Cheick Sidi Diarra, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), told the opening of a regional review meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that there was no fundamental change in the position of the poorest countries. “Although they represent about 15 per cent of the community of States, their share of world exports has remained well below 1 per cent,” Mr. Diarra said. “Their unsustainable external debt continues to mount due to a combination of low productivity, low return on investment and slow export growth.” Dozens of experts in transport, planning, infrastructure development and customs organizations are attending the Addis Ababa meeting, held to chart the progress so far towards the Almaty Programme of Action, a 2003 plan spelling out specific measures to help landlocked and transit developing countries overcome their geographical handicap. Mr. Diarra, who is also the UN Special Adviser on Africa, told the meeting that continent’s landlocked countries were in a particularly dire situation. Transport costs are especially high, with less than a third of all roads being paved and road density only half that of Latin America. Increased investment in transport, storage and communication is needed in landlocked and transit countries, he stressed, as many such States are unlikely to meet the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the due date of 2015. Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), warned that soaring fuel prices were exacerbating the problems faced by many businesses on the continent. “High transaction costs arising from numerous checkpoints, inefficient payment systems and insurance mechanisms, excessive paperwork and obsolete systems further compound this situation,” he said. 18 June 2008Landlocked developing countries remain marginalized in the global economy, despite increased development aid, debt relief and greater access to international markets, the United Nations envoy for the world’s poorest nations said today.