Turkmenistan: A Hub of Global Sustainable Transport Systems (II)


Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

Sustainable transport is the mantra of every country around the world because its drives sustainable development, fighting climate change, advancing the people-centered goals at the heart of the 2030 Agenda while protecting and preserving the planet and its resources for generations to come.
Recognizing the fundamental role of sustainable transport in achieving the future Turkmenistan will convene a global sustainable transport conference, on 26-27 November 2016 in Ashgabat. Previously, in its resolution 70/197 titled “Towards comprehensive cooperation among all modes of transport for promoting sustainable multimodal transit corridors”, the General Assembly welcomed the initiative of the Secretary-General to convene a global sustainable transport conference.
Moreover, the High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport (HLAG-ST) formed by the United Nations Secretary-General and launched in August 2014 will also produce the first global sustainable transport outlook report. The Advisory Group represents all modes of transport including road, rail, aviation, marine, ferry, and urban public transport providers, along with Governments and investors. The outlook report will include concrete recommendations for more sustainable transport systems that can address rising congestion and pollution worldwide, particularly in urban areas, and are actionable at global, national, local and sector levels.
Global Partnership for Sustainable Transport (GPST) is a business and industry-lead, action-oriented, multi-stakeholder initiative involving all modes of transport. It embodies the vision of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and through its actions involving the transport industry, promotes the achievement of the SDGs. To date, it has already inspired numerous public-private partnerships that target ambitious, but realistic actions to improve the delivery of viable, accessible and sustainable transport solutions.
In addition to promoting concerted action among all modes of transport and between governments and industry actors, the GPST will also play an important role in ensuring that the Global Conference on Sustainable Transport delivers impactful results commensurate with the vision of a world where transport and mobility are accessible to all. Indeed, this is a core objective of the GPST, and its important role in this historic Conference brings us all closer to realizing this noble ambition.
With the support of the GPST in mobilizing multi-stakeholder participation and interaction at the Conference, my Government has every confidence that the outcome of this first-ever Global Conference on Sustainable Transport will be meaningful, measurable and will deliver long-term impact in accordance with the objectives of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which Turkmenistan wholeheartedly support.
Many landlocked countries of Central Asia face disproportionately high transport and transaction costs, which intensify their comparative disadvantages relative to other countries at international stage. According to World Bank data, the Land-locked developing countries (LLDCs) pay trade costs that are more than twice that of the transit countries and these costs have been increasing over time. In 2014, the average cost for LLDCs to export and import a container was $3,443 and $4,343, respectively, compared with $1,301 and $1,559 for transit developing countries.
Accordingly, LLDCs’ share of global exports was estimated to have been less than 1 per cent in 2015. These unique challenges of LLDCs are stemming from their geographical location, as well as being further exacerbated by inadequate physical infrastructure, lack of effective implementation of a conducive legal framework on transit transport, low productive capacities and low diversification and value addition of their economies and exports. So the importance of sustainable transport system is obvious.
Increasing connectivity of all Central Asian Countries is a critical objective for the LLDCs in order to reap the benefits of globalization. Establishment of integrated, sustainable and efficient transport systems is a critical element in this endeavour.
The Vienna Programme of Action (VPoA) focuses on infrastructure development and maintenance, with transport infrastructure as one of the sub-priorities. The specific objectives of the Vienna Programme of Action on transport infrastructure development are given below as:-
(a) Significant increase the quality of roads, including increasing the share of paved roads, by nationally appropriate standards
(b) Expand and upgrade the railway infrastructure in landlocked developing countries, where applicable; (c) Completion of missing links in the regional road and railway transit transport networks.
One of the prime objectives of the VPoA Priorities is to reduce travel time along corridors with the aim of allowing transit cargo to move 300-400 kilometres per 24 hours; significantly reducing the time spent at land borders; and improving intermodal connectivity so as to ensure efficient transfers from rail to road and vice versa and from port to rail and/or road and vice versa. In order to achieve these specific goals within the ten years of implementing the VPoA, it is important that the transport infrastructure is well developed to reduce trade transaction costs and transport costs. Turkmenistan plays an important role to promote sustainable transport system.
