• English

Inland Transport Committee

(Sixty-fifth session, 18-20 February 2003)
Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Executive Secretary

Madam Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you to the sixty-fifth session of the Inland Transport Committee. This is the first time that I have opened the session of the Committee and it is a great pleasure for me. This Committee has achieved useful results in the inland transport sector for the benefit not only of UNECE member countries, but also for many other countries around the world.

I note that, during the current session, Mrs. Tãnase will chair the Committee for the last time. Mrs. Tãnase has since 2001 successfully steered your discussions through the multiple currents of international transport regulatory problems. With her Chairmanship, I am confident that you are in a position to reach concrete and useful results also at this session.

For more than a half a century, this body has contributed to the development and improvement of the transport sector in the UNECE region. Your predecessors in this Committee and yourselves have invested great effort to create a safer, more efficient, more harmonized and sustainable transport sector. The contribution of the ITC to the development of the transport sector in the UNECE region is highly appreciated. It includes contribution to the development of networks and projects like TEM/TER, norms and standards in road traffic safety, harmonization of vehicle regulations, conventions to facilitate customs procedures norms in transport of dangerous goods, etc. I would like to underline that much of this work contributes to the implementation of the Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals. Transport is among the key underlying factors for most of the objectives of the Millennium Declaration. By providing an indispensable basis for the development of economic activities, for the production and distribution of goods as well as for trade, transport contributes to development and poverty eradication. By combating trans-national crime, including trafficking and smuggling, you contribute to peace and security. Through improving the safety and environmental performance of transport, you contribute to protecting our common environment and also the vulnerable.

I would like to call upon you to take better account of the Millennium Declaration's goals in your work. In each of the areas, it is up to you to articulate the linkages and to ensure that transport provides the needed inputs within a comprehensive programme of actions. In particular, I consider it important that, as specifically called for in the Millennium Declaration, the Committee recognizes the special development needs and problems of landlocked countries and other countries with economies in transition and helps them to improve their transport systems in order to overcome the impediments of geography.

Looking at your Provisional Agenda, I see that you will consider a wide array of issues, some of which are related to the work of the Committee as a whole and many others that are related to the work of the Committee's subsidiary bodies.

Among the first category, you will consider the outcome of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission that took place in May last year. There you will note, among others, the questions related to the strengthening of the Organization. In this respect, I wish to stress that our Member Governments are increasingly demanding from us to become more efficient, more results oriented and more relevant to the Organization. In response to such requests, I have presented to the Commission a proposal aimed at streamlining and strengthening our Commission, to improve the work of our subsidiary bodies and make the results of their work more relevant to Governments.

I wish to inform you that I am submitting to the forthcoming session of the Commission a new paper on these issues. In this paper I am proposing, among other suggestions, that PSBs carry out every year an assessment of their intergovernmental structure and report to the Commission thereon. I am also submitting another paper, on Major policy directions for UNECE work, where I propose that, in view of the challenges the UNECE region is facing, including EU enlargement and the special development needs of certain UNECE member countries, the UNECE focuses its work on areas where it has value added, including the development of norms and regulations, but also on the implementation of these norms as well as on monitoring and assessment. I wish to invite this Committee to consider in due course how best to follow up these proposals.

In this connection, I have noted that you will discuss a document on Strategic Objectives of the Committee, prepared by your Bureau, in which some of these issues are addressed. I very much welcome this paper, which is very much in line with our thinking. It seems to me indispensable that you consider very carefully strategic issues that will have major impacts on your future work. In particular, I consider of utmost importance the issues related to the development of Euro-Asian transport links, to transport security and transport and environment and social and economic developments. The Euro-Asian transport links will be of strategic importance for the economic growth and prosperity of the UNECE member countries concerned and for their integration into the European and global economy. The Bureau, at its 3-4 December 2002 meeting, recommended to the ITC to consider the convening of a Round Table on transport infrastructure development in a wider Europe including Euro-Asian Transport links, back to back with the 16th Session of the Working Party on Transport Trends and Economics. In the meantime, on 20 December 2002, the Group on the Integration of new member States of the ECMT made a proposal to discuss the future of the Pan-European Transport Infrastructure Planning in a Seminar to be organised in November 2003 with participation of the UNECE. Whatever decision you make, what it is important is that discussion would include transport infrastructure development connecting not only acceding but also non-acceding countries with the rest of Europe.

You will also be considering Intersectoral activities, including Transport, Environment and Health. I hope the transport sector will participate actively in this work, which affects it so directly. The High-Level Meeting adopted last year the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme and established its Steering Committee. This is an important achievement in integrating sectoral activities but also the efforts of different UN bodies (UNECE, WHO). In 2002, at the WSSD in Johannesburg, the Implementation Plan on Sustainable Development was adopted. The Plan, in its chapter on institutional framework, calls on the regional commissions to integrate into their programme of work all three dimensions of sustainable development. The follow-up to the WSSD will be discussed at the Annual Session of the Commission in early March. The role of your Committee will be to further explore how to better steer your work towards the objectives of sustainable development.

