His Excellency, Mr. Jose Antonio Dos Santos, Permanent Representative of Paraguay to the United Nations, Current Chair of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries.
Mr. Jan Kubis, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
Dear colleagues and friends,
It is my pleasure to welcome you today to this 6th Inter-Agency Consultative Meeting on the 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.
At the outset, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to His Excellency, Ambassador Dos Santos of Paraguay who is the current Chair of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries for making time to be with us in this opening session and for agreeing to make a statement.
I especially welcome Mr Ján Kubis, Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, who personally dedicated to spend his time with us today, despite his busy schedule.
My special appreciation also goes to those of you that have made a long trip to be here with us today and to those of you from here who have decided to devote your day to this important development issue. Let me also welcome the representatives from the Economic Commission for Africa and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean who are joining us today from Addis Ababa and Santiago via video-link.
Your attendance today at this inter-agency meeting underscores the great importance that you and your organizations attach to the successful implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action.
Let me now give you a short review of the context for this meeting. The objective of the inter-agency meeting is to serve as a forum for consultation and information sharing among United Nations system organizations and other international institutions, with the aim of advancing the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action as per the outcome of the midterm Review. The organizations that you represent have different mandates and scopes of activities but we are all united around the common goal to assist Landlocked Developing Countries in their efforts to effectively integrate them into international trade and the world economy.
As you are all aware, the Landlocked Developing Countries face special challenges that are linked to their geography, including remoteness from major international markets, inadequate transport infrastructure and high transport and transaction costs. As a consequence, many Landlocked Developing Countries find themselves marginalized from the world economy, cut-off from the global flows of knowledge, technology, capital and innovations, and unable to benefit substantially from external trade. The development challenges they face owing to the geographical disadvantage of having no territorial access to the sea permeates every aspect of the development process, including economic growth, poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The United Nations Conference convened in 2003 in Almaty, Kazakhstan represented a turning point for forging global partnerships to assist landlocked and transit developing countries in establishing efficient transit transport systems so that they can reduce transaction costs to derive more development benefits from trade. The Almaty Programme of Action that was adopted at that conference aims at ensuring fuller and more effective integration of the Landlocked Developing Countries in the global economy through the implementation of specific actions to be undertaken by all relevant stakeholders in the five priority areas of fundamental transit policy issues, infrastructure development and maintenance, international trade and trade facilitation, international support measures and implementation and review.
The 2008 Declaration of the midterm review of the Almaty Programme of Action by the United Nations General Assembly emphasized the concrete actions to be taken by the landlocked and transit developing countries, with the support of their development partners, in the priority areas. The Declaration also provided the United Nations system and other international organizations with a clear mandate, priority and guidance to double their assistance to Landlocked Developing Countries.
There has been some continued encouraging progress in implementing the Almaty Programme. Increasingly, both landlocked and transit developing countries have engaged in important policy reforms with a view to remove physical and non-physical barriers to their effective participation in international trade. There have also been major efforts to improve the transport, communication and energy infrastructure and foster the maintenance of the existing infrastructure at national, sub-regional and regional levels. Border facilities and procedures have been streamlined and harmonized leading to increased efficiency and fewer delays. This is making it easier for Landlocked Developing Countries to use neighbouring countries' ports and roads.
Your organizations have been instrumental in contributing to the progress achieved in the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action. Your active involvement, genuine partnership and sense of ownership are among the main contributors to the success achieved so far. I am very grateful for the commitment that all of you have shown.
At this juncture allow me to inform you that I have recently had a chance to interact and take note of the concerns of the Landlocked Developing Countries in the recently held 9th annual Ministerial Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries, held at the sidelines of the 2010 Summit on MDGs, and in the discussions held two weeks ago after my presentation of the Secretary General’s Report on the 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 to the Second Committee of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
It is clear from my interaction that much more needs to be done. These meetings noted that although the economic and financial crisis was over, its negative effects were still being felt by some Landlocked Developing Countries who had experienced a significant decrease in volume and value of trade. They emphasized that trade was the engine of development that could assist Landlocked Developing Countries to strategically transform their economies, build their productive capacities, diversify their economic base so as to enhance their competitiveness on the global markets, build resilience to external shocks and achieve higher and sustainable economic growth. In this regard, they called for the early conclusion of the Doha Round and for ensuring that it addressed the trade facilitation needs of Landlocked Developing Countries. They also called for greater exploitation of the Aid-for-Trade initiative to meet the special needs and requirements of Landlocked Developing Countries.
