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Leipzig, Germany, 31 May 11

Jeffery Sachs, world-renowned economist and special advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the International Transport Forums annual meeting ©OECD/ITF Marco Urban, Marc-Steffen Unger, Simone Neumann

UN-HABITAT was one of the participant institutions at the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) organized International Transport Forums' (ITF) 2011 annual summit held here last week.

Top on the agenda of the meeting was finding solutions on how transport can better serve its users and through this creating more livable and sustainable societies.

The summit served as a platform for vibrant exchange of ideas about recent developments and the future of transport among transport ministers, business leaders, mayors of major cities, top researchers from Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, North America and Australia. This year, the debate focused on the theme "Transport for Society".

"Meeting People's Needs in Policy and Planning", one of the key sessions, focused on how to maximize the benefits of transport for society, now and in the future. Keynote speaker Jeffery Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University cautioned participants not to underestimate the environmental load caused by mass urbanization in the developing world and the resultant transport needs.

"While the transport infrastructure of the world is in some ways miraculous, we can't go on as we are", Sachs said. He urged participants to see urbanization in developing countries as opportunity if a focus on planning for compact cities, mass transit systems and non-motorized transport infrastructure can be ensured. Furthermore, he encouraged well coordinated cooperation between all levels of government and decision and policy makers in the transport sector. In particular, Sachs encouraged a strengthened collaboration between UN-HABITAT under the lead of its visionary Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos and the International Transport Forum.

In other sessions, experts outlined the manifold political challenges in the transport sector: short political time in office, the number of people influencing the demand as well as growing expectations. In response, participants agreed that cross-party agreements, integrating transport and land use planning, the realization of tailored answers to transport needs as well as the application of new technologies such as electric cars, implemented with the support of public private partnerships can help to overcome the challenges in the complex field of planning transport for society.

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