cent annually.  But that was due, largely, to higher prices for commodities, which still made up 70 per cent to 80 per cent of those exports.  Landlocked developing countries must diversify their exports, and have better access to export markets, in order to compete.  World Bank indicators showed that landlocked developing countries’ longer transport times led to higher transaction costs and poorer logistic performance than in other developing countries.


For example, African least developed countries needed three weeks to transport goods inland from the port of entry to their final destination, twice as long as other developing countries.  They also needed 10 days on average to move goods from the warehouse to the port.  Every day spent on transport cost them 1 per cent of the value of the goods shipped.  Inefficiencies in the supply chain were also a deterrent.  Mango producers in Côte d’Ivoire received 45 cents of every euro worth of mangoes shipped to the European Union, versus 27 cents for their competitors in landlocked Mali.  That lost income made it more difficult for landlocked developing countries to achieve the millennium targets.


Infrastructure and market access were important, but inefficient transit systems, supply chains and red tape were largely to blame for low logistics performance, Mr. Hoekman said.  Buyers would, in many cases, not do business with suppliers in landlocked developing countries, due to the time constraints and uncertainties involved.  Reducing those obstacles was crucial for development and attracting investment, as was improving transit regimes in transit countries, where goods often languished due to customs constraints.


Since 2003, the World Bank had invested $2 billion in transport corridor infrastructure, multimodal transport, rail networks and road systems to help landlocked developing countries reduce trade costs and improve logistics performance.  It was also working with other international financial institutions and public-private partnerships to that end.  The Bank was focusing on software development to eliminate regulatory bottlenecks for cross-border shipments, and it was trying to set up a trade facilitation facility to address the aid for trade agenda, he said.


Mr. SOSA, of the Corporación Andina de Fomento, said that the Corporación was a multilateral development bank created 37 years ago by five Andean countries:   Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.  Since the 1990s, several other countries had joined, and Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Panama had become full members.  The bank’s approvals were approximately $5 billion a year, while disbursements were about $4 billion a year, and its portfolio was reaching $10 billion.  Infrastructure and social investment were the most present sectors in the portfolio, and the bank had become one of the leaders in infrastructure financing in Latin America.


He said that the Corporación not only had a financing programme, but also a growing knowledge programme with studies, workshops, conferences and publications on several set-ups of infrastructure.  A number of projects had been identified, and were being built to enhance logistics in Bolivia and Paraguay –- the two countries without direct access to maritime ports -- with their neighbours.  The Paraguay-Panama Waterway was a key system to give both Bolivia and Paraguay access to the Atlantic Ocean.


Based on the Corporación’s experience, Mr. Sosa said that multilateral banks should, among other things, support landlocked countries in their planning and coordination efforts; provide funding for studies to collect regional data, build indicators and study projects; finance projects contributing to better logistics; provide special treatment to communities with no coast; and identify and publish the best practices and cases of free transit transport agreements.  In that way, international organizations could help isolated countries to acquire some of the capacities they lacked right now.


The next speaker, UNCTAD’s Mr. OUANE, stressed the importance of thinking of landlocked nations as “land-linked”, in order to exploit the opportunities created by common borders.  Participants of the July 2008 UNCTAD preparatory meeting ahead of the Assembly’s review had called for better collaboration between landlocked and transit countries, as well as among international agencies and regional development bodies to improve transit facilitation.


Participants at the meeting had also called for research on the economics and the political economy of transit corridors through surveys and case studies; capacity-building programmes to set up specific corridors; targeted projects in transit and landlocked countries to implement core transport and customs reform; a cost-effective and sustainable transit corridor measurement system; and a repository of best practices in transit facilitation created by such international agencies as UNCTAD, the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the World Bank.


As part of a follow-up to those recommendations, UNCTAD’s relevant expert group meetings, over the next four years, would focus on how to optimize investment, particularly from the private sector, as well as on information and communication technology in trade and transport facilitation, best practices for public-private partnerships in infrastructure, and emerging challenges affecting transport costs and connectivity such as high fuel prices and freight rates, climate change and supply chain security, Mr. Ouane said.


