Opening remarks by Woochong Um, ADB Managing Director General, at the Asia and the Pacific Transport Forum, 5 April 2022


Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Asian Development Bank, I would like to welcome you to the Asia and the Pacific Transport Forum 2022.

ADB has held a Transport Forum every two years since 2008. From small beginnings, we grew to 800 attendees at the last in person event in 2018 and to more than a thousand attendees at the virtual event in 2020. For the second time and hopefully the last in the COVID-19 pandemic era, ADB is hosting the Asia-Pacific Transport Forum virtually to discuss transport challenges and opportunities in our fast-changing world.

The past two years since the previous Asia-Pacific Transport Forum have seen an unprecedented change in how the globe understands transport and mobility. While the pandemic recovery is well underway, the impact is still being felt and continues to shape the transport sector. As we are moving forward, this should be seen as an opportunity for better and more sustainable transport in the post-pandemic time, and an opportunity to re-imagine the future of Transport.

While the pandemic impacts must be acknowledged, they need to be seen as part of a wider vision and part of a long-term strategy for transport. A strategy that aligns with the international agreements such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, and the need to decarbonize the transport sector. I strongly believe that these issues are not mutually exclusive. Continuing to address the pandemic impacts while delivering on the wider long-term vision is possible and should be pursued.

In this context, the theme of this year’s Asia-Pacific Transport Forum is ‘Accelerating sustainable and decarbonized transport’. I would like to briefly touch upon four fundamental dimensions that will be at the center of the discussions of the forum. I will first highlight the importance of transport as an enabler of development. Second, I will recognize the main transport activities and externalities in the region. Third, I will introduce the main sessions of the Transport Forum 2022, and the connections to the ADB strategy 2030. And lastly, I will emphasize the role of knowledge and innovation in this long haul journey.

The importance of transport as an enabler of development

Transport should provide access for all and do so in the most inclusive manner. Giving access is fundamental to development , whether it is access to education, to health or to economic opportunities, and all this helps lift people out of poverty. Transport is a means to an end and while it may not have a standalone sustainable development goal like some of the other sectors, transport makes a meaningful contribution to eight of the SDGs.

When it comes to access, data shows that 630 million people have inadequate rural access and 1,4 billion people or 61% of the urban population lack good access to public transport. These numbers relate to the SDGs 9.1 and 11.2.

While providing access, transport must be sustainable. Transport is clearly broader than just getting people and goods from point A to point B. We define sustainable transport as accessible, affordable, environmentally friendly, economically and financially sound, as well as safe. Safety includes road crashes, road fatalities and injuries but as well as people perception and use, particularly important for the gender dimension of inclusivity.

Recognizing transports activities and transport externalities

Now, let us acknowledge that transport activities are growing in the region and will continue to grow. In the meantime, data shows that compared to the global average transport in Asia is characterized by a large infrastructure deficit, a low level of access, high cost of transportation, low but fast-growing vehicle ownership, and high levels of emissions.

There are some noteworthy aspects of transport in Asia. Asia and the Pacific accounts for 97% of total e-vehicles worldwide, primary because of the dominance of two wheelers and three-wheelers. This is an area where the region leads the world in decarbonization of the transport sector. Those are facts are supported by the Asian Transport Outlook data base.

Let me mention that the Asian Transport Outlook database is developed and kept updated by the Asian Development Bank and its partners. It is used to inform a greater understanding of the sector, and review and monitor how the region performs against a series of transport indicators at both the country and city level. The ATO will be widely used to inform the discussions in the Forum sessions. The database is opensource and accessible on the ADB one-line library.

The infrastructure deficit in Asia and the Pacific requires additional funding of about 2.4% of GDP. It is obvious that bridging the infrastructure funding gap requires a collective effort by governments, development partners, and private sector. Looking at it as a half-full glass, rather than half empty, this deficit can be seen as an opportunity. We are still in the early stages of development and any good decision to influence the future of transport can have a positive impact at scale.

Transport must address its negative externalities such as the congestion, emissions and road crashes. And we see very promising initiatives around transport decarbonization and improved road safety being developed in the region. The alignment of transport projects with the Paris Agreement has become a central question and strong commitments have been made by Governments and all development partners. Road safety is also a growing public health concern globally and requires increased attention, aligned with the UN second Decade of Action on road safety. Let us keep in mind more than 2,000 people lose their lives to road crashes in the region every day and many more sustain serious life-changing injuries. This social and economic loss must stop.

Introduction to the program of the Forum in the context of ADB Strategy 2030 (and transport sector directional guide)

The Transport Forum 2022 evolves around five main areas which we are pleased to discuss with our partners and broader stakeholders: (i) transport decarbonization, (ii) accessible, safe and inclusive transport, (iii) innovations and knowledge solutions, (iv) quality infrastructure investments, and (v) sustainable transport by 2030.

These topics are consistent with the ADB Strategy 2030, its operational priorities and the directions being refined and discussed for ADB support in the transport sector. Let us take this opportunity to openly discuss the contribution of transport to our shared vision for a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.

Fostering knowledge and innovations

My fourth and last point is on fostering knowledge and innovations. It is obvious that a transition is already happening, and very innovative projects and programs have been developed in the Region. These need to be replicated and scaled up. ADB would like to assist Governments develop agile and holistic solutions.

I would like to give 5 examples of innovative and trend-setting projects. The integrated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor in Peshawar provides people centric urban transport. The Bishkek electric buses and transport infrastructure enhancement project in Kyrgyz Republic contributes to the sector decarbonization and improves air quality, reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion. At a larger scale, actions for improved road safety throughout the Region are being supported by the Asian Pacific Road Safety Observatory, raising awareness at all levels and setting new standards and ambitions. ADB is a major funder and the Secretariat for the Observatory. The regional road development and maintenance project in Mongolia is building climate and disaster resilience, while providing institutional strengthening for road maintenance. The last one is the land and maritime connectivity project in Solomon Islands. The project improves accessibility, efficiency, and disaster resilience of transportation network. And there are so much many innovative projects and initiatives to get inspiration and learn lessons from in the Region.


Let me conclude by noting that we are probably in the middle of the greatest transformation in transport to ever take place.

The pandemic gave us a glimpse into a world that prioritized pedestrian travel and non-motorized options, and it also gave us a stark reminder that all transport planning must focus on sustainable options and mainstream disaster preparedness and resiliency in its design. The international climate agenda calls for an accelerated change and the full decarbonization of the sector, linked with power generation from clean sources. All told, transport must become smarter and better able to keep pace with a future that is always changing.

I reiterate that the Covid-pandemic recovery and the delivery on the international agreements are not mutually exclusive issues. In fact, they both stimulate the drastic shift to sustainable transport and the transformation we are collectively committed to achieve by 2030, and beyond.

We hope that this event can give the transport community a space to help define transport for a better future. I wish you productive discussions in the coming days.

Thank you.