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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

15 October 2021

Excellencies, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to join this important Conference and contribute some key messages as co-Chair of this session.

Let me start by saying that sustainable transport lies at the heart of advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As we address the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must recover better from this unprecedented crisis through solidarity, a shared vision, and strengthened cooperation at all levels.

The pandemic exposed the weaknesses of contemporary transport and supply chains. Additional inspections, reduced hours of operation and road and border closures may have increased transport costs by as much as 25 per cent.

Countries that already suffered from lower levels of connectivity before the pandemic, especially countries in special situations, have been and still are affected the most, further widening regional transport connectivity gaps.

Despite this, the Asia-Pacific region has made great efforts and has largely succeeded in preserving transport connectivity in the early days of the pandemic and demonstrated signs of recovery later through great adaptability and modal shift. An example of this can be drawn from the way the use of rail grew to compensate for the interruptions in road transport operations.

Against this background, I want to highlight two important points for your consideration:

  1. the impacts on cross-border and domestic transport and lessons we can learn about connectivity gaps, resilience and new ways of doing business and;
  2. how the United Nations system can adapt to better support the capacity development needs of member States as traditional methods of work are put to the test.

Opportunities are now riper than ever for accelerated and transformative digitalization and greater use of smart transport and contactless solutions, as well as for a more balanced and sustainable freight modal split.

Furthermore, the environmental impact of the transport sector is well-documented. It is systematically exacerbating the contribution of the sector to climate change, making the regional transport system more vulnerable to climate and hazard-related disasters. This points to the need for rapid decarbonization of the regional networks and related operations.

There is also scope for policy instruments to make evidence-based interventions in support of greater use of railways, coastal shipping and inland water transport for passengers and goods to support accelerated decarbonization of transport.

In this connection, greater regional cooperation and integration, particularly in the context of the UN Regional Commissions, is of great value to drive a paradigm shift for rapid decarbonization of the sector and effective climate action.

Moving forward towards 2030, key policy directions must include:

  • enhanced sustainability of freight transport,
  • risk-informed infrastructure planning,
  • application of smart transport,
  • enhanced transport facilitation,
  • efficient functioning of cross-border logistics, and
  • effective corridor management.

To sum up, by anchoring regional connectivity, there is a real opportunity to transform transport systems and services to follow a low-carbon development path, increase the share of clean energy and adopt innovations and emerging smart transport technologies to improve environmental sustainability.

I look forward to the insights of this session’s speakers.

Thank you very much.

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