Ireland will assume the presidency of the International Transport Forum (ITF) for 2019/20 beginning immediately after the ITF Summit 2019 in Leipzig, Germany in May. The assumption of the presidency will be a full circle moment given that the ITF was created by the 2006 Dublin Declaration.
Presiding over the ITF means that Ireland will host the ITF’s Transport Management Board, Transport Research Committee and Corporate Partnership Board meetings in November 2019 and will chair the Council of Ministers in Leipzig in 2020.
The Council of Ministers is the ITF’s highest decision-making structure, comprising the Ministers of Transport of member countries at the annual summits held in May of each year. The organisation is an inter-governmental organisation within the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that acts as a think tank for worldwide transport policy issues. There are 59 ITF member countries from six different continents. The presidency changes hands every year, alternating between European and non-European countries; South Korea currently holds the presidency, with Ireland and Morocco serving as vice-presidents.
The aims of the organisation are said to be sustainable development of transport infrastructure, prosperity, social inclusion, the protection of human life and well-being, the facilitation of the exchange of information internationally and the improvement of the capacity for decision making in member countries. The ITF maintains the International Road Traffic and Accident Database, which collates international road safety statistics.
Ireland has previously held the presidency of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT), from which the ITF was established. The ITF was officially established in 2006 by the Declaration on the Development of the ECMT, known as the Dublin Declaration, which turned the European organisation into the worldwide ITF and made full-time members of previous associate members such as Japan and the United States. Further non-European countries have subsequently joined, such as China and the United Arab Emirates.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross TD held bilateral talks with current ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim in October 2018 and subsequently held a consultation meeting with Kim in March 2019. Kim discussed transport connectivity, the theme of the 2019 Summit, at a session organised by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport attended by around 70 stakeholders.
Who Ireland’s nomination for Secretary-General will be is still open for speculation; if the example of South Korea’s election of Kim, a former Director-General of South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, is to be followed then a high-ranking transport-orientated civil servant can expect to be in the running. The highest-ranking Irish person in the ITF currently is Sharon Masterson from County Kerry, who manages the organisation’s Corporate Partnership Board.
The 2019 Summit’s theme of transport connectivity and regional connectivity is a fitting precursor to Ireland’s premiership, as it comes at a time of significant investment in both rural transport and transport in general in Ireland through the Rural Transport Programme and the Government Road Safety Strategy (GRSS).
The GRSS has set a target of a reduction of road fatalities to 25 per million people per year, which equates to 124 people per year with Ireland’s current population. Ireland requires an annual reduction in road fatalities of 10 per cent if it is to reach to its targets by 2020 and join world leaders such as Sweden in terms of road safety.