Mr. SCHOELLHAMMER, of the North American Representative Office of the Asian Development Bank, said the Asian Development Bank worked in all Asian landlocked developing countries, with a focus on transportation and trade, and had committed about $5 billion in investment to those countries.  While the growth story of Asia was very well-known, the region’s landlocked developing countries had been less in the spotlight, although their growth rate was at 10.3 per cent, and compared very favourably with their coastal peers.


For instance, there had been a remarkable upswing in 2008 in Asian landlocked nations, and countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan had benefited from investments in hydrocarbons.  Mongolian growth had been spurred by very high levels of foreign investment, particularly in mining, as had been the case with Afghanistan.  He said that an interesting feature had been the burgeoning ties with neighbours such as India, China and the Russian Federation, among others.


Poverty in the Asian landlocked developing countries remained high, however, and many were not on track to achieve the millennium targets by 2015.  More must be done, and economic diversification remained a major challenge.  Greater access to overseas markets and participation in global production networks were also needed.  Mr. Schoellhammer stressed that substandard infrastructure, technology and management must also be addressed.  The Asian Development Bank, however, had noticed that many Asian landlocked developing countries had responded strategically to such challenges, by, among others, engaging in regional initiatives.  For regional groups to work effectively, however, all members must be able to participate on a level footing, and international support could play a big role in that.


Mr. PRIYADARSHI, Director of the Development Division of the World Trade Organization, said that landlocked developing countries were a very important part of his organization’s membership, and that its wider membership was becoming increasingly sensitive to the concerns expressed by the landlocked countries.  The most important contribution that the World Trade Organization could make to the Almaty Programme of Action was through a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round.


He said that those talks sought to create a fairer and more equitable trading system for all its members by addressing the inequities that existed in the global market for goods and services, and by providing a clear link between trade and development concerns by putting the needs and interests of developing countries, including those of the landlocked developing countries, at the heart of the negotiating agenda.


The landlocked developing countries stood to benefit from an early conclusion of the Doha Round, Mr. Priyadarshi continued.  Successful negotiations on trade facilitation would undoubtedly lower their transaction, administrative, transportation and transit costs.  The potential gains of negotiation in trade facilitation were likely to outweigh the gains in all other areas.


The aid for trade initiative was also extremely important, because it allowed a linkage to be made between trade facilitation and the kind of financial and technical help that many landlocked developing countries would require.  “The urgency of concluding the Doha Round today is more acute than at any point in the last seven years,” he said, adding that not concluding the talks could have very serious implications for development and investment in landlocked developing countries.


During the discussion that followed, a representative of the Geneva-based Agency for International Trade Information and Cooperation expressed concern about the current financial crisis, and the high prices of food and commodities.  She stressed that landlocked developing countries needed trade-related technical assistance in line with the Almaty Programme, since implementing trade agreements was difficult for them.


Further, those countries often found the jargon-filled aid for trade initiative to be “a nebulous concept in need of clarification”.  It was not easy to determine how to close the gap between the needs of landlocked developing countries and what bilateral donors were offering them.  She, therefore, urged participants to incorporate the air, rail and port infrastructure concerns of landlocked and transit developing countries resulting from high fuel prices into the Almaty follow-up.


Nepal’s representative stressed the importance of comprehensively addressing the structural problems of landlocked developing countries, such as poverty, low economic growth, difficult typography and geographic marginalization.  Financial assistance to build infrastructure, as well as sound policies and institutions in landlocked developing countries, was as crucial as market access and supply side capacity enhancement.


Statements


Thongloun Sisoulith, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said more needed to be done for the Almaty Programme to be made a reality, including further actions to establish viable transit systems, transit policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.  Of utmost importance was the need for greater market access for goods originating in landlocked developing countries.  In that context, it was imperative to ensure those countries’ effective participation in World Trade Organization talks.


Despite some progress, economic growth and social well-being in landlocked developing countries remained vulnerable to external shocks, he said, including financial instability and the impacts of climate change, among others.  Today’s discussions would lead to innovative ways for tackling the problem of marginalization from the international trading system, and the draft Declaration, to be adopted at the close of the high-level meeting, would re-energize all stakeholders to do more towards fulfilling their commitments.  Unless their geographical disadvantages were properly addressed, the marginalization of the landlocked developing countries would continue to deepen.


