REAFFIRMING COMMITMENT TO ALMATY PROGRAMME OF ACTION, MINISTERS PLEDGE TO ‘URGENTLY’ ADDRESS SPECIAL NEEDS OF LANDLOCKED DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

3 October 2008
GA/10762

REAFFIRMING COMMITMENT TO ALMATY PROGRAMME OF ACTION, MINISTERS PLEDGE TO ‘URGENTLY’ ADDRESS SPECIAL NEEDS OF LANDLOCKED DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

3 October 2008
General Assembly
GA/10762
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

High-Level Plenary

19th Meeting (AM)

REAFFIRMING COMMITMENT TO ALMATY PROGRAMME OF ACTION, MINISTERS PLEDGE

TO ‘URGENTLY’ ADDRESS SPECIAL NEEDS OF LANDLOCKED DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

Outcome of High-Level Review Must Inspire ‘Our Sense of Solidarity’

To Bolster Infrastructure Development, Market Access, Assembly President Says

While landlocked and transit developing countries bore the primary responsibility for building transport systems to improve their trade position and bring in needed investment, speakers in the General Assembly today urged development partners and international organizations alike to support those efforts in a spirit of shared responsibility.

With that in mind, Assembly delegations adopted a consensus resolution containing a Declaration that recognized the particularly severe economic and social limits imposed on landlocked countries by their geography, capping a two-day High-Level Midterm Review of the 2003 Almaty Programme of Action.  The Programme, adopted by a ministerial conference held in the Kazakh city for which it is named, outlines specific measures to help landlocked countries and their transit country neighbours bolster development and cooperation.

By the Declaration, the Assembly encouraged landlocked and transit developing countries to allocate a greater share of their public investment to transit transport infrastructure, supported, as appropriate, by investment from donors, international financial institutions and development assistance agencies. Improvement of those facilities should be integrated into overall development strategies.

Further by the text, the Assembly stressed that accession of landlocked and transit developing countries to the World Trade Organization be accelerated, and that development partners provide assistance in that matter.  As high trade transaction costs kept many landlocked developing countries from participating in world trade, the Assembly urged that current talks on market access for agricultural and non-agricultural goods consider products from such countries.

To accelerate implementation of the Almaty action plan, the Assembly called on landlocked and transit developing countries to undertake a set of actions, including to promote learning lessons from existing regional infrastructure initiatives; further strengthen legal frameworks for transit transport operations; promote inter-railway cooperation; effectively implement trade facilitation measures, including regional customs transit schemes; and consider the possibility of granting duty-free zones at maritime ports.

For their part, donors and multilateral, regional, financial and development institutions were called on to provide substantial technical and financial assistance, notably in the form of grants or concessionary loans.  Also by the Declaration, development partners in particular, were urged to put into action the Aid for Trade Initiative, which would help diversify exports by supporting small and medium-sized enterprises.

Throughout the two-day Review session, speakers pointed to national and other efforts as proof they were taking their duties to heart.  Today, Thailand’s representative said his country had cooperated in developing transport links with neighbouring countries through regional, subregional and bilateral agreements.  To ease transit transport and eliminate non-physical barriers, Thailand had given special privileges to its neighbours by exempting customs on commercial goods that moved through the country.  Regional transport links were also a priority, as seen in the development of the East-West, North-South and Southern Economic Corridors under the Great Mekong Subregion framework.

Speaking from the perspective of a transit country, the representative of Pakistan underscored his Government’s commitment to providing easy, efficient and expeditious transit access to its landlocked neighbours, to help them expand their international trade.  Making Pakistan a regional transit hub was an integral part of its national vision for its trade and transport sector.

For example, Pakistan’s National Trade Corridor Program aimed to improve and upgrade its existing logistics and transport infrastructure, including its highways and rail systems.  It had also begun on constructing new road networks, seaports, airports and other related facilities.  In the services sector, Pakistan was revamping its customs procedures, including the introduction of the Custom Reform Project, he said.

