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International organisations

A key role in developing Euro-Asian transport linkages and revitalising the Great Silk Road is played by the United Nations.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration adopted by heads of State and government on 8 September 2000 set a number of development goals which include assistance to landlocked countries in overcoming the impediments of geography by improving their transit transport systems (paragraph 18 of the Declaration).

Landlocked countries, in particular Central Asian nations, are links in the transit chain used by their neighbours. Therefore, transit countries may benefit from actions to enhance the efficiency of transit trade and transport.

The Almaty Ministerial Conference organised by the United Nations in 2003 was the first global high-level event to address the special challenges and needs of landlocked developing countries to ensure their effective integration into the global economy by creating efficient transit systems both in landlocked and transit developing countries. The Conference adopted the Almaty Programme of Action envisaging a clear-cut sequence of steps aiming to:

  • provide access to and from the sea for all modes of transportation;
  • reduce costs and improve quality of services to enhance the competitiveness of exported goods;
  • reduce delivery costs of imported goods;
  • address problems of untimely and unreliable delivery of goods;
  • create appropriate national transport systems;
  • reduce loss, damage and deterioration en route;
  • facilitate expanded exports;
  • enhance safety of road transport and people living along transport corridors.

You can read the text of the Almaty Declaration and Programme of Action here.

On 20 December 2006, the UN General Assembly at its sixty-first session in New York adopted Resolution 61/212 concerning the 2008 midterm review of the Almaty Programme of Action.

In paragraphs 9 and 11, the resolution calls upon relevant international organisations to integrate the Almaty Programme of Action into their relevant programmes of work. It also recommends to them to provide continued support to landlocked and transit developing countries. The Resolution also formalises the decision to hold a midterm review of the Almaty Programme of Action in 2008.

The most important role in efforts to develop Euro-Asian transport linkages is played by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

The UNECE pioneered the recognition of the strategic importance of Euro-Asian transport linkages. As early as in February 1995, the UNECE Inland Transport Committee (UNECE ITC) emphasised the importance of expanding rail and highway networks Eastward beyond Europe, which actually took place, mainly through UNECE infrastructure agreements, in particular the 1975 European Agreement on Main International Traffic Arteries (CMA).

European highways in the Caucasus and Central Asian regions coincide with historic routes of the Great Silk Road


Presently, the development of Euro-Asian transport linkages is becoming a basic priority for UNECE laid down in its Work Programme. The UNECE working body mandated to deal with the development of Euro-Asian transport linkages is the Working Party on Transport Trends and Economics (WP.5) of the UNECE ITC.

A key role in linking the transport networks of Asia and Europe and in facilitating the development of trade and tourism between the two continents is played by UNESCAP. In the early 1990's, the UNESCAP Secretariat proposed the Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development Project - ALTID. One of the main project objectives was to encourage the development of regional and inter-regional land transport of goods and passengers. An important outcome of the ALTID project was the drafting of a map of land traffic arteries covering the entire Asian continent as well as fulfilling minimum obligatory requirements concerning the implementation of infrastructure standards necessary to connect the region's transport network with its European counterpart.

In order to improve and expand the transport network in Asia and the routes connecting Asia and Europe, the UNESCAP adopted Resolutions 48/11, “Road and rail transport modes in relation to facilitation measures”, and 52/9, “Intra-Asia and Asia-Europe Landbridges”. To implement these Resolutions as well as the ALTID project, work was launched to prepare a fundamental Intergovernmental Agreement on Asian Highways.

This Agreement was signed in Shanghai in 2004. It applied the standards laid down in the equivalent 1975 European Agreement on Main International Traffic Arteries (CMA) to the Asian region, including China. The entry into force of this Agreement in June 2005 following the required number of ratifications connected the road networks of Europe (“E”) and Asia (“AH") and harmonised road standards and requirements. This eliminated the systemic barrier impeding the development of road transport between European and Asian countries.

Since 2002, UNESCAP and UNECE have been implementing a joint project of institutional capacity-building to develop Euro-Asian land and land-cum-sea transport linkages. The project involves consistent steps to develop transport links between Europe and Asia, including network identification, setting priorities for infrastructure development, etc. The implementation of the project will enable all European and Asian countries, primarily landlocked ones, to benefit from the creation of an integrated and coherent Euro-Asian transport system. The joint UNECE/UNESCAP project will be implemented until 2011.

You can find additional details on the Joint UNECE/UNESCAP project here.

The thrust of the efforts of the International Road Transport Union (IRU) has focused on comprehensive facilitation of the development of road transport, inter alia, between Europe and Asia, and measures to facilitate border controls and eliminate barriers in the way of road transport.

To address this goal, the IRU organised four international Euro-Asian transport conferences (in Irkutsk in 2001, Teheran in 2003, Beijing in 2005, and Warsaw in 2007), and arranged three demonstration caravans (Lisbon – Vladivostok in 2004, Beijing – Brussels in 2005). The caravans showcased the enormous capacity of road transport to deliver goods from Asia to Europe and vice versa.

Considerable efforts have also gone into the elimination of barriers for road transport in the member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This endeavour has also been important in the context of developing Euro-Asian transport links, since virtually all land routes connecting the two continents run across CIS member states.

Additional details on the IRU’s efforts to develop road transport between Europe and Asia and on the adopted policy documents can be found here.

Given the strategic situation of the Black Sea region as a crossroads between Europe and Asia, the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) adopted a number of initiatives designed to facilitate seamless inter-regional road transport. Especially noteworthy among those initiatives are the Memorandum of Understanding on the Black Sea Ring Highway and the Memorandum of Understanding on Facilitation of International Road Transport in the Black Sea Region.

Integration groups have also made a practical contribution to the development of Euro-Asian transport linkages.

The European Communities have taken consistent steps to develop transport between their MemberStates and other countries and regions. In the early 1990s, the Commission of the European Communities initiated the TRACECA Programme (“Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia”) within the framework of the Technical Assistance Programme for the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS). TRACECA is a programme in support of political and economic development in the regions of the Black Sea, Caucasus and Central Asia through the improvement of the international transport system and development of international goods and passenger traffic. The objectives of the TRACECA Programme are laid down in the 1993 Brussels Declaration.

Presently, 13 nations are participating in TRACECA: five in Europe, three in the Caucasus and five in Central Asia. Between 1996 and 2006, 61 technical assistance projects and 15 investment projects were implemented as part of TRACECA, with a total worth of EUR 160 million.

TRACECA has facilitated mobilisation of large-scale investment on the part of partner business organisations, such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) which has allocated investment funds for the implementation of key projects in such areas as seaport, railway and road construction along the TRACECA corridor the World Bank which has funded new major road sector projects in Armenia and Georgia the Asian Development Bank which has allocated significant investment resources for the improvement of road and rail sectors and the Islamic Development Bank which has invested in the development of transport sector in TRACECA countries.

In addition, private investors from the European Union have also been involved in joint ventures with transport operators from the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Since 2005, a trans-European transport expansion programme has been implemented in the European Union which laid the foundation of EU transport policy in subsequent years.

Thus, the efforts of international organisations have proved that a market niche already exists  for road transport in goods flows between China and Europe and that road transport can serve as a genuine foundation for stable and cost-effective transport linkages between the two continents. This is fully in line with the goals and objectives of international organisations, including those of the Charter of the United Nations and its Millennium Development Goals.




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