The Lebanese Minister of Transport of Public Works, Mr. Muhammad Safadi, sponsored on 26 February the inauguration of the ninth session of the UN-ESCWA Committee on Transport at the Holiday-Inn, Dunes Hotel in Verdun Street, Beirut, in the presence of participating delegations from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, the Syrian Arab Republic, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
In addition to Minister Safadi, inaugural speeches were delivered by the President of the Iraqi delegation and of the eighth session of the Committee, Captain Omran Radi Thani, as well as Ambassador Bader Omar Al Dafa, UN Under-secretary-general and UN-ESCWA Executive Secretary.
In his address Thani said:" Iraq has issued Resolution 52, concerning the ratification of Law 53 for the year 2007 (specific to the ratification of the International Routes in the Arab Mashreq), signed on 2002 in Beirut. The Iraqi ratification document on the above-mentioned agreement was issued and sent to the permanent Iraqi delegation in the United Nations, New York, to submit it to the United Nations General Secretariat, on behalf of the Foreign Ministry".
He said that the draft law for the ratification of the International railway Agreement in the Arab Mashreq was now at the disposal of higher Iraqi authorities, who will examine it. He added that the General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers has issued a resolution to establish and activate the Iraqi national committee for transport. The nominations for committee members are currently underway.
Concerning maritime transport, Thani said that the Presidency Council issued Law 6 for 2007 (concerning joining the Memorandum of Understanding on maritime transport cooperation in the Arab Mashreq), and a document will be issued in this matter.
On road safety, Thani said that the General Road Directorate has planned since 2003 the implementation of a mega project to ensure the necessary elements for vehicle and driver license registration. It is an integrated project to establish modern registration complexes, and equip them with machines, devices and systems that comply with the best international standards. Such a project is considered one of the most modern ones in the region.
Executive Secretary, Ambassador Bader Omar Al Dafa gave an inaugural address in which he said "in the context of developing the integrated transport system in the Arab Mashreq, after international multimodal transport of goods operations have become among the most important operations that influence the international trade movement, and in a confirmation of the recommendations of the UN-ESCWA study on transport facilitation in 2000, UN-ESCWA put together a draft agreement on international multimodal transport of goods in the Arab Mashreq. The eighth Committee on Transport discussed the first draft, and the present meeting will examine the third draft, which was amended according to the remarks and extensive discussions of member states, as well as concerned parties. We hope that this meeting will be concluded, after discussions, with the adoption of the draft agreement, as a prelude to adopting and signing it during the UN-ESCWA twenty-fifth ministerial session, scheduled to be held in San'aa, on 24-27 May 2008".
He affirmed that UN-ESCWA was keen on being a venue for common Arab work, "in addition to its role in supporting international cooperation and transmitting successful experiences from other commissions. Permanent cooperation and coordination between UN-ESCWA, the Arab League, as well as offshoot organizations resulted in the adoption of a railway linkage plan between Arab States, which included primarily the railway network adopted within the Railway Agreement in the Arab Mashreq, with the same specifications. This plan is being submitted to the Economic Arab Summit, which convenes at the end of this year".
The end of the inaugural session was marked by Minister Safadi's speech, in which he said "it is a vital issue for UN-ESCWA countries to reach an agreement on international multimodal transport; one on which relies the process of economic and human development in our countries. We look to the meetings of the deputy ministers of transport with much hope, wishing they would agree on a final formula for the project of transport agreement, which concerned ministers can sign during the 25th UN-ESCWA ministerial session, which we had hoped Beirut could host at the end of May.
Multimodal transport system is without a doubt one of the most modern transportation methods. However, reaching it requires the development of transport services, and the modernization of systems in every country to achieve regional integration, whether on the level of land, maritime or aerial transport networks, or on the level of regulatory frameworks and the administrative work, concerning the use of informatics in data exchange and the simplification and speeding up of procedures, to ensure smooth transportation of goods between countries.
The said agreement represents an achievement, for which UN-ESCWA Committee on Transport takes credit, namely while its team has exerted significant effort to formulate the agreement.
However, we honestly say that in the absence of the required government resolution that support such a project, it will not come through. This makes us all face our responsibilities towards our countries and peoples. Each and every government will have to take the required procedures within its territory on the levels of infrastructure, legislation and administrative work".
The Session's Office
Following the inaugural session, the office of the session was elected. Mr. Hassan bin Suleiman Majani, the marketing and development director in the Omani Ministry of Transport and Economy was elected Chairperson of the session, while Mr. Omran Radi Thani Allami Fayyad, an advisor and maritime expert in the Iraqi Transport Ministry, as well as Mr. Abdallah Muhammad Al Baker, director of the plannification division in the Qatari General Customs and Ports Administration, were elected vice chairmen. Mr. Malek Assi, the Head of Foreign trade in the Lebanese Economy and trade Ministry was elected as rapporteur.
During the general session, Dr. Nabil Safwat, the Officer in Charge of the Economic Development and Globalization Division in UN-ESCWA, gave a power point presentation on the convention of international multimodal transport of goods in the Arab Mashreq, which included what was required of the ninth Committee on Transport, namely the agreement on the draft convention in its final form; asking the UN-ESCWA Executive Secretariat to send the draft convention to transport ministers in member countries, so proper procedures can be made towards drafting the documents to sign the convention; the recommendation that the draft resolution be submitted to the twenty fifth UN-ESCWA ministerial session, to be held in San'aa at the end of May 2008, as a prelude to the final adoption of the convention and its signature on the ministerial level, according to UN regulations within the context of the twenty-fifth ministerial session.