Opening Address: 1st IRF Europe & Central Asia Regional Congress

C. Patrick Sankey, IRF President & CEO

September 15, 2015

Mr. Secretary, thank you for your kind words of welcome.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the International Road Federation, it gives me great pleasure to welcome so many of you to Istanbul on the occasion of our inaugural Congress in Europe & Central Asia devoted to the region’s transportation challenges and aspirations.

Please also allow me to extend the personal greetings of our Chairman Abdullah Al-Mogbel who was instrumental in establishing IRF’s strategic vision to become the world’s leading industry knowledge platform and help countries everywhere progress towards safer, cleaner, more resilient and better connected transportation systems.

Roads are the Region’s First “Social Network”
The presence of so many regional stakeholders and development specialists, including distinguished representatives from our 12 regional partner organizations and 53 countries represented here today, underlines the vital connections between roads and socio-economic opportunities.

Roads are Europe and Central Asia’s first “social network”. They are fundamental building blocks for human and economic development whose impacts transcend national borders. We need to commit to sharing this common good for the benefit of all.

People and goods need to move for an economy to grow, for wealth to be created, for prosperity to be shared. Much as a dynamic economy depends on the movement of goods and services, people rely on roads to access employment, education and health services. By contrast, missing road links and inefficient transport services often result in artificially high prices borne by consumers.

The impacts of investments in roads have shown how transformative an infrastructure they can be for a wide range of beneficiary communities, from school-age children to farmers, and from hospital patients to manufacturers.

Roads are Europe and Central Asia’s first “social network”. They are fundamental building blocks for human and economic development whose impacts transcend national borders. We need to commit to sharing this common good for the benefit of all.

Our host country, Turkey, is itself a remarkable example of this drive towards greater connectivity, with unprecedented effort to develop and modernize its transport infrastructure by 2023, marking the centennial of the foundation of the modern Turkish republic. Mr. Secretary, I offer IRF’s heartfelt encouragement and congratulations.
Some of Turkey’s anchor investment projects are already setting new standards such as the Mount Ovit Tunnel, which when completed will the longest in Europe, or the new İzmir highway, one the biggest Build Operate Transfer projects in the world. As the President of the G20, Turkey is also in a position to emphasize the critical value of coordinated infrastructure investment and trade facilitation programs.

IRF’s vision
At the International Road Federation, we have tried to capture the connections between roads and trade with a simple slogan “Better Roads. Better World”. Since we were established 1948, our primary purpose has been to transfer the latest technologies and knowledge from those who have it to those who need it, and in doing so, promote an agenda of shared prosperity that flows from accessible, affordable and sustainable road networks

Today, IRF is a global federation representing road professionals more than 110 countries. In fact, we are THE federation that bridges all actors the road industry, whether from government, academia or industry, allowing for unmatched networking opportunities. If you are not a member of IRF, I encourage you to meet IRF staff while you are here.

One of the ways IRF transfers knowledge is through educational scholarships. Our Fellowship Program is what many have called IRF’s Crown Jewel. The core vision of the program is to take students from developing countries and give them an opportunity to earn a degree at a highly regarded university, and hence, through educating the next generation of road leaders, building capacity where it is most needed. Over the last 65 years, we have helped to fund the education of 1,350 transportation professionals, going as far back as 1957 when our first Turkish Fellow attended Ohio State University through a grant awarded under this program.

In many ways, IRF’s vision as a broker of knowledge is embodied in our cycle of Regional Congresses, which act as a valuable meeting point where regional and international transportation experts discuss and offer solutions to growing infrastructure and mobility challenges. With this Congress, our goal is to help policy-makers, planners and infrastructure operators from across the region translate these challenges into concrete policy and planning decisions.

Over the next three days, delegates will contribute to, and further their understanding of, a range of industry areas, from asset management strategies to durable pavements and environmental stewardship, all designed to ensure that the value of roads to society is maximized.

In many ways, IRF’s vision as a broker of knowledge is embodied in our cycle of Regional Congresses, which act as a valuable meeting point where regional and international transportation experts discuss and offer solutions to growing infrastructure and mobility challenges.

“Time for Results”
In keeping with IRF’s commitment to the UN Decade of Action, we will also be placing road safety at the heart of this Congress. An important milestone takes place this year with the mid-term review in Brazil marking the half-way point towards the 2010 objective of saving 5 million lives that would otherwise be lost on our roads. At a time of growing motorization throughout the region, the devastating social and economic impacts of this epidemic can no longer be ignored.

It truly is “time for results”. The region has an important opportunity and responsibility to weigh in the broader policy directions and examine ways to prevent what has become a global public health crisis.

Those countries that have been most successful in improving their road safety record have done so by taking action across a range of areas including adopting better road engineering, data systems, strengthening enforcement capacity, and adopting more comprehensive traffic safety laws. We are fortunate to be joined by representatives of the World Bank, of the UNECE, of the European Commission, and of the International Road Transport Union and world-class enforcement professionals who all share our passion road safety.

New Partnership Models
In overcoming the region’s mobility challenges and infrastructure bottlenecks, new partnership models for growth need to be identified. The private sector has demonstrated that it can be a source of data, technical expertise and solutions as much as funding, and we are much encouraged by the emergence of a new generation of PPPs across the region, a number of which will presented in the course of this Congress.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have assembled a program that I hope will inform and inspire you. We also expect it will lead to productive discussions among the countries represented here today. There is much for us to learn from one another.

May your experience this week be an investment in your future, and may you benefit from, and share in, the vast global pool of knowledge gathered here, in the beautiful city of Istanbul.

Thank you for your attention.

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