10 August 2005

UN Committed to Helping Landlocked Developing Countries Surmount Development Obstacles, Says Secretary-General, in Message to Trade Ministers Meeting

NEW YORK, 9 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the meeting of Trade Ministers of Landlocked Developing Countries, delivered by Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the Secretary-General for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, in Asuncion, Paraguay, 9 August:

It gives me great pleasure to convey my greetings to this meeting of trade ministers of landlocked developing countries.  I thank the Government and people of Paraguay for hosting this gathering and for their strong commitment to the United Nations.

This meeting is important for several reasons.  It can help to promote implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action adopted at the United Nations conference on landlocked countries two years ago.  It can contribute to the United Nations system’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and to a positive outcome of the forthcoming 2005 World Summit.  And it can contribute to preparations for the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization later this year in Hong Kong.

As you know, the 31 landlocked developing countries confront formidable obstacles to their development.  Some handicaps are linked to their geography, such as remoteness and lack of access to the sea.  Others, such as inadequate transport infrastructure, are manifestations of poverty.  Cumbersome customs and border crossing procedures exacerbate these problems.  The result is that landlocked developing countries face greatly increased trade transaction costs, eroded export competitiveness, inflated costs for essential imports, and overall marginalization from the international trading system.

The United Nations family remains strongly committed to helping landlocked developing countries surmount these hurdles.  The Office of the High Representative continues its efforts to ensure highly visible and efficient coordination and monitoring of internationally agreed measures to support the world’s most vulnerable countries, including the landlocked developing countries.  Action is particularly important in the key area of trade. If the Doha Round of trade negotiations is to deliver its development promises, there must be significant steps to reduce the trade barriers that continue to affect developing countries, especially landlocked developing countries.  These countries need special support on trade facilitation, given their dependence on transit facilities in other countries.

This meeting in Asuncion can help you strengthen your collective voice in drawing international attention to the special needs of your countries. I wish you every success in your timely and vital deliberations.

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