UNESCAP (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) plays an active role in Central Asia.
Ms. Azthar Djaymurrina, the head of the transport facilitation and logistics section of UNESCAP delivered an important speech at the conference dedicated to the Lapis Lazuli Corridor.
Here is the text of her speech:
Your excellency, very distinguished delegates, panelists and participants.
It is my pleasure to take part in this high level Transport Conference, dedicated to the Lapis Lazuli Agreement on Transit and Transport Cooperation, and to contribute to the discussion on the role of intergovernmental cooperation in the development of international transport corridors. I would like to express our appreciation to Turkmenistan for convening such a distinguished audience to exchange our knowledge, visions and ideas on transit and transport cooperation in our region and beyond.
Supporting the development and implementation of intergovernmental agreements on transport connectivity is one of the key functions of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Indeed, ESCAP vision of a resilient Asia and the Pacific founded on shared prosperity, social equity and sustainability will not become a reality without addressing the global and regional transport challenges.
Today, it is widely recognized that intergovernmental cooperation is a sine qua non condition for the development of international transport and that in Asia we have reached significant achievements in this area. The intergovernmental agreements on Asian Highway Network, Trans-Asian Railway Network and on Dry Ports, maintained by ESCAP, provide a foundation for intermodal transport networks across the Asian region, complying with the harmonized standards of infrastructure quality. These agreements laid the foundations for creating international integrated intermodal transport and logistics systems.
A total of 30 countries in Asia are parties to the Intergovernmental Agreements on the Asian Highway Network. 19 Asian countries are parties to the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Trans-Asian Railway Network. 13 countries are parties to the Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports. Countries from Central and North Asia are party to most, if not all, of these intergovernmental agreements.
The initiatives like the Lapis Lazuli corridor represent strategic and much needed interventions addressing the needs for operational connectivity and transport facilitation along the Asian Highways and TransAsian Railways routes.
Such agreements and interventions are needed, because of the persistence of the insufficient transport connectivity and high transport costs and delays, which hinder our progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, in Asia and the Pacific. For landlocked Central and North Asia, in particular, despite so much progress in the recent decades, we still are faced with missing links, insufficient intermodal connections, shortages in the transit regimes and other obstacles to the seamless transport operations. This explains why many countries in the region are still perceived by their major trading partners as struggling to provide the sufficient level of quality in their transport and logistics services and why they continue to suffer from high transport and logistics costs, adversely impacting their competitiveness.
In this context, the significance of the transit and transport cooperation agreements, such as Lapis Lazuli Agreement, and of this High Level Conference cannot be underestimated.
First, this is an expression at the highest level of Governments of the importance of transport connectivity for sustainable development. Transport impacts on regional and global trade, social inclusion and equality, environmental protection and many other areas to such extent that it is crucial for the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. In this context, convening a High Level Transport Conference in Turkmenistan has a special meaning as it is Turkmenistan who has successfully launched two UN General Assembly Resolutions linking transport and intermodal transport corridors to sustainable development and it is Turkmenistan who hosted a first UN Global Conference on Sustainable Transport.
Second, our discussion today represents a step forward for enhancing transport connectivity of the landlocked developing countries. Very importantly, it does so through a joint action by both landlocked and transit countries. Many times we are not able to fully utilize the benefits from participation to the international transport instruments because landlocked countries and their transit countries do not participate to the same agreements. This challenge has been highlighted in the preparation for the Midterm Review of Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries and we hope to see a much stronger collaboration between the landlocked and transit countries if we are to reach the targets and goals set by the Vienna Programme of Action.
Third, it should be acknowledged that, because of its multimodal nature and its scope which addresses both infrastructure and operational connectivity, the Lapis Lazuli agreement is an example of a sustainable and integrated approach to transport and logistics issues. The agreement seeks to make the best use of the existing transport infrastructure, be it rail, road and sea ports, helping us achieve an overall efficiency and sustainability of an intermodal transport chain. But beyond the infrastructure connectivity, the agreement seeks to improve the governance, policy and regulatory framework along the corridor, which are, quite often, a more significant bottleneck than missing links or substandard infrastructure.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
As we recognize all these positive elements and potential contribution of the Agreement to enhancing the regional transport connectivity, let us also be mindful of the challenges ahead and discuss how we can address them together.
Several key elements need to be in place for the success of the intergovernmental agreements on transit and transport cooperation, such as the Lapis Lazuli Agreement. Let me highlight just a few, based on the ESCAP experience in providing extensive support to the negotiation and implementation of the multilateral transport agreements.
First, there is a need for a strong and constant political will of the participating countries to advance together with the transport facilitation and infrastructure development, foregoing, at times, some short terms profits in favor of wider benefits in a longer run transport agreements.
Second crucial element is the technical capacity of all stakeholders engaged in the process and their knowledge and experience of the existing standards, tools and best practices on infrastructure development and transport facilitation. There is a solid regional knowledge, best practices and tools on transport facilitation, many of them available from ESCAP, which help deal with the procedural bottlenecks, costly duplications and redundancies and uncoordinated responses to transport needs. It is essential that that this knowledge, experience and pragmatic tools is made available to the policy makers and practitioners involved in the implementation of the transport facilitation agreements.
Third, what is also needed is a solid institutional structure and operational support to operationalizing an intermodal transport corridor. How we manage international intermodal corridor has a profound impact on their efficiency and overall impact on development. In practice, efficient operation of intermodal transport corridors is fraught with numerous challenges. Often, the weak coordination among different modes of transport leads to inordinate delays in the transport process, particularly, during the intermodal interchanges that happens at sea, air and dry ports. In many cases, inefficient coordination among the border agencies leads to complexities in the completion of formalities associated with the movement of goods and vehicles across borders adversely affecting the seamless transport operations along the corridors. Managing a complex, multi layer, multilateral and multimodal network of stakeholders and interested parties is a great challenge in itself and it requires a robust, resilient and effective institutional framework and mechanisms, that can only be put in place through continuous efforts and the decisions taken based on the evidence and clear targets and indicators of achievement.
ESCAP stands ready to support its Member States in addressing any of these challenges through its analytical, awareness raising or capacity building activities. And I look forward to today’s discussion to see how we can do so.
Thank you for your attention. /// nCa, 4 December 2018