Globally, more than 1.3 million deaths and 50 million injuries are caused by road traffic crashes every year, which are the leading killer of children and young people aged 5 to 29. Over 90% of all road deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, significantly impeding sustainable development prospects. The need for much greater action to address this critical situation was the focus of a supporting event in New York for the 2022 High-Level Meeting on Global Road Safety, under the auspices of the General Assembly.
The President of the General Assembly Mr. Abdulla Shahid, with support of WHO and the UN Regional Commissions, convened governments, experts, policymakers, business leaders, academia, and NGOs to increase the visibility of the global road safety crisis, identify financing opportunities, and ensure the inclusion of road safety in national priorities.
To deliver the vision of the second Decade of Action for Road Safety (2021-2030) to halve road deaths and injuries by 2030, participants called for urgently needed financing to achieve road safety-related Sustainable Development Goals and address impacts on public health and the economy.
Mr. Shahid highlighted the importance of the Decade’s Global Plan, but warned that “unless it is implemented, it is nothing more than a plan of action.”
The discussion comprised two segments: a thematic dialogue on investment in road safety and a multi-stakeholder hearing, involving NGOs, private sector, academia and youth actors, allowing for cross-sectoral interchange to optimize road safety strategies.
Financing for Road Safety
The UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety, Mr. Jean Todt, warned that the global road safety crisis could cost the world economy USD 1.8 trillion between 2015 and 2030. He stressed that “While our priority must be securing international financial support for the most vulnerable communities, all countries should allocate sufficient funds for road safety improvements in their national budgets: for safer infrastructure, safer road user behaviour, safer vehicles, better road safety management system, more effective enforcement of traffic laws and a well-coordinated post-crash response.”
“I encourage more donor engagement with the UN Road Safety Fund. Thanks to a range of Member State and Private Sector contributions, the Fund is delivering road safety expertise and high-impact projects to 30 countries. However, far more funding is needed. I call on your collaboration as the Fund initiates its first replenishment cycle today with a Pledging Conference planned during the High-Level Meeting on Road Safety in June next year”, said the Special Envoy.
As a unique financing mechanism connecting expertise across United Nations organizations and uniting governments, the private sector and all stakeholders, the UN Road Safety Fund can be a unique catalyst for investments in lifesaving interventions. The Fund mobilized USD $18 million dollars for its first phase 2018-2021 and has just launched 10 new projects in 14 low-and middle-income countries.
By leveraging collective efforts for targeted road safety measures the Fund estimates that contributions of USD 100 million could support: saving of 64,000 lives; averting of 640,000 serious injuries and leveraging of USD 3.4 billion of country and city road safety investment.
As the global community prepares for the High-Level Meeting on Road Safety, the urgency to replenish the UN Road Safety Fund was expressly highlighted by high-level speakers including Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Russia, private sector and NGO representatives, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Financing for Sustainable Development and the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) who spoke on behalf of all five UN regional commissions.
“The majority of countries spend less than 1% of GDP on road safety investments, even though the cost of poor road safety can be up to 6% of GDP. Increased investments at all levels are urgently needed. There is ample evidence that investing in road safety pays off”, stated Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of UNECE - the custodian of the United Nations road safety legal instruments that can help countries address the main causes of crashes. According to recent studies, reducing road traffic fatalities and injuries could increase between 7 and 22% GDP per capita in low-and-middle income countries, resulting in high return on investments.
“There is an enormous opportunity for the private sector to invest in road safety improvements. Moving into safe, green infrastructure is good business”, emphasized African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy H.E. Amani Abou-Zeid.
At a domestic level, discussions highlighted other revenue sources including fuel taxes, insurance for vehicles, vehicle customs, registration licenses and speeding tickets. At an international level, options include private sector resources, philanthropic activities, donations, and innovative forms of financing tools, such as green bonds and debt-for-nature swaps.
Strengthening multi-stakeholder engagement
Underscoring road safety as a shared responsibility, the discussions demonstrated the need for strengthened commitment and partnerships at all levels. The event put the spotlight on the perspectives of families who lost loved ones, grassroots youth working on advocacy programs, and both government and non-governmental organizations supporting efforts on the ground.
"As a mother who lost a daughter to a road safety incident, I am desperate to see our leaders take this issue seriously. We have the power to save lives and prevent injuries. On behalf of victims and families around the world, I implore you to act", said road safety activist Zoleka Mandela.
Bridging the gap between global vision and commitments and concrete implementation was a key challenge emphasized in the discussions. Pablo Martinez Carignano, Executive Director of Argentina’s National Agency of Road Safety, highlighted that recommendations of experts and international organizations get to a country or a municipality, but are often not being implemented. “It is important to work together with all provinces, to make it suitable for all people. This is the only way it can be done.”
Addressing the issue of the export of unsafe and polluting used vehicles in developing countries, Jamil Ahmad, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, UNEP, highlighted a partnership – supported by the UN Road Safety Fund – through which 15 West African countries are now implementing quality standards. The EU is now revising regulations on the export of used vehicles and the African Union is consulting with African member states for a continent-wide approach.
David Ward, Executive President of the Towards Zero Foundation, stressed the importance of vehicle safety, in view of the 1 billion additional new motor vehicles expected in the coming decade. He stressed that the motor industry has the responsibility to make sure that these are safe and clean by implementing minimum UN vehicle standards across the board.
The supporting event laid the groundwork for the High-Level Meeting in June next year by addressing elements that need accrued efforts and commitment. Key action points involve mainstreaming road safety in policy initiatives; reflecting road safety as an investment opportunity aligned with climate goals and COVID-19 recovery; increasing collaboration between stakeholders, including non-conventional partnerships; identifying strategies and roles for stakeholders; and encouraging donor and private sector engagement for increased investments.
The High Level Meeting will be held 30 June - 1 July 2022, under the theme “The 2030 horizon for road safety: securing a decade of action and delivery”.