Landlocked countries still marginalized, senior United Nations official says

New York, 21 April 2008 — The United Nations’ senior-most official responsible for the world’s most vulnerable groups of countries has said that despite the gains brought by the international trading system, Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) remain marginalized and their share of world trade remains miniscule. Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States made these comments in an address to the “High-level Meeting on Trade Facilitation and Aid-for-Trade” in Accra, Ghana on 19 April.

In view of this, Mr. Diarra stressed the importance of the Aid-for-Trade (AFT) initiative and said he was fully supportive of this new comprehensive and integrated initiative. The AFT aims to assist developing countries to seize the opportunities offered by the rule based international trading system, and strengthen their capacity to fully mainstream trade into their national development strategies.

He said that the main reason for the poor performance on the part of LLDCs is excessive transit transport costs. To remedy this, the establishment of viable transit transport systems, export capacity building, trade facilitation schemes at both national and regional levels should be considered priority areas for assistance to LLDCs under the AFT initiative. He also emphasized the importance of the development of a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the AFT in order to improve the delivery of pledges, results orientation and adherence to the Paris Declaration.

He urged landlocked and transit developing countries to aggressively pursue implementation of bold trade facilitation measures, citing the WTO negotiations on trade facilitation which he noted afford an extraordinary opportunity to LLDCs. Mr. Diarra further called for a bold, ambitious outcome of the trade facilitation negotiations. Additionally, the WTO and other relevant organizations should extend well coordinated and coherent technical assistance to LLDCs. Close cooperation and collaboration between LLDCs and their transit neighbours, at all levels is also necessary to undertake necessary trade facilitation measures, he stated.

He told the meeting that LLDCs should further strengthen their collective bargaining capability at the WTO talks to advance their common cause in the context of AFT and trade facilitation. In this regard, he underscored the importance of the Asuncion Platform for the Doha Development agenda where LLDCs agreed on a priority area for their concerted action at the international trade talks. Mr. Diarra was hopeful that the Accra UNCTAD XII conference would help LLDCs to mobilize the attention of those in attendance for the urgent need for greater support to this vulnerable group of countries.