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The 32 land-locked developing countries (LLDCs) with a population of 533 million share common problems due to their geographical location, which affect their economic engagement with the rest of the world. Long distances from the nearest seaports, poorly developed transport and transit systems and cumbersome transit procedures cause LLDCs to incur higher transport and transit costs compared to coastal countries. According to a recent study by the World Trade Organization (WTO) (2021), trade costs in LLDCs are 1.4 times higher than those of coastal developing countries. These costs erode the competitive edge of LLDCs, resulting in a negative impact on their integration into the global economy and their overall sustainable development. LLDCs are also not able to fully tap into the benefits of global trade such as investment finance, technology and services that are needed for structural transformation and greening of economies.
LLDCs are also experiencing severe impacts of climate change in the form of flooding, droughts, and landslides that are, inter alia, causing severe loss and damage to transport infrastructure. The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have both underscored the need to prioritize the building resilient physical transport infrastructure and transit facilitation systems. This is necessary to facilitate faster, smoother and more efficient transit and cross-border connectivity in order to support the sustainable recovery from COVID-19 in LLDCs. The pandemic also prompted the acceleration of innovation and digitalized facilitation of transport processes. However, implementing these systems requires fast and stable broadband technologies which are relatively costly in many LLDCs due to insufficient digital infrastructure. Post-COVID-19 recovery efforts therefore need to securely embed the acceleration of digitalization in order to advance transport connectivity.
The Vienna Programme of Action (VPoA) for LLDCs for the Decade 2014-2024, adopted in 2014, aims to address the special needs and challenges faced by LLDCs through actions on six key priority areas that include fundamental transit policy issues, infrastructure development and maintenance, international trade and trade facilitation, regional integration and cooperation, structural economic transformation and means of implementation.
With regard to physical transport infrastructure development, the VPoA reiterates the importance of physical infrastructure in reducing trade costs and stresses the importance of: The development and maintenance of transit transport infrastructure, including corridors, in both LLDCs and transit countries; the completion of missing links; facilitating regional connectivity; and enhancing the role of private sector involvement in infrastructure development.
With regard to soft infrastructure, the VPoA calls for: Reducing travel time along corridors with the aim of allowing transit cargo to move 300-400 kilometres per 24 hours; significantly reducing the time spent at land borders; improving intermodal connectivity; further simplifying, harmonizing and streamlining border crossing and transit procedures; and improving transit facilities and their efficiency with the aim of reducing port and border delays and transaction costs for LLDCs. The VPoA also stresses the importance of the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
The VPoA is an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) that underscores the importance of sustainable transport as an enabler to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sustainable transport is crucial for the achievement of all SDGs and is specifically noted in SDG 3 on health, SDG 9 on resilient infrastructure and industrialization and SDG 11 on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The 2030 Agenda acknowledges that the most vulnerable countries, including LLDCs, deserve special attention and particularly emphasizes the need for trade-related capacity-building and promotion of regional economic integration and interconnectivity.
Transport and infrastructure are bound to experience continued and increased impacts of climate change. There is therefore a strong need to invest in climate change resilient infrastructure, to decarbonize inland transport and to increase the resilience of transport connectivity systems in LLDCs and transit countries. This can be achieved by considering climate risks when planning, designing, operating, budgeting and maintaining transport infrastructure.
The Government of Turkmenistan has made important progress on promoting national and regional connectivity, particularly around transit transport infrastructure development (road, rail and air infrastructure), and in facilitating faster transit including advances in sustainable energy, investment promotion and diversification. In this regard, its extensive experiences, particularly on how to advance the implementation of the outcome of the Second Global Conference on Sustainable Transport, could be of benefit to other LLDCs and transit countries.
Turkmenistan has also initiated significant resolutions in the field of sustainable transport. These include:
- Resolution 69/213 of 19 December 2014, entitled “Role of transport and transit corridors in ensuring international cooperation for sustainable development”;
- Resolution 70/197 of 22 December 2015, entitled “Towards comprehensive cooperation among all modes of transport for promoting sustainable multimodal transit corridors”; and
- Resolution 72/212 of 20 December 2017, entitled “Strengthening the links between all modes of transport to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Turkmenistan further initiated resolution 75/313 -“Strengthening Connectivity Between All Modes of Transport to Ensure Stable and Reliable International Transport for Sustainable Development in and After the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19)” that was adopted in July 2021. The resolution calls for stepping up efforts to enhance transport resilience in emergencies, including mobilizing adequate financial resources to increase the resilience and greening of transport systems to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure a full, inclusive and sustainable post-disaster recovery and to build back better.
Taking into account the relevance of the subject of all types of transport and communication, in connection with the high-level policy segment of the 85th session of the Inland Transport Committee (ITC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Permanent Mission of Turkmenistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva and UNECE organized a side event on “Enhancing connectivity and accelerating the transition to climate resilient, low-carbon transport systems in land-locked developing countries”.
- Review the critical role of transport for post-COVID-19 recovery and climate change mitigation and adaptation;
- Identify recommendations and opportunities for: Enhancing transport infrastructure development and maintenance in LLDCs; scaling up international support on transport; and strengthening cooperation on green and resilient transport connectivity for the benefit of LLDCs;
- Share knowledge, experiences and innovative approaches/solutions for post-COVID 19 infrastructure financing, delivery, and resilience, including the mobilization of financing for transport infrastructure development and maintenance; and
- Continuation and strengthening of political dialogue to ensure full interaction between all modes of transport in order to promote the creation of sustainable multimodal transit corridors.