From Aidoghie Paulinus, New York

President of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Dennis Francis, has told Nigeria and other countries that sustainable transport is not an option, but an imperative for resilient, inclusive, and sustainable development.

Francis stated this during the High-Level Meeting on Sustainable Transport at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, United States.

The meeting is one of the events lined up for the United Nations General Assembly Sustainability Week which commenced on Monday.

Francis said the crucial significance of the transport sector in the global economy cannot be overstated, adding that transportation is an industry in its own right, but it is also a vital input into considerable other industries and sectors, that themselves add to global output and growth.

Francis also said transportation is a lifeline connecting communities and markets, facilitating trade, and thus driving economic growth.

He however said the unprecedented global challenge posed by the COVID-19 disease pandemic laid bare the vulnerabilities inherent to the current transportation systems and supply chains.

Francis further said that virtually, the entire world bore witness to the drastic consequences of inadequate and inaccessible transportation which disrupted supply chains, economic downturns, and crippled tourism sectors.

“The fact is — sustainable transport is not merely an option, but rather it is an imperative for resilient, inclusive, and sustainable development,” Francis said.

Francis also said the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Transport so declared by the General Assembly in December, 2023, presented a unique opportunity to recalibrate the United Nations’ approach.

“With its impending commencement in 2026 — coupled with the drafting of an implementation plan to which I hope to contribute during my Presidency — we have a rare chance to galvanize global action towards efficient, safe, and inclusive mobility, with a reduced climate footprint. Today’s meeting serves as a crucial juncture to lay the groundwork for this transformative decade, as well as for other processes on the road to get there — namely the Summit of the Future in September,” Francis also said.

Francis further said with over one billion people or one-eighth of humanity lacking access to all-weather roads, the foremost priority must be to ensure equal access to sustainable transport, particularly for countries in special situations and vulnerable communities.

“For the Landlocked Developing Countries, Small Island Developing States, and Least Developed Countries, the road to sustainable transport is fraught with obstacles — from inadequate infrastructure to impaired resilience to climate change, through to lack of maintenance capabilities.

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“As we gear up for the SIDS4 conference in May and LLDC3 in June, it is incumbent upon us all to ensure that these vulnerable countries — and the people who inhabit them — are not left behind.

“Strengthening the resilience of these countries’ transport and infrastructure systems — and promoting socio-economic inclusivity — are imperative steps towards the achievement of sustainable global development,” Francis stated.

Francis added that from public transit to maritime shipping, the global community must embrace innovation-driven approaches to make sustainable transport a reality for all.

“This includes honestly confronting head-on the negative , impacts/consequences of transport whether greenhouse gas emissions, road traffic accidents, or exorbitant maritime logistics costs.

“Conversely, we should not overlook the myriad benefits of sustainable transport.

“Consider, for instance, how improving access to sustainable transport can considerably enhance school enrolment rates, especially amongst the most impoverished and vulnerable — including girls and economically disadvantaged learners, in far -flung rural and remote areas plagued by unreliable and costly forms of transportation.

“This does not only address poverty eradication and inequality, including gender disparities — but also underscores the profound interconnectedness of the SDGs.

“Remember, the interconnected and indivisible nature of the 2030 Agenda means that advancements in one area can catalyse progress across multiple fronts.

“Let us, therefore, bear in mind and hamess this understanding of sustainable development as comprising numerous components of an integrated whole — as we deliberate today and throughout this week,” Francis also said.

In her remarks, the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj, said the progress of human history has been one of movement, from one place to another, one continent to another, with the invention of the wheel, having accelerated the passage of human beings through the various stages of development.

“It is therefore only fitting that today we gather to discuss an issue as topical, in the 21st century, as sustainable transport.

“With 2.4 percent of the Earth’s land mass, but almost 18 percent of its population has had a unique challenge when it comes to ensuring access to safe transportation to citizens in even the remotest part of the country. But we are ready! As we prepare to conduct the world’s largest election in a few days, reliable, resilient and sustainable transport infrastructure is enabling the Government of India in making sure that every voter has the opportunity to exercise his/her franchise. This has been made possible through sustained and high quality investment in road, air, rail and inland waterway transport systems, which besides facilitating last mile delivery of public services to our people, has also attracted foreign direct investments in various sectors of the Indian economy, thus taking India from the 10th spot in 2014 to the 5th spot in 2024 in global GDP rankings,” Kamboj said.