Preparatory Committee for Landlocked DEV/2418*
Developing Countries Conference 23 June 2003
1st Meeting (AM)
PREPARATORY COMMITTEE FOR LANDLOCKED DEVELOPING COUNTRIES CONFERENCE
OPENS WEEK-LONG FIRST SESSION AT HEADQUARTERS
The Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee for the International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries and Donor Countries and International Financial and Development Institutions on Transit Transport Cooperation opened its week-long first session this morning, reviewing the state of preparedness for the event and dealing with organizational matters, including election of its Bureau.
To be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on 28-29 August, the Conference will be the first global event to address specific needs and problems of landlocked developing countries -- that is, countries without access to seas. The meeting’s objective is to negotiate systemic improvements for those countries through cooperation with transit nations –- those situated between landlocked countries and the seas -- donors and multilateral agencies. Conference deliberations are going to focus on freedom of access to the sea; infrastructure development; efficiency of transit operations; and international support measures for landlocked States.
In his opening statement, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and Secretary-General of the Conference, said the Conference presented a unique opportunity for landlocked developing and transit countries, together with their development partners, to undertake a serious dialogue that would contribute to improving the world’s transit transport systems. The Conference, focusing on a tightly defined agenda, should lead to an action-oriented outcome. The event would be inclusive in terms of participation and would promote a “bottoms-up” approach, whereby the global programme would be based on subregional and regional efforts.
He went on to describe efforts to determine the conceptual framework and organizational approach to the Conference, which had started with an inter-agency meeting in New York last June, as well as three regional meetings held in preparation for the Conference, so far, assessing the transit transport systems in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Also under way were campaigns to mobilize voluntary contributions for the Conference and to generate international awareness of the event and the issues involved.
His Office had taken the initiative of preparing the first draft of the outcome document, drawing on a wide variety of resources, including relevant Assembly resolutions, the 1995 Global Framework on transit transport cooperation, and the outcome of three regional meetings. Also used in the preparation of the draft were a large number of reports and studies prepared by the World Bank, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), regional commissions and relevant international organizations.
Following his election, by acclamation, as the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee, Pier Benedetto Francese (Italy) said that the General Assembly had long recognized that the lack of territorial access to the sea, aggravated by remoteness and isolation from world markets and high transit costs and risks, imposed serious constraints to the overall socio-economic development of landlocked developing countries. Heads of State and government in the Millennium Declaration had recognized the special needs of those countries and urged both bilateral and multilateral donors to increase financial and technical assistance to meet their needs and help them overcome their geographic constraints by improving transit systems.
Given the number of landlocked developing countries, the transit problem could not be swept under the carpet, he stressed. The movement of goods required appropriate transport infrastructure in the landlocked countries’ own territories and in the territories of their transit neighbours. Therefore, cooperative arrangements between landlocked and transit developing countries was imperative, as was the financial and technical support of the donor community.
The Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD also spoke, as did representatives of Paraguay (on behalf of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) who described the outcome of regional meetings held in preparation for the Conference.
The Minister of Transport and Communications of Kazakhstan, Kazhmurat Nagmanov, made a statement on behalf of the host country, and the representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic spoke in his capacity as Chairman of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries.
Also participating in the discussion were the representatives of Greece (on behalf of the European Union), Azerbaijan, Bolivia, India, Pakistan, China, Peru, Nepal, Armenia, Chile, Japan, as well as a representative of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), who identified key areas that needed to be addressed at the Conference. Emphasized in the debate was the need for international partnership to tackle the special needs of landlocked developing countries.
Also this morning, the Preparatory Committee elected Iran, Japan, Nepal, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Namibia, Paraguay, Peru, Armenia and Italy as its Vice-Chairmen and adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session. Limakatso Motjope (Lesotho) was elected Rapporteur.
The Committee will continue its work at 3 p.m. today, when it is expected to begin its consideration of the draft outcome document of the Conference.
The Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee for the International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries and Donor Countries and International Financial and Development Institutions on Transit Transport Cooperation met this morning to begin its first session. The Conference will be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 28-29 August.
Introducing the report of the Secretary-General on the state of preparations for the Conference (document A/CONF.202/PC/2), the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and Secretary-General of the Conference, ANWARUL K. CHOWDHURY, said that the Conference presented a unique opportunity for landlocked and transit countries, together with their development partners, to undertake a serious dialogue that would contribute to improving the world’s transit transport systems. The lack of access to the sea, remoteness from international markets, inadequate transport systems and cumbersome transit procedures forced the landlocked developing countries to bear additional costs for their external trade transactions. Their success or failure in trade was largely determined by transport availability and costs.
Africa had the highest freight-to-export ratio, he continued. Ten of the 15 landlocked developing countries in Africa spent 40 per cent of their export earnings on transportation and insurance services. High transport costs had an enormous impact on the development of those countries, hindering their trade and reducing investment in their economy. Transport costs also affected countries’ choice of trading partners. The gross domestic product (GDP) of landlocked developing countries was among the lowest in the world, and 16 of the 31 landlocked developing countries were also least developed countries. The Conference would be the first ever high-level international event targeted at those countries’ specific needs. It would undoubtedly galvanize international recognition of those needs and mobilize support for integrating them effectively into the world economy.
The preparatory work had started with broad-based consultations to prepare a conceptual framework for the Conference, he said. An inter-agency meeting bringing together about 50 senior officials from more than 20 United Nations agencies in New York last June had been crucial in charting out the conceptual framework and organizational approach to the event. Also present at the meeting was the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), as well as representatives of landlocked and transit countries.
He said the Conference would be uniquely focused on a tightly defined agenda, which should lead to a feasible and quantifiable action-oriented outcome. It had the sole objective of establishing efficient transit systems around the world. The Conference would be inclusive in terms of participation, and efforts were being made to encourage private sector participation in the event. To be meaningful and effective, any global programme of work needed to be based on regional and subregional efforts, which merited special attention.
He went on to say that three regional meetings had been held in preparation for the Conference so far, assessing the transit transport systems in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The regional preparatory process had commenced with the Latin American Regional Preparatory Meeting last March, which had been hosted by the Government of Paraguay. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) had prepared a comprehensive report on the current situation of transit transport in the region, and the meeting adopted the Asuncion Programme of Action on transit transport cooperation in Latin America.
For the Asian region, he said the secretariat of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) had followed with four subregional meetings in South-East Asia, Central Asia, North-East Asia and South Asia. Based on those meetings, the Asian action plan had been adopted on 25 April, with the support of Bangkok-based delegations to ESCAP. The regional process was completed with the African regional meeting in May. Participation by regional economic entities of Africa, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), had been critical to drafting of the African action plan.
On behalf of the Secretary-General, he had initiated a campaign to mobilize voluntary contributions for the Conference. Also mobilized had been United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representatives, and the World Bank was actively involved in the substantive preparations. He had had the pleasure of delivering the keynote address at the 2003 Annual Transport Forum of the World Bank, which had devoted an entire chapter of its annual World Economic Perspective report to transport services. That was a major substantive contribution to the Conference. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had also prepared a report on landlocked developing countries, and his Office was preparing a comprehensive publication on the overall socio-economic development trends and transit support problems faced by landlocked developing countries.
To generate international awareness of the event, his Office had undertaken a broad range of activities to launch a public information campaign. The Department of Public Information (DPI) had started a publicity campaign, as well, issuing a number of press releases and news alerts during subregional and regional meetings, designing a poster for the Conference and preparing the event brochure. A planning mission for the Conference had visited Kazakhstan in April to review the facilities, and a draft host country agreement would be finalized soon.
