New York, NY (BBN) – The United Nations on Wednesday began three days of high-level consultations aimed at boosting foreign direct investment in the world’s 31 landlocked developing countries (LLDC) to strengthen their participation in international trade and the global economy.

“As we attempt to find long-term solutions to their plight, external investment is critical in enabling landlocked developing countries to substantially mitigate their unfavourable geographical locations,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told a high-level investment forum at UN Headquarters in New York, according to a UN press statement.

Speaking on the eve of a two-day High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly devoted to the mid-term review of the Almaty Program of Action, a 2003 plan setting out specific measures to help landlocked countries, she noted that despite “much progress” in the past five years many still remain marginalized from the world economy with limited access to global markets and to the sea for external trade.

Although LLDCs represent about 15 per cent of States, their share of world exports has remained well below 1 per cent, the UN said.

Cheick Sidi Diarra, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), also noted the progress made since 2003. But he warned: “The high cost of international trade continues to hinder their trade and economic development.”

The Almaty Programme is the first global action plan negotiated at ministerial level to provide a framework for cooperation between landlocked and transit access developing countries, promising reductions in red tape and transportation costs and time.

With seven years left for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the ambitious targets set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000 to slash poverty, hunger, preventable illness and a host of other socio-economic ills, all by 2015, Ms. Migiro called for accelerated progress in the LLDCs. “These countries require our collective special attention,” she added.

BBN/SI/SS/AD-02October08-4:54PM (BST)