Opening Statement
 
by
 
Anwarul K. Chowdhury
 
UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative
for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
 
at the
 
 
Thematic Meeting
on
Transit Transport Infrastructure Development
 
Preparatory to the Midterm Review
of the Almaty Programme of Action
 
 
 
 
 
 
18 June 2007
 
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
 


Mr. Alain B. Yoda, Minister of State, Minister of Health, Representative of His Excellency the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso
H.E. Mr. Choguel K. Maïga, Minister of Industry and Trade of Mali, Chairman of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries
Distinguished Ministers and leaders of delegation from the Landlocked Developing Countries and Transit Developing Countries and Donor Countries
Dear colleague Mrs. Josephine Ouedraogo, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa
Dear colleagues from the UN system and other multilateral, regional and sub-regional organizations
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to you to this first thematic meeting focusing on transit transport infrastructure development. Without any doubt, this is a milestone meeting as it formally kicks off the preparatory process that will lead to the 2008 Midterm Review of the Almaty Programme of Action by the United Nations General Assembly.
At the outset, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the people and Government of Burkina Faso, for their gracious hospitality and the excellent arrangements made for this Meeting. My Office has worked closely with the Government, particularly with Ambassador Kafando in New York, to ensure that all arrangements are in place.
A word of special appreciation is due for the Minister of Industry and Trade of Mali, his Government and in particular his able Ambassador in New York, Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra, for the strong commitment shown in promoting the interest of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries as its Chairman. We all count on your leadership during the entire preparatory process and the midterm review itself of the Almaty Programme.
I take this opportunity also to thank the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation of the UNDP, under the leadership of Director Yiping Zhou, for their generous financial support which has made the special session, scheduled tomorrow, on the regional and subregional dimension of transit transport infrastructure development possible.
This is a very exciting day, the day in which, here in Ouagadougou, we launch the preparatory process for the Midterm Review of the Almaty Programme of Action. The main objective of our next three days together will be to assess the progress made at the international, regional, sub-regional and national levels in the implementation of priority number 2 of the Almaty Programme, namely: infrastructure development and maintenance.
Distinguished participants,
Landlocked developing countries continue to face great challenges and serious constraints in their efforts to eradicate poverty and elevate the living standards of their population. The Human Development Report 2006 showed that 10 out of the 20 lowest-ranking countries were landlocked.
Geographical realities coupled with critical infrastructure deficiencies, as well as cumbersome border crossing procedures, often pose more significant impediments to trade for landlocked developing countries than tariffs do. Distance from ports is deemed to be the major variable determining transportation costs, particularly as the costs related to land transport are about 5 to7 times greater than those of sea transport. High transport costs thus trigger a tremendous trade-reducing effect, which negatively impact on GDP growth directly.
Being landlocked is a challenge, a reality, but should not necessarily be taken as a destiny. Actions are required to overcome those constraints. Without concrete solutions to the impediments that beset the landlocked developing countries, the latter will continue to be driven to the outer fringes of the global economy.
To specifically address the problems and challenges faced by the landlocked countries, the General Assembly convened in 2003 a UN Conference in Kazakhstan which adopted 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. The over-arching goal of the Almaty Programme of Action is to forge partnerships to overcome the special problems of landlocked developing countries caused by their lack of territorial access to the sea and their remoteness and isolation from world markets. The Almaty Programme of Action stipulates specific measures to establish efficient transit transport systems, recognizing the link between transport and international trade and economic growth. These specific actions are to be implemented in five priority areas, namely: (1) fundamental transit policy issues, (2) infrastructure development and maintenance, (3) international trade and trade facilitation, (4) international support measures, and (5) implementation and review.  
Recognizing the critical importance of the effective follow-up and review for the successful implementation of the Programme of Action, the General Assembly decided last December to convene a midterm review in 2008 to be preceded by regional and substantive preparations in a most effective, well-structured and broad participatory manner, designating my Office to be in charge of the overall coordination of the process. All relevant parts of the UN System are involved, as well as international and regional financial institutions, and other regional and sub-regional organizations. It gives me great pleasure to see so many of these organizations represented here today, along with representatives from the landlocked and transit developing countries and donor countries. Your presence here is a testimony to the commitment of your governments and of your organizations to the effective implementation of the Almaty Programme.
