Preparatory session for UN global conference on landlocked countries opens

The preparatory panel for an upcoming global conference seeking to address the challenges of developing landlocked countries opened its first session today at United Nations Headquarters in New York.The weeklong Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee follows regional meetings that were held earlier this year in Paraguay, Thailand and Ethiopia, and is also expected to take up organizational matters, including the election of the Bureau and the format of the conference. It will also consider the draft final outcome document of the meeting.Without access to ocean ports, landlocked countries face major obstacles in importing essential items and exporting their own goods. Distance from major international markets, cumbersome transit procedures and inadequate transport infrastructure add costs to external trade transactions that sometimes exceed the value of the products themselves.Moreover, the growth of the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in landlocked countries has been, for the past decade, slower than in nations designated as least developed countries. Nine of the 12 countries with the lowest rankings in last year’s Human Development Index are landlocked.The International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries in Almaty, Kazakhstan, from 28 to 29 August, seeks to negotiate systematic improvements of those problems through cooperation with transit nations – those situated between landlocked countries and the seas – donors and multilateral agencies.Conference deliberations are expected to focus on freedom of access to the seas, infrastructure development, efficiency of transport operations and international support measures.

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