Transport infrastructure in LLDCs is typically inadequate to support their greater integration into regional and global trading networks. As measured by the World Bank Logistics Performance Survey based on surveyed opinions of transport and logistics professionals, the quality of trade and transport-related infrastructure in LLDCs, while increasing since 2007, has always been lower than that of the transit developing countries and developed countries. While road transport system is the leading mode of transport for most LLDCs, available data indicates that LLDCs have relatively poor road networks compared with their transit country neighbours. The road system in LLDCs is generally characterized by missing links and poor maintenance and the percentage of paved roads is still low. Even though LLDCs made much effort to expand and upgrade their road transport infrastructure, those efforts need to be accelerated.
It is also important to establish or improve railway networks in LLDCs since transport via railways is a low-cost option suited to the export needs of LLDCs and also generates less carbon emissions and congestion than road transport. In addition, transport systems today also need to be sustainable. Yet, many LLDCs are ill equipped for developing sustainable transport. The LLDCs therefore need to have transport systems that are sustainable, efficient, reliable and have seamless connectivity.
For LLDCs, close cooperation with transit countries in their respective regions on transport is a necessity for enhancing their connectivity and competitiveness. An important area for promoting regional integration is through regional infrastructure activities and the development of transport corridors, which have the potential to address the challenges arising from a fragmented approach to national transport policies. Indeed, Governments and multilateral funds and programmes have invested in the development and enhancement of corridors in order to stimulate regional economic development.
To be continued
The Trans-Asian Railway, Asian Highway network and Trans-African Highway for example connect many LLDCs to internationally recognized regional corridors.
Organized by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Transport (GPST), together with the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the UN Global Compact, and the Global Business Alliance for 2030, this event will highlight the role of sustainable transport in advancing the SDGs. Specifically, this event will showcase the role of business and industry associations in the transportation sector in advancing key SDGs. It will discuss how to forge and foster multi-stakeholder partnerships in the transportation sector. This event will feature the role of private sector and multi-stakeholder partnerships.
On 22 December 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted with consensus of UN member states a resolution initiated by Turkmenistan and entitled “Towards comprehensive cooperation among all modes of transport for promoting sustainable multimodal transit corridors”. Co-authors of the document were 85 member states of the UN.
As pointed out by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the global transport strategy of 21st century is the strategy of the integration breakthrough, combining the geographical and infrastructural capacity, technical and technological potentials of countries and regions. Future is for the combined transportation system with access to major international and regional sea, river, road, rail and air units, an optimal mix and use of the advantages of each.
Following this strategy, Turkmenistan puts forward important international initiatives and is taking the necessary measures for their implementation. This was clearly demonstrated by organisation of the high-level international conference entitled “The Role of Transport and Transit Corridors in Ensuring International Cooperation, Stability and Sustainable Development”, held in Ashgabat in September 2014.
The forum adopted the Ashgabat Declaration, which reflected an understanding of the need for an elaboration of criteria of cooperation in this area, focused on diversification, security, availability, reliability and environmental friendliness of transport infrastructure, its closer proximity to the reality of the current global development, meeting new modern requirements. The value of the Ashgabat Declaration consists in the fact that it has brought important new priorities in the work of the Community of Nations and became a fundamental document for the development of the first UN General Assembly resolution “The role of transport and transit corridors to ensure international cooperation for sustainable development”, which was adopted on 19 December 2014.
By opening access to markets and supply chains, transport plays a key role in socio-economic development and serves the engine for sustainable growth. Because of this, transport has an impact on social, economic and environmental sustainability and is one of the factors of its software. And as noted above, transport is of paramount importance in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.
The most important task of Turkmenistan is to fully realize the advantageous geographical position of countries that are a natural transit bridge between Europe and Asia. It is located at the crossroads of North-South and East-West, as the entire region of Central Asia and the Caspian Basin, Turkmenistan, is a strong element of strategic stability in the southern belt of Eurasia, and is a promising economic partner for European and Asian countries, as well as a major energy and transport and transit hub of continental importance. It becomes an important factor of the development of export-import and transit opportunities of Turkmenistan. In view of this, Turkmenistan has identified development of transport infrastructure as one of the absolute priorities of the state policy of the country.
