Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin by expressing my heartfelt appreciation to the Government of the Czech Republic for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality. My thanks also go to the Government of Kazakhstan, Presidency of the OSCE for this year, for its continued leadership in promoting the interests of landlocked developing countries, particularly those in OSCE region.
Let me also commend the OSCE for its continued support and attention to transit transport challenges that are of crucial importance, particularly for the (eight) landlocked OSCE members and partner countries (Mongolia and Afghanistan). OSCE made important contributions to the advancement of the goals of the Almaty Programme of Action in this region.
Safe, smooth and reliable land transport systems, which lie at the very core of the global framework for transit transport cooperation embodied in the Almaty Programme, play a key role for the overall economic and social progress of the landlocked countries in the Central Asia, for their peaceful cooperation and the achievement of their development goals. This has acquired an even more acute sense of urgency in the wake of the global downturn that has so painfully exposed the vulnerabilities of these countries to external shocks.
However, the road to the establishment of efficient and integrated inter-modal transit transport systems linking landlocked Central Asia to seaports and international trade routes both East and West, is fraught with challenges – multi-sectoral challenges that require your most urgent political attention and support.
It is estimated that more than half of transit time from Central Asia to Europe is spent on waiting at borders. The World Bank estimates the loss caused by export delays at about 1 percent of trade for each extra day. According to the Doing Business 2010 data, Central Asian landlocked countries continue to feature among the group with the highest numbers of documents and the longest time required for import/export. They are also among the countries with the highest transport cost to export a container, reaching over three thousand dollars against about one thousand dollars on average in the European Union. Therefore, the theme of good governance is particularly important for the landlocked countries as their goods destined for overseas travel across additional borders.
Burdensome and inefficient regulations, restrictions on vehicle movements, trans-loading, physical inspections and off-loading of freight at borders, unwarranted inspections of goods en route, differing vehicle standards, inadequate security for drivers and freight and corruption, have emerged as among the principal bottlenecks hindering reliability, speediness and security of the transport and logistics networks and thus reducing international competitiveness of landlocked developing countries in the OSCE region.
While further investment in physical infrastructure development and maintenance along international corridors is undoubtedly necessary, there is ample evidence that the removal of the non-physical impediments to cross-border trade, through customs modernization, fight against corruption, along with harmonization of border crossing procedures, can more immediately reduce economic distance, save time and increase the reliability of logistics and supply chains, therefore enhancing the landlocked countries’ competitiveness in global markets.
Central Asian and Caucasian landlocked states should accept the efficient border crossing procedures practiced in other parts of the OSCE region. Developed OSCE countries should extend their helping hands to these countries on priority basis with a view to promoting streamlined procedures designed to facilitate trade and transport operations along international transport corridors and particularly at the border crossings. Priority attention should be given to the establishment of one-stop-border crossings, adoption of the single-window concept, and broader application of information technologies and risk management systems.
Of particular importance is the need to harmonize the legal frameworks pertaining to transit transport cooperation, a goal that should be pursued with strong political will and commitment especially in the implementation phase, as the single most important component of a coherent transit transport cooperation strategy for the landlocked OSCE countries and their regional partners.
We must therefore continue to call on all member states to adhere to the relevant multilateral conventions on transit transport and trade, such as the UNECE and WCO’s legal instruments.
Real progress will only be achieved if concerted efforts are made to further strengthen cooperation and coordination among neighboring governments, and within governments, among all of the many agencies and authorities engaged in border control. The efficient functioning of proper inter-agency coordination institutions, incorporating both public and private sector stakeholders in transit transport, is critical for successful corridor management, infrastructure development and investment and transit service operations.
The United Nations family, and my Office in particular, stands fully behind the efforts of the OSCE to assist the landlocked countries in its region, based on the OSCE Council Decision 11/06, with a view to enhance regional connectivity, use transport and trade to sustain their economic growth and achieve the Almaty Programme goals.
I am confident that this vibrant Forum will be able to identify the keys to that achievable path of deeper regional integration, poverty reduction and sustained peace and development for all. The time to act is now.
I thank you and wish every success in your deliberations.