The Role of Transport in the Millennium Development
The relationship between transport
and poverty is not always explicitly acknowledged; more often
than not, it is implicitly assumed in the need to create greater
access to employment opportunities, educational and health facilities,
agricultural development, social inclusion and networking. It
is this cross sectoral nature that makes transport investment
such a critical catalyst in the realisation of the Millennium
At the Millennium Summit September 2000, the
states of the United Nations agreed upon the MDG as a framework
for measuring development progress. The goals focus the efforts
of the world community on achieving significant, measurable
improvements in people’s lives, establishing yardsticks
for measuring results, not just for developing countries but
for rich countries that help to fund development programmes
and for the multilateral institutions that assist in their implementation.
Despite the pervasive influence of transport
on the efficiency and effectiveness of other sectors, its contribution
to economic growth, and its significance in terms of government
and donor spending (transport is the largest sector in EU and
World Bank operations), the MDG make scant reference to its
importance in the development process. Where reference is made,
for example below in a 2004 MDG Needs Assessment by the Millennium
Project, the understanding of the role transport plays in development
is weak and focuses on roads at the expense of understanding
the more complex demands of improving mobility and access.
is no specific MDG target on improving the provision of
transport infrastructure. However, transport infrastructure,
which includes road networks, rails systems and ports,
allows agricultural communities to access both domestic
and international markets, facilitates school attendance
by children in remote areas, enables the government to
provide public services cheaply and effectively, and lowers
the cost of private enterprise. It is therefore, a necessary
input into multiple goals, including Target 1 on halving
the number of people living in absolute poverty, and a
precondition for economic growth itself.”
Millennium Development Goals Needs Assessment, Country
Case studies of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Tanzania
Working paper, January 04
If we look in even greater depth at each of the MDGs in turn, the catalytic role of transport becomes even clearer:
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Three quarters of the world’s chronically hungry live in rural areas, so enabling farmers to grow more food is an effective means of reducing hunger and poverty. Investments in improved transport infrastructure and services can be effective in lowering input prices, increasing agricultural production and reducing the monopoly power of agricultural traders by facilitating access to markets. Food security is also determined by purchasing power and therefore by the level and location of employment opportunities. Transport investments not only facilitate access to employment they also create employment.
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education. Getting to school in rural areas is costly in time, energy and money. Drop out rates are high and attracting and retaining quality teaching staff in rural schools is difficult. The distance between home and school, the lack of appropriate, affordable infrastructure and transport services to make the journey, and the time required to do so, are all constraints to this goal. Improved mobility can also relieve the domestic burden that is a barrier to attendance, particularly for girls.
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women. Women often carry a heavier burden in terms of time and effort spent on transport. They have less access and control over resources and fewer opportunities than men to use transport technologies. By focusing more investment in the infrastructure and services used by and appropriate to women, their time poverty can be dramatically reduced. Improved mobility empowers women to take more control over their lives by increasing their access to markets, their exposure to education and information, their opportunities to participate in income generation, community and political activities, and by levelling the balance of equality in gender relations.
Goals 4 and 5: Reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. More than 60% of people in poor countries live more than eight kilometres from a healthcare facility and there is a clear association between infant, child and maternal mortality rates and distances to health care services. Improvements in mobility have shown measurable impacts such as a rise in the immunisation of children.
Factors conducive to good maternal and child health such as antenatal and postpartum care, birth in the presence of a skilled attendant, and the availability of emergency obstetric services are compromised by distances to reach referral health services, and limited, inappropriate, expensive transport services. Long, slow journeys act as a deterrent to healthcare seeking behaviour by enforcing breaks in subsistence activities and loss of wages. Meanwhile the poor handling and positioning of patients, particularly pregnant women, during transportation can lead to critical secondary injuries.
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDs Malaria and other diseases. Transport costs are a major impediment to anyone seeking or supplying sustained healthcare treatment. Immunisation and disease control programmes are compromised by disruption to the safe and timely delivery of vaccines, and poor access prohibits the repeat attendance of patients.
The spread of HIV/AIDS has been exacerbated by the increased mobility of individuals and transport employees. Transport hubs, road corridors, and locations of infrastructure construction and maintenance represent locations of high HIV/AIDS risk.
Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability. Environmental degradation has a much greater impact on the livelihoods of the poor by increasing their vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters. Transport has a poor environmental record: greenhouse gas emissions, noise pollution, deforestation and contribution to urban sprawl. Yet transport also provides huge potential for minimising its externalities and developing environmentally sustainable technologies . The promotion of more sustainable public transport and non motorised vehicles and the development of traditional waterways can all contribute to a greener tomorrow.
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development. Transport provides the links between rural areas and the woutside world. It forges a life-link between rural communities and their markets, puts isolated people in touch with their representatives, sustains important social networks, and in general helps to empower communities and individuals by delivering freedom of movement. By providing and sustaining opportunities for rural access, transport is a key catalyst for a global partnership for development.
2007 marks the half way point to the 2015 deadline for achieving the MDGs, and as donor priorities have shifted to align with the MDGs some bi-lateral agencies are choosing to move away from transport altogether. In this context the transport sector has, to-date, been pre-occupied with justifying its relationship with poverty reduction and it’s cross-sectoral contribution to delivering the MDGs.
In April 2005 a declaration by African Ministers responsible for transport and infrastructure recognised the importance of the role of transport and infrastructure in the realisation of the MDGs. The declaration set goals specifically relating to mobility, road safety and the environment, for achievement by the 2015 deadline. This included a pledge to reduce by half the proportion of the rural population living beyond 2km of an all season mode of transport in Africa. A working paper by the African Development Bank, World Bank and European Union established a framework of transport indicators that deliver against the MDGs.
Meanwhile new cross-sectoral programmes such as IFRTD’s Mobility and Health international networked research programme are promoting collaboration between sectors to address the MDGs. The Mobility and Health programme draws upon bi-lateral funding from both the health and transport sectors.
Some MDG related initiatives are starting to address transport as a cross cutting issue. For example the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), an initiative headed by Jeffrey Sachs at the Earth Institute at Columbia University and overseen by the United Nations Millennium Project, works to deliver integrated packages of development interventions to 12 pilot villages in Africa. Transport is now firmly on the agenda of MVP and although initial investments are road focused there is an indication that services will also be addressed. One village has already been provided with a modified truck to both carry cargo and serve as an ambulance
It is important now that the transport sector build on this momentum and move forward from merely raising awareness about the relationship between transport and the mdgs to a focus on the accountability of the transport sector to actually delivering the MDGs and the responsibility of other development sectors to systematically integrate transport issues into their agenda.