In his closing remarks, General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua said the “balanced and precise” Declaration provided guidance to strengthening project implementation in the areas of efficient transit transport systems and international market access.  Indeed, the Assembly’s focus on action-oriented programmes that were “measurable and feasible” had grounded the Review in terms that would benefit landlocked and transit countries alike, he said.  It also served to inspire greater donor involvement in such areas as trade assistance, infrastructure, and financial and technical assistance.

“The United Nations is all about partnerships,” he said, underscoring the importance of monitoring progress within the Almaty Programme’s five stated priorities.  While the work outlined in the Almaty Review document was ambitious, it must inspire “our sense of solidarity” with the people of landlocked countries and their neighbours, he said.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Republic of Korea, China, Libya, Switzerland, Ethiopia, United States, Afghanistan, Iceland, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Italy, Iran, Russian Federation, Mali, Egypt and Armenia.

The representative of the EuroAsian Development Bank, and the Senior Adviser of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe spoke as observers.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 6 October, to take up the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Organization.

Background

The General Assembly met today to continue and conclude its High-Level Meeting on the Midterm Review of the Almaty Programme of Action.

Statements

PARK IN-KOOK ( Republic of Korea) recalled that five years ago in Almaty, Kazakhstan, parties of the International Conference had set out a comprehensive road map to assist landlocked developing countries.  The outcome document reflected the global community’s strong commitment to address their special needs.  In that regard, he noted the Secretary-General’s assessment that, over the last five years, landlocked developing countries had made tangible progress.

As a nation that had struggled against the poverty trap, the Republic of Korea sympathized with landlocked developing countries’ challenges.  His Government was strengthening its official development assistance (ODA) law, and since 2000, had increased that assistance three times in volume.  The Government planned to triple ODA to more than $3 billion by 2015, as it remained the main source of infrastructure development in landlocked developing countries.  In addition, he said his Government had used trade as a locomotive for economic growth, and as such, had extended duty- and quota-free access to landlocked developing countries.

He said efficient transport infrastructure was vital for integrating landlocked developing countries into the global trading system, but financing gaps remained and could not be addressed without private sector involvement.  The digital divide was also a concern, and in that regard, his Government would share technology and know-how.  All in all, the Midterm Review showed that, even with progress made, more must be done.  Landlocked developing country development required joint efforts among landlocked developing countries, transit developing countries and the global community.

YAO WENLONG ( China) noted his country’s first-hand experience of the special difficulties faced by landlocked developing countries, especially since China was a transit developing country with parts of its territory having landlocked features.  He went on to say the landlocked developing countries had made noticeable progress in their economic and social development in the five years since the adoption of the Almaty Programme of Action.

The Secretary-General’s relevant report, which showed that between 2003 and 2006, gross domestic product (GDP) had risen by 8 per cent, foreign direct investment by 11.5 per cent, and official development assistance for those countries had grown by an annual average of 21.4 per cent -– higher than averages of the developing countries as a group in the same period -- proved that the Programme of Action had played an important role in the promotion of economic and social development in landlocked developing countries.

However, he said there had not been a fundamental change in the disadvantaged position of landlocked developing countries in the world economic system or a fundamental amelioration as to their special difficulties, such as inefficient transport, weak infrastructure and high trade costs.  In 2007, they had accounted for less than 1 per cent of international trade, constituted half of the 20 countries with the lowest Human Development Index and represented 9 out of 10 countries with the world’s highest per-container cost for import-export trade.

At this Midterm Review, he urged systematic assessment, prioritization of future cooperation, and following up on relevant commitments, and resolved response to new development challenges.  On its part, China proposed that the international community should focus on the following:  reaffirming political commitments by furthering the spirit of global partnership; actively responding to challenges by meeting new challenges as they come along; increasing development assistance by continuing to increase the scale, sustainability and predictability of funding; strengthening cooperation mechanisms by strengthening the international community’s policy coordination and information sharing; promoting economic cooperation between regional and subregional, as well as public and private, sectors; and exploring innovative financing mechanisms.

