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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

23 November 2022


Excellency Mr. Chanyatan Phromsorn, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport of Thailand,

Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to ESCAP and to the seventh session of the Committee on Transport.

This Committee is being held at a moment when Asia and the Pacific is still facing multiple crises and connectivity shocks affecting everyone and hitting particularly hard countries in special situations.

Even during these challenging times, we are seeing major developments in transport connectivity across the region.

Bangladesh has made significant progress in completing two missing links along Asian Highway Route 1 with the construction of bridges over the Padma River and the Madhumati River. The opening of the Lao-China railway line has filled in one of the major missing links along the Trans-Asian Railway network.

The dry ports in Asia and the Pacific have continued to enjoy dynamic growth, with three more countries joining the Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports since 2020.

This progress in regional infrastructure development needs to go hand in hand with addressing the environmental dimension of transport activities.

Our estimates show that under business as usual, the region will experience a drastic increase in carbon dioxide emissions. For example, by 2050, the emissions may increase by 75 per cent in South-East Asia and 87 per cent in South and South-West Asia.

But the situation can change drastically if governments implement policy measures that encourage changes in the behavior of transport users, uptake of cleaner energy and vehicle technologies, digitalization to improve transport efficiency, and investment in infrastructure to help meet environmental and social development goals.

Sustainable urban transport is also critical for the overall sustainability of our growth and delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The growing social and economic activities and population in the Asia-Pacific region will also imply an increase in the demand for transport. Our region needs to focus on the development of an integrated and environmentally sustainable public transport system to improve its accessibility and reduce congestion and emissions.

In this respect, the secretariat is supporting cities and countries in the assessment of urban mobility using the ESCAP Sustainable Urban Transport Index.

Ambitious plans and targets have been launched, especially in the areas of low-carbon transport, electric mobility and sustainable freight.

Several ESCAP member States have introduced policies and strategies to promote electric vehicles and charging infrastructure while utilizing emerging technologies such as smart transport systems, including Intelligent Transport Systems, to further enhance socially and environmentally sustainable mobility in the region.

As far as social and inclusive transport is concerned, a preliminary review shows that only 20 countries have existing strategies to improve the inclusiveness of transport.

To improve universal accessibility and create barrier-free transport access, transport infrastructure, services and systems would need to start taking into account different travel needs and preferences of transport users from low-income households, as well as women and children, persons with disabilities, the elderly and those who live in rural areas.

In addition, accessibility to local markets in rural areas remains a significant barrier in the region about 560 million people, or half of the global rural population, live more than 2 kilometres from an all-season road. With such poor access, rural farmers and producers are locked out of more lucrative markets serving national, regional and global supply chains.

Finally, on road safety, while the first Decade of Action for Road Safety was completed with an unfinished agenda, our work to improve road safety cannot end with it.

Our analysis shows more than 12 per cent improvements between 2016 and 2019 in the reduction of road fatalities and the decrease in the region’s proportion of global road deaths to 58.5 per cent from 62.8 per cent during the same period.

These figures reaffirmed that valuable efforts made by countries resulted in nearly 100,000 lives being saved. However, additional national and regional efforts would be needed to achieve the SDG target to halve the number of road traffic fatalities and injuries by 2030.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

It has been less than a year since the adoption of the Regional Action Programme, which was adopted in November last year. Still, we have made progress in its implementation thanks to the support of our members and associate members and thanks to the close cooperation with other development partners, many of whom are present here. More than ever, we need your support to grow sustainably while recovering from the pandemic and other shocks.

To move forward, this Committee needs to provide guidance and feedback in all seven thematic areas of the Regional Action Programme. May I highlight just a few: 

  • I hope the Committee will welcome the finalization of “Guidelines on harmonization of legal frameworks for multimodal transport operations in Asia and the Pacific” and the revised Model Subregional Agreement on Transport Facilitation, which now includes crisis-related provisions. 
  • Given the current situation, I also hope that the Committee will call for renewed cooperation on enhancing the transport connectivity of the countries in special situations by helping the acceleration of rail digital transformation and exploration of new inter-regional transport routes and corridors.
  • The Committee may also wish to endorse the ten guiding principles on sustainable freight transport as a means of further promoting the sustainability of freight transport in the region.
  • To support the much-needed progress in environmentally friendly transport, this Committee is also invited to support two new initiatives:
    • Establishment of a regional cooperation mechanism on low-carbon transport to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the
    • Launch of an initiative on electric mobility to accelerate the transition to electric mobility for public transport.
  • Finally, on safe and inclusive transport, the Committee will have the Regional Plan of Action for Asia and the Pacific for the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, which will support continued action through 2030 to achieve all the road safety-related targets of the SDGs.

I am pleased to see that the recommendations to be taken by the committee will contribute directly to the overarching objectives of the Regional Action Programme, which is efficient and resilient transport and logistics networks and mobility for economic growth, environmentally sustainable transport systems and services and safe and inclusive transport in Asia and the Pacific.

We still have four years to go in the implementation of the Regional Action Programme, and this Committee’s expertise and guidance are fundamental for the continued progress in this area.

I wish you a very successful Committee session.

Thank you.

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