For the purpose of effective implementation of its capacities, Turkmenistan is guided by long-term programs aimed at ensuring the competitiveness of the national transport and communication complex on the world market, as well as the progressive integration into the world transport system, and the further expansion of infrastructure through the main thoroughfares, connecting routes and hubs in the East-West and North-South. The priority in this regard is the construction of an extensive complex, combined infrastructure of transport links and transit, covering the spaces of continental Eurasia with access to the sea terminals of the Black Sea and Baltic regions, South and South-East Asia and Middle East. In the future, this opens up the possibility of joining the international transport infrastructure in the south and east with access to China, India, Pakistan and countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The use of the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway is greatly important in the formation of the international transport corridor North-South, which provides the shortest way from the north-western areas of Europe to the Persian Gulf through the network of railways of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran.
The transport corridor Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman is designed to facilitate further expansion of mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation between the countries of Central Asia and the Middle East.
The transport corridor Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia, as well as initiated by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and implemented together with partner countries a project to build a railway line Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan are intended to operate for the effective implementation of the transit-transport potential of the Central Asian region and the Eurasian continent as a whole.
One of the significant intermodal hubs of transport infrastructure in Turkmenistan is the International seaport of city of Turkmenbashi. It is constructed on the Caspian coast which will create exclusively favourable conditions for the access of European countries to the commodity markets of the Middle East and the countries of the Indian Ocean. Construction of its own Navy for Turkmenistan is not only an economic task, but also has an important strategic and political importance.
On the territory of Turkmenistan a significant amount of automobile transport in international transit communication is carried out. In this regard, a number of priority strategic objectives consist of the construction and reconstruction of highways Turkmenbashi-Garabogaz-Kazakhstan border, Turkmenabat-Gazachak-Dashoguz and Mary-Serhetabat.
It is important to note the support by Turkmenistan of an initiative to create a Modal Highway in Central Asia with access to Turkey. This initiative of the International Road Transport Union is fully consistent with the vision of Turkmenistan on the perspectives of development of transport routes in this area. In addition, our country has expressed its willingness to act as an active partner and participant in the TRACECA program. Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA) is a set of multi-modal transport system in the region. Profitable for foreign airlines are also transit and air routes through the airspace of Turkmenistan.
The country has put into operation new roads and railways, construction of new infrastructure facilities of the transport sector, as well as introduction of modern forms of investments for the sake of the development of this important sector of the economy. Turkmenistan is also working to bring national legislation in this area in conformity with the generally accepted norms and standards of international law. International cooperation in the transport sector is being strengthened and expanded. All this contributes to further strengthening the role and place of Turkmenistan at the regional and global space.
The basis for the integration of transport and transit system of the Turkmen state into the world system is the creation of an extensive transport and communication infrastructure and network of logistics terminals. In this regard, the development of the Turkmen sections of international transport corridors should be carried out in an interconnected manner along with the main directions of socio-economic development of the country and meet international standards and criteria in the field of transport communications. Aimed at addressing the global challenges facing the international community, Turkmenistan creates favourable conditions for the formation of transport and transit corridor that meet the requirements of time.
Concluding Remarks
The Republic of Turkmenistan will hold first ever Global Sustainable Transport Conference, convened by the United Nations Secretary-General on 26-27 November 2016 in Ashgabat. Its preparatory media forum will also be arranged on September 16-17, 2016 in Ashgabat. It shows Turkmenistan’s strong political will to share its resources and geographical location to connect countries and regions. It showcases its constant reforms in every field to promote a sustainable transports system. It highlights its government’s readiness to start so many corridors for greater regional integration. It shows its leader, President H.E. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov strategic vision about development of the transport infrastructure which is one of the priorities of the policy of Turkmenistan, which jointly with neighboring countries implements big projects.
It will connects Eurasia, providing access to the sea terminals of the Black Sea and Baltic regions, South and South-East Asia, the Middle East, as well as to powerful economic centers, such as China, India, Pakistan, and countries of the Asia-Pacific region,”