In a bid to achieve regional integration, the 12 member countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) today adopted a transport agreement aimed at developing and harmonizing international roads in the region.
In a message to the meeting, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the importance of transport for cross-border cooperation and commerce "cannot be stressed too highly", as the experiences of Europe and other regions had amply illustrated. ESCWA's adoption of the Agreement on International Roads in Arab Mashrek would be "a landmark in the life of the Commission," Mr. Annan said in a message delivered on his behalf by Mervat Tallawy, ESCWA's Executive Secretary.
The Secretary-General also noted his appreciation that the agenda of ESCWA's two-day 21st ministerial session, which opened today in Beirut, Lebanon, included the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He expressed regret that conflict continued to plague the region's development efforts and pledged that the UN, "through diplomacy, peacekeeping operations, development agencies and humanitarian assistance," would continue to do its utmost in the search for peace.
In her own statement, Ms. Tallawy noted that other priorities before the Commission included addressing the problem of scarcity of water, rationalizing energy use and developing and upgrading technology. She also stressed the need for ESCWA to be provided with sufficient financial support to carry out its work, which was currently restricted due to the lack of sufficient budget resources.
ESCWA is one of the five regional commissions that report to the UN Economic and Social Council, the principal organ responsible for coordinating economic and social activities in the UN system.