GIADALLAH A. ETTALHI ( Libya), recalling the United Nations Millennium Declaration, said the Almaty Programme of Action aimed to address the challenges landlocked and transit developing countries faced.  Many transit developing countries neighboured landlocked countries, and bore additional burdens.  The strengthening and maintenance of effective transport systems was a major challenge borne by both equally.  Indeed, costs were often greater than the countries’ abilities, and there was no doubt that development partners could bolster their efforts to support transport systems.

Regional cooperation could play an important role in lowering the costs of transit transportation, notably by alleviating obstacles to cross-border passage and easing the passage of products to nearby markets, he said.  Basic infrastructure development for transit transport was a priority for many African countries, and he supported policies made by the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and other regional groupings.

Confirming the need for partnerships between landlocked developing countries and transit developing countries within the framework of regional integration, he also called on regional institutions to increase aid and focus on bridging the remaining gaps that would tie landlocked countries with the rest of the continent.

Libya supported policies that aimed to link African countries via roads and networks, as that would help advance service sectors, and activate trade, with other countries and international markets, he said.  Libya was exerting strong efforts to build desert roads, which provided opportunities for economic and social stability.  In closing, he confirmed the need to support the efforts of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States to implement the Almaty Programme, saying that the success of implementation would help expand economic integration, which served the interests of all.

PETER MAURER ( Switzerland), stating that “Geography may be a challenge, but geography is no destiny”, commended the progress and success of the Almaty Declaration.  He noted that the unexpected spillover effects from emerging economies benefited some of the landlocked countries through regional alternatives to overseas markets.  Besides the potential to help landlocked developing countries reduce the high transport costs and dependence on transit corridors, he hoped that the high export earnings of those emerging markets would provide additional investment capital and regional integration of capital markets. 

To ensure the continued progress of the Declaration, Switzerland and several landlocked developing countries had submitted a proposal regarding article V of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and focused on the issues of maintaining and protecting freedom of transit, the discipline transit fees and charges, and limits on certain regional and bilateral transit agreements.

Continuing, he said that the coalition of the landlocked developing countries, as well as their partnerships with transit countries and development partners, were further examples of the success of the Declaration.  However, he called for additional improvement.  The World Bank and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) needed to keep developing common and reliable indicators and monitors as these developing economies responded to both world-market and regional integration.  He concluded stressing Switzerland’s commitment to help landlocked developing countries “integrate into world markets”.

DESALEGN ALEMU ( Ethiopia) said, despite increased international attention being given to landlocked developing countries through the Almaty Programme of Action in 2003, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) XII and the recent United Nations panel discussion on the matter, those countries continued to face challenges due to their “geographical handicap”.  That handicap created serious constraints in their effort to achieve poverty reduction goals and improve the standard of living of their populations.  A lot remained to be done to mobilize concrete support to address their economic predicament.

Continuing, he called for “realistic and suitable” strategies by collaborating with neighbouring coastal States to develop efficient transport, customs and other relevant infrastructure systems in landlocked countries.  Because of their disadvantaged position, in terms of geography and transportation, landlocked developing States should be provided with special market access to give them leverage in the international market.  Financial and technical assistance were required to help those States overhaul major infrastructure systems, including railways, highways and dry ports.

It was “high time we created the conditions that would enable us to see smooth and harmonious interplay between the Almaty Programme of Action and the World Trade Organization aid for trade initiative”, he said.  In that regard, landlocked developing countries should strive to seek support through improved international legal instruments.  In addition, by seeking regional liaisons, they could make sure their efforts were not duplicated.  By focusing on the diversification of non-traditional export items and improving its communication and transport systems, Ethiopia was taking steps to ensure its own competitive and comparative advantage.  Those were self-financed projects that, in the future, would require assistance from development partners.  Recalling the Africa regional meeting ahead of the review of the Almaty action plan that took place in Addis Ababa this summer, he said concerned bodies should take the lead in advocating and contributing to “the pumping of new resources”, to landlocked countries.

