A new page ináthe SCO-ESCAP cooperation opened atáthe ESCAP headquarters ináBangkok oná23 November 2017. The longstanding fruitful cooperation betweenáthese organisations is powerful evidence ofáthe effectiveness ofáthe joint efforts ináthe promotion ofáregional economic ties. For the first time ináthe history ofátheir relations, the SCO and ESCAP have organised a High-Level Side Event titled Towards Regional Transport Connectivity.
The event was onáthe official agenda ofáthe Second Ministerial Conference onáRegional Economic Cooperation and Integration ináAsia and the Pacific, which was attended byáover 150 delegates fromá57 countries ofáAsia and the Pacific, asáwell asáinternational organisations and associations. The keynote speakers atáthe event were SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov, ESCAP Executive Secretary and UN Under-Secretary-General Shamshad Akhtar asáwell asáPermanent Representative ofáChina toáthe UNESCAP Li Hong.
"Today is a special day foráthe SCO and ESCAP: our special event onáregional transport connectivity is opening a new chapter ináthe history ofáour relations. This event is the practical implementation ofáthe commitment assumed byáthe SCO member states atátheir summit ináAstana, that is, toáconsistently build upácooperation betweenáthe SCO and the UN, including its specialised bodies," SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov said ináhis opening remarks.
Speakers atáthis special event focused onáthe transport potential ofáthe SCO member states and possibilities foráthe development ofátransport cooperation withináthe SCO, ináparticular, withináthe framework ofáthe implementation ofáthe SCO Agreement onáInternational Road Transport Facilitation.
An exposition ináthe huge foyer and the material provided byáthe event participants highlighted the legal framework foráthe SCO cooperation ináthe field ofátransport and its transit potential.
ESCAP Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar said ináher address: "We have a longstanding engagement witháthe SCO. The signing ofáthe Intergovernmental Agreement ofáthe Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States onáthe Facilitation ofáInternational Road (SCO Road Transport Agreement) duringáthe annual summit ofáthe member States ofáthe SCO, held ináTajikistan iná2014, demonstrated the high-level ofádedication toáimproving connectivity amongáthe SCO member states. ESCAP provided technical and financial assistance foráthe negotiation, undertaking relevant research toásupport the drafting ofáthe Agreement and its annexes. The SCO Prime Ministers meeting held ináUzbekistan issued a declaration toáexpress their appreciation toáthis model collaboration."
"The SCO Road Transport Agreement has the potential toáenhance the sustainable transport architecture and harmonise frameworks asáan integral element ofáthe development and operation ofáintermodal transport corridors," Dr Akhtar said.
"The Agreement opens more thaná15,000 km ofáthe Asian Highway routes forátransport operation and services. It will also enhance landlocked Central Asia's access toásea. We expect India and Pakistan, asánew members ofáthe SCO, toábe eligible foráthe Agreement, which will make the list ofáoperationalised Asian Highway routes even more impressive and will provide a truly regional scope toáthis legal instrument," the ESCAP Executive Secretary said.
Speaking aboutáthe region's economic development, SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov noted that "the rapid growth ofádigital economy is changing the landscape ofáinternational economic relations and increasing the role ofámobile logistics and transport connectivity. In this context, it is becoming increasingly important toádevelop freight connectivity withináa macro-region that encompasses large industrial clusters, mining and processing centres, asáwell asálarge consumer markets."
Rashid Alimov said that the aggregate length ofámotorways ináthe eight SCO countries exceeds 12.5 million kilometres, or 18 percent ofáthe global road network. "The railway networks are developing rapidly, withánew transport and logistics hubs linking South, Southeast and Central Asian countries and connecting them toáWest and Northwest Europe, asáwell asáthe Middle East and North Africa," the SCO Secretary-General said.
The special event included an interesting exchange ofáviews. Reports were made byáTajikistani Deputy Minister ofáEconomic Development and Trade Ilyosiddin Kamoliddinzoda, Praveen Bonigala fromáthe Indian Ministry ofáCommerce and Industry, Director ofáthe International Cooperation Department atáthe Russian Ministry ofáTransport Roman Aleksandrov, Ruslan Bultrikov fromáthe Kazakhstani Foreign Ministry's representative office ináAlmaty, Director ofáthe ESCAP Transport Division Li Yuwei and other speakers. Those present agreed that cooperation betweenáthe SCO and ESCAP has potential and is spearheaded intoáthe future.
SCO-ESCAP cooperation is based onáthe Memorandum ofáUnderstanding, which was revised and signed ináDecember 2015. The SCO attends ESCAP events onásocioeconomic development, and ESCAP experts provided assistance toáthe drafting ofáthe SCO Agreement onáInternational Road Transport Facilitation.