The work of the Sustainable Transport Division is guided by the mandates and work programmes of the UNECE Inland Transport Committee (ITC) and its Subsidiary Bodies. The Sustainable Transport Division also provides the secretariat to the ECOSOC Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Global Classification and Labelling of Chemicals as well as to the Administrative Committees of a number of UN Conventions on transport. The Division also contributes to the implementation of the Pan-European Programme on Transport, Environment and Health (THE PEP).
As reflected in the External Evaluation Report of 30 June 2005 -The State of the UNECE, which served as a basis for the UNECE Reform, “the work of the UNECE Sustainable Transport Division is relevant not only to Member States but to the private sector as well. The UNECE has the ability to achieve practical results through international agreements, particularly concerning the regulation of technical aspects of various transport policy challenges. In the field of vehicle regulation there is no equivalent international organization to the WP29 (type-approval, mutual recognition of approvals and conformity, for example, are key advantages of the WP29 over other similar standardization bodies)".
Inland Transport Committee (ITC) and Subsidiary Bodies
The Sustainable Transport Division provides the secretariat to the Inland Transport Committee (ITC). The ITC is the Sectoral Committee of the UNECE for cooperation in the field of inland transport. Transport is an activity of priority concern to all UNECE governments. The strategic importance of this area of work stems from the fact that economic development and integration of UNECE countries require international transport and therefore intergovernmental cooperation. The overall objective of this cooperation is to facilitate and develop international transport while improving its safety and environmental performance. Pursuing this objective is a complex task, which involves a large number and a great variety of issues, including those pertaining to the specific infrastructures, vehicles and operational procedures of three different modes of transport, namely road, rail and inland waterways transport, as well as of multi-modal and combined transport. They also include specific issues of passenger transport and of goods transport, as well as those of the transport of special cargoes, such as dangerous goods or perishable foodstuffs. The transport of dangerous goods requires specific, particularly stringent, safety regulations. The transport of perishable foodstuffs requires special regulations in order to preserve the quality of these products and therefore the health of populations. Although not all of these components, modes and cargoes are dealt with by the ITC with the same emphasis, a variety of specific efficiency, safety and environmental issues are involved in all of them. Last but not least, a variety of border crossing problems and procedures has to be addressed.
To deal with these transport issues, the ITC is assisted by a number of Subsidiary Bodies, the nature of which is regularly reviewed by the ITC. These bodies, to which the Sustainable Transport Division also provides the secretariat, are the following:
- Working Party on Road Transport (SC1)
- Working Party on Road Traffic Safety (WP.1)
- World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicles Regulations (WP.29)
- Working Party on Rail Transport (SC.2)
- Working Party on Inland Water Transport (SC.3)
- Working Party on Combined Transport (WP.24)
- Working Party on Customs Questions affecting Transport (WP.30)
- Working Party on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (WP.15)
- Working Party on the Transport of Perishable Foodstuffs (WP.11)
- Working Party on Trends and Economics (WP.5)
- Working Party on Transport Statistics (WP.6)
Some of these bodies are "unique" at European level (e.g. WP.15) and even at global level (e.g. WP.29). The WP.29 is assisted in its work by six specialized Working Parties covering specific regulatory areas of vehicles. Additionally, in a number of areas, joint meetings with other intergovernmental organizations are regularly held, such as the Joint RID/ADR/ADN Meeting.
The Subsidiary Bodies of the ITC meet regularly, the periodicity varying from one to three times a year. In total, the Division ensures the servicing of about 200 meeting days per year.
The work program of the ITC, which also reflects the great variety of transport issues dealt with by the Committee, is reviewed and updated regularly. It has also been reformulated in order to clearly determine the kind of activities to be undertaken, the subjects to be addressed, the general objectives of each program element and the time period during which activities have to be undertaken.