Regarding the outcome of the Conference, he said that, in view of the tight schedule, his Office had taken the initiative of preparing the first draft of the outcome document, drawing on a wide variety of resources, including relevant Assembly resolutions; outcomes of recent meetings of experts and the donor community; the 1995 Global Framework on transit transport cooperation; and the outcome of three regional meetings. Also used in the preparation of the draft were a large number of reports and studies prepared by the World Bank, UNCTAD, regional commissions, and relevant international organizations.
CARLOS FORTIN, UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General, said that UNCTAD had been associated with the issue of landlocked developing countries since its inception in 1964, when the particular needs and problems of such countries had first appeared on its agenda. He said UNCTAD had prepared a policy document entitled “Challenges and opportunities for further improving the transit system and economic development of landlocked and transit developing countries” that brought together work on trade, transit-transport, services and problems.
The UNCTAD was proposing a three-pronged strategy to address the transit issue. Tackling that issue required the development of adequate national transport networks and efficient transit systems; regional trade expansion and integration in order to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) on a subregional basis; and efforts on behalf of landlocked developing countries to attract FDI and promote industries and activities that were not sensitive to distance.
Regional and subregional trade expansion and economic integration must be another key component of the search for solutions to landlocked status, he said. As regional trade expanded, many landlocked developing countries were likely to become crossroads. In fact, that was already happening. The implications of those changes for landlocked developing countries were, on the whole, positive. First, they were bound to make transit issues and the removal of trade barriers a matter of interest to many countries, leading to increased political will to take action. Second, that new status would give those countries greater leverage in negotiating terms and conditions for transit. Third, regional trade expansions and integration would make it possible for small landlocked developing countries to attract increased FDI for development.
He stressed that policies to attract FDI must also capitalize on regional and subregional integration. From the demand side, many landlocked developing countries were small on their own, in terms of market size. Once they entered into regional agreements, they increased their attractiveness by providing access to a larger market. From the supply side, regional integration enabled major investors to capitalize on the advantages of the region as a whole by spreading value-added activities among different members. Even though landlocked and transit developing countries had concluded many bilateral and regional agreements, implementation remained patchy. Similarly, while financial and technical assistance continued, official development assistance (ODA) had declined significantly. The Conference must provide a turning point and galvanize political will and determination for action.
Following his election, the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee, PIER BENEDETTO FRANCESE (Italy), said that the General Assembly had long recognized that the lack of territorial access to the sea, aggravated by remoteness and isolation from world markets and prohibitive transit costs and risks, imposed serious constraints on the overall socio-economic development of landlocked developing countries. Furthermore, the heads of State and governments in the Millennium Declaration had recognized the particular needs and problems of those countries and urged both bilateral and multilateral donors to increase financial and technical assistance to meet their needs and help them overcome the impediments of geography by improving their transit systems.
Given the number of landlocked developing countries, the transit problem could not be swept under the carpet. Today, high-transit transport costs had become a major barrier to trade by those countries. Among other barriers preventing their participation in the world economy were physical infrastructure bottlenecks. The movement of goods required appropriate transport infrastructure in the landlocked countries’ own territories and in the territories of their transit neighbours. Therefore, cooperative arrangements between landlocked and transit developing countries were imperative, as was financial and technical support of the donor community. The greatest pay-off in terms of increases in efficiency and lowered real cost of transport was likely to come about as a result of full-scale efforts to improve a whole range of institutional, procedural, regulatory and managerial structures.
It was his conviction that the Conference would be an occasion to reaffirm international partnerships and the moral commitment to address the special needs of landlocked developing countries, as called for in the Millennium Development Goals. The Assembly had allocated only eight days for the Preparatory Committee, mandating it to formulate appropriate policy measures and action-oriented programme aimed at developing efficient transit transport systems.
