The Asia-Pacific region is urbanizing rapidly. According to estimates by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, by the year 2050, 68 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas from the current 55 per cent and much of that growth will take place in Asia.
The pattern of urbanization occurring throughout Asia presents great challenges but also unique opportunities to address environmental degradation, social equity, and economic prosperity. National and local policy makers are concerned about finding solutions to address multiple urban transport challenges that positively enhance social and economic development. Addressing multiple, cross-cutting critical factors such as integrated planning, climate change, air quality and road safety need not just national but regional approaches.
In this regard, ESCAP has the mandate to address issues of sustainable urban transport, as outlined in the Regional Action Programme for Sustainable Transport Connectivity in Asia and the Pacific, phase I (2017-2021). The Transport Division of ESCAP has recently conducted a study with the objective of equipping ESCAP member States with a set of sustainable urban transport recommendations to facilitate the implementation of sustainable transport policies and programmes and strengthen regional cooperation in this region. To do so, the study focused on: a) green transport, b) smart transport and c) safe and inclusive transport systems.
With the above backdrop, a regional meeting entitled “Asia-Pacific Sustainable Urban Transport Systems for the 2030 Agenda” was organized on 9 and 10 June 2021 in a virtual format. The high-level meeting provided a platform for the exchange of regional and global best practices which address sustainable urban transport systems in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 3, 11 and 13).
City mayors and high-level officials from 30-ESCAP member countries and 28-international organizations, academia, research institutions and the civil society have committed to implementing policies and measures for green, smart and safe urban transport through the adoption of the Bangkok Declaration on the “City and Transport: Safety, Efficiency, and Sustainability.
The Declaration noted that despite the new reality associated with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the global threats of similar pandemics in the future, the problems of ensuring the sustainability of urban transport systems do not lose their relevance, although they require some transformation of tasks and approaches for their solution. The participants also recognized the necessity to continue active dialogue within the framework of ESCAP on the issues of environmentally friendly and gender-sensitive urban transport, as well as collaboration with the relevant stakeholders.