Administrative or Executive Committees of UN legal instruments on transport
The Sustainable Transport Division also services the Administrative Committees of a number of UN legal instruments. These AC's are bodies composed of the Parties to the respective legal instrument and, as such, are not SB's of the ITC. Their existence is, however, foreseen in the relevant legal instruments, in which the Secretary-General is asked to convene and to provide secretariat to those AC’s. The Division services the following Administrative Committees:
- Administrative Committee to the amended 1958 Agreement concerning the Adoption of Uniform Technical Prescriptions for Wheeled Vehicles, Equipment and Parts which can be fitted and/or be used on Wheeled Vehicles and the Conditions for Reciprocal Recognition of Approvals granted on the Basis of these Prescriptions (AC.1)
- Administrative Committee of the 1997 Agreement concerning the Adoption of Uniform Conditions for Periodical Technical Inspections of Wheeled Vehicles and the Reciprocal Recognition of Such Inspection
- Executive Committee of the 1998 Agreement concerning the Establishing of Global Technical Regulations for Wheeled Vehicles, Equipment and Parts which can be fitted and/or be used on Wheeled Vehicles
- TIR Administrative Committee (WP.30/AC.2)
- Administrative Committee for the International Convention on the Harmonization of Frontier Controls of Goods (WP.30/AC.3)
- Administrative Committee Convention on Customs Treatment of Pool Containers Used in International Transport (WP.30/AC.4)
ECOSOC Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Global Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
The ECOSOC Committee of Experts has been for decades the forum for the development of global and multi-modal regulations for the safe transport of dangerous goods. Membership is currently 36 countries worldwide. A large number of UN agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations participate regularly in its work. NGO's include the chemical, oil and gas industries, packaging and tank manufacturers and shippers as well as transport operators. The regulations produced by the Committee, the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (Orange Book), contain the basic prescriptions for the safe carriage of dangerous goods by road, rail, inland water, sea or air. These prescriptions include the classification of dangerous goods for their transport, on the basis of the nature of their potential risks and conditions for their packaging and labelling. They serve as the basis for the legal instruments regulating the transport of such goods on the various modes, including the ADR, RID and ADN. Because of its long-standing experience and expertise, the UNECE Sustainable Transport Division was entrusted by the Secretary-General with the task of ensuring the secretariat to this ECOSOC body. The Division not only provides the secretariat to the ECOSOC Committee and prepares the publication of the UN Recommendations but also promotes the coordinated implementation of the Recommendations through the relevant modal legal instruments.
The Committee was reconfigured in 1999 in order to address the Global Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, covering hazard classification and hazard communication in all relevant sectors (workplace safety, consumer and environment protection, transport safety).
The main outcome of the work programme of the Inland Transport Committee is a set of international agreements, conventions and other international legally binding instruments as well as recommendations on a large number of transport issues. A total of 57 legal instruments on transport have been developed so far. One of them, the 1958 Agreement, has 125 Regulations annexed to it, which are in force. This activity is basically threefold: updating of existing legal instruments and Regulations; elaboration of new ones; and administration, legal interpretation and promotion of the legal instruments. The annual pace of development is currently about 1 new legal instrument and 1 to 3 new Vehicle Regulations elaborated, and about 8 existing legal instruments and about 40 Vehicle Regulations amended. This normative work of the Inland Transport Committee and its subsidiary bodies goes in three main directions: the establishment of coherent international infrastructure networks for the various modes of inland transport; the adoption of uniform transport regulations ensuring a high level of efficiency, safety and environmental protection in transport; and the harmonization and simplification of border crossing procedures.
The legal instruments developed by the ITC provide a commonly accepted legal and technical framework for the development of international road, rail, inland water and combined transport in the UNECE region. Constantly updated and brought in line with the relevant EU Directives, these legal instruments are widely recognized as particularly useful for the integration of Central, Eastern and South-eastern European countries as well as Caucasus and Central Asian countries in the European economy. They are applied not only by European countries but also by many countries worldwide.
In addition to this legislative activity, other activities of the ITC work program include the development of methodologies, guidelines and definitions on transport planning, data collection and other issues on which legally binding commitment is not required. Another ITC activity is the collection of Transport Statistics. In this area, in addition to the data collected annually, the Sustainable Transport Division compiles every five years the data of a major Census of Traffic on the E Roads in accordance with a common methodology. Censuses carried out since 1995 have been developed into Geographic Information System (GIS) applications. In 2005, for the first time, a Census on rail traffic was also carried out in accordance with a common methodology as well.
The UNECE Inland Transport Committee has given itself no authority or mandate to ensure the implementation by countries of the legal instruments developed by the ITC. Accession to them is voluntary and implementation is the responsibility of the Governments. However, as a means to promote such implementation, the Sustainable Transport Division has been monitoring some legal instruments on transport, including the AGC, the AGTC and the AETR. The Contracting Parties to the TIR Convention established a TIR Executive Board, financed through extra-budgetary funds, the secretariat to which is ensured by a TIR secretariat acting in the framework of the Sustainable Transport Division. More recently, as a follow up to the Work Plan on ECE Reform, the Sustainable Transport Division has in 2007 initiated the monitoring of key ECE legal instruments, including the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic and the European Agreement supplementing it. Later in 2007, the monitoring of the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals will also be launched.
