• English

Geneva, 4 December 2000




Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is always a pleasure and good news when representatives of governments, business community and international organizations get together to do something conducive to European cooperation. So indeed, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the UNECE Forum on "Public Private Partnerships for Infrastructure Development".

I would like to thank those in our midst who have come great distances to be here today and share their experiences with us. In coming here today, each of us learned a lesson in the importance of a well-developed infrastructure and the capacity it has to bring people from around the globe together.

In the Economic Commission for Europe we have always recognized the role of infrastructure for development and cooperation in Europe. Over the course of the past 50 years of its existence, both our intergovernmental machinery and the Secretariat have been very active in facilitating the development of infrastructure; also through setting conventions, norms and standards for pan-European transport environment and energy infrastructure. In this area we have witnessed recently a number of important and related trends and challenges. First, there has been a blurring between the traditional infrastructures built from concrete and steel, and the new information technology industries with single companies providing almost the full range of infrastructure services. Secondly, privatisation and liberalisation have transformed the role of the state and have resulted in significant benefits for our citizens, pressing also towards seeking new partnerships between the state, business and civil society. Thirdly, we know today that environmental considerations have become critical for the delivery of effective and efficient infrastructure services. And lastly and related to this is a growing appreciation that the local communities must be more closely involved in the planning and development of infrastructure services.

We live in Europe which is very diverse and our member states are at different stages in meeting these challenges and many are missing out on the benefits. Too many people within our region have inadequate access to energy, transport, and telecommunications services. The solution in many cases is not relying either exclusively on the public or on the private sector individually, but rather on a combination of both in partnership bringing together to a project what each is best equipped to contribute. Public Private Partnerships can provide increased quality of services for the consumer, generate opportunities for the local business community, improve environmental standards and the safer delivery of services and change for the better the situation of the least advantaged in our societies. Indeed in many regions of our world, Public-Private Partnerships in infrastructure are transforming economies and adding real value. Unfortunately, the benefits from these partnerships have still to be fully realised in many of our member states. Hence the importance of our gathering here today.

We are here today to make a step forward on our way to a better integrated Europe and to a more efficient Public-Private Partnership. That is why this Forum will focus on:

the guidelines of the UN/ECE BOT expert Group on best practices,

the new Regional Flagship Initiative for South East Europe under the auspices of the Investment Compact of the Stability Pact,

and the UN/ECE Public-Private Partnership Alliance.

Let me briefly comment on each of these objectives in turn.

First, the guidelines are a good basis for our work containing a rich collection of new ideas and concepts in PPPs. These guidelines are more than just a manual on how to do PPPs, but a set of principles in which the parties involved in the project should aspire in order to provide the highest level of services to all citizens. They are also inspired by the principles of the Global Compact, a new and exciting initiative of our Secretary-General to encourage our partners in the business community to observe commitments in the areas of human rights and employment. We would ask you to carefully consider these guidelines and comment on them during the course of this Forum.

Secondly, this afternoon, a Regional Flagship Initiative to promote PPPs in Southeast Europe under the auspices of the Stability Pact will be officially launched. This project is focused on enhancing legal frameworks, capacity building at the local and national levels, and developing pilot priority projects as well as encouraging regional cooperation. I would like to thank the member countries of the Stability Pact as well as the Investment Compact leaders, the British government and the OECD for their full support in this project.

Finally, the PPP Alliance. Under this alliance, a framework for supporting, developing, and evaluating the success of our efforts in promoting PPPs is being sought. It is not a new structure or bureaucracy, but a framework within which international agencies and members from the private sector are invited to contribute so that their efforts in joint cooperation can yield maximum benefits. We already are pleased to have received strong support from a variety of international organisations and companies.

Let me now end with a word of thanks to Mr. David Winter, the chairman of our working party on international legal and commercial practice, under which the BOT Group works, and a special word of thanks to the BOT group and its chairwoman Ms. Corinne Namblard for their tremendous achievements in preparing the guidelines and their continued commitment to implement them in the ways described above. I can assure you of the full backing of the secretariat to help you in meeting these challenging objectives.

Once again, I would to reiterate my thanks to all of you for being here today and I look forward to a very lively and interesting debate and your commitment to help achieve the goals I have set out.

Thank you.