Asia-Pacific Transportation Networks to Help Boost SDG Progress

Transport stands out as a constant challenge as well as a tremendous opportunity for transitioning to economic, social, and environmental sustainability in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The provision of dependable transportation infrastructure and services is critical not only for economic growth but also for guaranteeing a fair distribution of economic and social advantages, as well as proper environmental impact management. The decade of action for the Sustainable Development Goals gives a new incentive and opportunity for the Asia-Pacific region to reassess its transportation priorities and expedite transformation.

In the future years, Asia and the Pacific are projected to see significant increases in motorization rates and trade exchanges. As a result, freight and passenger volumes will grow, driving up demand for transportation networks and mobility.

Unfortunately, despite tremendous development and strong efforts, the region has yet to completely achieve its promise for effective regional transportation connectivity. In terms of connectivity, there is significant variation and a consistent disparity between the best and worst performers.

 The Asia-Pacific countries with special needs – the least developed and landlocked developing countries as well as the small island developing States – are lagging behind. The negative environmental impact of the ever-growing transport operations along the regional transport networks is high and increasing.

Intergovernmental agreements under the aegis of ESCAP developed the Asian Highways and Trans-Asian Railways networks, as well as the developing network of international dry ports.

Together, they serve as the region’s backbone for land transport infrastructure connectivity, progressively evolving into an integrated network of multimodal land transport linkages bolstered by efficient operating regulations.

Around 300 delegates from around 30 ESCAP member states met over the last six weeks to examine the difficulties and the way forward in the post-COVID-19 pandemic development of transport connectivity in Asia and the Pacific. The discussions took place during the biennial meetings of three working groups.

Trains are an important part of Asia and the Pacific’s shift to sustainable freight, and the COVID-19 epidemic has heightened the demand for more effective electronic data and information exchange among railways. To that purpose, the Working Group on the Trans-Asian Railway Network resolved at its seventh meeting to enhance the framework for such communications between railways and network control organizations.

The Working Group also welcomed Myanmar as the intergovernmental agreement’s twenty-first party and updated the list of Trans-Asian Railway lines in Myanmar, Tajikistan, and Turkey.

The Working Group on Dry Ports welcomed Azerbaijan and Myanmar as new members at its fourth meeting, bringing the total number of Parties to the intergovernmental agreement to 16. Post-pandemic recovery was once again a major concern, with governments identifying greater use of digital technology as a top priority.

Practical methods to develop a regional network of dry ports, as well as integration of dry ports into international transport routes including other means of transportation, were also discussed at the meeting. Myanmar’s and the Russian Federation’s dry port lists have both been updated.

At its ninth meeting, the Working Group on the Asian Highway urged governments to make better use of technology – such as digitalization and automation of highway operations – to rebuild post-pandemic resilience and boost resilience to future crises.

The forum also emphasized the importance of enhancing social inclusion in the road transportation industry by making roads safer and incorporating gender views. The group’s long-term goal is to promote seamless and long-term highway connections in Asia and the Pacific.

The panelists agreed that greater transportation connectivity sustainability was in high demand. They stressed that combining the competitive advantages of various modes of transportation and improving operational connectivity along existing infrastructure networks would result in more efficient integrated intermodal transportation networks that are inclusive, dependable, safe, environmentally sound, and resilient.

They also acknowledged that greater transportation connections can improve women’s and girls’ access to opportunities.

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