• English

68th session, 7-9 February 2006
Opening Statement by Mr. Marek Belka,
Executive Secretary of the UNECE

Mr. Chairman, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you all to this 68 th session of the Inland Transport Committee. I notice with satisfaction the large participation from UNECE Governments, as well as from international and non-governmental organizations.

As you may know, the UN Secretary-General has decided to appoint me as the new Executive Secretary of the UNECE.

This is for me both an honour and a challenge. It is a great honour, because the UNECE is, indeed, a prestigious international organization, with a long history of efficient and useful services to Member States. During the years of the Cold War, the UNECE played a crucial role as the meeting point between the East and the West. More recently, it has guided many Member States in their difficult process of transition from planned to market economies. All along its history, since its creation in 1947, the UNECE has been for many European countries like a lighthouse, which has shown them the way forward.

However, being Executive Secretary of the UNECE will be a difficult challenge. The UNECE is placed in the middle of two major political and economic processes: globalization of economy and trade, on the one hand, and increasing European integration around the European Union, on the other. In addition, a large number of Member States are still confronted with political, social, economic and environmental difficulties. In order to adapt the UNECE to the new pan-European institutional environment, Member States have put in place a reform process. A Work Plan on ECE Reform will be adopted in two weeks time, at the forthcoming Annual Session of the Commission. Implementing this Work Plan and ultimately making the UNECE more efficient and useful for its Member States will certainly be a challenging task.

Today it is my second day in Office. However, I did not want to miss this opportunity to address the Inland Transport Committee, one of the main pillars of the UNECE.

It is widely accepted that a well functioning transport system is essential for growth and competitiveness of economies. National economies depend on transport more than ever before, as they depend increasingly on international trade.

Achieving efficient international transport is not an easy task. It requires political commitment, but also very precise technical norms and regulations that ensure a high level of efficiency, safety and environmental protection and which are harmonized from one country to another.

In this respect, the Inland Transport Committee fulfils a real need that is not performed by any other international organization. Indeed, the Committee provides the framework within which a large number of transport norms and regulations are agreed internationally with the participation of all its members. Many of these norms and regulations have been developed into Agreements and Conventions that are legally binding for countries that adhere to them, thus reflecting their importance. No wonder that the UNECE Governments in the framework of the reform have identified transport as a top priority area.

I believe the Committee has every reason to be proud of its results. To name just a few, the AGR has given Europe a coherent pan-European road network, the “E” road network. The Vienna Conventions and European Agreements supplementing them provide an international code of road traffic rules, signs and signals, which has reduced substantially the number of accidents and victims on European roads. And the TIR Convention has established a set of simplified, efficient and secure border crossing procedures, which have significantly contributed to increasing the international East-West transport of goods in Europe.

I fully support the work of the Committee in keeping these legal instruments up to date in order to take up the challenges that transport is facing. In this respect, I welcome the Round Table on Transport Security that you have decided to hold on the occasion of this session of the Committee.

Another reason for satisfaction is that the number of States that become Parties to the legal instruments developed by the Committee is increasing steadily. I invite all Member States that have not yet acceded to these legal instruments to do so as soon as possible and to implement them fully.

The Transport Division of the secretariat supports efficiently your work in amending the legal instruments on transport. In spite of its limited resources, it promotes implementation of the legal instruments and sub-regional cooperation for the development of transport infrastructures. The TEM and TER Projects and the Euro-Asian transport links project are good examples of that cooperation.

I am pleased to inform you that, as a result of the reform, the Transport Division will gain two posts, which will help you to achieve your objectives. However, much remains to be done and any additional support from your side will be welcome.

I also wish to stress the importance of cooperation with other international organizations. I am aware that you have established a sound division of labour with the ECMT in order to avoid duplication of work. The OSCE has recently shown willingness to cooperate with us in strengthening the implementation of transport Conventions. I know of existing coop—eration with the other UN Regional Commissions in promoting Euro-Asian transport links or links with Africa across the Mediterranean. We are cooperating with the WHO in dealing with the environmental aspects of transport and in addressing global road safety issues. Last but not least, a large number of non-governmental organizations, representing those who implement your decisions on the ground, participate in your work.

Mr. Chairman, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I encourage you to strengthen your work and redouble your efforts in order for the Committee and the UNECE to become more relevant and more useful for Member States. In this endeavour, you can count on my full support.

I wish every success to this session and thank you for your attention.