T. VANCE McMAHAN ( United States) said the United States, through its Millennium Challenge Corporation, was providing unprecedented levels of assistance to important national development strategies in some 13 of the landlocked developing countries today.  It was also assisting with transfer of know-how and technology, and collaborative institution-building.  Those partnerships were aimed at broad transformation and achieving a permanent boost to rates of economic growth in those countries.

He said the Millennium Challenge Corporation currently had signed large grant agreements, called compacts, with 10 landlocked developing countries for over $1.9 billion.  In Mongolia, for instance, it was funding a $188 million project to rebuild and commercialize the national railroad system, while another $23 million project was aimed at strengthening the legal infrastructure for property rights near Mongolia’s rapidly growing urban centres.  In conjunction with the Asian Development Bank, $25 million would go to establishing a vocational training network for over 30 career paths essential to building an urban/industrial-based economy.

Also, in Armenia, the Corporation was providing $235 million to increase economic performance in the agricultural sector, through strategic investments on rural roads and irrigated agriculture.  That compact would directly benefit approximately 750,000 Armenians, or 75 per cent of the country’s rural population.  The Corporation was also working with Mali to transform the country’s agricultural production, reducing vulnerability to drought and targeting agro-processing and higher-value crops.

Explaining that the Millennium Corporation Challenge initiative was about helping United States development partners achieve their national priorities, based on common values, he told the meeting that its programmes were thus premised on the expectation that once the foundation of accountable public management and a regulatory environment, that encouraged private economic activity, were in place, investment in people and infrastructure would have a permanent and transforming impact on economic growth.  He stressed that the Corporation did not replace the United States’ traditional foreign assistance to landlocked developing countries, but supplemented it.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) said the unfolding global emergency, manifested by the triple crises of food, fuel and finance, was making the implementation challenge even more complex and daunting, not just for the landlocked developing countries but also their transit neighbours.  An effective strategy to improve the transit transport system was particularly relevant in the wake of increasing commodity and oil prices.

While committed to helping landlocked developing countries with its limited means, Pakistan believed a concerted effort was necessary to develop policies and mechanisms which would generate the necessary financial resources to invest in transit transport infrastructure projects.  Those investments needed increased financial assistance from development partners, donor countries, and international financial and development institutions.  In addition, he said that an early completion of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations that would be oriented towards development was necessary.  A successful round that would remove the distortions in the global trading regime and provide enhanced market access, particularly for landlocked developing countries, had never been more urgently needed.  The sustained impasse in those talks was alarming, he added.

As a transit developing country, Pakistan actively participated in the implementation of the Almaty Programme and was committed to providing easy, efficient and expeditious transit access to its landlocked neighbours, to help them expand their international trade.  Making Pakistan a regional transit hub was an integral part of its national vision for its trade and transport sector.  For example, Pakistan’s National Trade Corridor Program aimed to improve and upgrade its existing logistics and transport infrastructure, including its highways and rail systems.  It had also begun on constructing new road networks, seaports, airports and other related facilities.  In the services sector, Pakistan was revamping its customs procedures, including the introduction of the Custom Reform Project, he said.

ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) said that, while many landlocked developing and transit countries had, with the help of their development partners, achieved certain progress towards realization of the Almaty Programme of Action since its adoption five years ago, due to a variety of impediments they had faced, many such countries, including Afghanistan, had not yet been able to fully use trade as an effective instrument to achieve their development goals.

He said that Afghanistan had been able to address many challenges in meeting the Almaty objectives, notably with much-needed international and regional community support.  While appreciative of the financial support to help improve its transport and transit infrastructure, he regretted that a significant portion of the donor pledges had not yet been delivered.  Much of that aid was also delivered without full regard to the goals of the Afghan Government and the Almaty Programme, he noted, and he urged the international community to increase its assistance in such priority areas as the regional and national road networks, and improvements to, and modernization of, the existing airports and dry ports.

He also noted that regional economic cooperation was becoming an integral part of globalization strategies of almost all its neighbours.  As a result, Afghanistan now had the unique opportunity to realize its potential as a “land bridge” country between Central Asia, South Asia and the West Asian region.  While Afghanistan was aware of its responsibilities towards its neighbours regarding the creation of solid institutions and mechanisms, it would at the same time encourage its neighbours and other countries in the region “to work with us in similar pace and in the same spirit”, he concluded.

HJÁLMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) said that, while there had been various positive developments in landlocked developing countries in recent years, and fairly consistent economic growth, the Secretary-General’s report showed that “considerable” effort was needed to improve their competitiveness.  Iceland was fully committed to implementing the Almaty Programme’s five priorities, and recognized that the specific situations of landlocked developing countries made poverty eradication even more challenging.

He said his Government was concerned that landlocked developing countries continued to build an unsustainable level of external debt.  Iceland was a financier of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative.  More was needed regarding development financing, and Iceland aimed to be among the top contributors of ODA, having doubled its budget for development cooperation in the past four years.

Noting that women played a fundamental role in development, he said Iceland had increasingly directed development cooperation at gender-specific projects.  In closing, he said aid for trade was an important initiative that could reduce the adverse effects of landlocked developing countries’ geography, and it should be part of a broader development policy for them.  It was more urgent than ever that market access for goods originating in those countries be facilitated.

CHIRACHAI PUNKRASIN ( Thailand) said that in addition to Africa, whose development needs had been discussed in the past few weeks, the landlocked developing countries deserved ongoing attention from the international community.  Believing that opportunity was crucial for ensuring development and prosperity, Thailand had cooperated in developing transport links with neighbouring countries through regional, subregional and bilateral agreements in line with the Almaty Programme priorities.  To ease transit transport and eliminate non-physical barriers, Thailand had given special privileges to its neighbours by exempting customs on commercial goods moved through Thailand.

With regard to infrastructure, Thailand had made the construction of transport links within the region a priority.  For example, the Asian Highway Network had moved ahead with the development of the East-West, North-South and Southern Economic Corridors under the Great Mekong Subregion framework.  The Singapore-Kunming Rail Link under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Mekong Basin Development Cooperation, once realized, would link the ASEAN members with China, he said.

On a bilateral basis, Thailand had provided financial assistance to its landlocked neighbour, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, as well as Cambodia and Myanmar, for projects that would strengthen transport connections.  For example, Thailand had provided assistance to build a road linking Huay Xai to Luang Num Tha in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, part of the Route 3 of the North-South Economic Corridor under the Great Mekong Subregion framework.  Thailand would continue to actively support the development of transport links to improve the living standards of people in the Mekong subregion.  While acknowledging the efforts of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in the region, he said there was more work to be done.  Thailand urged other development partners to help develop transport connections by providing technical and financial assistance related to infrastructure development.

STEVE D. MATENJE (Malawi) said his country, like similarly situated countries, being both landlocked and least developed, faced daunting challenges, not the least of which were those of rising oil costs, lack of direct access to the sea and isolation from major international markets.  All of that resulted in prohibitive transport costs and formidable obstacles to Malawi’s import and export trade.  Unless those challenges were addressed with urgency, landlocked developing countries such as Malawi would remain uncompetitive in the global economy and the development gap between them and the rest of the world would continue to widen, resulting in their perpetual dependence on foreign aid.

Accordingly, he urged development partners to “walk with us, and not carry us on their shoulders”, on the journey to economic prosperity and independence by assisting landlocked developing countries to remove obstacles to their import and export trade in order for them to create the much-needed wealth necessary to reduce poverty.

He said it was for that reason in fact that the United Nations adopted the Almaty Programme of Action, as a commitment of the international community to address the special needs of the landlocked countries as called for in the Millennium Declaration.  With that in mind, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy had identified transport infrastructure development as one of the six key priority areas for the country to achieve economic growth in the medium term.  Accordingly, the Government was vigorously pursuing a multimodal inland transport system to improve road, rail, air and inland water transportation with a view to facilitating internal, as well as import and export, trade.