For its part, the Lao Government had translated the Programme into development strategies, he said, noting that the National Transport Committee, under the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, had been established as a monitoring mechanism.  His country had upheld its firm commitment to actively participate in the Greater Mekong Subregion and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) cooperation frameworks and, to reap benefits, was pursuing a policy of transformation from a landlocked to a “land-linked” nation.  In closing, he reaffirmed his Government’s “unwavering” commitment to continue cooperation with fellow landlocked developing countries in the follow-up to the implementation of the Almaty Programme.


PHANDU SKELEMANI, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Botswana, said his country, lying at the centre of the Southern African plateau and surrounded by four countries, with the nearest seaport more than 700 kilometres away, was geographically at a disadvantage trying to gain access to the cheaper means of transportation.  Though landlocked, however, Botswana was a key transit route with responsibility to facilitate smooth and efficient flow of transit goods.  It took that responsibility very seriously, as demonstrated by the programmes it had undertaken at the national level, bilaterally with its neighbours, and within the framework of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).


In that context, he said, Botswana believed there was an urgent need to strengthen and harmonize initiatives and programmes of regional economic communities, the United Nations, Bretton Woods institutions and the Development Banks, in order to achieve proper synergy and coordination in all their operations, to complement the Almaty Programme of Action.  Assistance for the rehabilitation of existing transport infrastructure was thus critical.  Such rehabilitation would ensure viability of transport corridors and sustained economic spin-offs for communities residing along those corridors.


He said that, in order to further facilitate the speedy and efficient flow of trade, Botswana was currently undertaking expansion of its international airport, in Gaborone, to accommodate bigger aircraft, thus enabling the transportation of large volumes of goods.  He concluded with a reaffirmation of Botswana’s commitment to the Almaty Programme of Action, which he believed would enhance trade opportunities for the country, and also promote equitable development of the SADC region as a whole.


SIMON EJUA, Minister of State for Works and Transport of Uganda, said the challenges faced by landlocked developing countries, because of their lack of territorial and international access to the sea and international waterways, limited their scope for effective participation in global trade.  The Almaty Programme was an essential component in the development agenda of those countries and its full implementation would help them integrate into their regional economic communities and other partnerships.


Road transport was the main mode of transport for exports and imports in those nations, and sizeable allocations were required for the expansion and maintenance of road transit infrastructure.  Railroads played an important role in the transit corridor systems linking ocean ports with landlocked developing countries and the countries needed urgent construction of new railway connections and the rehabilitation of existing railway facilities, as well as new technological improvements, he said.


Efficient port operations depended on adequate infrastructure and good management, but many seaports were a critical bottleneck in transit systems because of physical inadequacies and operational constraints.  Landlocked and transit developing countries needed to seek cooperative arrangements to improve port facilities and services for transit goods, including the modernization of existing terminals, the creation of new terminals and streamlining procedures.  Inland waterways were important links for trade and additional efforts were necessary for rehabilitation and to expand the lake and river infrastructure along the corridors linking landlocked countries to ocean ports, he said.


IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, said the challenges that landlocked countries faced were enormous and the least developed landlocked countries were suffering the worst.  In a highly competitive world, those nations faced severe constraints because of their narrow export base, lack of access to the sea, distance from major international markets, inadequate transport infrastructure and cumbersome transit procedures.  They faced insurmountable challenges in integrating their economies into the global market.


Landlocked developing countries were also highly vulnerable to external shocks and their acute vulnerabilities had been painfully amplified by the recent emerging global crises, such as the food crisis, high energy prices and climate change.  The transit neighbours of landlocked developing countries were mostly developing or emerging economies that faced similar economic challenges, including scarce resources and dilapidated infrastructure, he said.  The special needs and challenges of landlocked developing countries needed to be addressed comprehensively, and full implementation of the Almaty Programme was crucial to that end.


