ALMATY – Kazakhstan’s largest city located in the picturesque foothills of the Tien Shan mountains hosted a retreat July 14-16 for the permanent representatives to the United Nations from landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) as they sought to share experiences in fighting the common challenges.
Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov, UN Deputy Secretary General and High Representative on LLDCs Gyan Chandra Acharya and Executive Secretary of the Kazakh Ministry of Transport and Communications Zamir Saginov, as well as representatives of international organisations, including the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the World Trade organisation (WTO) attended the event.
The event at the Ritz Carlton hotel with a great view of the city and the mountains was organised to discuss implementing the Almaty Programme of Action (APA), adopted at the UN-supported international conference of LLDCs held in the city on Aug. 28-29, 2003.
Thejubilee review conference devoted to the implementation of the APA will take place inVienna on Nov. 3-5. Holding the retreat in Kazakhstan is the nation’scontribution to the preparatory process of the Vienna conference and the interests of landlocked countries, the country’s foreign ministry noted in a news release.
“We decided to organize this ambassadorial retreat of LLDC in Almaty, the southern capital of Kazakhstan, for a reason. As you are aware, Kazakhstan initiated the adoption of the APA in 2003 for the developing countries that have no access to the sea. It is gratifying that this document made it into the history of the UN and today we are actively preparing for the second United Nations conference for a comprehensive ten-year review of the implementation of the APA in accordance with General Assembly resolution 66/214. Kazakhstan, as the initiator of the process, is interested in the success of the meeting. That’s why we organized this retreat,” explained Idrissov in his welcoming speech.
Acharyanoted the relevance of holding the event in Almaty given the historical continuity and the economic success of the country. “We are in a country whose leadership under President Nazarbayev has been visionary and committed to promoting prosperity, security and welfare of all people of Kazakhstan by following a vigorous policy of building infrastructure, connecting Europe with Asia and creating logistic hubs with huge investment through revival and modernisation of the old Silk Road…The World Bank ranks Kazakhstan as one of top 50 most business-friendly countries in the world,” he said.
One of the major conditions for the economic development of any country is its progressive integration into the global transport linkages, which implies the realisation of transit potential due to the attractiveness of their terrestrial communications, maritime and airspace to international transport of passengers, cargo and goods.
The problems of landlocked countries were clearly explained in Idrissov’s speech. “Lack of territorial access to the sea, remoteness and isolation from world markets, additional border crossings, cumbersome transit procedures and inefficient logistics systemsmakeLLDCpay30 percent more for travel and other expenses during the trading, which greatly exceeds the costs of the seaside states,” he said.
APA, practically the only existing programme of the sort, is a kind of a road map to ensure the special needs of LLDC. It contains specific measures and recommendations concerning the policy in the spheres oftransit and infrastructure development. The document also provides financial and technical assistance to the specified group of countries.
In the words of Idrissov, Kazakhstan is committed to the objectives of the rapid realisation of the road map for the implementation of the APA.
“The Kazakh government is working hard on the development of trade and transport sectors, including upgrading existing facilities, increasing the commercial orientation of transport services and eliminating non-physical barriers to the development of transit transport,” he reported.
Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked state in the world. Since the adoption of the APA, the republichas made significant progress toward sustainable development, despite the lack of access to the sea.
“Togetherwith other countries, including landlocked ones, we are trying to reflect our priorities in the discussed documents,” noted the foreign minister.
“The ambassadorial retreat of LLDCs, in our view, should include the development of recommendations for inclusion in the global plan of action for the next period to achieve the objectives of the APA. As an important task in this regard, we need to focus our efforts on the adoption of legally-binding global and regional instruments, thus really protecting the interests of landlocked countries. Recommendations must take into account all the lessons learned from the APA, as well as fully correspond with the decisions of the UN global conferences in the field of development, including Rio+20, and consider future challenges as sustainable developmentpost-2015,”he concluded.
In his turn, UN Deputy Secretary General Acharya said, “There is consensus that the Almaty Programme of Action has been an important instrument in highlighting landlockedness and other special development challenges that LLDCs face at the international level. … Many LLDCs have improved their macroeconomic environment, and as a result have become attractive business destinations for foreign investors. … [But] the progress has been uneven and unsteady. Poverty level has decreased to almost 22 percent in aggregate terms in LLDCs – just as in other developing countries. But a disaggregated study shows that a large majority of them have almost 40 people still living below the poverty line.”
Permanent Representative of Zambia to the UN and Chair of the group of developing countries Muaba Patricia Quasis Botha noted that Kazakhstan’s candidacy for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council in 2017-2018 is positively perceived in the landlocked countries as an opportunity to provide more attention to their problems in this authoritative body.
In his speech, Saginov provided an overview of Kazakhstan’s consistent efforts on the development of transport routes and the use of the geographical position of the country for good.
“Formation of a modern transport infrastructure in Kazakhstan, as well as ensuring its integration in the international transport system and realisation of transit potential, is our main goal,” he said. “There are projects being realised on the way to develop the Western Europe –Western China road corridor and railways in the east-west and north-south directions. … These projects will join the so-called eastern and western gates of Kazakhstan at Khorgos and the Aktau port and operation of rail crossing points with China (Zhetygen – Korgas) and Uzen (state border with Turkmenistan) will make it possible to transport goods toward the Middle East and Europe even sooner.”
As Saginov noted, “Currently the main flow of traffic between Asia and Europe is carried out mostly by sea transport. The share of land transport is only 0.2 – 0.5 percent. In order to attract transit traffic through Kazakhstan, we have a task to provide the reorientation of the China-EU traffic route and increase the share of such shipments to 8 percent of the total volume by 2020, given that the total transit of all forms of transport will eventually increase by two times and reach 30 million tons, compared with 15.4 million tons in 2009.”
In his state-of-the-nation address earlier, Strategy Kazakhstan 2050, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev noted that the republic aims to enter the top thirty most developed countries by 2050. Many problems reflected in Strategy 2050 are consistent with the objectives of the APA. The achievement of ambitious goals is directly correlated with the elimination of trade and transit barriers and development of a logistics infrastructure, all issues most sharply faced by the landlocked developing countries.