Sustainable Transport for Asia-Pacific: Building the Roads to the Future We Want

Opening ceremony of  the 3rd Session of the ESCAP Committee on Transport by Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and Police General Wichean Potephosree,Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Royal Thai Government, 10 October 2012, Bangkok, Thailand

Your Excellency, Police General Wichean Potephosree,
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport,
Royal Thai Government,

Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

Welcome to the third session of the Committee on Transport, and a very warm welcome to ESCAP – the United Nations hub for Asia and the Pacific. As the most inclusive intergovernmental platform for our region, ESCAP is where our member States connect and collaborate, to drive inclusive and sustainable development.

The American, Harry Emerson Fosdick, once wrote that: “He who chooses the beginning of the road, chooses the place to which it leads”. Although speaking metaphorically about the importance of means and ends, Fosdick’s words should resonate with us, as we meet to “choose the roads” that will advance the transport agenda for Asia and the Pacific.

Like all major infrastructure, the transport decisions of today impact the livelihoods and lifestyles of tomorrow. Inclusive and sustainable transport policy and investment decisions help to shape the paths to prosperity for our people and our planet.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

ESCAP & Sustainable Transport for Asia-Pacific

Transport has a critical role to play in reducing poverty, and in driving growth and development.

There is a need to better connect our remote communities to social services, to growth and to opportunity. There is a need to improve urban-rural linkages and make our cities more livable, more future-oriented, and more resilient. There is a need to achieve greater and more efficient connectivity for trade, and to simultaneously improve the environmental impact of transport systems. All of this demand greatly outstrips the resources currently available.

Over 20 per cent of development funds, for instance, go into the transport sector – yet transport still accounts for a similar percentage of harmful emissions. To better address these and other challenges, ESCAP is working to help our member States formulate and implement integrated transport policies, which strengthen the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.

In particular, our Transport Division is concentrating its efforts on:

• Integrated, inter-modal transport planning: connecting farm gates to consumers, manufacturers to customers, and homes to work;

• Enabling the urban poor to gain access to social services and economic opportunities;

• Modal shifts to rail, public transport, and prioritization of pedestrians;

• Contributing to resilience by helping governments invest in infrastructure better able to withstand disasters;

• Improved use of inland and coastal waterways; and

• Protecting and maintaining transport assets through innovations in management and maintenance.

Planning for a more inclusive and sustainable future is needed, to ensure that we are not locked into transport modes that become unworkable, unaffordable, or which will be environmentally untenable.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Transport, SDGs & the Post-2015 Development Agenda

With less than three years left to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it is becoming more urgent to define the contours of the post-2015 development agenda – and the role which transport should play.

The Rio+20 Conference was very clear, in it’s identification of transport and mobility as central to the implementation of sustainable development, and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Five Year Action Agenda also identifies sustainable transport as a key pillar of the post-2015 development framework.

One of the notable outcomes of Rio+20 was the agreement to launch a process to establish a set of universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to compliment the MDGs after 2015. We would welcome your guidance as to how transport considerations might best be included in the engagement of our member States on this important issue.

In our special session on Thursday, we will showcase some of the technical work that has already begun on the possibility of a SDG for Transport – including work on possible indicators across the environmental, social, health, and economic dimensions.

The Secretary-General is also in the process of establishing a High level Panel on sustainable transport, to begin work in March next year, and I am pleased that ESCAP is part of the technical working group – engaging the Regional Development Banks and other stakeholders – to advise on both the composition of the panel, and its mandate.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dry Ports - Deepening Regional Cooperation on Sustainable Transport

Turning transport routes into corridors of economic success requires regional cooperation. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development project – initiated by ESCAP. The Intergovernmental Agreements on the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway, have also become leading examples of how shared, cross-border challenges can best be addressed by regional solutions.

The next critical step in deepening regional cooperation on sustainable transport, is the Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports, which will supplement and integrate the physical road and rail networks we have already established. By linking landlocked countries to our more prosperous coastal regions, the dry ports will help to cement the dynamism of our regional economy, and spread the fruits of growth.

The Agreement is one of the important items on the agenda of this session of the Committee, and I look forward to the progress which we will make towards its adoption.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Conclusion

It should not be governments alone who choose the road to our future. Sustainable development is about a range of interventions and a spectrum of partners – public and private, global and local. Together, we must identify those initiatives which are most economically viable, environmentally advantageous and socially equitable – and then find the best technologies and financial arrangements to implement them.

At the global level, the six major development banks, for instance, have made voluntary commitments to spend $175 billion on sustainable transport. Combined with other sources of funding – such as the Clean Technology Fund and the Global Environment Fund, it is clear that partnerships, openness and accountability are also key.

ESCAP, and the UN system, stand ready to partner with you in these endeavors – and we look forward to fruitful discussions over the coming days on how best to build the road to the future we want – together.

I thank you.