Representatives of more than 30 countries are today attending a United Nations investment forum in Bangkok to drum up financing to complete the Asian Highway Network, the ambitious plan to crisscross the continent with 141,000 kilometres of high-quality roads.
About $26 billion has already been committed to upgrading the network, according to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), but a shortfall estimated at $18 billion remains to upgrade another 12,000 kilometres of roads to meet the necessary standards.
Twenty-eight countries signed a pact, developed in 2005 with UNESCAP’s help, undertaking to make every possible effort to comply with the minimum desirable standards both in constructing new routes and in upgrading and modernizing existing ones.
When the highway upgrading is completed, the 32-country network – which will link cities as far apart as St. Petersburg and Singapore, and Seoul and Istanbul – will facilitate trade and tourism as well as access to landlocked countries.
In the two years since the treaty came into force, over 10,000 kilometres of roads have been upgraded, mainly in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. So far, all sections of the network in only 13 countries meet the treaty’s minimum standards.
Today’s forum is also being attended by representatives of 10 international organizations and many members of the private sector.