He urged landlocked countries and their transit neighbours to cooperate closely and meaningfully to build efficient transit systems.  South-South cooperation, as well as triangular, regional and subregional cooperation, were increasingly important.  He reiterated Bangladesh’s unswerving support for landlocked developing countries and said his country had always been ready to provide transit facilities to landlocked countries in the region.  Bangladesh was building an uninterrupted road network throughout the country, he noted.  He called on development partners to provide adequate support.


DORA SILIYA, Minister of Communications and Transport of Zambia, noted that Internet penetration among African populations in 2006 stood at 4.7 per cent, while in Asia and North America, that level had hit 13.7 per cent and 38.7 per cent, respectively.  For landlocked developing countries, Internet penetration stood at 2.9 per cent, clearly indicating that Africa’s information and communications technology development was the lowest in the world, representing only 3.4 per cent of global penetration.  For Zambia, growth statistics were favourable, with the current $10.9 billion gross domestic product (GDP) reflecting a 5.5 per cent growth rate.  However, available transport and communication infrastructure could not sustain that growth in the long term.


Recognizing the importance of such infrastructure for long-term wealth and job creation, her Government’s immediate challenge was to address its failure to quickly respond to the unprecedented levels of economic activity.  As a landlocked country, Zambia was also challenged by a lack of adequate border facilities, which adversely affected trade facilitation.


While Zambia’s long-term challenges were numerous, they were not insurmountable, she said, and clear guidelines must be created to assist landlocked and transit developing countries in creating “integrated, multi-modal” transport systems.  Zambia realized it must work within the region to maximize returns on investment in communication and transport infrastructure, and also that non-oil producing landlocked countries, such as her own, would continue to be challenged by high transport costs.


It was critically important to address software issues, and clear policy implementation must be supported by an enabling legal environment, she said, adding that it was imperative that partners continue to provide assistance.  In closing, she hoped the next review of the Almaty Programme would yield more positive reports in all aspects of implementation.


UPENDRA YADAV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, stressed that more must be done to ensure effective implementation of all activities under the Programme of Action.  Citing the Secretary-General’s report, he said some progress had been made, notably in policy reforms and achieving stronger partnerships for infrastructure development.  However, countries were at different stages of implementation, and those emerging from conflict needed special attention and support.


A realistic assessment should be made of progress and lessons learned in implementing the Programme of Action, and an agreement secured to ensure standard implementation.  Attention should focus on bridging gaps on fulfilling commitments, and taking into account new challenges posed by climate change, among other things.  Landlocked developed countries had been unfairly marginalised in the global market, due to their geography, and had suffered from inadequate infrastructure and trade capacity constraints.  As a result, their competitiveness was vulnerable.  He called for ensuring landlocked developing countries’ right of access to and from the sea, as well as increased official development assistance, which was critical to infrastructure development.


International trade and trade facilitation was equally significant for promoting growth, he said, welcoming relevant aid for trade initiatives.  Data suggested that the 31 landlocked countries had a mere 0.61 per cent share of world exports, and 0.57 share of imports.  Given that, they were entitled to special and adequate measures, including preferential treatment in the multilateral trading system.  Finally, he called for continued and enhanced support from development partners to help landlocked developing countries fully implement the Almaty Programme within the stipulated timeframe.


NURLAN DANENOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, commended the midterm review preparatory process, during which several thematic meetings had taken place, which provided a good basis for assessing progress.  While it was encouraging that landlocked developing countries had achieved considerable progress in implementing the Almaty Programme, it must be recognized that many States continued to be negatively affected by factors that impeded their development.  They were still not properly involved in the world trading system, and he strongly appealed to giving due attention to the vulnerability of landlocked developing countries, particularly in helping them overcome problems due to their geographic isolation.


Describing national efforts, he said Kazakhstan’s major goals in trade capacity and transport sectors were reflected in its transport strategy for the period to 2015, which provided for construction of such projects as airports and railroads.  The cost of such projects would be about $30 billion.  One of them would establish a Western Europe–Western China highway transit corridor.


