Asia-Pacific Ministers Convene to Map Sustainable and Inclusive Transport in the region
Transport ministers and senior government representatives from more than 25 Asia-Pacific countries began a two-day meeting here today to discuss the critical role of transport in overcoming development challenges and in achieving sustainable development and efficient, safe and clean mobility in the region.
The Forum of Asian Ministers of Transport, convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), will run from 7-8 November and will review critical transport issues for the region, including strengthening connectivity of regional and inter-regional transport networks, creating an enabling environment for facilitating international transport and logistics, as well as promoting inclusive and sustainable transport.
In his message to the Forum, delivered by United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized: “Mobility is not a question of building wider or longer roads. It is about providing appropriate and efficient systems that serve the most people in the best, most equitable and environmentally sensitive manner.”
“Transport is one of the fundamental issues to consider in the sustainable development agenda,” Dr. Heyzer added in her opening remarks. “It structures human geography, impacts the global and local environment, and is located at the centre of economic and social systems.”
Noting the need for transport to receive significant priority in regional planning and policy making, Dr. Heyzer stated: “Land-use planning, better use of urban space, security, congestion, pollution, climate change and an explosion of demand for mobility are just some of the challenges facing our policy-makers and engineers in the 21st century.
“As the international community gradually transitions from the Millennium Development Goals to the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals, this Forum provides an opportunity to send a clear message that the governments of Asia and the Pacific are united behind the creation of a dynamic transport sector to connect people with opportunities and to provide renewed impetus for inclusive and sustainable development for the people of our region.”
Delivering opening remarks, H.E Mr. Chadchart Sittipunt, Minister of Transport for Thailand highlighted: “As adequate infrastructure, especially transportation links between countries, can promote and facilitate regional integration and today’s decisions will shape tomorrow’s economic and social prospects, Thailand has prioritized investment in infrastructure with the aim to position itself as the region’s ‘Logistics Hub’.”
Launch of 2013 Transport Review
The Forum also saw the launch of ESCAP’s Review of Developments in Transport in Asia and the Pacific. The review examines emerging regional transport trends, and presents initiatives which are contributing to making transport cleaner, safer, more efficient and more affordable.
While transport has been an essential element in the rapid growth and economic development of Asia and the Pacific, the sector is now at a crossroads more than ever before. Rocketing demand for transport services is putting extreme pressure on existing infrastructure at a time when public budgets are constrained and awareness about the negative externalities of transport activities is growing. The challenge is therefore to ensure that today’s transport policies and investments will contribute to a sustainable and inclusive development path for the future.
Other highlights include options for sustainable transport systems in urban areas, to reduce pollution, congestion and road accidents, whilst also meeting the mobility needs of people in the region. The Review also provides an update on the status of the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks, as well as progress in developing intermodal linkages, such as dry ports.
Signing of Intergovernmental Dry Ports Agreement
To add to the institutional strength in achieving the region’s shared vision of an efficient and sustainable international, integrated, intermodal transport and logistics system, the signing ceremony for the Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports is also being held on the opening day of the Forum.
The Agreement further strengthens the intergovernmental agreements of the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks, built through the ESCAP platform, while marking an additional milestone for efficient, safe and clean regional connectivity.