Statement at ESCAP and Shanghai Cooperation Organization High-level Special Event “Towards Regional Transport Connectivity”

Delivered at ESCAP and Shanghai Cooperation Organization High-level Special Event “Towards Regional Transport Connectivity” in Bangkok, Thailand

Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to this High-level Special Event. We value our partnership with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that has grown in membership and had its mandate expanded. There is enormous potential for our two organizations to reinforce each other given the common membership and similarity of our economic agendas.

With the growing role of ESCAP in seamless regional connectivity - one of the critical pillars of RECI - there are ample opportunities for us to leverage each other’s strengths. For us, transport is a key pillar for inclusive sustainable development. It drives economic growth by connecting goods and services to markets and enables people’s movement. Over the years, ESCAP has helped achieve a range of normative products – the most critical of which are the architecture and intergovernmental agreements of the Asian Highway Network, the Trans-Asian Railway network and the Dry Ports. And we have developed a set of bilateral and multilateral transport model agreements. This background work has helped lay the foundations for our regionwide network of integrated intermodal transport and logistics systems.

ESCAP’s Ministerial Conference on Transport held in Moscow in December last year, deliberated on a future vision and action plan for transport development. Following the adoption of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development there has been a substantial realignment of the ESCAP work program to support sustainable transport connectivity, shifting the focus from how transport can promote economic growth, to how it can contribute to eradicating poverty, alleviate health risks, be part of resilient infrastructure and connect sustainable cities better. Given our new mandate, we are keen to widen our partnership with sub regional organizations to strengthen regional connectivity, help develop road safety and encourage climate friendly infrastructure.

We have a longstanding engagement with the SCO. The signing of the Intergovernmental Agreement of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States on the Facilitation of International Road (SCO Road Transport Agreement) during the annual summit of the member States of the SCO, held in Tajikistan in 2014, demonstrated the high level of dedication to improving connectivity among the SCO member states. ESCAP provided technical and financial assistance for the negotiation, undertaking relevant research to support the drafting of the Agreement and its annexes. The SCO Prime Ministers’ meeting held in Uzbekistan issued a declaration to express their appreciation to this model collaboration.

In line with our memorandum of understanding signed with SCO in 2008, we have supported the SCO Road Transport Agreement which has the potential to enhance the sustainable transport architecture and harmonize frameworks as an integral element of the development and operation of intermodal transport corridors. Earlier this year, the Agreement came into force, further strengthening regional and inter-sub-regional connectivity and integration. The implementation of the Agreement will also significantly contribute to the Belt and the Road Initiative.

The Agreement opens more than 15,000 km of the Asian Highway routes for transport operation and services, with the longest route stretching more than 9,000 km from Saint Petersburg, in the Russian Federation to Lianyungang, China. It will also enhance landlocked Central Asia’s access to sea by road through China and Russian Federation. We expect that accession of India and Pakistan to the Agreement, as new members of SCO, will make the list of the operationalized Asian Highway routes even more impressive and provide a truly regional scope to this legal instrument.

ESCAP highly appreciates the energetic efforts of the SCO member States and secretariat to start early implementation of the Agreement, confirmed by the organization of Joint Committee meetings. We are pleased to reaffirm our commitment to providing further technical assistance and advise on the work of the Joint Committee.

We are committed to supporting transport networks in our region which are safe, accessible, affordable, efficient, financially sustainable, environmentally friendly, and socially inclusive. This will require innovative solutions to address these integrated issues. It will also require a strong partnership among countries and development partners.

As the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region, we look forward to our continued and expanded partnership with the SCO and other organizations to promote sustainable and inclusive development through enhanced regional transport connectivity.

Thank you.