Kazakhstan emphasized the importance of effective cooperation with the United Nations regional commissions, he said, adding that his Government was generally satisfied by the contribution of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in implementing big projects.  At the same time, the United Nations should pay more attention to countries of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, notably in developing transit and transport capacity, due to their increasing role in meeting energy and food security challenges.  Drawing attention to the need of financial and technical assistance, he said it was important that the draft outcome document, of the high-level meeting, contain an appeal to donor countries.


PAUL SMIT, Deputy Minister of Works and Transport of Namibia, associating himself with the statement on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that the Almaty Declaration placed the primary responsibility for establishing effective transit systems with landlocked and transit developing countries.  His country, a transit developing country, had registered significant progress, with its transit transport programme having begun well before adoption of the Almaty Programme in 2003.


Namibia’s efforts to implement the Almaty action plan included, among other things, signing of two Memorandums of Understanding, one on the management of the Trans Kalahari Corridors, and another with Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, on the development of dry port facilities in Walvis Bay.  For that port to cope with increasing demand, considerable investment had been made to upgrade it, with some $160 million earmarked for the project in 2009, he added.


He said despite Namibia’s progress, various challenges remained, including limited funding for infrastructure development; aging infrastructure and outdated technologies; limited private sector investment in transport infrastructure; and global economic pressures that impacted input costs, such as high oil and steel prices.  Though Namibia had benefited, since 2005, from the pilot capacity-building programme under UNCTAD, his Government’s commitment to maintain transport infrastructure should be complemented by financial and technical support from the global community.


MARÍA TERESA INFANTE, National Director of Frontiers and Limits of Chile, said the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America, established in 2000, had greatly cooperated in promoting the country’s physical integration with its neighbours, either through enhancing infrastructure or border crossings.  It had also helped identify methodology to prioritise projects, their implementation, and the appropriate consideration of the environmental sustainability in those.


Chile was part of a number of corridors which operated year-round, connecting the rest of the countries of the southern tip of South America.  She said Chile was expected to strengthen that process, supported by international, regional and subregional financial organisms.  The South American Union of Nations (UNASUR), was working to ensure coherence between the objectives and commitments assumed by States at a bilateral and regional level.  Further, the strengthening of that agenda should be reflected in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and the Almaty action plan.


She said that, although integration was a concept beginning to materialize with the construction of basic infrastructure, further concrete initiatives were needed.  To that end, Bolivia and Paraguay were fundamental, and the integration called for in the Almaty action plan had to actively include them.  Further, such issues could not be isolated from other important concerns such as international trade, goods and services.


TSELE CHAKELA, Minister of Public Works and Transport of Lesotho, said he was proud to be part of the negotiations that led, in 2003, to the adoption of the Almaty Programme, which carried seven objectives and five policy priority areas.  Implementation was a daunting challenge that could only be achieved through solidarity and cooperation.  On the strides his country had made, he said that  under the Joint Bilateral Commission of Cooperation between Lesotho and South Africa, for example, the two Governments had agreed to create a one-stop border post aimed at promoting the rapid movement of goods, services and people between the countries and improve trade and accelerate economic growth.


He went on to say that the Government planned to invite private sectors interested in the development of the Maseru Container Terminal into a dry port.  The Government was also in the process of replacing the obsolete navigational aids at the Moshoeshoe1 International Airport, including the procurement of fire trucks, to improve safety standards.  Those activities were being carried out with the assistance of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa.  In addition, the European Union had helped rehabilitate about 110 kilometres of paved roads covering southern and northern parts of Lesotho.


But even with that progress, Lesotho was concerned that some development partners were focusing financial assistance on the social sector.  He welcomed the idea of aid for trade, which could help Lesotho meet its infrastructural challenges, and hoped relevant initiatives would be operating soon.  He called on development partners to honour their commitments and redouble their efforts towards providing financial assistance to landlocked and developing countries, so they could compete globally.


SHUKURU J. KAWAMBWA, Minister of Infrastructure Development of the United Republic of Tanzania, said the international community recognized in Almaty, in 2003, and during subsequent Assembly discussions, that high transit transport costs were a more obstructive barrier than “most favoured nation” tariffs for landlocked developing countries.  Transit and landlocked developing countries faced enormous challenges in effectively participating in international trade.