With regard to inland water transportation, the Governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia had concluded a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a waterway project known as the Shire-Zambezi Waterway Project, aimed at connecting the three countries to the sea through the Shire River in southern Malawi and Mozambique, and the Zambezi River in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, he added.  The project was in line with the Almaty Programme of Action as well as the Brussels Programmes of Action for the Least Developed Countries, both of which were aimed at addressing the special needs of landlocked developing countries and least developed countries such as Malawi.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso), joining statements given by Mali and on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries, said 2008 had seen unprecedented socio-economic crises, including those of food and energy, as well as the effects of natural calamities.  For landlocked developing countries, that had translated to destruction of infrastructure.

The fact that landlocked developing countries were far from the sea had caused turmoil in trade, he said.  The fact that they were landlocked was the major concern of the Almaty Programme, and he was happy to see that the Assembly’s Review had benefited from the conclusions of the ministerial meeting at Ouagadougou, and another meeting in Ulaanbaatar.  Those meetings had enabled States to assess the implementation of the Programme.  They had also allowed for identifying the best measures to deal with the isolation of landlocked countries and improving their competitiveness.

Continuing, he said he was happy with the theme’s current session, which asked the global community to help create trade opportunities for landlocked developing countries.  Infrastructure funding was of “capital” importance, and he called on multilateral, bilateral and other donors to offer support.  He invited developed countries, particularly those in the Group of Eight, to be involved in preparations for the development financing conference at Doha, which would sincerely review commitments made at Monterrey in 2002.

Noting that half of landlocked developing countries were in Africa, he stressed that the meeting at Ouagadougou had launched an appeal to public and private investors to bolster infrastructure.  Concerned by the failure of World Trade Organization trade talks, he said the lack of consensus showed a marginalization of landlocked countries in the trading system.  He called for resuming the Doha Development Round in a spirit of solidarity.

ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) welcomed and endorsed the philosophy that led to the adoption of the Almaty Programme of Action.  Between 2003 and 2008, Italy’s overall development aid to landlocked developing countries had increased by 70 per cent, to about $250 million.  Last year, Italy had contributed $50,000 to the organization of the two preparatory meetings in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

He said the obstacles faced by the Governments of landlocked developing countries and transit developing countries were related less to their geographical locations and more to complex regulatory procedures, lack of cooperation in tackling bureaucratic delays, and underdeveloped logistics sectors.  While significant efforts had been made over the past five years because of the Almaty framework, much work had to be done.  Regional and subregional cooperation were also important vehicles for implementing the Almaty Programme and relevant organizations, especially the ones with operations on the ground, were important stakeholders.  Their continued interest and commitment was essential to making concrete progress towards implementing the five priorities laid down at Almaty.

The incoming Italian presidency of the Group of Eight would pay great attention to information and communications technology for development, he said.  The development of transit transport infrastructure was not limited to the construction and maintenance of physical infrastructure like roads, railways, airports, ports and pipelines.  Rather, infrastructure development needed to be complimented by an efficient and modern storage and transport organization, logistics management systems, and integrated information and communication networks.  Bridging the digital divide, promoting good governance, the exchange of experiences and best practices, and the proper training and education were consistent with priority one of the Almaty programme.  Italy would promote projects fostering the dissemination of e-government instruments aimed at improving and speeding up complicated bureaucratic procedures, for instance in the field of customs and logistics.

ESAAGH AL-HABIB ( Iran) said transit transport issues were of prime importance in a globalized world, and noted that some had acknowledged they were equated with economic growth that would help alleviate poverty.  In that regard, the establishment of effective transit systems was a top priority for landlocked and transit developing countries.  The primary responsibility for that rested with those countries, so that they could attract and mobilize resources for their development.  At the same time, he called for development partners and regional organizations to be involved in line with the principle of shared responsibility.

In addition, true and full implementation of bilateral, regional and subregional agreements was needed, he said, explaining that the Almaty Programme was a fundamental framework for genuine partnership between landlocked and transit developing countries, and their partners.  For its part, Iran had taken actions to speed implementation of the Almaty Programme by working with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific to set up two workshops focusing on rail and road transit transport.  Further, Iran was making efforts to continue implementation of measures to ease customs formalities and grant duty-free zones at maritime free ports, among other things.

