On the 14-16 of October 2021, the Second United Nations Global Sustainable Transport Conference was held in Beijing, China. IRF President, Mr. Bill Halkias, was part of a distinguished panel tasked to discuss sustainable transport, poverty, livelihoods, and growth.
The conference focussed on moving towards achieving sustainable transport worldwide and aligning with the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Mr. Halkias opened by underlining how much “IRF is fully aligned with the vision that underpins the Sustainable Mobility for All Initiative” and its values of universal access, efficiency, safety, and green mobility with regards to sustainable transport. Each of these aspects bolsters the commitment to leave no one behind. The avoid-shift-improve approach is central in SuM4All work. Solutions identified by applying this approach vary of course across countries, depending on the local context and priorities. For example, in areas where access remains a challenge and infrastructure is insufficient to meet demand, the emphasis may be on expanding and upgrading transport networks, both within and between countries, with roads still figuring prominently, complemented by rail for high-volume routes.
“But the Avoid-Shift-Improve can only work if we are able to provide access to transport alternatives that are affordable and reliable” said Halkias.
Affordability and reliability of transport systems and services are key points that emerged from the study IRF conducted this year together with the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety. Thanks to support from the High Volume Transport Programme (HVT), the research investigated – in 7 countries in Africa – the gap between COVID-19 policy design & implementation and the impact it had on transport and mobility of people and goods on the ground. On this worth to mention that HVT will be launching a Compendium – the body of knowledge from the Covid Response & Recover projects – during the Research Knowledge Exchange to be held on 1st December 2021.
Finally, Mr. Halkias mentioned the importance of safe mobility and transport as an enabler of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 1.3 million people are killed and roughly 50 million are injured each year in road crashes. The poor bear the hardest burden of road crashes as 93% of these crashes happen in Low- and Middle-Income countries. These deaths and injuries also place a large financial burden on these countries, by slowing economic growth.
“There is currently a significant underfunding of infrastructure for road safety and a latent need to identify innovative finance initiatives, including greater mobilisation of private financing” stressed Mr Halkias.
IRF President concluded with recommendations for action for governments, UN agencies, the private sector, and civil society. He stressed the need for governments to approach policy formulation and road infrastructure more holistically and the importance of inter-agency collaboration within the UN. In addition, he argued for finding more common ground between the public and private sectors and emphasised the need for increased advocacy efforts from civil society.
Recording of the panel discussion is available online.