Vientiane, Laos (UN ESCAP Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section) ?
Much progress has been made, but lack of territorial access to the sea,
remoteness and isolation from world markets and high transit costs continue
to hamper socio-economic development of Euro-Asian landlocked developing
countries (LLDCs), participants reviewing the final regional implementation
of the Almaty Programme of Action (APoA) heard during opening statements.

Hosted by the Government of Lao PDR, in cooperation with the United Nations
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United
Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the United Nations Office of the
High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked
Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, representatives
from 12 of Asia?s and two of Europe?s ?LLDCs are assembled in the Laos
capital from March 5-7 to conduct the final regional ten-year review of the
APoA for LLDCs.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, United Nations Under-Secretary-General
and ESCAP Executive Secretary Dr. Noeleen Heyzer said: ?Despite many
challenges faced by LLDCs, I am optimistic. 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.?

In his introductory remarks, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and
High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, LLDCs and Small
Island Developing States, Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya stated: ?The challenge
before many LLDCs is to secure a sustained positive economic growth that
delivers decent jobs and enables countries to make significant strides
towards poverty reduction and broad based sustainable development.?

The three-day review will identify policy recommendations and actions in
four priority areas – transit policy issues; infrastructure development and
maintenance; trade facilitation and market access; and international
support measures – as well as strategies for the next decade that need to
be implemented if Euro-Asian LLDCs are to fully participate in the global
trade and realize their full potential for sustainable and inclusive
development.

In recognizing the significant progress in the area of transport
infrastructure development, Dr. Heyzer noted that this was in part due to
enhanced support extended by the transit countries among other development
partners. In line with this, she highlighted ESCAP?s work reorientation
towards realizing the vision of an international integrated intermodal
transport and logistics system in Asia, with a focus on the development and
upgrading of the Asian Highway (AH) and Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) networks
together with the development of dry ports, linking LLDCs to high-growth
coastal areas in corridors of prosperity.

However, Dr. Heyzer stressed LLDCs and transit countries in the region
continue to face many challenges in implementing transit transport
priorities under the APoA.

Similarly, while LLDCs and neighboring transit countries have made great
effort to improve their trade competitiveness and trade facilitation, the
recently launched ESCAP ? World Bank trade cost database shows that trade
costs of LLDCs are still extremely high, typically 4 to 7 times higher than
those of most other middle-income developing countries in Asia largely due
to constraints they face due to their lack of access to sea.

Furthermore, limited progress has been made in terms of obtaining
nondiscriminatory market access by LLDCs of the region with only four
countries having successfully managed accession to WTO since the adoption
of the APoA, including the Lao PDR that has just fulfilled the conditions.
As many as six countries in the Asia-Europe region are currently undergoing
WTO accession.

?I urge the international community to facilitate this process of accession
to WTO of LLDCs on easy and expedited terms, thereby providing them the
fruits of the multilateral framework of trade and market access,? stated
Dr. Heyzer in her opening remarks to the consultation.

With the world economy undergoing dramatic changes over the last few years,
the modest economic growth achieved by the LLDCs during the last decade has
recently come under increasing pressure due to successive global crises in
the areas of finance, food, and fuel. Many are severely affected by the
adverse impact of climate change.

Following on from this and looking ahead to the post-2015 development
agenda, Dr. Heyzer highlighted the difficulty LLDCs have faced in achieving
various MDGs, in particular the gender related ones on maternal mortality,
hunger and child malnutrition: ?We cannot not leave women and the next
generation behind. The APoA for the next decade must be more people
centred.?

The outcomes of this consultation will be placed at the Special Body on the
LDCs ?and ?LLDCs during the 69th session of the Commission, to be held from
25 ?April ?to ?1 May, 2013, before being transmitted to the Ten-Year Review
Conference of the Almaty Programme of Action in 2014.

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