I have now the pleasure of introducing the Report of the Secretary-General on agenda item 23 (b) contained in document A/65/215.
After an assessment of the advancement in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in landlocked developing countries, the Report takes stock of the progress made and constraints faced in the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action, in particular in its five priority areas of (i) fundamental transit policy issues, (ii) infrastructure development and maintenance, (iii) international trade and trade facilitation, (iv) international support measures and (v) implementation and review. The Secretary-General then puts forward a number of important conclusions and recommendations for the way forward to which I would like to draw the attention of delegations.
The landlocked developing countries have made commendable progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In particular, significant progress has been made in improving enrolment in primary education, gender parity in primary education, combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and increasing the proportion of people with access to improved water source.
But progress has been much slower in other areas; including the very elemental ones of reducing poverty, hunger and maternal mortality. Landlocked developing countries, as a group, are among the poorest of developing countries. The fundamental characteristics of landlocked developing countries, including the remoteness from major international markets, inadequate transport infrastructure and high trade transaction costs puts them at the margin of the global economy and at a disadvantage on the path to development. Climate change poses an additional threat to their sustainable development, as it has led to land degradation, desertification and deforestation in landlocked developing countries.
The Almaty Programme of Action provides a holistic framework for the establishment of genuine partnerships between landlocked developing countries and their transit neighbours. The Report you have before you highlights the commendable efforts that have been undertaken in the five priority areas of the Programme. Landlocked developing countries in all regions have continued to make substantial progress in facilitating transport and trade across borders. For example: joint cross-border initiatives serving landlocked developing countries have taken root especially in Africa, with one-stop border posts having been initiated on the borders between Kenya and Uganda, between Zambia and Zimbabwe, between Zimbabwe and Mozambique; and in West Africa on some borders of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo and Mali. In Southeast Asia, the implementation of the annexes and protocols to the Agreement for Facilitation of Cross-Border Transport of Goods and People in the Greater Mekong Subregion has opened the way for reducing transport costs and making the movement of goods and people more efficient, contributing to poverty alleviation by supporting the development of rural and border areas, increasing earnings of low-income groups, providing employment opportunities, and promoting tourism.
The results of these efforts by landlocked developing countries are quite remarkable. For instance: between 2005 and 2009, the average time taken by a landlocked developing country to complete export formalities was reduced by 9 days – or 16%. In the case of import formalities, the time was reduced by 8 days – or 13%. The successful implementation of the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks has promoted the development of transport infrastructure, increased financing from international banks and donors and enhanced collaboration with the private sector. To enable landlocked developing countries in Africa reap similar benefits, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission and the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States are exploring the possibilities to elaborate an intergovernmental agreement on the Trans-African Highway.
With regard to infrastructure development and maintenance, I invite your attention to the fact that, with the establishment of road funds in 27 African countries, increased efforts have been made to maintain existing roads and expand infrastructure have. Several countries in Africa, including Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Ethiopia have been involved in the construction of dry ports. Amendments to the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network resulted in road connectivity to all landlocked countries in the Asian region. The South American landlocked developing countries are equally active in linking their rail and road systems to inter-oceanic routes.
The recent global economic crisis has pointed out the structural weaknesses of landlocked developing countries, in particular relating to their low productive capacities and heavy reliance on the export of few “low-value – high-bulk” commodities. While export performance has increased substantively since the Almaty conference, the landlocked developing countries’ share of world trade remains under 1%.
It is imperative that landlocked developing countries diversify their export patterns and enhance their productive structures for their economies to successfully compete in the global market. To mitigate high trade transaction costs stemming from geographical disadvantages, the international community must provide greater market access for goods originating in landlocked developing countries. Furthermore, the utilization of existing preferential tariff regimes has to be facilitated by simplifying their respective rules of origin and cumulation requirements.
The successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round is of utmost importance to the landlocked developing countries, in particular in the area of trade facilitation, to ensure their unhindered access to and from the sea and to reduce their transit time and cost. With the preparation of a first draft consolidated negotiating text, the trade facilitation negotiations have reached an important milestone and stand out as one of the few areas in the ongoing WTO negotiations where substantive progress has been reported. Extensive technical assistance has to be provided to landlocked developing countries to participate effectively in the negotiations and to assist with implementation.
The timely and effective implementation of the Alamty Programme of Action can only be achieved with substantial international support. Massive investments in transboundary infrastructure are needed if landlocked developing countries are to realize their economic potential. The Report commends the many ongoing initiatives to ensure connectivity of landlocked countries to sea ports and facilitate their integration in the global economy. It highlights the important role played by the international donor community and development partners. For example: the regional development banks continued to play major roles in financing and implementing activities under the umbrella of the Almaty Programme of Action. The Asian Development Bank increased funding to regional transport infrastructure projects in countries of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation – namely Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – to enhance internal road networks and border road networks, and in South Asian countries, namely Bhutan and Nepal, to increase connectivity with India and Bangladesh. The African Development Bank, in cooperation with the Agence Française de Développement, the European Commission and the World Bank, has been supporting an important new attempt to transit system reform that is being introduced to facilitate transit traffic through Cameroon to Chad and the Central African Republic, the main elements of the reform being the introduction of a single transit document, the removal of all road checkpoints and the use of information technology based on the UNCTAD Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) programme. The Report also highlights the promising Aid for Trade initiative that has the potential to provide a significant boost to helping landlocked developing countries overcome some of their most serious impediments to trade.
The UN-OHRLLS continued to strengthen its efforts to assist landlocked developing countries through increased mobilization of international and United Nations system-wide support and awareness-raising activities. We also continued our efforts to strengthen collective negotiating capability of the Group through various capacity building initiatives. The endorsement of the final text of the multilateral agreement on the establishment of the International Think Tank for landlocked developing countries at the Ninth Annual Ministerial Meeting of Landlocked Developing Countries held in New York on 24 September 2010 is indeed milestone step for the landlocked developing countries. The think tank will provide a centre of excellence for high quality research and policy advice and will contribute to further strengthening of the analytical capacities of landlocked developing countries.
Despite the many success stories, it is clear that much remains to be done. Limited financial resources are one of the main challenges faced by landlocked developing countries in trying to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The international community must intensify its support through increased and predictable development assistance in the form of financial, technological and capacity-building support to address the specific socio-economic, developmental challenges of the landlocked developing countries in a holistic way. The Almaty Programme of Action provides us with an opportune framework to assist marginalized landlocked developing countries become successful, land-linking participants in the global economy enabling them to forward on the path to development.
I thank you for your attention.