Asia-Pacific transport ministers review progress towards sustainable and efficient regional transport network

Transport ministers and senior government representatives from over 30 Asia-Pacific countries began a two-day meeting here today to review progress in linking the region with an efficient intermodal transport and logistics network and to discuss cooperation in moving towards this goal.

The second session of the Ministerial Conference on Transport, convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is assessing implementation of the first phase of the Regional Action Programme for Transport Development in Asiaand the Pacific which was endorsed by Asia-Pacific transport ministers in Busan, Republicof Koreain 2006.

In his message to the conference, read out by United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the “commitment to making sustainable, effective and efficient transport in the Asia-Pacific region a reality for all.”

Noting the ever growing part of the transport sector in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Secretary-General urged Asia-Pacific countries “to reduce transport costs and link high- and low-growth countries in corridors of prosperity.”

Opening the ministerial conference jointly with H.E. Mr. Chadchart Sittipunt, Deputy Minister of Transport, Royal Thai Government, Dr. Heyzer said: “Transport has a critical role to play in poverty reduction and inclusive, sustainable development by helping to empower our low- and middle-income communities.”

A reliable and efficient regional transport system is crucial for sustaining dynamic Asia-Pacific economic growth, as well as to enhance opportunities for the least developed, landlocked developing and small island developing states of the region to engage more fully in international trade.

The 15-16 March conference is evaluating implementation of the Busan Declaration adopted by the first session of the Ministerial Conference on Transport held there in 2006. The Declaration calls for improved regional transport connectivity by linking countries in the region with an integrated intermodal transport and logistics system. Progress so far has seen the entry into force of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Trans-Asian Railway Network in June 2009.

Participants are sharing information on national transport strategies and initiatives, as well as activities undertaken within the framework of the first phase of the Regional Action Programme for Transport Development which ended last year. With ESCAP support, Asia-Pacific countries have already adopted intergovernmental agreements on the Asian Highwayand the Trans-Asian Railway networks. Work on developing an intergovernmental agreement on dry ports is in progress to promote the integration of the two networks.

The conference will adopt the second phase of the Regional Action Programme for Transport Development to be implemented between 2012 and 2016 as well as a regional strategic framework for facilitation of international road transport, as part of a ministerial declaration to be issued, reaffirming commitment to regional cooperation in transport development.

An regional exhibition to raise awareness on road safety has been organized on the sidelines of the conference featuring themes of the global Decade for Action on Road Safety which was launched in May 2011 by the United Nations and partner organisations involved in road safety.