The Asian Highway Network is a regional transport cooperation platform aimed at enhancing the efficiency and development of the road infrastructure in Asia. It serves as a part of ESCAP’s overall goal to see the development of an international, integrated, intermodal transport and logistics system for the region, with the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks and dry ports of international significance as major components. The Asian Highway Network now comprises over 145,000 km of roads passing through 32 countries.
The creation of a network of interconnected highways in ESCAP region currently known as the Asian Highway Network was initiated in 1959 with the formalization of the network beginning in 2002. It resulted in the development of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network, which was adopted by the Commission on 18 November 2003 and entered into force on 4 July 2005.
The Agreement provides a framework for coordinated development of the international highways in Asia, as well as between Asia and Europe, giving the member countries a platform to discuss technical and institutional issues to improve the quality of the network and increase the efficiency of its operation. The Agreement is an important tool to facilitate international trade, promote regional integration and enhance international cooperation.
The Working Group on the Asian Highway Network has been established and is held biennially. It considers the implementation of the Agreement and also serves to advance discussions and information exchange on the operationalization of the Asian Highway Network.
Despite significant progress achieved in extending the coverage of the Asian Highway Network, the quality of the Asian Highway routes remains a concern with substandard roads continuing to adversely affect road transport operations, leading to increases in congestion, transport costs, road accidents, emissions and other environmental externalities. In parallel to enhancing the infrastructure quality along the network, significant efforts are still needed to improve operational connectivity. International road transport in Asia still faces substantial difficulties across the region due to various non-physical barriers.
Recognizing these difficulties, ESCAP supports the efficient and smooth movement of goods and vehicles by road across the region through the assistance to member States in infrastructure development and promotion of transport facilitation measures, formulating transport policies, agreements, programmes and projects in a coordinated and consistent way. To this end, ESCAP has developed eight transport facilitation models. Together with the Regional Strategic Framework for the Facilitation of International Road Transport, they comprehensively address challenges and enable seamless international road transport and logistics in the region.