The United Republic of Tanzania had taken specific measures to implement the specific actions agreed upon in the Almaty Programme and had prepared a national plan of action for implementation by 2010.  Regarding the crucial transport sector, he said the policy objective was to ensure that all roads, railways, seaports and inland ports serving landlocked neighbouring countries were expanded and improved, to promote the adequate flow of international traffic to and from these countries.  Tanzania’s current transport infrastructure covered road, railway, air, water and pipeline routes linked to neighbouring landlocked and transit countries.


Despite its considerable road and rail network, the country’s transport infrastructure was still inadequate, and a National Transport Policy had been adopted in 2003 to address those shortcomings and achieve sustained development of the sector.  In 2007-2008, the United Republic of Tanzania launched a Ten-Year Transport Sector Investment Programme with a budget of $6.2 billion for the first five years.  Ports were another critical piece of the infrastructure system and the Tanzanian Port Authority would soon finalize a study on port interface challenges at the port of Dar es Salaam, which would improve port operation services, digitize the customs process and reduce congestion at the Dar es Salaam port and, develop the Tanga and Mtwara ports to required international standards.


YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said that, for the overall economic development of landlocked developing countries, the promotion of exports and the importation of essential goods at competitive prices were of utmost importance.  Being geographically disadvantaged, those countries had to prioritize efforts to improve infrastructure.  Only with the development of appropriate infrastructure could economic activities be accelerated and trade and investment promoted.


With that in mind, Japan had taken initiative to support the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Short-term Action Plan, as well as the medium- and long-term infrastructure development programme in Africa.  Stressing that the improvement of transportation infrastructure did not have to be limited to physical infrastructure, such as roads and ports, he declared that institutional infrastructure, including customs, quarantine, and immigration procedures at borders, needed to be improved as well.  Japan had extended assistance through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), to establish “One Stop Border Posts (OSBP)”, which would enable necessary procedures to be completed at one stop, he added.


However, infrastructure improvements alone could not increase trade and investments in landlocked developing countries, he went on.  There needed to be strong Government efforts to improve the investment climate for attracting private sectors.  To that end, Japan’s Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) had pledged that it would support efforts to double its investment to Africa.  To follow up on that commitment, several joint public-private sector missions had been sent with a view to promoting trade and investment in a number of African landlocked developing countries.  To make Japan’s relations with those African countries even stronger, the country had opened embassies in Mali, Botswana and Malawi this year, and planned to do so in Burkina Faso next year.


JOHN ASHE, ( Antigua and Barbuda), on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, welcomed the midterm review of the Almaty Programme of Action, especially in light of the looming 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  He also noted that last week’s high-level event on the Goals had made it clear that most countries, in particular landlocked developing countries, were not on track to meet the 2015 deadline.


He noted that trade, in an increasingly competitive global community, was a vital component to integrate international economic growth and improvement.  The failure of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round only added to the myriad of challenges facing landlocked developed countries in international trade.  In that respect, the Group of 77 and China felt that now more than ever an international trading system was crucial to the full implementation of the Almaty Programme.


Aid for trade initiatives and lower administrative costs for trade, among others, were also essential for success in developing this system.  In addition, policies to facilitate public and private investments, and enhanced support from development partners and bilateral and multilateral institutions specifically focused on transit and transport infrastructures, would be necessary to ensure the success of the Almaty Programme, he said.


He specified that the need for sufficient and predictable levels of official development assistance (ODA) could only happen if developed countries delivered on their commitments to provide 0.15 to .20 per cent of the GDP as ODA to the landlocked developing countries.  Technical assistance through construction, maintenance, storage, and the promotion of regional and interregional transport-related programmes and projects, facilitated through South-South cooperation, among others, would also be necessary for the development of a successful international trading system.


PHILIPPE DELACROIX (France) speaking on behalf of the European Union and Associated countries, said the European Union reaffirmed its commitment to promoting and implementing the priorities set forth in the Almaty Programme and was satisfied with the high-level meeting’s final document.  This document was balanced and comprehensive and would lead to concrete recommendations within the framework already established by the Programme.  He added that the European Union was satisfied with the progress achieved over the past five years.