Iran was among the most important transit developing countries, and the development and maintenance of its transit routes presented challenges, which, if not addressed, might inhibit cooperation.  Moreover, infrastructure maintenance required more assistance from donors and international financial institutions.  In closing, he said addressing the needs of landlocked developing countries required a holistic approach, and he invited the United Nations, among other international and regional organizations, to integrate the Almaty Programme into their work.

VICTOR ZAGREKOV ( Russian Federation) said globalization was impacting all areas of society and that uneven benefits were fraught with problems, including the areas of risk and stagnation.  This was undermining the development of the landlocked developing countries and least developed countries.  Russia had set down steps to initiate improved transportation links and help the shipment of products of those countries.

Russia was resolved to tackle key issues in the coming decade in Euro-Asian transportation.  It had a federal system that enhanced transport policies and services and improved the effectiveness of the transit of goods to neighbouring countries.  Russia was dedicated to improving the flow of traffic, including the delivery of goods and the management of transport systems, he said.

Because of its geographical location and its expanse over a large part of the Euro-Asian continent, Russia was a bridge between East and West.  It participated in international dialogue on that subject and had promoted road and rail networks in Asia.  Those neighbouring Asian countries had limited access to outside markets, and Russia was working with them to improve that situation.  For example, it had focused on helping shipping companies move containers across the continent from Asia across Russia to the borders with Europe.  It also tried to ensure that its roads functioned without problems so regular road shipments could move from the Russian Federation to Asia.  He was happy with the work of international organizations, particularly the United Nations, in that area and reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to those countries.  The creation of global frameworks for effective land transportation was also important, he added.

OUMAR DAOU ( Mali), sharing his country’s experience, said first, that Mali, as a typical landlocked developing country, was vulnerable to the current global crises, notably in food and energy sectors.  Mali had carried out consistent measures to improve the efficiency of transport and transit systems, and had organized the private sector into a consulate chamber:  the Mali Shippers Council.  As for the development and maintenance of transit infrastructure, Mali had promoted private investment for equipment and storage facilities, carried out transport infrastructure work, and upgraded its fleet of rail and road equipment.  To facilitate trade, Mali had used self-assessment methodologies developed by the World Bank.

Nonetheless, Mali was up against various hurdles, including numerous tariff and non-tariff barriers, which impeded trade and raised shipping costs, he explained.  Secondary infrastructure for transport and transit was inefficient on the borders, information systems had not been sufficiently developed, and shipping facilities had low storage capacity.

Faced with such hurdles, Mali had undertaken policies to reinforce sectoral performance, notably by focusing on local capacity-building, restructuring transport companies and upgrading shipping infrastructure through the national transport committee.  There was also a “national week of road safety”.  Mali supported the major programmes to develop transport within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  In closing, he said Mali was committed to all activities to implement the Almaty action plan, and thanked the High Representative for his efforts.

MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) highlighted different points that would continue the economic progress of the landlocked developing countries, among them the inclusion of those countries’ needs in the Doha trade negotiations; more private and direct foreign investment; international organizations and donor countries’ participation in the Ulaanbaatar think tank initiative; a strengthening of South-South cooperation, as well as trilateral, subregional and regional cooperative initiatives; and developed countries fulfilling their commitment to provide 0.15 per cent to 0.20 per cent of the gross national index to ODA for the landlocked developing countries.

He went on to say that, as part of Egypt’s foreign policy to support and strengthen South-South cooperation, two funds had been established.  The Egyptian Fund for Technical Cooperation for Africa provided assistance to African countries, while The Egyptian Fund for Technical Cooperation with the Commonwealth of Independent States, -- modified to include developing countries and landlocked developing countries -- was in the process of expanding its activities within those countries.

To ensure the efficacy of the funds, Egypt had instituted training specific to the needs of each country and their own national strategies for development.  He noted that several Egyptian companies directed investments to landlocked developing countries’ infrastructure development, including telecommunications and construction.  He concluded that integral to these funds was trilateral cooperation, including with United Nations bodies and donor countries, as well as humanitarian assistance.

