Activities of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

Landmark Decision to Extend Asian Highway Network

Delegates from 32 members of ESCAP have brought the vision of an efficient, reliable regional transport network to a reality by adopting the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network in a signing ceremony during the 60th Session of the Commission held in Shanghai. The Intergovernmental Agreement lays a framework for coordinated development of the international highways in Asia, as well as between Asia and Europe.

At the opening of the ministerial segment of the ESCAP meeting, twenty-four countries signed the United Nations-planned Asian Highway agreement, a vast network of standardized roadways that will link towns from one end of the continent to the other. From Tokyo to Tehran, from Singapore to Samarkand, and from points beyond to those in between, the network now spans 32 countries and encompasses more than 140,000 kilometres. Since then, four more countries have signed the Agreement, which is now deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and will remain open for signature until 31 December 2004.

The Asian Highway, conceived and organized by ESCAP since 1992, will particularly give the much-needed benefits envisioned by the UN conference last August in Alamaty, Kazakhstan to four landlocked LDCs: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Laos and Nepal. ESCAP officials estimate that the 140,000 kilometre network is 83 per cent complete, with an additional $16 billion required to invest in highway upgrades and signage. Asian Highway-designated routes cover 11,400 kilometres in India alone.

The formalization of the Asian Highway network through an Intergovernmental Agreement was one of the priority activities of the Regional Action Programme adopted by the Ministerial Conference on Infrastructure held in Seoul in 2001 and endorsed by the Commission at its 58th Session. The availability of transport linkages and services is a decisive factor if countries are to participate in the globalizing economy.

Asian Development Bank and ESCAP signed a new Memorandum of Understanding

On 14 May 2004, the Asian Development Bank and ESCAP signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on future cooperation by the two regional organizations. The MOU follows up on commitments made by ADB and ESCAP at the International Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey, Mexico, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa. It also reflects the commitment of each organization to support achievement in Asia and the Pacific of the Millennium Development Goals. The agreement ends in 2015, which is also the target date for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. There will be a joint mid-term evaluation of the results achieved.

Combating Human Trafficking In Asia

ESCAP launched a publication in December 2003, entitled “Combating Human Trafficking in Asia: A Resource Guide to International and Regional Legal Instruments, Political Commitments and Recommendations.” It provides a comprehensive framework for using legal and other instruments to combat trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

It portrays trafficking as a multidimensional problem involving various forms of exploitation including those involving human rights, slavery and slavery-like practices, trafficking, migration, labour, and gender. The Resource Guide calls for a multifaceted response to trafficking utilizing the complete range of legal and other instruments relevant to all dimensions of trafficking.

Measuring Poverty

A workshop on “Assessing and Improving Statistical Quality: Measuring the Non-observed Economy”, held from 11-14 May 2004, was co-organized by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Asia Development Bank (ADB). The experts from regional and international statistical groups looked at ways of reducing the size of the non-observed economy as a whole in the region. The term “non-observed economy” refers to those economic activities which should be included in GDP but which for one reason or another are not covered in the statistical surveys. Workers in the informal sector include mobile stall-holders and street-sellers, as well as employees in illegal businesses, like sex workers and those involved in the manufacturing of pirated products.

ESCAP estimates that the informal sector accounts for between 14 to 30 per cent of GDP in Asia-Pacific countries which is currently not being included, and ESCAP is concerned that an inaccurate GDP estimate may result in misguided government policies, particularly in the area of poverty reduction.

ESCAP is collaborating very closely with partner agencies in the region on poverty and related issues, and also for bringing a regional perspective into the work in poverty statistics at the global level.

Regional Policy Dialogue on WTO issues

ESCAP in collaboration with WTO and UNCTAD organized a seminar on “Regional Policy Dialogue: Post-Cancun Regional Trading Environment”, from 30 March to 1 April 2004, as part of a project on Strengthening capacities of developing countries to manage globalization through effective integration into the multilateral trading system.

The seminar addressed high-level officials from ESCAP member States whose responsibilities directly involve formulating and implementing of trade policy, in particular WTO agreements, bilateral/regional agreements. The officials assessed the implementation of the Cancun Ministerial conference (constructive and effective integration of regional liberalization into multilateral talks), considered the current state of play in the WTO talks, and exchanged experiences and research findings among members on WTO accession and its impact on the welfare of acceding countries.

ESCAP and UN-HABITAT  work on urban poverty

ESCAP and UN-HABITAT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in February 2004, reflecting a commitment to closer cooperation between them to improve the living conditions for the urban poor in the Asia-Pacific region.


ESCAP selected meetings


14 July

Second Asia-Pacific Regional Ministerial Meeting on HIV/AIDS



Sixth Steering Group Meeting on Follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development


Regional interagency Working Group on ICT


ECE/ESCAP 1st Expert Group Meeting on Developing Euro-Asian Transport Linkages


Ad hoc Expert Group Meeting on Energy Services for Sustainable Development in Rural Areas



Practitioners' Forum on Human Rights in Development


Regional Seminar on Follow-up to the Shanghai Implementation Strategy for the Madrid and Macao Plans of Action on Ageing


ESCAP selected publications

Statistical Indicators for Asia and the Pacific:  Vol. XXXIII, No. 4, December 2003 (Sales No: E.04.II.F.27; ISBN 92-1-120381-3)

Integrating Unpaid Work into National policies (Sales No: E.03.II.F.14; ISBN 92-1-1201519)

Conflict Negotiation Skill for Youth (Sales No: E.03.II.F.50; ISBN 92-1-120192-6)

Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2004 (Sales No: E.04.II.F.20; ISBN 92-1-120374-0)

Guide to preparing Urban Water-use Efficiency Plans (Sales No: E.03.II.F.35; ISBN 92-1-120175-6)

Meeting the Challenges in an Era of Globalization by Strengthening Regional Development Cooperation (Sales No: E.04.II.F.24; ISBN 92-1-120378-3)