MANUEL CACERES (Paraguay), whose country hosted the Latin American regional preparatory meeting, said the Government of Paraguay had made every effort to ensure that the Latin American preparatory meeting held in March was a success. In that connection, he thanked Mr. Chowdhury for resolute support during the meeting. The Programme of Action agreed upon during the meeting included concrete and specific references underscoring the specific needs of landlocked developing countries. The members of the preparatory meetings had also recalled the importance of focusing on access to international markets. Furthermore, members had called for greater cooperation between landlocked developing countries and transit countries with regard to access to the sea.
He said one of the main objectives discussed during the preparatory meeting had been the regional development of a transport system, which took into consideration the needs of landlocked developing countries. In that connection, the importance of stronger and more integrated regional institutions and infrastructures had been highlighted. Another key component discussed was the need to facilitate trade in accordance with bilateral, regional and international agreements, in order to make the trade process more modern and expeditious. Multilateral institutions had been urged to give greater financing to develop transit and transport systems. In that connection, priority must be given to requests for technical assistance, as well as to the better use of existing infrastructure.
Mr. KOUMARE, of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), informed the meeting about the African regional preparatory meeting in Addis Ababa in May, saying that the meeting had benefited from participation by regional organizations, including ECOWAS, COMESA, IGAD, SADC and UEMOA. Aside from drafting of the African action plan, the outcome of the meeting included an assessment of the situation on the continent. There were 15 landlocked developing countries in Africa, including 12 least developed countries. The issue of competitiveness of African products was the focus of attention, as was the question of the diversification of transit corridors. Some 13,000 missing links in the corridors were identified during the meeting, their cost evaluated at some $4.2 bullion.
Among the priorities identified during the meeting, he continued, were infrastructure development, creation of direct links between production and consumption areas, development of treaties and agreements, financing, participation of the private sector, facilitation, and anti-corruption measures. The programme of action was based on the corridor approach, emphasizing the role of regional and subregional players, international financial organizations and the donor community. The African countries wanted to develop partnerships to ensure completion of missing links. One of the suggestions concerned establishing a database on the measures being undertaken.
BARRY CABLE, of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), reporting on the outcome of the regional meeting in Asia, said globalization and the continuing expansion of trade had become the drivers of economic development in Asia. Unfortunately, landlocked countries of the region were confronted with a range of special constraints that hindered their access to the globalization process. Limited infrastructure and high-transport costs impeded greater economic growth.
The Asia Action Plan that had been prepared was an important milestone for the region and focused on barriers to regional trade and measures to address those constraints, he continued. The Plan focused on eight issues, including: policy related action; improved coordination, trade and transport facilitation; competition in transport services; better monitoring; enhanced infrastructure; application of information and communications technology; and enhancing human resources management. The Plan also stressed that multilateral agreements, as well as international conventions, needed to be harmonized to avoid overlapping and sometimes contradictory provisions.
ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said the international community was meeting to address the special needs of landlocked developing countries for the first time. The geographical handicaps of those countries -- lack of access to the sea, remoteness and isolation from international markets, and high transport cost -– made landlocked developing countries vulnerable and dependent on other’s transit and infrastructure services. He emphasized that the problem must be addressed through cooperative arrangements between landlocked developing countries and their transit neighbours, with the active support of the international community.
The Ministerial Conference to be held in Kazakhstan reflected the high priority given by the international community to the special needs of landlocked developing countries, he said. Expectations were high and the results of the Conference would have a long-term impact on the development process of landlocked developing countries. It was, therefore, hoped that all stakeholders would support the outcome document of the Conference.
KAZHMURAT NAGMANOV, Minister of Transport and Communications of Kazakhstan, said that as a host country, Kazakhstan would do its best to make the Ministerial Conference a success and to meet all the expectations of the delegations. His Government had established a national preparatory committee in order to achieve those goals. Landlocked developing countries had high expectations for the outcome document of the Conference. The new global programme, to be adopted as the final document and to be entitled “Almaty Programme of Action”, must become a platform for the active interaction among all parties concerned on the special needs of landlocked developing countries referred to in the Millennium Declaration.
