I have the pleasure of introducing the Report of the Secretary-General on agenda item 59(b) contained in document A/62/226. The report provides account of the status of preparations for the midterm review of the implementation of the Almaty Programme.
In and of itself, the decision by the General Assembly to convene the midterm review of the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action in 2008, as contained in its resolution 61/212, reflects the commitment of the international community to the full and effective implementation of the Programme. The General Assembly entrusted my Office with the task to coordinate the preparatory process leading to next year’s midterm review meeting. The donor countries, landlocked developing countries and transit developing countries were broadly consulted to solicit their views and guidance. As a result, the organizational and conceptual framework were prepared to provide overall direction for the UN system-wide preparatory efforts in order to organize the midterm review in such a way that it attains practical outcomes in a well-structured, cost-effective and broad participatory manner.
High transit transport costs and undue long delays are both a symptom and a result of negative factors affecting landlocked developing countries which fall into two major categories, namely: physical infrastructure bottlenecks and non-physical barriers. Bearing this in mind, two thematic meetings have been organized this year. The purpose of the thematic meetings was threefold: (a) address the physical and non-physical aspects of transit trade of landlocked and transit developing countries; (b) assess where landlocked and transit developing countries stand in terms of these two important priorities of the Almaty Programme of Action and; (c) make recommendations for future actions. Of course, outcomes of these meetings will be major substantive inputs to the midterm review.
The first thematic meeting focused on transit transport infrastructure development in June in Burkina Faso with the broad participation of LLDCs and transit developing countries and their development partners. The Ouagadougou outcome document, which is contained in document A/62/256, provides an assessment of the current situation of transit transport infrastructure development and maintenance in landlocked and transit developing countries around the world and identified areas where to strengthen the global partnership for transit transport infrastructure development. International financial assistance continues to remain the major source of funding for infrastructure development in LLDCs. However, while ODA figures for this group of countries have increased, concern was expressed about the small and declining share of assistance allocated to transport, storage and communications infrastructure development. I will not dwell on this meeting further as we provided detailed accounts in the report of the Secretary-General.
However, let me speak a little longer on the second thematic meeting, as it was held after the submission of the current report. It was held in August in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and focused on international trade and trade facilitation with 27 out of 31 LLDCs and 30 transit and donor countries together with many UN agencies, international and subregional organizations represented. The report of the meeting is contained in document A/C.2/62/4. The meeting reviewed and assessed the progress made in the implementation of priority three of the Almaty Programme.
Numerous bottlenecks related to trade facilitation that persist in LLDCs, were identified, such as: excessive number of documents required for export/import, multiplication of scheduled and unscheduled roadblocks, lack of adjacent border controls, and complicated and non-standardized procedures for customs clearance and inspections, insufficient application of ICT, leading to poor or total lack of computerization of customs procedures, non-transparency of trade and customs laws, regulations and procedures, lack of institutional capacities and trained human resources, low level of adherence to international conventions on transit transport.
Cumbersome procedural requirements and documentation have a strong negative impact on external trade performance in landlocked and transit developing countries, as their goods travel through additional border crossings. The outcome document stressed that pre-arrival documents, customs and inspections accounted for 75 per cent of total delays. Each additional day in transport delays costs 0.5 per cent of cargo value for goods transported by ship or rail. Exporting and importing take 52 and 65 days for landlocked developing countries as a group against 30 and 39 days spent by transit developing countries. These statistics illustrate the magnitude of the impact of cumbersome procedures on the external trade performance in particular and economic development in general of landlocked developing countries.
The Ulaanbaatar outcome document underscores the urgency for landlocked and transit developing countries to implement trade facilitation measures. These measures do not require enormous capital investment like in the case of infrastructure development. But strong political commitment for bold reform and effective implementation and monitoring is a must. The ongoing trade facilitation negotiations at the World Trade Organization offer a wonderful opportunity for the landlocked developing countries to bring their needs to the fore. Among the objectives to be pursued in the WTO context are: the effective operationalization of freedom of access by all means of transport; the provision of national treatment to all facets of traffic in transit; the integration of special and differential treatment for LLDCs.
The meeting identified that the number of checkpoints and customs convoys should be drastically reduced. Rules and regulations of customs and border crossing should be made transparent; customs and border crossing documents should be unified and simplified with a view to introduce a single customs document; office hours harmonized; and adjacent border crossing points or, even better, one stop borders, should be established. Consultative mechanisms should also be established to address all the bottlenecks in the area of transit trade at the national and regional levels.
The UN-OHRLLS intensified its advocacy work in view of the Midterm review process. In cooperation with UNDP and UNCTAD, it launched an e-Discussion on special needs of LLDCs and WTO negotiation related issues. The objectives of this e-Discussion are to voice the specific needs of LLDCs to the international community and to come up with concrete negotiation strategies to benefit from multilateral and regional trade negotiations; and to exchange experiences with landlocked developing and developed countries. More than 500 experts are currently participating, from New York, Geneva and capitals around the world. Those who are interested can still sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now our focus is on regional review meetings. As requested by the General Assembly, we will closely work with the UNECA, UNESCAP and UNECLAC. The outcome of the regional reviews should include, inter alia, practical measures, such as a list of deliverables necessary for establishing efficient transit transport systems in the landlocked regions.
The review is an important exercise to assess what has been achieved so far, the constraints encountered and to build on the lessons so far learned to accelerate implementation during the second half of the Programme decade. At the same time, the midterm review outcome document should not be seen as a renegotiation of the Almaty Programme, but as a short, focused document with the single purpose of accelerating the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action. The review meeting should be held at a high level during two days of the 63rd General Assembly session in New York. We are planning for a number of high level parallel events to raise profile of the midterm review.
Since its adoption in 2003, the Almaty Programme of Action has generated enormous momentum in addressing the special needs of landlocked developing countries. Tremendous progress has been made and though more needs to be done. The midterm review will provide us with the opportunity to further galvanize the global partnerships in order to better assist the one of the three most vulnerable groups of countries. The entire United Nations system and the UN-OHRLLS, in particular, stand ready to continue to work to this noble end.
Thank you very much.