Tremendous progress has been achieved in implementing the Almaty Programme of Action, but much more needs to be done

New York, 13 June – Participants in a one day OHRLLS-World Bank Pre-Conference Event: Transport Development and Trade Facilitation held on Thursday 13 June 2013 in Washington DC reviewed the role of transport landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and progress that has been made on developing transport systems and trade facilitation in LLDCs since the adoption of the Almaty Programme of Action in 2003.

Stressing the important role of transport to the development of LLDCs, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, LLDCs and Small Island Developing States, Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya emphasized that “Transport is a major enabler and multiplier of development for LLDCS and was key to sustaining their development growth”.
 
The meeting highlighted the progress that has been made to connect and integrate LLDCs into international markets. On transport development participants noted the improvements that were made in expanding and upgrading the road and rail networks, upgrading of ports, establishment of dry ports and in air transport. On trade facilitation, the meeting highlighted the advances that have been achieved in reforming and enhancing customs services; increased use of ICTs at borders; establishment of supportive legal instruments; harmonization of and improvements in logistics services. Success stories on trade facilitation initiatives were shared such as: use of single windows and one-stop border controls.
 
The meeting noted that the share of LLDCs of global trade had increased from 0.6% in 2003 to approximately 1.2% in 2012. Similarly their economic growth had increased over the same period. However despite this impressive progress, LLDCs were not yet fully integrated in global trade. “So although much had been achieved in helping LLDCs keep up with global growth, much remained to be done to continue helping them bridge the gap with leading economies’’, said Ms. Zoubida Allaoua Acting Vice-President for Sustainable Development World Bank.
 
Mr. Acharya, noted that “transport and trade transaction costs for LLDCs were still very high when compared to transit countries and continued to be the greatest impediment to the competitiveness of LLDCs”. Mr Saleumxay Kommasith, Permanent Representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of LLDCs also stressed that LLDCs’economies remain highly vulnerable to shocks and global challenges and with limited productive capacities.
 
The participants were deeply concerned that value addition from manufacturing and agriculture in LLDCs has declined over the review period. Export concentrations ratios for LLDCs increased dramatically since 2003 from about 0.2 to 0.38 showing the increased lack of diversification of exports.Furthermore while supportive international legal instruments were available there was limited effective accession and implementation. In addition lack of consistency and transparency in bilateral agreements was reducing efficiency and increasing the cost of international road transport services.
 
On what needs to be done, participants made suggestions on priorities needed to further integrate LLDCs into the global markets. Some of the suggestions include improved transport asset creation and maintenance; deeper regional integration; enhanced operational performance of services; capacity enhancement of public agencies and other stakeholders; enhanced partnerships for financing. Participants also stressed that many of original aims of Almaty Programme still remain valid, particularly on ‘soft’ components such as regulatory reform and transit systems.