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UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety in Athens to meet officials and support the first-ever UNHCR Road Safety Project in Greece

UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety in Athens to meet officials and support the first-ever UNHCR Road Safety Project in Greece

cyclist in Athens

The UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety, Mr. Jean Todt, is in Athens on 26 and 27 September to meet several high-level officials in Greece such as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Citizen Protection, the Minister of Infrastructure & Transports, the Minister of Education and Religious Affairs and the Secretary General for Transport Affairs.  

With 1.3 million people killed on the road every year worldwide, road crashes rank as the first cause of death in young people aged 5 to 29, while more than 90% of road fatalities occur in low- and middle-income countries. Greece has lowered its road death rate faster than the EU average rate since 2009 and the country has been awarded as the winner of the 2021 European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) Road Safety Performance Index Award – with road deaths down by 54% in ten years.  

However, Greece has still the 7th highest rate of road traffic fatalities in the European Union (54 deaths per million population) while Romania has the highest one (85 deaths per million population) and Norway and Sweden have the lowest (18 deaths per million population) (ERSO annual report 2021). Meanwhile, the cost of road crashes is 1.5% of GDP (ITF, 2017). One of the main challenges the country is facing is motorcyclist fatalities which are a sizeable share of total road fatalities in Greece.  

The goal of the mission of the Special Envoy is to advocate for more investment in safe and sustainable mobility, put road safety at the top of the political agenda and ensure the effective implementation of the new Global Plan of Action for the New Decade of Action for Road Safety to achieve the global goal of  halving the number of victims on the road by 2030. It also follows the High-Level Meeting on Improving Global Road Safety held in July this year at the United Nations General Assembly, where UN Member States unanimously adopted the “Political declaration of the high-level meeting on improving global road safety”

Furthermore, the special envoy is in Athens to support the first Driving and Road Safety Project and to participate in its Award Ceremony, organized by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partners, the Catholic Relief Services, and the Road Safety Institute, “Panos Mylonas”. The Award Ceremony will be held in Athens on 26 September at the Museum of Cycladic Art, in the presence of Deputy Minister of Migration and Asylum in charge of Integration, Ms. Sofia Voultepsi. The Road Safety Project for refugees is a new initiative in Greece developed in close cooperation with the Ministry of Migration and Asylum. It is preparing 30 refugees, including 18 men and 12 women from 13 countries, such as Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Cameroon and Iran, to sit the national driving licence exam in Greece. The programme has attracted huge interest from the refugee community, with some 400 people applying to participate. 

"Road safety and driving lessons can be an excellent and productive way to introduce refugees into the social, economic, and cultural life of Greece.  And, of course, to help them find work and eventually fully integrate. I hope that this pilot project will bring on board more actors and donors to be able to scale it up to the benefit of more refugees, and into the national economy and society at-large", comments the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety, Mr. Jean Todt 

"For many refugees in Greece, not being able to legally drive is a huge barrier, especially to find employment. This Road Safety Project helps refugees to drive their way to independence and integration, by training them as safe drivers and by supporting them to pass the national driving licence exams", highlights the UNHCR Representative in Greece, Ms Maria Clara Martin. 

Notes to Editors

The United Nations has invested significantly in tackling the problem of road safety globally. Following the “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020”, the UN General Assembly in August 2020 adopted a resolution on “Improving Road Safety”, that reconfirmed its commitment to halving the number of global traffic deaths and injuries and to providing access to safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems for all by 2030. In July 2022, the road safety community met in New York City for the first ever High-Level Meeting on Improving Global Road Safety at the United Nations General Assembly, unanimously adopting a text titled: “Political declaration of the high-level meeting on improving global road safety”.  

To galvanize intersectoral actions and raise the visibility of road safety, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appointed in 2015 Jean Todt as his Special Envoy for Road Safety. He was reconfirmed in this role by the new UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in 2017 and in 2021. In 2018, together with 14 UN organizations, the Special Envoy launched the UN Road Safety Fund (UNRSF).  

The Special Envoy recently launched a new campaign to raise awareness about road safety #streetsforlife, in collaboration with JC Decaux, launched during the High-level Meeting for Road Safety and to be implanted in 80 countries by the end of 2024. 

UNHCR story: Road safety training for refugees kicks off in Athens 

Countries: Greece