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1st IRF Asia Regional Congress – Opening Address

C. Patrick Sankey, IRF President & CEO

Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the International Road Federation, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Bali on the occasion of our inaugural Asia Regional Congress devoted to the continent’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 Asia’s First “Social Network”

The presence of so many regional stakeholders and development specialists, including distinguished representatives from our 23 regional partner organizations and 51 countries represented here today, underlines the vital connections between roads and socio-economic opportunities.

Roads are 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, nowhere more so than in Asia.

In 1959, Asia’s governments committed to delivering a region-wide network of highways as a means to increase connectivity and support the growth of national economies. The removal of physical and non-physical barriers is a powerful enabler of international commerce, and it is encouraging to note that the Trans-Asia Highway convention now covers 141,000 km of roads passing through 32 countries.

Our host country, Indonesia, is itself a remarkable example of this drive towards greater connectivity, with investments worth US $104 billion in transport infrastructure investments over the next five years. Many of the resulting projects, such as the Trans Java Toll Road, The Trans Sumatra Toll Road, or the planned Sunda Strait Bridge have become emblematic of the Indonesian government's determination to overcome a historic infrastructure deficit.

IRF’s vision

At the International Road Federation, we have tried to capture these connections 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 members in more than 90 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 1,346 transportation professionals. In 1950, our first Asian Fellow attended Yale University through a grant awarded under this program.

Setting the frame

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 Asia 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 keeping with IRF’s commitment to the UN Decade of Action, we will also be placing road safety at the heart of this Congress.

November 16 – yesterday – marked the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Remembering the victims of traffic crashes comes easily enough to the relatives and friends of the estimated 1.3 million who lose their lives to traffic injuries every year . It is for the rest of us that the World Day of Remembrance was intended, to remind us of the suffering caused by countless individual tragedies, help us reflect on the societal burden their loss represents, and examine ways to prevent what has become a global public health crisis. We owe this much to those whose lives were cut down too soon

At a time of growing motorization throughout the region, the devastating social and economic impacts of this epidemic can no longer be ignored.

Basic, well-known engineering measures - from low-cost road markings and pedestrian refuges to higher-cost intersection upgrades on high-risk roads - can help to protect people from death or injuries. They also repay their investment, because road crashes are expensive in economic terms. We have to make sure that road safety considerations are applied more widely by planners and engineers.

We also recognize that 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 data systems, strengthening enforcement capacity, and adopting more comprehensive traffic safety laws. We are fortunate to be joined by representatives of the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility, ASEAN NCAP , the International Road Assessment Program and world-class enforcement professionals who all share our passion road safety.

In overcoming the region’s societal 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 Indonesia and the region, a number of which will presented in the course of this Congress.

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 Bali.

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