With transit costs eating up anywhere between 15 and 50 per cent of their export earnings, low-income landlocked countries won improved market access under an historic agreement concluded today at United Nations-sponsored talks, promising reductions in red tape and transportation costs and time.
"These negotiations have focused very successfully on building a partnership between landlocked, transit and donor countries," UN Under-Secretary-General Anwarul Chowdhury told a press conference in Almaty, Kazakhstan, after three consecutive days of intensive negotiations.
The Almaty Programme of Action is the first global action plan negotiated at the ministerial level that provides a framework for cooperation between the landlocked and the transit access developing countries - nations that have often been at odds due to their geographic configuration.
The plan reinforces the right of all countries to enjoy secure access to the sea and establishes a set of policy guidelines for reducing red tape for landlocked country exports, while also respecting the prerogatives of the access nations.
Transport services through access countries consume on average 15 per cent of the export earnings of landlocked developing countries - and as much as half for some African landlocked nations. In comparison, other developing countries expend an average of only 7 per cent on transport services, and the developed countries only 3 to 4 per cent.
The Programme establishes for the first time, agreement in principle on compensating landlocked countries for their geographical handicaps with improved market access and trade facilitation. Nine of the 12 lowest-ranking countries on the UN Human Development Index are landlocked, and economists estimate that landlocked status costs these countries about 0.7 per cent in rate of economic growth each year.
It further sets the stage for strengthened national economies and greater convergence of national interests by cementing international and national commitment to upgrade rail, road, air and pipeline infrastructure in both the landlocked and the access countries.
In addition to the 30 landlocked developing countries participating in the talks, there were 33 transit access developing countries, nine donor countries, seven additional developing countries and 20 international agencies and financial institutions.
The agreement was reached at preparatory talks for the two-day International Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries on Transit Transport Cooperation, opening tomorrow in Almaty, which will give the final stamp of approval to the Programme of Action.
Mr. Chowdhury, who is UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, is the conference secretary-general.
The landlocked countries at the conference are: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Paraguay, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tajikistan, the Former Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The transit developing countries are: Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal, Somalia, Thailand, Togo, Tanzania, Uruguay and Viet Nam.