The Vienna Programme of Action (VPoA) for Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) was adopted in 2014 and its main objective is to address the challenges faced by the LLDCs in overcoming their structural weaknesses during the decade 2014-2024. The High-level Midterm Review on the Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action held in 2019, concluded that the progress in implementing Programme’s objectives had been limited in several areas, including poverty reduction, achievement of full structural economic transformation, enhancing participation in global trade and diversification of exports.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional challenges on North and Central Asian (NCA) LLDCs and has threatened to put a hold on progress for the full achievement of the VPoA’s objectives. Vulnerabilities in the economic structure, especially for the countries depending on commodity exports and labour remittances, have caused major recession in economic growth. Trade and transport connectivity, which are essential for the landlocked countries, were greatly affected by enforced measures. The Ukrainian crisis has further challenged the recovery process, which barely started after the curb of COVID-19 pandemic. Given the VPoA’ approaching deadline, it has become necessary to review the progress made under the Programme’s priority areas and suggest policy actions for North and Central Asian LLDCs for the next decade 2024-2034.
Similar to other LLDCs, the North and Central Asian LLDCs have achieved mixed progress in implementing the VPoA since 2014. The progress has been made in fundamental transit policy issues, including the reduced time and costs for crossing the borders and improved logistics. The countries have invested in building and modernization of new transport corridors, implementing a significant number of road infrastructure projects. The North and Central Asian LLDCs have achieved a notable progress in enacting the trade facilitation measures, joining and enforcing regional trade cooperation agreements. Furthermore, the efforts have been made to shift the NCA economies from commodity and agricultural production towards manufacturing and service sectors and export diversification.
With that, however, considerable challenges still persist in all of the VPoA’s priority areas that impediment the progress of its implementation. The transport connectivity, heavy dependence on road transport, insufficient rail density and infrastructure still result in high operational costs. Despite the implemented policy towards digitalization, the digital divide remains high in many of the NCA LLDCs. Lack of economic and export diversification, reliance on commodities production and trade impose further challenges for inclusive and sustainable growth of the countries in the region. In order to speed up the process of overcoming the countries’ inherited structural weaknesses, this paper recommends to pay special attention to the following issues when designing the next decade Programme of action:
In Priority 1 “Fundamental transit policy issues” it is recommended to provide additional assistance for the implementation of international conventions. In Priority 2 “Infrastructure development and maintenance” it is advised to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy sources and reduction of the digital divide. In Priority 3 “International trade and trade facilitation” and in Priority 5 “Structural economic transformation” further actions should be sustained to economic and export diversification. In Priority 6 “Means of implementation” the efficiency of official development assistance should be increased. Furthermore, it is recommended to include two additional priority areas, such as achievement of gender equality and ensuring proper data collection and monitoring for successful implementation of the next Programme of action.