Experts to assess global framework for land-locked developing countries

New York (Special Report) 25 April -- The third trilateral meeting on land-locked developing countries will be held at U.N. Headquarters in New York from 18 to 20 June 1997. The meeting will review the progress made in the development of transit systems in the land-locked and transit developing countries and explore the possibility of formulating specific action-oriented measures. It is also to discuss the UNCTAD studies on the implication of globalization and liberalization of the world economy for the development prospects of land-locked developing countries. During the meeting, which is to be held under the aegis of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, ways to accelerate further the Global Framework implementation are expected to be identified. So far, many land-locked and transit developing countries are not fully satisfied with implementation of the Global Framework.

Such triangular meetings, first convened in 1993, brought together all the main parties whose joint undertakings are indispensable for promoting cooperative efforts. The second meeting, held in 1995, resulted in the adoption of the Global Framework for Transit Transport Cooperation Between Land-Locked and Transit Developing Countries and the Donor Community the importance of which can not be overemphasized.

Lack of physical access to the sea, isolation and remoteness from world markets, prohibitive transit costs and high risks entail serious socio-economic consequences for land-locked developing countries. Therefore, it is no wonder that most of them have on average less than 400 dollars per capita GNP. Handicapped by their geographical location, the land-locked developing countries are in a particular disadvantaged position with respect to the ongoing globalization process; the physical and non-physical barriers erode further their competitive edge and tend to marginalize them from the world trade liberalizing process.

There are also multiple other factors of both objective and subjective nature, that increase costs and limit the trading opportunities of these countries. These include risks of loss, theft, damage, existence of cumbersome procedures both in crossing the land border and in transshipment at the ports. In many cases special security and customs arrangements for transit cargoes are needed that entail high insurance and administrative costs. That is why most land-locked developing countries incur significantly higher transport costs than their coastal neighbors. These increase their import costs and reduce export earnings, which is evident from freight-to-imports as well as freight and insurance-to-import rations and other objective criteria.

In these circumstances the development of a cost effective and efficient transit systems is of crucial importance for the land-locked developing countries. Meaningful programmes of cooperation have been instituted by some land-locked developing countries with their transit neighbours aimed at reducing the physical and administrative barriers for transit transportation. However these are few and represent exceptions rather than the general rule.

South-South Conference on Trade, Investment and Finance, held in San Jose, Costa Rica earlier this year, specifically emphasized that viable transport and communication infrastructure should be secured through bilateral and regional agreements to regulate transit transport operations, develop joint ventures in the area of transit transport, and strengthen the institutions as well as develop human resources dealing with transit transport infrastructure. In this context triangular cooperation among the land-locked and transit developing states as well as the donor community is widely considered as one of the most effective means for developing viable transit transportation system among the countries of the South.

The Global Framework, subsequently endorsed by the General Assembly at its 50th session, is the most comprehensive document aimed at fostering cooperation both at the international and national levels for developing transit transport systems in land-locked and transit developing countries. The Global Framework

Recommendations cover fundamental transit transport policy issues, sectoral issues and the role of the international community. With regard to the former, the Global Framework contains specific provisions on developing physical transit transport infrastructure, liberalizing transit services, strengthening bilateral and sub-regional cooperative arrangements, developing alternative routes, establishing institutional mechanisms to monitor the implementation of agreed transit rules and procedures, encouraging regional and sub-regional trade, improving training facilities, and preventing environmental degradation. With regard to sectoral issues, the Global Framework emphasized the need to encourage more efficient management of all modes of transportation that would ensure the commercial viability of transit traffic operations, promote privatization in the transit sector, and involve the private sector in formulating transit traffic policies.

Effective implementation of the Global Framework provisions could indeed make a tangible practical contribution to improving the situation of land-locked and transit developing countries alike. The interest and willingness of the donor community to render all possible assistance is encouraging. Therefore the land-locked developing countries attach great importance to To underline the importance of the issues to be discussed for the developing countries at large, the Chairman of the Group of 77 is expected to participate and address the meeting.