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Ministers sign resolution to support sustainable inland transport, building on 75 years of cooperation at Inland Transport Committee

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The 75th anniversary session of the Inland Transport Committee (ITC) concluded at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), after a week of forward progress in the fields of inland transport connectivity, road safety, accessibility, and sustainability. 

Among the week’s accomplishments was a ministerial resolution on “Ushering in a decade of delivery for sustainable inland transport and sustainable development”, signed by 41 Ministers and Heads of Delegations. 

The ministerial resolution expresses the commitment of member States to build on the progress made by the ITC over the past seven and a half decades in creating safer, more accessible, and sustainable inland transport, while also embracing new changing technology and the needs to address challenges like climate change and disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The resolution begins by acknowledging the unique role the ITC has played over the past 75 years as the centre of the United Nations conventions.  The ITC oversees 59 conventions and other legal instruments that have formed the core international regulatory framework for inland transport regionally and globally.  Today 151 United Nations Member States are contracting parties to at least one of these conventions.

The resolution also recognized the number of global challenges the world is facing right now, including climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the ITC strategy until 2030 is a means to help address these challenges.

The ITC strategy until 2030 provides a framework for ITC and its subsidiary bodies to contribute significantly to safe, sustainable, accessible, and socially inclusive inland transport systems across the world.  The strategy has four pillars including developing and updating regional and global inland transport conventions; supporting the development of new technologies and innovations; promoting regional, interregional and global inland transport policy dialogues; and lastly, promoting sustainable regional and interregional inland transport that is interconnected and allows greater mobility.

Among the decisions in the resolution is the commitment to support the ITC strategy until 2030 though means ranging from encouraging more countries to become contracting parties to the ITC conventions, to mobilizing resources and finances with sustainable development objectives to enable the work of ITC. 

Many of the decisions in the resolution focus on embracing and accelerating the successes of the last few years. For example, there is a request for the contracting parties of the Customs Convention on the International Transport of Goods under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention) to place a high priority on connecting their national customs systems to eTIR.  The TIR Convention allows goods to be shipped across several borders using one customs clearance, a TIR Carnet. The eTIR system digitizes the Carnet   allowing speedier contactless border crossing. This not only creates faster international transport, but also reduces the likelihood of major interruption to global trade.

Emphasis is also placed on leveraging the regulatory and policy recommendation functions of the ITC to deal directly with climate change, guided by the goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. The ITC has already succeeded in creating regulations and policies to reduce harmful emissions and energy consumption, particularly in road transport.  Promoting intermodality - the seamless integration between various transport systems such as rail, road, and waterways – could further reduce environmental impacts.  The resolution requests the ITC to continue working to produce harmonized solutions to climate issues and environmental degradation while paying particular attention to the needs of small island developing States, least developed countries, and landlocked developing countries in achieving their sustainable low-carbon transport objectives.

There were also several side events at this year’s session, including a high-level event on used cars in Africa, which explored the advantages and challenges of ensuring access for low- and middle-income countries to safer and cleaner used vehicles. The Global Road Safety Film Festival focused on raising awareness of the global road safety crisis and highlighted smart and safe solutions; while discussions on “Automation, Connectivity and E-Mobility” explored progress and challenges in this cutting-edge area and showcased cooperation at UNECE on the new frameworks and regulations for automated/autonomous vehicles and their safe use in traffic. An event on the Euro-Asian Transport Links (EATL) project took stock of progress achieved and explored ways to enhance transport connectivity in the future.

The weeklong session ended with a round table entitled “On the road to sustained and full recovery: post-COVID-19 initiative for inland transport and the role of the Committee”, which brought together key stakeholders for a strategic discussion on the new actions needed.

More information on the ITC 75th Anniversary session can be found here.

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