Transport plays an indispensable role in the promotion of trade and FDI - -two important factors of development. The General Assembly at its 57th session endorsed the outcome of the ICFfD in March 2002 in Monterrey in which trade and FDI were recognized together with ODA as major factors of development. I would like to encourage you - in close cooperation with ECMT - to consider this and other aspects like labour mobility whenever transport infrastructure is on your agenda.

Security related aspects in transport were introduced into your agenda at your last session. In the wake of the tragic events of 11 September 2001, intensified international cooperation and action to effectively prevent terrorist attacks was bound to become a pressing need. I am pleased to note that a number of measures have already been taken in such areas as Vehicle Regulations, Transport of Dangerous Goods, Road Transport and Road Safety, all of which will contribute to a higher degree of security in transport. I invite you to pursue your efforts towards the identification of any other security measures that it may be appropriate to develop.

Concerning the long list of International Legal Instruments developed under the auspices of the Committee, I have noted the large number of countries that have become Parties to most of them. I wish to underline the importance of these instruments for international transport, in particular in countries with economies in transition. It is important that countries that have not yet done so become Contracting Parties to these instruments. It is also important that all countries implement them fully and effectively. To this end, we need to better monitor their implementation by the various countries and to assist countries in transition in this task.

At a prominent place on your agenda are items related to transport infrastructure with the four international agreements concerning the UNECE infrastructure networks. I note also your endeavours to promote the Pan-European Transport Corridors and the Euro-Asian Transport Links. Regarding the latter, the further elaboration of the elements of the Common UNECE/ESCAP Strategic Vision appears to be timely and the establishment of a task force to that effect under UNECE/ESCAP leadership is called for. Your work in this field seems to be all the more appropriate, as our member countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus may be expected to acquire an ever increasing importance in the UNECE work programme in the coming years.

As you are aware, the secretariat is also contributing to this endeavour. Several years ago, we launched in cooperation with ESCAP the Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA), which has a Working Group on Transport. More recently, as you know, on the proposal of the five United Nations regional commissions, the General Assembly approved the United Nations Development Account Project on Capacity Building for the Development of Interregional Transport Linkages. This Project, which will be implemented under the supervision of the Directors responsible for Transport in the various regional commissions, will, as far as UNECE and ESCAP are concerned, focus mainly on Euro-Asian Transport Links. I am pleased to announce that we have finally received authorization to use the Project funds for 2003. The Project will therefore now be launched and, in the next few days, the Executive Secretary of ESCAP and myself will send a joint letter to a number of UNECE and ESCAP member countries, inviting them to participate in the Project and to nominate a Focal Point. I look forward to an active participation by all concerned. Of course, other voluntary contributions would be welcome.

Another main transport issue that is at the centre of your interest is Road Safety. Your work aims at a reduction of the toll of deaths and injured in road traffic. I would like to refer, in particular, to the Fourth Road Safety Week in the UNECE region, scheduled to be held from 5 - 11 April 2004. I welcome the decision of the Working Party to organize this Week in conjunction with the 2004 WHO World Health Day, to be held on 7 April 2004 and which will be devoted to road safety. I am also pleased to note that a Draft Resolution is before you for adoption in order to foster the resolve of Governments to raise the awareness of the importance of measures to prevent traffic accidents. I should like to urge you to support all necessary actions and to consider launching national campaigns in your countries on this occasion.

I would also like to refer to the crisis that the TIR system experienced towards the end of last year. As you may know, due to the disproportionate number of Customs irregularities committed by organized crime in the Russian Federation, the TIR guarantee chain was suddenly confronted with a major increase in the risk to be covered and was obliged to announce the suspension of the guarantee coverage. Fortunately a solution was found that allowed cancellation of the suspension, otherwise the Russian Federation and many other countries would have suffered major disruptions in their international transport and trade and losses in their economies. I believe that the TIR system still remains under threat by organized crime, which is targeting a number of countries in transition. I wish to draw your attention to the fact that we have to take the necessary measures to avoid the prospect that the TIR system would cease to exist in the near future. I therefore call upon you to take all required steps to avoid such an occurrence.

Madam Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The work of this Committee and its subsidiary bodies has been recognized as very important for the achievement of an efficient and well-balanced, safe and sustainable transport system in the UNECE region. Through it, you contribute to the economic development and integration of countries and to the welfare of populations in the UNECE region. I would like to assure you that the secretariat will spare no effort to provide you with the assistance needed to reach this objective.

I wish you every success in your work and thank you for your attention.