• English

(Geneva, 10 April 2003)

Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Executive Secretary

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to welcome you today to the first session of the Steering Committee for the implementation of the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme, THE PEP. Last July I had the honour of addressing the 2nd High-level Meeting on Transport, Environment and Health, which established this Programme and adopted the Terms of Reference for this Committee. In line with the Ministers and high-level representatives from the three sectors and relevant international organizations that gathered in Geneva, I am convinced that THE PEP is an appropriate means for making progress towards transport sustainable for health and the environment in the region and should therefore provide a strategic framework and an operational basis for future work to this end within the UNECE and WHO/Euro.

The mandate given to this Committee is very much in line with the discussions at the annual session of the Economic Commission for Europe one month ago as regards the regional implementation of the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development. The regional implementation of Agenda 21 should include UNECE's already well-developed activities in the field of sustainable development, including cross-sectoral work for sustainable transport. The fifth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference, which will be held in Kiev on 21-23 May, will also be discussing issues with relevance to transport, environment and health. They include adoption of the Environment Strategy for the Countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia as well as the adoption and signature of the Strategic Environmental Assessment protocol to the UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary context, which provides opportunities for countries to assess the environmental and health impact of transport plans, programmes and policies.

THE PEP presents features which are unique, progressive and challenging, and which, as I see it, represent the key elements for achieving successful results in this area.

The first of these features is the involvement, on an equal basis, of the main actors and key stakeholders representing the transport, environment and health sectors, both at the national and international levels, for finding solutions to common concerns. Well-balanced transport policies and decisions on transport that take full account of environment and health concerns indeed imply the full and active engagement of the three sectors working together. Such close cross-sectoral cooperation will be promoted by the Steering Committee, its Bureau and its ad hoc task forces as well as through the network of national focal points for THE PEP.

Secondly, THE PEP sets a unique example of cooperation among international organizations as well as with other stakeholders. UNECE and WHO/Euro joined forces to service the Programme together and strive furthermore to improve coordination and cooperation with other organizations active in the fields of transport, environment and health. In addition, partnerships between Governments, local authorities, the business community and NGOs are encouraged to implement the activities under the Programme. These efforts are, to my mind, very valuable in order to increase the visibility, quality and the impact of the work carried out by avoiding duplication of efforts, maximising synergies and optimising the use of the very limited resources available both at national and international levels.

Thirdly, I particularly appreciate the focused and action oriented approach chosen for the implementation of THE PEP. I am convinced that by concentrating our joint efforts and available resources on the implementation of specific and concrete activities in a few carefully selected key priority areas we will reach successful results.

The four important project proposals on your agenda could provide a very promising starting point for the efficient implementation of the Programme. I wish to express my highest appreciation and gratitude to those countries whose financial and in-kind contributions will make it possible for this Committee to work for the implementation of these activities.

First of all, the two secretariats have already established a new website for THE PEP and further steps have been made to develop an ambitious clearing house on transport, environment and health. Such a clearing house will provide easy access to information and may ultimately be used as an interactive tool for the exchange of information and good practices throughout the region.

Secondly, you will be focusing on a key priority area, that is urban transport, and you will discuss a strategic approach for integrating urban transport management with land use-planning, environmental and health policies.

A third activity on your agenda is very challenging, but of utmost importance for the development of sustainable transport, as it aims at evaluating the costs of transport related health and environment effects.

The fourth and final project before you contains an activity that is a precondition for monitoring the progress on integration of environment and health concerns into transport policy throughout the region. This project proposes to extend the relevant indicators and reporting systems on transport and the environment to cover fully also its health aspects. The project will also include the Newly Independent States and South-east European countries that have so far not yet been covered in this respect.

In this context, allow me to support the request of the High-level Meeting to pay particular attention to the specific needs and problems of the countries with economies in transition in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia in the implementation of THE PEP. The long-term sustainability of the transport sector in this sub-region raises particularly serious concerns that need to be addressed on a priority basis. Ensuring active participation and involvement of representatives from these countries in the implementation work is therefore essential.

Finally, it goes without saying that the Programme must be backed up with an adequate financial basis for the implementation of its activities and to allow the participation in them of transition countries. The features that I have pointed out to you show the great potential of THE PEP to make real progress in achieving sustainable transport goals region wide. However, it is understood that this potential can only be fully used through sound political commitment and financial means from the countries of the region. The financial contributions from Finland and the Netherlands to THE PEP trust fund, the offer by Cyprus to host a workshop on urban planning and the initiative of Austria, France, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland on health costs give a very positive sign of such a commitment for an efficient implementation of the THE PEP which, I hope, will also be shared by many others.

I wish you success in your deliberations and should like to stress the strong commitment of the UNECE secretariat to contribute to this work.

Thank you very much for your attention.