Vientiane Consensus renews commitment to integrating landlocked developing countries with region’s growth momentum

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of UN ESCAP, chairs the closing ceremony of the Final Regional Review of the Almaty Programme of Action, in Vientiane, Laos.

ESCAP: Landlocked developing countries can be key landbridges in region

Landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) assert they are land-linked, land-rich countries that can emerge as key hubs in regional cooperation and integration, more than 120 delegates attending the Final Review of the Almaty Programme of Action (APoA) Conference heard at the conclusion of their meeting in Vientiane, Laos today.

Hosted by the Government of Laos, in cooperation with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UNOHRLLS), the three-day consultation brought together representatives from the 14 Euro-Asian LLDCs, development partners, private sector and civil society.

In closing remarks, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Dr. Noeleen Heyzer said: “It is my conviction that with the support and cooperation of transit countries and international community at large, LLDCs of the region not only can realize their full development potential, but can also play an important role as landbridges and hubs connecting different countries in the region through land transport corridors.”

In turn, Dr. Heyzer highlighted ESCAP’s vision of an international integrated intermodal transport and logistics system in Asia, combining the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks together with the network of dry ports, linking LLDCs to high-growth coastal areas in corridors of prosperity which would be instrumental for the realization of their development aspirations.

However, she also underscored that for LLDCs to achieve their full development potential, when putting in place trade and transport facilities for these corridors, people-centred development must be at its core, so that there is prosperity for all.

In his concluding statement, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, LLDCs and Small Island Developing States, Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya stated: “We now have a solid basis from this region for drafting the Second UN Conference on LLDCs.”

The Vientiane Outcome Document reflects LLDCs renewed commitment in addressing development gaps and integrating their countries more closely with the region’s growth momentum.

The review identified five key broad priorities for the global review and the debate about the post-2015 development agenda, including a focus on job-creating and inequality reducing growth, by strengthening education and vocational training, nutrition and health, gender empowerment and social protection; on diversification of their economies in favour of value-adding products to reduce their vulnerability to commodity prices shocks. This could also include development of services sectors like tourism, ICT services, energy production and transmission, education and health, finance and banking, that are not dependent on the access to sea, for creation of incomes, jobs and exports.

Additional priority areas were a focus on providing a stable macroeconomic, trade and investment regime to mobilize domestic as well as foreign private investments and public-private partnerships for closing the infrastructure gaps and for building productive capacities; deepening regional economic integration at subregional, regional and broader levels which would assist LLDCs’ participation in the regional value chains, enabling them to tap expanding markets in the neighbourhood for their products and services.

Finally, the Outcome Document cited trade facilitation, highlighting the need for the WTO accession of LLDCs on easy and expedited terms, transit and transport facilitation by the neighboring countries, enhanced and better quality flows of ODA, aid-for-trade and FDI, and capacity building support for productive and trade capacity development and climate change mitigation.

In closing, Dr. Heyzer emphasised that while there had been much progress, this was still an unfinished agenda: “A successor of the Almaty Programme of Action and the post-2015 development agenda should make the international community renew its commitment to continued international support to LLDCs in addressing their handicaps.”

The Vientiane Consensus will be placed at the 69th session of ESCAP’s Commission which will meet in Bangkok from 25 April to 1 May 2103, before being transmitted as this region’s contribution to the global final review of the Almaty Programme of Action in 2014.