In 1991 at an informal meeting in Geneva, likeminded representatives of four bilateral donor agencies, multilateral development agencies including the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Practical Action (formely Intermediate Technology Development Group - ITDG) met to take stock of experience in researching, promoting, and pursuing a more comprehensive approach to rural transport and to explore the need for more focused work in this field. A process of wide consultation in Asia and Africa followed. At a second meeting in October 1991, the decision to create the International Forum for Rural Transport and Development was made.

The Forum’s approach to tackling the transport problems facing the rural poor is unique - it is not an implementing agency or a funder. Its efforts are concentrated on sharing and using information through networks of actors from all different levels of the rural transport sector. These networks provide a meeting place for people and ideas that would not otherwise occur. They link Latin American transport planners with their counterparts in Asia and Africa, cycle taxi associations with World Bank policy makers and Northern research institutions with Southern practitioners. This sharing and using of knowledge involves the Forum acting as both a broker of other people’s information and also as a generator of information through promoting research.

Since its beginning in 1992 with funding from CIDA, NORAD, SIDA, SDC, DfID and the World Bank amongst others IFRTD has grown to become a global network with a presence in many countries throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. The decision in 1995 to recruit full time staff to the Secretariat strengthened its position, now employing regional coordinators in Asia, East and Southern Africa, West and Central Africa and Latin America. The Executive Secretary, Editor and Communications Coordinator and Office Coordinator work out of the London office. The Forum now has over 3500 members, 30 National Forum Groups (NFGs) and 4 Communities of Practice and networked research programmes have been established as a successful approach to bridging research, policy and implementation.

With over 15 years of history a few key principles remain at the heart of IFRTD - they formed the basis of previous strategies and continue to inspire the work of the Forum through the current strategy (2007-2011):

  • Ensure the interests of poor communities and vulnerable groups are represented in the policies and practices of the transport and development sector.
  • Continue to fight for gender equality
  • Continue to pioneer collaborative Southern-driven action research
  • Champion pro-poor rural transport issues and act as a clearing house for Southern-driven information dissemination
  • Stimulate and support non-hierarchical and participatory network activity

For more information both on the changing nature of the transport and development sector and how IFRTD has responded and adapted to this, please click here.

IFRTD Annual Report 2005 - A review of IFRTD network activities through 2005 with special sections highlighting the links between transport and the Millennium Development Goals.
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