Asia-Pacific landlocked developing countries call for strengthened regional cooperation to promote greater connectivity

The top United Nations Asia-Pacific official, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer and the Prime Minister of Mongolia H.E. Mr. Sukhbaatar Batbold today led landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) in the region in a call to promote connectivity and reduce trade and transport barriers for inclusive and sustained development in these geographically disadvantaged nations.

Ministers and senior government officials from Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Nepal and Tajikistan met in the Mongolian capital from 12 to 14 April to review progress in implementing the Almaty Programme of Action (APA) and assess challenges arising from the severe socio-economic impact of the food-fuel and financial crises on the LLDCs.

The eight-year-old APA reaffirms the LLDCs’ right of access to and from the sea, urging cooperation between LLDCs and transit countries for this. The high-level meeting adopted an Ulaanbaatar Declaration and requested Dr. Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP to submit it to ESCAP member nations to recommend necessary measures for its speedy implementation.

“Landlocked developing countries, made most vulnerable by their geographical isolation, are often the hardest hit by rapid global economic swings,” Dr. Heyzer said. “We need to deepen regional cooperation and invest in the people, institutions and eco-systems of these countries to support their journey to shared prosperity, reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of their people.”

The high-level meeting discussed information and analyses on key LLDC priorities in order to formulate a coordinated voice for promoting regional cooperation for enhanced transit transport connectivity, trade facilitation and market access, and fostering South-South cooperation for the benefit of LLDCs.

Stressing that the interests of both LLDCs and transit developing countries should be taken fully into account in ensuring the former free access to international waters, the Ministers and senior officials resolved to work together for effective participation of LLDCs in establishing transit transport systems and in benefitting from the region’s growing dynamism.

Expressing deep concern at rising food and energy prices and special vulnerabilities of LLDCs to this, the Ulaanbaatar dialogue noted that the greatest challenge for Asia-Pacific LLDCs was poverty reduction and improving living standards. It underscored the need for increased and reoriented public investment on social protection and health, education, water and sanitation services.

The Ulaanbaatar Declaration expressed deep concern at the widening disparities both among and within LLDCs in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), noting that even countries with good progress have glaring urban-rural and gender-based disparities in promoting MDGs. The Declaration highlighted the need for greater regional cooperation and continued international support to help the LLDCs progress towards the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals.

The LLDCs also need human and institutional capacity development for effective participation in international systems. The Ulaanbaatar meeting welcomed the ESCAP Executive Secretary’s initiative to launch a Young Leadership Programme to support this through training of young LLDC leaders to engage effectively in multilateral forums, negotiations and processes.

The Ulaanbaatar Declaration recognized that non-physical barriers such as customs clearance and border crossing procedures, as well as excessive paperwork were major impediments to landlocked developing countries exploiting their full potential for growth and development.

It stressed the important role of dry ports in facilitating efficient intermodal transport and logistics and serving as development catalysts where various economic and business activities were clustered.

The Ulaanbaatar Declaration also called for strengthening triangular cooperation by building partnerships with middle-income developing countries in Asia and the Pacific for capacity building, technical assistance and replication of best practices in LLDCs.
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