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Time to Turn the Tide, by T.Willemarck

Thierry Willemarck, UNRSF Advisory Board Member | FIA Deputy President for Automobile Mobility and Tourism


Time to Turn the Tide in Global Road Safety

The official launch of the UN Road Safety Fund, eighteen months ago, was somehow the culmination of a multi-prong effort to bring this agenda from the benign neglect status it had long been confined into to the forefront of the development policy dialogue. But for us all in the road safety community, it was first and foremost a new start, the visible sign that we were finally gearing up to forcefully tame the scourge that is threatening to undermine so many of the socio-economic benefits of economic growth in the developing world.
The FIA has been relentlessly advocating for better consideration of safety issues in all aspects of car operations, from the mundane day-to-day activities we all go through, in city streets and on the road, to the racetrack. In 144 countries, FIA Clubs are engaged daily in education and training efforts to benefit our 80 million members and the communities they live in, so that safe behavior on the road is encouraged and rewarded. But as the end of the first Decade of Action is fast approaching, we must face the fact that despite some limited progress, the rising tide of road deaths and injuries has so far barely stalled. The UN Road Safety Fund should enable us to ramp up our actions so that this tide will eventually be reversed for good.
A significant feature of the UN Fund is its capacity to mobilize private sector donors. As a matter of fact, 65% of the initial donations to the fund to date come from private sources. This is both a testimony of the commitment of the global community and an explicit expression of high expectations. With common will and larger resources, results must follow.
It is important to capitalize on this auspicious outset. The forthcoming Stockholm Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, in February next year, will be the opportunity to hit the reset button and align our forces for the next stretch, in at least two ways.
First, as the Conference will mark the formal end of the Decade of Action, we need to define a new target and deadline. And second, alongside adopting this target, we need to continue the mobilization of resources to ensure that, this time, we will not miss out.
It is therefore critical that the global road safety coalition gathers in force in Stockholm to chart the way forward for the next decade, with a view to achieve what we started in Moscow, ten years ago now. With the UN Fund in place, consolidating its strong start also means that the Ministerial should be the venue to call for a donors’ pledging conference to convene sometime in 2020, so that we can move all steam ahead with maximum efficiency.  
For far too long, competing priorities and scarcity of resources have hampered a determined uptake of the road safety agenda in too many poor countries. They had to choose between road safety or a longer road, road safety or a new school, road safety or a new sewer system. But today those trade-offs are over, or rather, we must make sure they never come back thanks to the availability of adequate grant resources, those very resources these countries need to be able to address the curse of road crashes without turning away from other immediate needs.
The time is now, and thanks to the UN Road Safety Fund being in place, there is real hope that we will, together, turn the tide. For good.