The meetings noted that although transport and transit facilitation had greatly improved, there was still need to close the missing links in the transit transport infrastructure; support the development or implementation of the regional legal frameworks necessary to sustain a well co-ordinated, standardised and integrated transit transport system; and promote a supportive telecommunication and energy infrastructure.
The representatives from Landlocked Developing Countries indicated that rising food costs had negatively impacted them, in particular the food importing countries, as their food prices were aggravated by high transport charges. They also noted that climate change was exacerbating land degradation, desertification and deforestation and was also adversely impacting the transport infrastructure and thereby presenting a new challenge that needed to be addressed.
I also noted in these meetings that the Landlocked Developing Countries were encouraging each other to pursue a policy of gradual transformation from a landlocked to a landlinked country by prioritizing development of a road transport network to improve national, regional and international linkages.
Let me now remind you that we are holding this meeting less than three years before the first decade of the Almaty Programme of Action comes to a close. There may not be much time left until 2013, but I believe that we can make a difference by harnessing more effectively our analytical, technical and operational capabilities to assist the Landlocked Developing Countries in overcoming the current physical impediments and unlocking their potential to generate higher levels of social and economic development.
My Office has been and is undertaking several activities in collaboration with different institutions to advance the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action. I will highlight a few as my colleague who shall present later on will provide more details.
The Group of Landlocked Developing Countries is establishing an International Think Tank on the Landlocked Developing Countries in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The Think Tank will provide a centre of excellence for high quality research and policy advice for landlocked developing countries and will contribute to further strengthening the analytical capacities of Landlocked Developing Countries. My Office and the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs have provided substantive assistance to the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries in developing the respective draft intergovernmental agreement. I would like to take this opportunity to ask the institutions present today to explore areas of possible collaboration with the Think Tank.
My Office has been and is continuing its efforts to highlight the special situation and consequently special needs of the Landlocked Developing Countries through policy analysis and advocacy in every relevant fora and development policy related intergovernmental process and negotiations such as the MDG Summit, Climate Change negotiations and upcoming Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, the Rio +20 conference and the World Trade Organisation’s Doha negotiations. I count on your support to complement and supplement this mainstreaming and in mobilising special consideration by the international community in terms of providing, policy, technical, technological and financial support to the Landlocked Developing Countries through the national development strategies and relevant regional initiatives.
The Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States Office is working in collaboration with ECA, African Union, African Development Bank, and World Bank to support the strengthening of the Legal Framework on the Trans-African Highway.
My Office is also working with the Government of Kazakhstan to prepare for a High-level meeting focusing on the effectiveness of aid for trade and trade facilitation, and the effective participation of Landlocked Developing countries in the world economy. The Government of Kazakhstan has offered to host this important meeting in July next year.
In conclusion, I would like to reemphasize that the Landlocked Developing Countries are counting on all of us to support them in their endeavour to overcome the development obstacles caused by their geography. I call on you to step up your efforts to support them through enhanced implementation of the priorities of the Almaty Programme of Action.
In today’s deliberations lets work together to identify activities where we can foster collaboration – both technically and financially to accelerate progress towards the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action. Let us update the matrix that is before you so that we are able to monitor our activities and become more transparent and accountable to the Landlocked Developing countries. This exercise will also help us to prepare a roadmap to the upcoming 10 year review of the Almaty Programme of Action. In addition, my Office is going to include your inputs on the activities that you are doing to advance the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action into the Report of the Secretary General. In this spirit, I am looking forward to fruitful deliberations at this meeting.
Thank you for your kind attention.