Landlocked developing countries were subject to major constraints relating to development and infrastructure maintenance problems, and the European Union played a key role by providing financial and technical assistance for developing transport, telecommunications, energy and water infrastructures.  Last year, the European Union endorsed the European Union-Africa Infrastructure Partnership with the aim of promoting interconnectivity in Africa.  He said ODA played an important role in remedying the lack of infrastructure, but the private sector also played a decisive role in financing this infrastructure, whether in landlocked or transit countries.  In this respect, the promotion of public-private partnerships, especially to create an investor-friendly environment, was essential.


He said infrastructure investments helped expand trade.  Trade was also encouraged by lowering customs barriers and modernizing existing customs procedures.  Landlocked and transit countries should work together to ensure that red tape did not hinder trade and investment.  For this reason, the European Union had funded several customs modernization projects in landlocked developing countries.  Lastly, he noted the value of regional cooperation.  Regional organizations attracted more foreign direct investment and integrated more efficiently into regional transport infrastructure networks.  While the European Union would continue to do its share of work, those landlocked or transit countries were primarily responsible for their own development.  To achieve that, they needed to unite and work together for their own common development.


RAJA GHANNAM ( Morocco) said the needs of landlocked developing countries and transit countries were at the forefront of concerns before the United Nations.  That was particularly true now as the challenges before them had been made more severe by crises in the areas of climate change, energy, food, and now in the global financial sector.  Forming partnerships to achieve the goals of the Almaty Programme of Action was of utmost importance for all.  Actions at the subregional and regional levels should be aimed at developing infrastructure, transport and trade promotion.


Continuing, she said the outcome of the current review would go a long way towards updating the cooperation framework, in the area of transportation for landlocked and transit countries, to meet the many challenges presented by the increasing number of global crises.  The failure of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations was a lost opportunity for those countries to increase their exports.  Additional resources must be made available to help the relevant countries reach the Almaty aims.  As a major partner in activities promoting South-South cooperation, Morocco called on all to come together to achieve the aims, including donor countries, the international financial institutions and the private sector.


BAKI İLKIN (Turkey) said that it was clear that landlocked developing countries still faced serious challenges, and that those challenges were not limited only to the geographical and physical constraints.  They also faced certain structural inadequacies, and although those shortcomings did not fully define all the countries’ socio-economic development problems, they still undermined their economic growth.


He said the Almaty Programme of Action provided a solid framework for international cooperation, aimed at addressing the challenges faced by landlocked least developed countries, and already there had been considerable progress in implementing the plan’s priority areas.  Similarly, the economic development and growth of the landlocked developing countries on the whole had been promising, since the adoption of the Programme.  Yet, rising transportation costs and persistent structural issues had the potential to slow down that positive trend, he cautioned.


Continuing, he noted that, because of Turkey’s unique geographical location, his country was also one of the few countries that was members of both the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).  Those two bodies had joined forces to harmonize and eventually link the transport networks of two of the most populous continents.  He concluded with the observation that the meeting’s collective efforts to address the special needs and problems of the landlocked developing countries were vital for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.


MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) noted that the persistent barriers to international trade were high transit and transport costs, and lack of access to sea ports.  Yet, at the heart of global growth and development was trade, and he, therefore, called for an equitable trading system to be at the centre of global efforts.  The full inclusion of landlocked developing countries into international markets would transform their marginal situation.


He also noted that since the adoption of the Almaty action plan, in the years 2003-2006, as a group, the GDP of the landlocked developing countries had grown by almost 8 per cent.  Also, the spill-over effects from the transit growth of neighbouring major transit countries had also been encouraging.  However, the per capita income and human development in the landlocked developing countries still remained the lowest in the world.  He urged the international community to make a major effort to improve transport costs, develop infrastructure and strengthen capacity-building, and called for strategies and cooperation between landlocked developing countries and their transit neighbours to ignite action on a regional level.


