His Excellency, Mr. Jorge Lara Castro Minister of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay and Chairman of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like at the outset to congratulate and thank you, Mr Chairperson, for your leadership and dedication to promoting the development of the Landlocked Developing Countries. You have clearly demonstrated your support to the group by advancing the concerns of the Landlocked Developing Countries into the international development agenda.
This 9th Annual Ministerial Meeting is being held in conjunction with the Sixty Fifth Session of the General Assembly and soon after the High Level Meeting on Millennium Development Goals. The theme of this Ministerial Meeting “Further implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action to support acceleration of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by Landlocked Developing Countries” is therefore both timely and relevant.
When we held this Ministerial Meeting in September last year, and the meeting of the Ministers for Trade of the Landlocked Developing Countries in Ezulwini, in the Kingdom of Swaziland, in October last year, the world was experiencing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We noted that the global financial and economic crisis was negatively impacting economic development of our countries through a steep fall in exports, a substantive decline in remittances, and a noticeable contraction in foreign direct investment and credit markets. As a consequence, the Landlocked Developing Countries had to cope with a lower rate of economic growth which translated to slowing down progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals especially with regard to reducing poverty. It is however encouraging to observe that the economies of the Landlocked Developing Countries are on their way to recovery this year.
The global recovery remains fragile and given the vulnerability of our economies to external shocks due to limited diversification and lack of structural transformation in some of our economies, it is only prudent for us to remain vigilant. The other global challenges that we have to guard ourselves against include volatile energy prices, rising food costs, and climate change.
Having said this let me stress that we have an obligation to keep our promise to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in our countries. The assessment of the progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals as highlighted in The United Nations Secretary General’s Report to the 65th session of the General Assembly on the Implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action and the Declaration on the Midterm Review, shows that the progress is mixed, with varied performance across countries and across goals due to the different levels of development reached by each of the countries.
Overall, the Landlocked Developing Countries have made commendable progress towards achieving some of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals in particular, 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. Progress has been much slower in some Landlocked Developing Countries in reducing poverty, hunger, and maternal mortality, and in achieving gender parity in secondary and tertiary education.
In order to attain the Millennium Development Goals, adequate financial resources are required, both domestic and foreign. It is vital that Landlocked Developing Countries increase their volume of exports in order to stimulate economic growth and generate the required domestic resources to meet the Millennium Development Goals. However, the world's 31 Landlocked Developing Countries currently account for less than one percent of global merchandise trade. The single biggest obstacle to increasing this share is the very high cost of transport which has become a bigger barrier to trade than tariffs.
Clearly, we need a more vigorous effort for international cooperation to assist the Landlocked Developing Countries to overcome the current physical impediments and unlock their potential to generate higher levels of economic growth that can be used to invest into social development.
The Almaty Programme of Action already constitutes a sound global framework to support the Landlocked Developing Countries in the areas of transit policy issues, transport infrastructure development and maintenance, international trade and trade facilitation, and international support measures.
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. Border facilities and procedures have been streamlined and harmonized leading to increased efficiency and lower delays.
However much more needs to be done in order to increase the competitiveness of the export commodities of the Landlocked Developing Countries, build productive capacities essential to structurally transform and diversify their economies, and generate the domestic resources required to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. A well developed co-ordinated, standardised, integrated and efficient transit transport system is essential. It is important to close the missing links in the transit transport infrastructure at national, sub-regional and regional levels, foster the maintenance of the existing infrastructure, promote greater connectivity, and lower transaction and logistical costs to improve efficiency.
The expeditious implementation of the Aid for Trade initiative would provide crucial support that meets the special needs and requirements of Landlocked Developing Countries in the areas of capacity building for the formulation of trade policies, participation in trade negotiations, implementation of trade facilitation measures, implementation of international agreements, investment into infrastructure for transport, telecommunications and utilities, and strengthening of productive capacities.
The Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States is committed to continue to strengthen its advocacy efforts with development partners not only to maintain and deliver on existing bilateral and multilateral ODA commitments, but also to step up their technical and financial support to assist the Landlocked Developing Countries in their efforts to accelerate the implementation of the Almaty Programme.
I am very happy that the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries has made tremendous progress in developing a draft intergovernmental agreement on the establishment of the International Think Tank on the Landlocked Developing Countries. As you well know, this is one initiative which the Secretary-General strongly supports and is really keen to see take off since he launched its establishment in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia last year. My Office and the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs have provided substantive assistance to the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries in developing the draft intergovernmental agreement on the International Think Tank. It is our sincere hope that during your deliberations today, the final text of the draft agreement will be endorsed.
The Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States has launched preparations for an important Expert Group Meeting on the Legal Framework on the Trans-African Highway that will be held next year, and we are also working with the Government of Kazakhstan to prepare for a High-level meeting on progress achieved in the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action, with a focus on infrastructure development, aid for trade and trade facilitation.
My Office is also continuing its efforts to highlight the special needs of the Landlocked Developing Countries in different fora. I would also like to call upon you - the Land Locked Developing Countries Group to work with us to make a case to mainstream your issues and concerns into major United Nations processes such as Climate Change negotiations, Financing for Development follow-up, WTO’s-Doha negotiations, Rio+20 and others. Let us not miss the opportunity to profile our needs and get the necessary support that can help us overcome the challenges that we face and accelerate our progress towards the achievement of the MDGs.
The Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States greatly appreciate your continued support towards the United Nations General Trust Fund on activities related to the implementation of the Almaty Programme and its follow-up. These contributions go a long way in developing strategies that can assist Landlocked Developing countries to overcome the challenges related to their geography.
In this regard, I would like to once again thank the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan for their generous contribution towards the United Nations General Trust Fund on activities related to the implementation of the Almaty Programme and its follow-up.
In conclusion, I would like to assure you that my Office will continue to provide substantive support to activities and initiatives of the Chair and any assistance that the Land Locked Developing Countries Group might require.
I thank you for your kind attention.