The success of our endeavors will indeed depend on the strength of our partnership, the same partnership that we launched in 2003 in Almaty to establish effective transit transport systems for the benefit of landlocked developing countries in all regions of the world — the same partnership that we intend to reaffirm with even stronger will at the end of this thematic meeting — the same partnership that will serve as guiding principle in the months to come, through the second thematic meeting on international trade and trade facilitation in Mongolia in August, through the regional reviews to be held in the first semester of next year, culminating in the midterm review during the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly in 2008. It will be the concrete results deriving from such partnership efforts that will determine the success of this first decade.
I find it extremely appropriate that this thematic meeting takes place in an African landlocked developing country, since the problem of inadequacy of transit transport infrastructure is particularly acute in this region. Africa has much higher proportions of landlocked and least developed countries than any other part of the world. One half of all landlocked developing countries, and two thirds of all the countries designated as least developed, are African. Roads remain the dominant mode of transport in Africa, accounting for 90 per cent of interurban transport. Their dismal status continues to be the major obstacle to Africa’s trade expansion. Less than a third of Africa’s 2 million km of roads are asphalted with 6.84 km per 100 square km, compared to 12 km in Latin America and 18 km in Asia. The network interconnections are poor, especially in Central and Western Africa and availability of rolling stock is still very low compared to other regions.
A recent World Bank study analyzed the costs and benefits of comprehensive, coordinated road network upgrading in Sub-Saharan Africa. Results indicate that the annual implementation cost over 15 years is $5.9 billion for the first five years, decreasing to $1.8 billion thereafter. This is well within the range of aid programs currently proposed for Sub-Saharan Africa. About $12 billion of such expenditures would directly generate jobs and income for about 8.4 million rural construction workers in the upgrade period and 365, 000 annual jobs for maintenance. Beyond the job creation effect, the great upside of such a project is that the coordinated network upgrading would result in an expansion of overland trade in Sub-Saharan Africa by about $250 billion over the 15 years.
Distinguished participants,
It is the reality of every landlocked region that considerable investment is required to address the needs to develop, upgrade and maintain reliable transit transport infrastructure. Enhanced, more focused and long-term financial assistance from the multilateral, regional and bilateral donors is crucial. Investments are also needed in the setting up of public-private partnerships, in the area of capacity-building, legal and regulatory reforms, institutional and administrative overhauls, including in-depth analysis of each landlocked country’s foreign trade composition and its transport constraints.
Cooperation across borders with the transit countries is crucial for the establishment of efficient transit transport systems. Transits will be easier and less costly for both landlocked and transit countries if implemented in an integrated environment. If administrative or customs delays are minimized and investment decisions taken with a common perspective, the benefits derived by landlocked and transit countries are increased and transport costs lowered. Improvements in transport and transit facilities and an increased traffic volume will eventually benefit coastal as well as landlocked countries.
This realization has led landlocked and transit countries on all continents to get engaged in the process of building or planning transit or access corridors.
In Latin America, the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America Initiative (IIRSA) has the objective to consolidate the physical integration of the continent’s countries — bridges, roads, railroads, waterways and gas pipelines. During the five years since the plan’s launching, a continental infrastructure strategy was defined, projects identified, and offices were established in each participating country to move projects forward and coordinate with neighboring countries. Most of the 31 projects designated as IIRSA top priorities are set to be completed by the 2010 deadline, including, border crossings involving the two landlocked countries of the region, Paraguay and Bolivia.
In Asia, the Asian Highway is a network of 141,000 kilometers of standardized roadways crisscrossing 32 Asian countries with linkages to Europe. There, a total of $26 billion has already been invested in its improvement and upgrading.
In Africa, the nine Trans African Highways and their interconnections should be improved and developed as a coordinated, holistic Trans-African Road Network.
Distinguished participants,
It is clear that transit transport cooperation can receive a significant boost from South-South cooperation, as most transit neighbors of landlocked developing countries are themselves developing nations. The regional and subregional organizations have an immense role to play in exploring and facilitating such cooperation. The dedicated special session tomorrow will provide an opportunity to share best practices and lessons learned and to identify actions and initiatives to overcome obstacles and constraints encountered at the regional and subregional levels for the further implementation of the Almaty Programme.
I do not need to underscore the crucial importance of the outcome of this meeting. Your assessment of the progress made and your deliberations on future actions needed to further strengthen the global partnership for establishing efficient transit transport systems will serve as substantive input to the 2008 midterm review.
The United Nations as a whole, and my Office in particular, will continue to support the efforts of the landlocked developing countries and their transit neighbours toward that worthy and achievable end. We will do everything to ensure that adequate preparations are made for the 2008 midterm review of the Almaty Programme. On a personal note, I am particularly happy that I am able to join all of you at this kick-off meeting for the Almaty +5 process, as I complete my UN tenure as High Representative at the end of this month.
I wish every success in your deliberations.