He concluded by describing ASEAN’s integration programme, which worked to narrow the development gap between ASEAN’s older and newer members and aimed to merge the economy of newer members into the regional and global market.  He offered, as an example, the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit Meeting in Phnom Penh in November 2002 where a work plan, comprising of 203 projects, had been adopted.  Noting that some of the projects were in line with the Almaty Programme of Action, he reiterated Indonesia’s determination to “work in unison with the international community”.


ELADIO LOIZAGA ( Paraguay) said the Almaty Programme of Action was the framework for developing and transit countries to improve their conditions, and to improve their standing in negotiations.  The UNCTAD framework for landlocked countries had played an increasingly important role in that body’s recent trade meetings, including the 2004 meeting held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the recent one held in April in Accra, Ghana.  The Almaty plan addressed such important aspects of trade as transportation, infrastructure and access to markets.  Within the WTO framework and the Doha rounds, begun in 2001 and expected to be completed by 2005, the focus of development for landlocked developing countries had been on trade facilitation.  An international instrument should be elaborated to make it mandatory for countries to facilitate trade for all.


Reviewing trade ministerial meetings over the past years since the start of the Doha talks, he said they had focused on the very specific and beneficial results that had come from the Doha rounds being held.  However, becoming a WTO participant was a costly and lengthy process, which should not exceed the ability of countries to meet, particularly as fuel and food crises and now the financial crisis, impacted on economies.  His country had taken part in the resolution before the Assembly that contained an assessment of how completely the Programme had been met and what needed to be done over the next five years.


HILARIO DAVIDE ( Philippines) said that, while his country was not landlocked, as it was an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, it had in common with landlocked countries challenges regarding to market access.  While transport and infrastructure for islands separated by sometimes unfriendly waters were less complicated matters in terms of not being dependent on transit third countries, the aim of integrating into the world economy through harmonized policies and facilitated trade were familiar topics to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, to which his country belonged.


The common issues of interest between the Almaty agenda and APEC pointed to the possibility of finding points of synergy, cooperation and mutual benefit.  The global village was shrinking fast.  The problems and crises in one country affected the rest.  The logic and wisdom of global trade meant looking beyond one’s immediate geographic neighbours.  Almaty’s broader concerns must extend beyond access to coasts.  The topics of trade facilitation, policy harmonization, transit and infrastructure needs were of common interest.  There was advantage in mutual awareness of discussions and best practices in each forum, he said.


Expressing support for the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report, he said regional and subregional organizations played a role in meeting the special needs of landlocked developing countries based on the Almaty Programme of Action.  For example, the ESCAP report on emerging issues in implementing the Programme provided a region-specific analysis of challenges and actions, in five priority areas.  APEC had done work similar to ESCAP and the Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECF), in providing technical expertise on paperless trade.


PIRAGIBE TARRAGO ( Brazil) said his country was committed to implementing the Almaty Programme by increasing the flow of trade between its landlocked neighbours, Paraguay and Bolivia, and international markets.  Initiatives such as the Agreement on International Land Transportation (ATIT) ensured transit of goods, and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUL) aimed to strengthen regional relations in fields like development and physical infrastructure.  Brazil also maintained bilateral committees on trade monitoring with both countries.


In addition, Brazil had extended financing in support of infrastructure works by means of specific export credit programmes and increased capital in regional financing institutions.  Trade relations had improved 200 per cent with Bolivia and 100 per cent with Paraguay, since 2002.  Furthermore, a substantial number of Brazilian companies had invested in various fields in both nations.  Landlocked developing countries’ concerns should receive fair treatment in the WTO Doha Round, enabling fuller participation in the multilateral trading system, he added.


Existing asymmetries in the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR) countries should be reduced, and to that end, Brazil supported the establishment of the Structural Convergence Fund, which had already financed $48 million for 13 development projects in Paraguay.  Brazil had also committed financing support for “important” Bolivian road projects and would build a new bridge over the Parana River in agreement with Paraguay.  As a transit country, extending trading, financing and transport benefits to its landlocked neighbours would positively impact the development of the whole region.


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For information media • not an official record