The difficulties in being a landlocked developing country affected all aspects of the development process, in particular the evolution of external trade. High transport costs erased both the competitive edge of landlocked developing countries and their trade volume. His delegation, therefore, welcomed the action-oriented draft outcome document, which attached high priority to promoting regional and subregional cooperation in establishing efficient transit transport systems.
ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union believed the Ministerial Conference would provide a unique opportunity to address the development needs of landlocked developing countries and to stimulate international solidarity and partnership. The meeting would also aim to help them participate in the international trading system through the improvement of their transit transport systems.
The relationship between a landlocked geographical situation and national economic development was a complex issue that depended on a country’s resource availabilities, the international market for its key exports and the quality of development policies and strategies, he continued. The existence of an efficient, flexible and well-managed transit system was a necessary condition for the international competitiveness of most outward-oriented enterprises in landlocked developing countries. Therefore, the European Union stressed the importance of coherence between transport strategies and national strategies for sustainable development. Transport strategies and programmes must also include measures to minimize environmental impacts at the local and global levels.
The outcome of the Conference must not be a lengthy and detailed programme of action, but rather the focus on implementation in areas of particular importance. For the Union, those areas were regional integration, transport infrastructure and services, sound public policies both at the national and local levels, and trade and transit transport facilitation, including customs modernization. Regional integration had a key role to play in addressing the problems of landlocked countries, as these countries’ specific problems could only be successfully addressed together with their transit neighbours at the regional levels, and via regional integration measures, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
One of the major obstacles to the development of landlocked countries lay in problems connected specifically to transit requirements and customs procedures. As part of its efforts to respond to the needs for assistance in better integration of trade in national development policies, the European Union was currently funding a number of projects related to trade facilitation and customs modernization.
YASHAR ALYEV (Azerbaijan) expressed the hope that the meeting in Almaty would have fruitful deliberations, saying that the draft outcome document before the Preparatory Committee was a good basis for further negotiations. Establishment of effective transport infrastructures and development of cooperation with transit countries were very important for landlocked developing countries. Noting that regional specifics of various landlocked countries differed, he described the specifics of his country, which was situated at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. In preparation for the Conference, his Government was undertaking efforts to establish transit corridors and to build alternative oil pipelines to the international markets. Continuing occupation of 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s territory by a neighbouring State undermined the country’s development and represented a major threat for security and stability in the region.
Regarding the draft programme of action, he stressed the importance of developing effective partnerships between landlocked developing countries, transit States, international partners, donors and financial institutions. Relevant international organizations should increase their assistance to landlocked States. He also highlighted the importance of enhanced and predictable access to world markets.
SAAVEDRA WEISE (Bolivia) said that his country had been born to independence with access to the sea, but was later deprived of that access through war. While Bolivia could not change the past, it could change the future. He hoped that through diplomatic efforts, the country would regain its access to sea. Among the subjects that needed to be addressed in the draft outcome document, he singled out the issues of waterways and the development of infrastructure.
Ms. WADWHA (India) welcomed the practical and balanced approach of the Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD. Such an approach must be used in the finalization of the outcome document, she said. It would be a daunting task to finalize the outcome document in the limited time available for the Preparatory Committee. The current draft was too lengthy, often overlapping and sometimes biased and unbalanced. Amendments needed to be made, in order to ensure an action-oriented outcome document.
It was necessary to review current transit transport systems, taking into consideration both the interests of landlocked and other countries, she said. It was also essential to recognize that there had been important developments in the field of transit transport on a bilateral basis. That needed to be reflected in the final outcome document. It was also stressed that in some areas non-landlocked countries were as far away from having access to the sea as landlocked developing countries.
Mr. AFSAR (Pakistan) said issues and constraints faced by landlocked developing countries were well known, and countries like Pakistan were well aware of their responsibilities to their landlocked neighbours. On the regional level, agreements had been made with neighbouring countries to ensure proper transit systems. On an international level, and in relation to the outcome document, it was stressed that a more focused, concrete and integrated outcome document was required.
