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Asian States set to begin signing deal on continental highway network – UN

Asian States set to begin signing deal on continental highway network – UN

Asian countries are set to sign an agreement at a United Nations meeting next week in Shanghai that will set up a 140,000-kilometre network of roads linking St. Petersburg to Singapore and Seoul to Istanbul that supporters hope will spur economic development across the continent.

The Asian Highway Agreement will enter into force 90 days after eight countries have signed – organizers of next week’s meeting of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), which starts Monday, expect that about 20 countries will sign up at Shanghai during the three-day gathering.

Last November the 32 countries participating in the Asian Highway network agreed in principle to the inter-governmental agreement, but each country still has to individually approve it.

The agreement is necessary partly to determine the details of the network, from their precise routes to ensuring that each one of the 55 approved routes meet standards and that signs are regularized.

ESCAP said it anticipates that Asia’s landlocked countries, including Bhutan, Laos, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Uzbekistan, will benefit most from the new roads by gaining better access to ports.

ESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su said earlier this month the highway network should improve communication and understanding between peoples separated by mountains, deserts, water and disparate cultures and political traditions.

“The same way it has happened in Europe, because of their road and rail links,” Mr. Kim said, referring to the 1975 move by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) to establish a similar highway network.

The ESCAP meeting in Shanghai will also play host to the first-ever Asia-Pacific Forum, starting this Saturday and running for three days. The forum is expected to attract about 300 business executives from the region and will focus on partnerships between the public and private sectors.


Video of Asian highway press briefing [39mins]