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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

22 August 2023



Ms. Rabab Fatima, my dear friend, United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS),

Distinguished  participants, colleagues and friends,

On behalf of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, I would like to welcome you to our regional review of the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024.

Today, we gather to reflect on our accomplishments and, more importantly, to reflect on our future.

Lack of territorial access to the sea, isolation from world markets and high transit costs erode competitiveness, discourage investment and hamper the economic growth of landlocked developing countries (LLDCs). 

Reliance on informal sectors, high unemployment and low productivity saddle their narrowly-based economies.

In a world where lives are economically, socially and environmentally intertwined, geography, coupled with population and economic size, limits options to counter exogenous changes. 

Of the 14 LLDCs covered under this review, four that face the most constraints are also LDCs.  

Given their geographic proximity, LLDCs and their neighbors often face similar issues and hold interests in common. 

These LLDCs are significant trading partners of their neighboring transit developing countries.  As transit developing countries themselves, they hold the key to the development of regional trade and transit corridors.

Many of these challenges can be mitigated, if not addressed, through dialogue and cooperation. 

A shared understanding of transit policy issues, infrastructure development, international trade and trade facilitation, regional integration and cooperation and structural economic transformation all starts with dialogue. 

Such dialogues then form the foundation for action.

Landlocked developing countries are now better able to reach external markets, both in transit developing countries as well as beyond, through numerous initiatives that have already been launched.

Accession to treaties and conventions on transit and trade facilitation remains essential. 

Together with the development of transport, energy and ICT infrastructure, the adoption of digital technology has reduced transit times, both at railway border crossings and long-distance transport corridors. 

Through the introduction of these measures, cargo along CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation) corridors can now travel up to 400 kilometers within 24 hours.

Digitalization -- which fosters innovative solutions, expands commerce and drives economic diversification -- likewise is a catalyst for economic transformation.

For more ambitious initiatives with a single market through regional economic integration in mind, improved connectivity is a means to a far greater end of equitable economic development amongst its members and integration into the global economy.

To reach long-lasting solutions, national policies must be in line with agreed frameworks for cooperation. 

We know what can be done when the focus is placed on our common priorities.

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

Let us not rest on our laurels, however, as challenges remain. 

The series of crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions, rising inflation and increasing effects of climate change test our resilience and adaptability as we strive for cooperation. 

Each of these crises, in turn, not only have economic impacts across countries but on environmental and social development as well. We will be able to successfully maintain international financial stability, mitigate climate change and attain sustainable development only by working together. And by working together and cooperation, the realm of possibilities becomes greater.

With Afghanistan, Lao PDR and Nepal, together with Bhutan and Mongolia amongst our earliest members, we have  supported LLDCs through its sectoral work since its inception. The accession of countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus to ESCAP 30 years ago has further brought these issues to the forefront. 

Together with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), we have been supporting subregional cooperation since 1998 between Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and their integration into the world economy through the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA).

Following the adoption of the Almaty Programme of Action, the Commission adopted resolution 61/11 to expand its programme to support the landlocked and transit developing countries in their efforts to improve their transit transport systems.

And last year, as we marked our 75th anniversary, our members adopted the Bangkok Declaration, to commemorate the occasion and to pursue a common agenda to advance sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

Celebrating the extraordinary socioeconomic progress that has lifted millions out of poverty in the region, the Declaration recognized the need to address outstanding development challenges, including those of landlocked developing countries, by catalyzing regional cooperation to confront regional, transboundary and common challenges.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, colleagues,

I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to supporting the LLDCs and their integration into the regional and global economy.

Together with regional transport infrastructure agreements on the Asian Highway Network, Trans-Asian Railway Network and Dry Ports, the Regional Action Programme for Sustainable Transport Development adopted in 2021 will be instrumental in enhancing transport connectivity.

To reduce transport costs by up to a fifth through the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, we conducted readiness assessments to Armenia, Mongolia, Nepal and Uzbekistan and provided support to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and the Lao PDR.

With the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Action Plan 2022-2026, our work aimed at regional digital transformation through SPECA has become a catalyst for economic transformation.

Distinguished participants,

Your deliberations today will shape our work so that they better address the needs of landlocked developing countries. 

More importantly, they will frame the Programme of Action emanating from the Third United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries, to be held in 2024.

With the next Programme of Action expected to extend well into the next decade, your deliberations will also be instrumental in shaping the post-2030 development agenda.

With these words, I would like to wish you a very successful conferenceas well as your deliberations. 

Thank you very much.

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