Distinguished Chairmen of NAM & G77
Allow me at the outset to convey to you the warm greetings of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his best wishes for the success of this meeting. I have the pleasure to add my own greetings to all of you. I am confident that under your wise and experienced chairmanship, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, the meeting will be an important step forward for concerted action for landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) during the 59th session of the UN General Assembly and beyond. Let me take this opportunity to pay tribute to your great country, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and its Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Alounkeo Kittikhoun for continuing to provide effective and committed leadership to the LLDCs
A year has now passed since the landmark International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries in
The Almaty Programme of Action laid out a framework for specific action in five priority areas: fundamental transit policy issues, infrastructure development and maintenance, international trade and trade facilitation, international support measures, and implementation and review. It is widely recognized that the Almaty Programme is well-focused and balanced. Its implementation is considered feasible and measurable. International determination to deal with the special needs of LLDCs was further enhanced during the 58th Session of the General Assembly.
At the Almaty Conference, the international community entrusted the United Nations Office of the High Representative with an important mandate to ensure the effective implementation of the Almaty Programme. It is a major addition to the mandate and functions of the Office because when the Office was established by the UN General Assembly, LLDCs – unlike LDCs and SIDS – did not have a UN mandated programme of action. Now, thanks to the Almaty Programme of Action, LLDCs not only enjoy a special agenda at the United Nations, my Office has been mandated also to coordinate actions for the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action. It is through such contributions that the spirit of international co-operation in the effort to assist LLDCs – clearly manifested at Almaty – thrives.
This year we set in motion the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action. Attention was given to mobilizing awareness and operationalizing coordination and monitoring mechanism for the effective implementation of the Programme. One of the main achievements in this regard has been the adoption of the road map towards the implementation of the Almaty Progarmme of Action with a view to providing guidance to the United Nations agencies and other international, regional and sub-regional stakeholders in assisting landlocked developing countries. In February I invited the relevant regional, sub-regional and international organizations to an inter-agency meeting to consider the road map. At the meeting it was agreed that the kind of broad-based participatory approach, so successful in leading to Almaty, would be adopted for the follow-up process. Private sector and professional organizations are essential partners in this process. The inter-agency meeting endorsed the road map. The road map identified areas that would require immediate action. These included the identification of major “missing links” in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the creation of subregional priority projects to develop infrastructure and facilitate trade. LLDCs were encouraged to establish national trade facilitation boards with a view towards garnering international support for trade facilitation. And, promoting the accession to international conventions on transit and transport trade was initiated.
In addition to what my Office is doing, the Almaty Programme of Action is being implemented through a number of important initiatives worldwide. Let me briefly list some of them here. One of the concrete achievements to follow up Almaty was the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network signed in
The UN Economic Commission for
The World Bank is working towards supporting the Almaty Programme of Action by collaborating with the World Customs Organization to streamline customs procedures. It is also running a number of projects aimed towards improving infrastructure and streamlining transit arrangements. The Northern Corridor Transport Improvement Project seeks to give
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has been active in assisting LLDCs through its analytical work and technical cooperation arms. UNCTAD is working on three pilot projects to design and implement regional solutions in selected transport corridors in Latin America, Africa and
Two recent major developments pertaining to the international development agenda are of significance to the needs of the LLDCs. At UNCTAD XI in
It is also an encouraging development that trade facilitation will be included in the next round of trade talks. The importance of trade facilitation must be stressed because it is the key to the solution of the problems facing LLDCs. Under-developed infrastructure, time-consuming customs procedures, logistical problems generated by transport regulations and additional border crossings — all these increase transaction costs for both importers and exporters, although LLDCs tend to be commodity exporters. Such trade barriers are detrimental to the domestic economy, inflating the price of imported goods and diminishing the competitiveness of exporters in the global economy. LLDCs cannot remedy these problems on their own because they rely on other countries for trade facilitation. LLDCs have to actively participate in negotiations on trade facilitation. They are in great need of technical assistance in this area.
The 59th Session of the General Assembly has so far seen the 2004 Treaty Event on International Conventions Applicable to Transit Transport Co-operation, which sought to streamline, simplify and standardize trade rules and procedures in an effort to reduce transit costs. However, it is my understanding that so far LLDCs have not participated as actively as was hoped. We will continue this effort in future and all LLDCs are encouraged to sign the treaties. Looking beyond the 59th Session, the Office of the High Representative is planning a meeting on the “Role of regional and sub-regional organizations for the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action” to agree on specific projects and deliverables as well as on main indicators for measuring the progress.
But for now it must be emphasized that the present session of the General Assembly is of crucial importance to LLDCs because it marks the General Assembly’s first consideration of the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action. The General Assembly deliberations should result in a substantive resolution towards enhancing the implementation of Almaty in order to overcome the difficulties confronting LLDCs. I am aware that the LLDCs will work very hard and in a concerted manner to provide direction for further action.
Let us hope that the spirit of co-operation that flowered at Almaty last year is further carried forward during the 59th Session of the UN General Assembly for the benefit of all LLDCs.
I thank you very much for your attention and I wish you every success in your deliberations.
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