CHAI XIAOLIN (China) said that China had focused much attention on the constraints of landlocked developing countries. Unfortunately, poor geographic conditions and high transport costs limited landlocked developing countries’ access to international trade. China was willing to make its contribution to the problems faced by landlocked developing countries and allowing them to participate in the international global market. There were, however, difficulties associated with projects aiming to improve transport conditions for landlocked countries. Such projects must be carried out in a cooperative manner, within the framework of mutually accepted agreements that recognized the principle of sovereignty. In order for transit transport projects to be successful, international development institutions also needed to play their role.
MAURTUA DE ROMANA (Peru) said that his country had always been concerned over the barriers encountered by landlocked countries in their access to international markets. The Latin American preparatory meeting had emphasized the need to develop infrastructures and strengthen partnerships with transit countries. A recent Rio Group summit had recently recognized the need to explore economic and financial mechanisms to establish the needed infrastructure. Its proposals were geared towards not only increasing the availability of resources, but also improving the use of existing financing. Among the measures envisioned in Latin America was establishment of a regional trust fund for investment in public infrastructure. For its part, Peru was firmly committed to improving the situation of landlocked developing countries and intended to implement preferential consolidation for Bolivia and Paraguay through broad transit agreements and negotiations on the use of ports.
ARJUN BAHADUR THAPA (Nepal) said that his delegation attached great importance to the forthcoming Conference in Kazakhstan, as one of the landlocked and least developed countries that needed improved access to markets. The lack of a level playing field compounded such countries’ vulnerability. He urged the international community to give special consideration to providing assistance to those countries to reduce their transit costs. Nepal enjoyed excellent relations with India and Bangladesh as transit countries. He supported the priority areas identified in the draft programme of action and wanted to express his country’s gratitude to the international community for its efforts to improve the situation of landlocked developing countries.
Mr. HOVHANNIBYAN (Armenia) said that his country was one of the former Soviet countries, which was geographically isolated and had no access to sea. The major aim of the Conference was to facilitate such access to landlocked countries, and it was of particular importance to developing countries in transition. Armenia participated in several regional projects to develop transport infrastructures, attaching particular importance to regional cooperation and integration. He strongly supported strengthening the language of the plan of action in that regard.
He went on to say that among the issues of particular importance for his delegation were measures to improve technical assistance to supplement regional efforts; attraction of foreign investment; and condemnation of unilateral economic measures as means of coercion. Since its independence, Armenia had been suffering from a blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan, and he wanted to emphasize that elimination of territorial coercive measures would be of key importance for ensuring sustained economic growth and establishing a secure regional environment.
Mr. ZEPEDA (Chile) said his country was willing to cooperate fully in order to assist landlocked developing countries with their trade constraints. It was believed that cooperation of that kind could only have positive effects on the region.
CAPEL FERRER, of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said the Commission could provide a well-oiled machinery for a transit transport system for the region. Other countries were invited to attend their meetings in order to benefit from the experience of the Commission in that regard. The ECE also had experience in regional and subregional cooperation and was willing to contribute on cooperation issues. The ECE was currently working together with ESCAP on rail systems between the two regions. The ECE was also devoting much of its attention to regional road safety. The ECE would spare no effort in contributing to the important work of the Conference.
YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) said that his country was “sea-locked”, but had demonstrated sympathy to the landlocked developing countries and the constraints they faced. Japan believed that much attention was needed on the concepts of “ownership” of landlocked countries and “partnership” between landlocked and transit countries. Japan had undertaken activities to ensure the strengthening of the economic infrastructures of landlocked countries, as well as strengthening capacity building.
* Press Release DEV/2417 of 17 June should be DEV/2416, and Press Release
DEV/2418 of 19 June should be DEV/2417.
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