of the Intergovernmental Agreement
Shanghai 26 April 2004
Signing of the Agreement
Exceeding early estimates, 26 Asian countries signed an international agreement for completing a transcontinental network of standardized roadways, at a Shanghai meeting of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
The completed highway will further facilitate border-crossing for people, vehicles and goods, and also impart crucial benefits to landlocked countries, as provided for in a United Nations conference last August in Alamaty, Kazakhstan, the Secretary-General noted. His message was delivered by UNESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su to ministerial-level Asian leaders at today's signing ceremony.
Bangkok-based UNESCAP has been negotiating routes and road specifications for the network since 1992. The text of an agreement for upgrading sub-standard stretches and making provisions for new routes was agreed by 32 participating countries in November of 2003. At that time, United Nations officials estimated that 10-15 nations would have completed the necessary approval processes to be ready to sign at the UNESCAP annual meeting in April 2004. Last week, up to 20 signings were projected.
The early show of support for the project "clearly demonstrates the desire and capacity of Asian countries to work together, now and for the future, to achieve common goals", said UNESCAP Executive Secretary Kim.
Message from Mr. Kofi Annan on the Signing ceremony for the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network.
(Delivered by Mr. Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific)
'People throughout Asia -- leaders, businesspeople and ordinary citizens -- have long dreamt of an efficient and reliable transport system that would link their countries in webs of prosperity and exchange. Today, with the signing of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network, that vision is becoming a reality.
Asia's future, like that of other regions, is closely entwined with the process of globalization and the rapid spread of information technologies.But infrastructure such as highways and roads have just as crucial a role to play in creating opportunities for economic growth and social progress, and in overcoming the region's widespread poverty and inequality. The Agreement on the Asian Highway Network is thus a major step forward.
From Tokyo to Tehran, from Singapore to Samarkand, and from points beyond to those in between, the network now spans thirty-two countries and encompasses more than 140,000 kilometres. It will facilitate border-crossing for people, vehicles and goods. It promises to accelerate regional integration and economic cooperation in general, and marks a milestone in the implementation of the Amaty Programme of Action for both landlocked and transit countries. It offers a common platform to promote tourism, since countries linked by the network share a wealth of natural beauty and historical and cultural heritage. And it addresses important environmental considerations by highlighting the need to undertake an environmental impact assessment when new road projects are prepared and when existing roads are reconstructed or improved.
This is also the first intergovernmental agreement developed under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. I would like to commend the ESCAP Secretariat for its initiative, and for helping ESCAP's members to forge this exciting new partnership. Such efforts show the creative and constructive role that can be played by this and other United Nations regional commissions.
As countries and people set off down this road, I hope we will see the same spirit of common purpose that enabled governments to resolve their differences and produce this Agreement. Our destination is clear: the Millennium Development Goals, and a world of stability, well-being and peace. Let us travel there together.'
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