Due to their geographical location, the world’s 32 Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) are facing common problems that negatively affect their economic engagement with the rest of the world. Long distances from the nearest seaports, inadequate transport and transit systems multiple border crossing and cumbersome transit procedures cause the LLDCs to incur higher transport and transit costs when compared to coastal countries.
According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), trade costs in LLDCs are 1.4 times higher than that of coastal developing countries. On average, LLDCs spend nearly two times more of their export earnings for the payment of transport and insurance services than the average for developing countries, and three times more than the average of developed economies.
These costs erode their competitiveness and discourage foreign direct investment and have a negative impact on their integration into the global economy, as well as overall sustainable development. Overall, the level of development in LLDCs is about 20 percent lower than it would be if they were not landlocked.
Addressing the Ministerial Meeting of the Landlocked Developing Countries, held in Yerevan, Armenia, on 14-15 December 2023, UNECE Executive Secretary Tatiana Molcean stressed the vital need for efficient connectivity in LLDCs and UNECE’s commitment to put its legal instruments, tools, expertise, and knowledge at their disposal.
“Efficient connectivity is about consolidating resilient infrastructure, intensifying regulatory harmonization and strengthening regional cooperation and digitalization,” she noted. “UNECE is committed to offer its extensive experience in addressing these challenges, ensuring that our expertise is readily available for effective collaboration and support.”
Bolstering transport and trade infrastructure resilience
Various UNECE legal instruments – such as the TIR Convention, eTIR system and CMR Convention - can facilitate road transport and streamlines border controls. In addition, UNECE is developing a new instrument – The Convention on the Contract for International Carriage of Goods by Rail – to facilitate rail transport. The new instrument will be presented to the UNECE Inland Transport Committee in February 2024 and will be open for signature by all United Nations Member States.
In the field of trade, UNECE can assist LLDCs through various trade facilitation tools, namely UN/CEFACT’s updated version of the UN Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport (EDIFACT), a globally recognized standard for enabling the seamless exchange of data supply chain actors, as well as a new package of standards for the digitalization of information flows along multi-modal supply chains.
These tools can allow LLDCs to implement the inter-operability between all transport modes, ensure compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and achieve end-to-end supply chain resilience by enabling supply chain actors to further streamline their operations, improve efficiency, and reduce transaction costs.
Regulatory harmonization and cooperation
The need to consolidate integrated and multimodal transport corridors was emphasized by all speakers at the Ministerial Meeting in Yerevan. UNECE stands ready to support LLDCs through its recently launched UNECE/ECO Coordination Committee on the Trans-Caspian and Almaty-Tehran-Istanbul Corridors, which brings together ministries of transport, railway agency and customs representatives from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Türkiye, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and aims to identify and address the operationalization and interoperability bottlenecks undermining the efficiency of the participating countries’ corridors.
To allow for the regular monitoring of corridors’ performance, UNECE is ready to initiate a Master Plan of Transport Corridors passing through LLDCs and their transit developing neighbours under the Kigali Programme of Action, together with the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), and under the upcoming Kigali Programme of Action 2024, which will be adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on LLDCs taking place in Kigali, Rwanda, in June 2024.
Furthermore, UNECE is ready to contribute its Sustainable Inland Transport Connectivity Indicators (SITCIN) for assessing the implementation of pertinent UN transport regulations and the compatibility of inland transport systems of LLDCs, as part forthcoming Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs).
Finally, UNECE’s pioneering tool PPP and Infrastructure Evaluation and Rating System (PIERS), aimed at mobilizing private sector resources through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), can be used by LLDCs to address the need for significant investments in transport and trade connectivity. Designed to enhance the developmental impacts of PPP infrastructure projects across all scales and procurement terms, its key aspect is the shift from the traditional "Value for Money" approach to a more holistic perspective that emphasizes "Value for People" and "Value for the Planet." Over the past two years, it has been used for evaluating over 200 infrastructure projects in 35 developed and developing countries belonging to the UNECE region and beyond.
Bilateral meetings with Armenian officials
During her bilateral discussions with the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, as well as Ministers of foreign affairs, territorial administration, infrastructure, and environment, the UNECE Executive Secretary underlined the importance of transport and trade connectivity for Armenia as a landlocked country and took note of the Government’s proposal to better connect regional countries. Ms. Molcean welcomed Armenia’s economic growth and progress in energy efficiency, stressing the importance of the green energy transition and the overall shift to low carbon and circular economy. She highlighted Armenia’s potential as an innovation hub in the region, as well as its active engagement under UNECE’s environmental treaties and programmes.