Very distinguished delegates,
Welcome to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and to the fifth session of the Transport Committee. I am delighted to be with you and to be opening this session alongside Mr. Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, the Royal Thai Government’s Minister for Transport. The Kingdom of Thailand has valuable recent experience of building sustainable transport infrastructure: from port and airport expansions, road and rail upgrades, to transport-smart urban developments. I am looking forward to learning more about these efforts, and others underway across our region.
Transport and the 2030 Agenda
I am looking forward to it, because the way we design, build and upgrade our transport networks will help determine whether the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can be achieved in Asia and the Pacific. Reliable, integrated transport networks are essential to the fabric of successful economies and societies. They drive the trade, investment and growth we need to lift people out of poverty. But our challenge is to make them accessible, safe and sustainable - as we chart a more inclusive, greener course for our region.
The region’s existing progress towards the SDGs makes overcoming this challenge increasingly urgent. ESCAP analysis shows that our current rate of progress is insufficient to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Inequality is increasing, environmental stewardship is inadequate and our economic models, carbon heavy. The transport sector accounts for a quarter of our region’s energy consumption and 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. So innovative sustainable transport solutions have a vital role to play in getting the region back on track.
Achievements on which to build
Our region has firm foundations on which to build. Let me highlight just three areas of recent progress.
First, the Intergovernmental Agreement on International Road Transport along the Asian Highway Network between the Governments of China, Mongolia and the Russian Federation has taken the region’s connectivity agenda a step further. Signatories have agreed to grant each other traffic rights for international road transport operations on parts of the Asia Highway routes connecting their territories. The Asian transport infrastructure agreements ESCAP maintains, continue to underpin operational connectivity, reduce regulatory constraints, costs and delays.
Second, the Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports has established a regional framework to shape their development. These dry ports are pivotal to the development of intermodal transport corridors and the efficient shipment of sea cargo to inland destinations by road or rail. But for dry ports to work, a common understanding is needed of the services they provide: from moving freight between different modes of transport, to facilitating customs checks to relieve congestion at the border. 13 member States are now parties to the agreement. I look forward to this Committee providing further guidance on the design and operations of our region’s dry ports.
Third, the Sustainable Urban Transport Index for Asian cities, otherwise known as SUTI, is a user-friendly framework of ten indicators to help track and compare the performance of city transport systems. Ten cities in the Asia and Pacific region are piloting this tool so that it can be refined and rolled out more widely. This Committee’s endorsement of SUTI would help us establish new partnerships to expand its applications to other secondary cities.
Objectives for the Committee
This is just some of the progress on which I hope this Committee can build.
Your review of the progress in the implementation of the Regional Action Programme for Sustainable Transport Connectivity is essential to inform where further efforts are needed. It will determine how we can support the introduction of new technologies to transport infrastructure networks better; where we should be pressing ahead with further harmonisation of standards, regulations and practices; the best approach to interregional coordination between Asia and Europe on transport matters; and how we can strengthen support to countries with special needs, expand sustainable urban and rural transport services, and improve road safety. Building on work underway - we have put forward detailed suggestions for you to consider and look forward to your guidance.
My hope is that this Committee can also work to endorse a framework to improve the efficiency of railway border crossings along the Trans-Asian Railway network. This will reduce inefficiencies which impede freight trains’ reliability and increase railways’ share in the international transport of goods. We want to help improve electronic information exchange between railways, harmonise customs formalities, and improve the efficiency of border crossings. Improving railway crossings is key - not only tp promote intraregional trade, but to reduce the carbon emissions of freight transport in our region.
I count on this committee to sharpen the region’s focus on road safety in Asia and the Pacific. Our region loses one person in a road crash every forty seconds, that’s two thousand lives lost every day and many more people left with life changing injuries. Member States should consider adopting the new annex to the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network which sets quality standards applying to commonly agreed road safety facilities along Asian highways. Let us also take full advantage of the recently created UN Road Safety Trust Fund to mobilise additional resources and take coordinated action for safer roads.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At ESCAP, we are committed to working with all of you on the sustainable transport agenda. This can only be done through continued strong partnerships between government, the private sector and regional development partners. My hope is that your discussions over the next few days will provide the framework for collaboration and progress for the next two years. Together, we can accelerate work towards the sustainable transport needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific.