5 Nov 2014 – World leaders adopt ambitious 10 year action-plan for LLDCs

Vienna, 5 November – The United Nations General Assembly today adopted a 10 year action-plan aimed at accelerating sustainable development in the world’s 32 landlocked developing countries (LLDCs). The Vienna Programme of Action with six clearly defined priorities encapsulates a unified stance by the international community on a broad array of crucial issues, from concrete steps toward the structural transformation of LLDCs’ economies and infrastructure development to improving international trade and bolstering regional integration and cooperation.

“We are strongly committed to the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action to address, in a holistic manner, the special development needs and challenges of landlocked developing countries arising from their landlockedness, remoteness and geographical constraints,” proclaimed the Vienna Declaration  at the conclusion of the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries attended by more than 1,000 participants in the Austrian capital.

The 23-page outcome document was described by the Secretary-General of the Conference Gyan Chandra Acharya as an important milestone in promoting the development agenda of LLDCs.

The document, for instance, expresses an unambiguous commitment by all governments to ensure greater emphasis on reducing transit time, promoting infrastructure development and maintenance, ensuring trade facilitation measures in an accelerated manner, besides linking them with the promotion of economic diversification, structural transformation, connectivity to global value chains and regional integration. This holistic approach together with a clear call to ensure coherence with the global processes is expected to enable the LLDCs to achieve sustained and sustainable economic growth and ensure their meaningful integration into the global economy.

“The Vienna conference has come out with a holistic, forward looking and action oriented program and I clearly see that in the document that has been adopted,” said Acharya in his closing remarks.

Acharya added that the text was holistic in taking up transit, trade, infrastructure issues together with the regional cooperation, structural transformation and coherence with the global processes in a pronounced manner as priorities. He further stressed that while recognizing the special challenges and vulnerabilities of LLDCs,   Member States have stressed that the landlocked countries have to transform themselves into land linked countries in order to reap full benefits from regional cooperation and globalization.  He explained, that the outcome document was action-oriented as governments had clearly spelt out tangible actions to be taken by LLDCs, transit countries and development partners in each of the six priority areas identified together with clear national, regional and global level implementation, monitoring and review.

Mr. Acharya highlighted that the outcome document stresses renewed and strengthened partnerships between the LLDCs, transit countries and development partners within the context of north-south as well as south-south and triangular cooperation. He, however, added that while the action-plan “recognizes that LLDCs have the primary responsibility for their own development” the group of countries require support “to effectively mobilize adequate domestic and external resources for effective implementation of the Programme of Action.” A recurring theme throughout the three day meeting has been that while the LLDCs have seen incremental economic gains over the past decade, this progress has not made a meaningful dent in the rate of poverty among this group of countries and that the progress remained fragile in many of the LLDCs. Nine of the 15 countries at the bottom rung of the development ladder are landlocked and the vast majority continue to lag behind their maritime neigbours in socio-economic development. To remedy this, the Vienna text calls for support “in a more coherent manner” which would “contribute to an enhanced rate of sustainable and inclusive growth, which can contribute to the eradication of poverty”. In his closing statement to the conference,  the Foreign Minister of Austria Sebastian Kurz, who was also the President of the Conference, said, “Our overarching goal is clear: generating sustainable and inclusive growth to invest in infrastructure, to facilitate trade and to reduce poverty.” Kurz added that the conference had been “instrumental in exploring new ways of engaging private sector activity and of promoting public-private partnerships and private investments.”

The meeting saw a flurry of activity with four high-level interactive thematic round-tables and 18 side events organized by various stakeholders in the margins of the meeting on a wide-range of issues relevant to the LLDCs, transit transport development, trade capacity enhancement and further integration into the regional and global markets. The events gathered Heads of State, Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers, United Nations Secretary General, President of the General Assembly and Heads and senior representatives from international organizations who shared their views and experiences on how to enhance LLDCs’ economic diversification and competitiveness through strengthened investments and policy measures in the areas of transport, infrastructure development and trade facilitation, sustainable energy and sustainable transport, through partnerships on vocational training, through increased regionalization of aid for trade, and particularly for landlocked least developed countries, through effective implementation of the Enhanced Integrated Framework. Other topics covered by side events were climate-smart agriculture, connectivity challenges, the role of migration and the special challenges of mountainous LLDCs.

A day-long Business and Investment Forum brought together business leaders, government officials from landlocked countries and transit countries, as well as development partners. Delegates attending the Forum agreed on the importance of the role of the private sector in the promoting infrastructure and development objectives of LLDCs and the related Sustainable Development Goals. Participants reiterated that the private sector was encouraged by the UN and International Chamber of Commerce to collaborate further and move this agenda forward. They stressed private sector investments as key in enabling LLDCs to diversify and grow their economies, while calling for government to ensure better enabling environment and for the private sector to pursue responsible business practices. Particular emphasis was placed on promotion of SMEs, linkages between private sectors and public private partnerships.

“We have come a long way but the real work begins now,” Acharya said. “We must now move ahead to deliver with determination the Vienna Program of action that we have agreed here with understanding, solidarity and support of all.  The international community has to deliver on these commitments to the 440 million people living in the landlocked developing countries.”

Media Contact: Ricardo Dunn, dunn@un.org / Louise Stoddard, stoddard@un.org