26 November 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at press conference in Ashgabat (including Q&A)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I begin, allow me to say a few words about the passing of Fidel Castro Ruz, the former President of Cuba.

Allow me to say some words in Spanish and then in English.

En nombre de las Naciones Unidas yo ofrezco mis mas sinceras condolencias al pueblo de Cuba y a la familia del fallecido lider Cubano Fidel Castro Ruz, particularmente al Presidente Raul Castro Ruz. En este momento de duelo nacional ofrezco al pueblo de la Isla el apoyo firme de las Naciones Unidas para continuar trabajando juntos.

In English. On behalf of the United Nations, I extend my deepest condolences to the Cuban people and to the family of former President Fidel Castro Ruz, particularly to President Raul Castro Ruz. At this time of national mourning, I offer the support of the United Nations to work alongside the people of the island.

I vividly recall meeting the former President Fidel Castro when I visited Cuba in January 2014. It was a lively discussion that covered developments around the world as well as sustainable development and climate change.

Under former President Castro, Cuba made advances in the fields of education, literacy and health. I hope Cuba will continue to advance on a path of reform and greater prosperity.

Thank you. Muchas gracias.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be at this important Global Sustainable Transport Conference.
I thank the President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the Government and people of Turkmenistan for their warm welcome.

Indeed, my arrival yesterday evening was at Ashgabat’s new airport with its impressive falcon shape, symbolising Turkmenistan’s commitment to enhance international transport networks.

Earlier today, President Berdimuhamedov and I opened the new United Nations House. It is a powerful symbol of the strong partnership between Turkmenistan and the United Nations.

This is my third visit to Turkmenistan – and my final one as Secretary-General.

Wherever I go I seek to discuss efforts to advance all three pillars of the United Nations, peace, development and human rights.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a compact between governments and their people. It rightly calls for respect for human rights, accountable institutions and space for civil society.

Protection of human rights is a fundamental requirement for progress. This is the moral obligation of all governments – and it is the surest way to empower people to build lasting peace and prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This Conference comes at a moment of great potential.

The Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force on November 4th– far more rapidly than many people thought possible.

There is good momentum for implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable transport plays a crucial role in advancing these efforts.

Turkmenistan is leading by example, with investments in major projects across the country.

Sustainable transport can help create jobs, cut poverty, open access to markets, empower women and promote the well-being of other vulnerable groups. It is also critical to fighting climate change, reducing air pollution and improving safety on the roads.

That is why we see so many dynamic participants here from governments, the private sector and civil society. They are forging partnerships and announcing new commitments.

I welcome these initiatives – and I have asked our UN team to follow-up.

Let me also express my gratitude for the work of my High-level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport.

When transport is sustainable, it can move us to a low-carbon, high-opportunity destination, where travel is safer, the air is cleaner and the planet is protected.

This will contribute to realizing our vision of a life of dignity for all.

Thank you very much.

Question on sustainable transport in Central Asia and Southeast Asia

Question on global transport in South Asia and Central Asia

Question on the Ashgabat process and the Conference’s future

Secretary-General: Let me answer these three questions. I think all these three questions are about sustainable transport and the significance of the Conference taking place in Turkmenistan.

I briefly said during my opening statement that I first of all appreciate the Turkmenistan Government and the president and the people of Turkmenistan for having organized this very important meeting.

Since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals -- the 17 Goals in September last year -- this is the second major United Nations Conference. The first one was held in Quito, Ecuador, during the month of October, last month, on Habitat. So you see there are a lot of issues involving this Habitat. Then, the second one is transport. Then, the third one will be held in June next year in the United Nations about oceans. You know all the 17 Goals, we are now tackling major issues and this is one of several very important conferences coming, just the second one.&nbsp In that regard, it has [a lot of] significance politically and economically and I highly appreciate it.

As I said in my statement, this transport system overall takes about 26 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in energy-related sector. If we make our means of transport, modes of transport, sustainable, then we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 30 percent by 2050. So, our vision and our target are very, very clear. In that regard, we hope that this conference will give very clear and concrete target and visions and this is what I am really going to emphasize during this meeting.

The transport system in this area, particularly in Central Asia and Afghanistan -- these are mostly landlocked countries and there are a lot of difficulties. In that regard, this is related to the second question, I have already congratulated the inauguration of a railway linkage among Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. This is great, I think it has very important implications for peace and security and not only development. It will create a lot of smooth traffic among people, among goods, freight. It will also have better border controls. You know that there are many security-related crimes in these areas. In that regard, I have already highly congratulated this one. It will take [place] I think the day after tomorrow. Even though I may not be able to participate in this inauguration ceremony, but this is highly commendable.

Now, what kind of process we will have -- this can be called the Ashgabat process. As you know, in 2014 I have established a High Level Panel on Sustainable Transport composed of very experienced, highly experienced and visionary leaders and they submitted this report last month to me. It has many very practical and visionary recommendations. The seven points which I have laid out during my opening statement -- I hope you will check -- these are based on these recommendations. And this Ashgabat process, when this finishes, will play a very important [role]. It will work as a framework, moving together in a sustainable way.

Now, there are 17 Goals, one hundred and sixty-nine targets and many indicators. The United Nations will make sure that all the member states of the United Nations will have a stronger ownership of these 17 Goals. And I can very proudly tell you that the United Nations Country Team, led by our Resident Coordinator, has already been very closely coordinating with the relevant -- all the ministries of this country, to have a target-based, indicator-based task force on each goal. So, let us hope that this transport Ashgabat process will make a great contribution to the overall implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This Conference will also draw attention to the unique needs of the countries in special circumstances, such as least-developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small-island developing states. I think all Central Asia -- I think while most of them are middle income developing countries but they are landlocked countries and there are many special circumstances, natural circumstances, which you have to address. Therefore, I am very happy to see that this Conference is taking place at an opportune time.

Thank you very much.