ARMEN MARTIROSYAN ( Armenia) began by saying, “Any programme is as good as its realization,” and with that, called on States to adopt measures that would eliminate the use of unilateral measures, which contradicted international law and undermined the multilateral trading system.  Further, the interests of landlocked developing countries should be fully taken into account.  The elaboration of divisive initiatives ran contrary to the Almaty Programme and would only add to tensions, notably those in the South Caucasus, he added.

Touching on transit transportation systems, he also said that assistance should be provided to landlocked developing countries in the area of trade facilitation.  To facilitate implementation of the Almaty action plan, he proposed promoting the development of existing transport structure, and thoroughly considering landlocked developing country interests when creating development plans, among other things.  Moreover, it would be necessary for international financial institutions to provide long-term grants and loans.  Finally, he said the Almaty Programme of Action had shown its comprehensiveness, and joint efforts would produce results at the next midterm review session.

IGOR FINOGENOV, EuroAsian Development Bank, said the Bank had been created in 2006 and was an international funding institution aimed at promoting the market economy of its members and helping them bolster their partnerships.  It was open to new members and expected other countries to join by year’s end.  The Bank also wanted to see its numbers increase.  It worked on projects in the areas of transportation, infrastructure, electricity, among others, and giving specific attention to the Almaty Programme’s call to support the landlocked countries of Central Asia.  It was examining projects that used waterways in the region and transport corridors, from Western Europe to China, and North to South.

He said the Bank was interested in working with the specialized agencies of the United Nations, especially since it had obtained observer status last year.  That gave it new opportunities.  The Bank hoped to coordinate activities with other agencies and to improve its effectiveness, as it improved the lives of the region’s citizens.  It was also open to working on regional projects, he added.

MARC BALTES, Senior Adviser of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said that, as the world’s largest regional security organization recognized in the Charter, the OSCE was a primary instrument for early warnings, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.  Using a comprehensive approach, it dealt with the political/military, economic and environmental, and human aspects of security, and thus, addressed a range of security concerns, including arms control and democratization, among others.  All 56 participating States enjoyed equal status.

He said the OSCE high-level Economic Forum in 2006 had been dedicated to developing transit transportation.  During that Forum, it had become clear that special attention should be given to OSCE landlocked developing countries and, based on that, the OSCE adopted a decision on the “Future Transport Dialogue in the OSCE”, which provided a strong mandate for continued activities to that end.

His office, along with the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, had organized a conference in Tajikistan to enhance political dialogue on transit transportation in Central Asia.  The Joint Dushanbe Statement, agreed upon there, highlighted the importance of building partnerships.  In closing, he assured the Assembly of the OSCE’s continued involvement in transport-related activities.

The Assembly then adopted a draft resolution, containing the outcome document of the midterm review 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/L.3).

Closing Statement by General Assembly President

Concluding the High-Level Midterm Review of the Almaty Programme of Action, Assembly President, MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN, of Nicaragua, said that over the last two days, the world body had assessed efforts to ensure that landlocked developing countries had efficient transit transport systems and international market access.  The “balanced and precise” Declaration adopted provided guidance to enhance implementation of further projects.

The Assembly’s focus on action-oriented programmes that were “measurable and feasible” had grounded the Review in terms that would benefit landlocked and transit countries alike, he said.  It also served to inspire greater donor involvement in such areas as trade assistance, infrastructure, and financial and technical assistance.  The high-level panel on the role of international support for transport systems provided a “dynamic exchange” on such complex issues, providing insight into the key partnerships emerging from the Programme of Action.

“The United Nations is all about partnerships,” he said, underscoring the importance of monitoring progress within the Almaty Programme’s five stated priorities.  Noting that a global recession would be “doubly catastrophic” for the least developed countries that were both poor and geographically isolated, he reiterated his promise that the Assembly would use its authority to ensure donor commitments for funding and technology transfer were honoured.  While the work outlined in the Almaty Review document was ambitious, it must inspire “our sense of solidarity” with the people of landlocked countries and their neighbours, he said.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.