The Sustainable Transport Division also promotes sub-regional cooperation among Central, Eastern and South-Eastern European countries for the coordinated development of their road, rail and combined transport networks in line with the relevant legal instruments. Such cooperation is carried out in the framework of the Trans-European Motorway (TEM) and Trans-European Railways (TER) Projects. These Projects, which are funded through financial contributions from participating countries, have their own decision-making bodies, central offices and budgets. The TEM and TER Projects have recently finalised a Master Plan with the participation of 21 Central, Eastern and Southeastern European countries. In the framework of the Master Plan, as many as 490 transport infrastructure projects, for a total value of EUR 102 billion, were evaluated and prioritised and an investment strategy for the implementation of these projects was proposed up to 2020. In addition to TEM and TER, the Sustainable Transport Division is promoting cooperation towards the development of Euro-Asian Transport Links. This is being carried out in the framework of a UN Development Account Project on Capacity Building, which is being implemented in close cooperation with UNESCAP. This project has produced tangible results, including the identification of the main Euro-Asian transport routes for road, rail and inland water transport. The Sustainable Transport Division also promotes sub-regional cooperation in the field of transport in the Mediterranean, where the Division sponsors two Transport Study Centres and a Transport Training Centre. Sub-regional cooperation among Central Asian countries is also promoted in the framework of SPECA. Finally, the Sustainable Transport Division provides technical assistance and policy advice to countries in transition through workshops and advisory services, largely focusing on issues related to the implementation of the international legal instruments developed by the Committee.
The UNECE ITC and the Sustainable Transport Division of the UNECE secretariat have a long standing experience of fruitful cooperation with the other international institutions and organizations having a bearing in the area of transport in Europe. The cooperation with the European Commission (EC) is both very good and productive and works in two ways: in many areas the EC legislation is used as a basis for the UNECE normative work, while in others (e.g. transport of dangerous goods, vehicle regulations) it is the UN legal instruments and regulations which are used as the basis for EC Directives or directly made mandatory in the EU. In addition, the EU is a Party to some UN legal instruments. The UNECE Sustainable Transport Division has also developed excellent working relations with the European Parliament (EP). It collaborated closely with the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT), which had similar membership and dealt also with inland transport issues only. The Division has also started cooperation with the International Transport Forum, into which the ECMT has transformed itself, and participates in the Transport Management Board, which prepares the meetings of the International Transport Forum. The ITC and its subsidiary bodies also cooperate with other sub-regional and sub-sectoral entities, including the Central Commission for the Navigation on the Rhine (CCNR), the Danube Commission and the Organization for International Railway Transport (OTIF), with which the updating of the respective legal instruments on the carriage of dangerous goods by road and by rail are coordinated. The Sustainable Transport Division also cooperates with the other UN Regional Commissions, mainly with ESCAP in the development of Euro-Asian Transport Links. It also cooperates with ECA in the development of Mediterranean transport and in the activities related to the project for a Europe-Africa permanent link through the Straight of Gibraltar. The ITC and the Sustainable Transport Division have also a long-standing experience of mutually beneficial cooperation with NGO’s. Some of our most frequent partners are: the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the International Road Federation (IRF), the International Touring Alliance (FIA/AIT), the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), the Liaison Committee of manufacturers of Motor Vehicle Equipment and Parts (CLEPA), the International Motorcycle Manufacturers (IMMA), the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the International Union of Railways (UIC).
The ITC and the Sustainable Transport Division are cooperating with the Environment and Health sectors in order to jointly address the transport related environmental and health concerns. As a follow-up to the Vienna and London Conferences as well as the High-Level Meeting on Transport, Environment and Health held on 4 May 2001, a Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP) is being jointly implemented by the UNECE Transport and Environment Divisions as well as the WHO-Europe, which includes the joint servicing of THE PEP Steering Committee.
In the foreseeable future, the transport sector will continue to face the following main challenges:
- Increasing congestion due to continuing increase in demand for road transport, both passengers and freight;
- A still unacceptably high number of people killed and injured as a result of road accidents;
- A continuous increase in the consumption of fossil fuels and related CO 2 emissions, which will result in an increased contribution to climate change;
- Insufficient and inadequate infrastructures, particularly in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia;
- Long and cumbersome procedures at many borders, which increase transport and trade costs;
- Old, unsafe and highly polluting road vehicle fleets, particularly in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, as well as in the Caucasus and Central Asia, which result in higher accident rates and environmental impacts.
The UNECE ITC and the Sustainable Transport Division will contribute to taking up those challenges through the further development and implementation of legal instruments and recommendations as well as the dissemination of best practices.
The economic development of Central, Eastern and South-eastern European as well as Caucasus and Central Asian countries and their integration into the European economy is very important for the whole UNECE region. Such development is currently hampered by a considerable backlog of transport infrastructures and legislation in many of these countries. It can be expected that the Inland Transport Committee will continue to play a key role as a forum for the development of the necessary legal and technical work in the area of transport and for its implementation in those countries.