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Transport and mobility are seen as key factors for successful socio-economic development, mitigating measures to climate change and essential to reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are to be met by 2015. In the transport sector, the traditional approach of development agencies for a long time was to focus their support on creating road transport infrastructure projects for private automobiles and road based freight transport for regional development.

This, however, was done at the expense of support for sustainable mobility such as low cost mass public transport, cycling and pedestrian improvements, road safety or institutional capacity building. Through their funding policies international and national donor organisations – the so-called Official Development Assistance (ODA) – play a lead role in shaping and redirecting transport policies and planning in developing countries.

In order to explain how future policies in transport should be formulated it is necessary to understand that sustainability in transport does not only imply transport infrastructure, but can be embedded in a larger policy approach. Financing of infrastructure, investments in public and non-motorised transport, institutional development or road maintenance all are requiring significant funding. Because developing countries face severe financial limitations, budgetary considerations should become the starting point of planning.

Available funds – both grants and credit – must be assessed carefully and then spent effectively and rationally. This could mean diminishing the tendency of policy makers towards prestige projects in fostering a sustainability-oriented prioritization of transport projects.