The United Nations recognizes the special needs of landlocked developing countries and remains strongly committed to helping these countries overcome obstacles to their development, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says.
In a message to the Sixth Annual Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, delivered by Under-Secretary-General Anwarul K. Chowdhury, who is also High Representative for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Mr. Annan said: "Throughout the UN system, special efforts are being made to ensure that your concerns are taken into account in the decision-making processes of the international community."
He added: "For my part, I will continue to provide every possible support."
Mr. Annan said he believed that the LLDCs had positioned themselves well through the Almaty Declaration and Programme of Action, which was the outcome document of the International Conference on Transit Transport Cooperation, convened by the UN General Assembly in August 2003.
He also emphasized the crucial role which South-South cooperation continued to play in the implementation of the Almaty Programme.
He expressed pleasure that that Ministers and other high officials of the Group of LLDCs were meeting in New York during the 60th session of the UN General Assembly.
"Your meeting comes soon after the conclusion of the High-level Plenary Meeting, which was attended by an unprecedented number of Heads of State and Government, including many from your group. The results are before you," he said.
In his own statement, Mr. Chowdhury cited recent studies showing that a landlocked country, due to its geographical constraints, grows 0.7 per cent more slowly that do other countries, while nine of the 31 landlocked countries are not members of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Their share of world trade totalled just 0.57 per cent of world exports and 0.64 per cent of total imports in 2003, he added.
"Geographical realities coupled with a lack of critical transport infrastructure and additional border crossings entailing complex procedures continue to pose more significant impediments to trade for landlocked developing countries than tariffs," Mr. Chowdhury said. "There is little doubt that without real solutions to the disadvantages that beset landlocked developing countries, these states will continue to be driven to the outer fringes of the global economy."