Political leadership, along with sustainable financing from the international community, are needed to create safer roads, save lives and help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), General Assembly delegates agreed during the conclusion of a two-day high-level meeting on global road safety, in which 80 delegations participated and three multi-stakeholder panels were held.
General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid (Maldives) said the milestone political declaration adopted on Thursday highlights the shared responsibility of all stakeholders at all levels and recognizes the primary responsibility governments hold for improving road safety.
In his closing remarks he stressed: “We resolved to strengthen political will and promote cooperation with all stakeholders, as we strive to implement a comprehensive approach to road safety, one based on science, evidence and best practices, and that addresses risk factors that undermine road safety.”
Referring to the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, he said the document’s broad set of actions must be adapted to meet the needs of local communities. “They should prioritize the safety of especially vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and bicyclists,” he added.
Nicaragua’s delegate said his Government has been increasing road construction throughout the country, rapidly reaching 6,000 kilometres, when before 2007 there were about 2,000 kilometres of road in the country and only 600 kilometres were in good condition. This ensures highways and roads reach the most vulnerable and those in farthest-flung places, so that transportation and access, as well as energy and electricity, benefit all.
The representative of Zimbabwe reported that his country is one of many that have missed the Sustainable Development Goal to halve road traffic deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents, pointing out that the situation is more acute in developing countries. Due to climate change, increased incidences of cyclones and floods have damaged transport infrastructure and routes. Roads are considered key economic enablers in attaining the Government’s vision of becoming an upper-middle-income society. However, sanctions by some Western countries remain an albatross to achieve road safety targets, he pointed out, calling for them to be lifted.
The delegate of Sri Lanka said road safety is both a global public health issue and an economic issue, causing unnecessary burdens and tragic consequences to families, communities and economies. Fatal and non-fatal road accident injuries are estimated to cost the world economy from 2015-2030 about $1.8 trillion (in 2010 U.S. dollars). The main challenge facing developing countries is the need for financing. He estimated that Sri Lanka will need nearly $2 billion over the coming decade to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3.6 target, which is a 50 per cent reduction in national road crash fatalities by 2030.
The observer for the Sovereign Order of Malta said that when ambulances are called, it is often the site of a road traffic accident, adding that 200,000 people die each year when their lives could have been saved if somebody close to them had known first aid. However, Member States did not include a requirement that all learner drivers take up cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid training in the political declaration approved on Thursday. He called on the international community to review that mandate and he urged Governments to play a more direct role in requiring their citizens to be familiar with simple first aid measures that can, and will, save lives.
Dr. Etienne Krug, Director of the Department for Social Determinants of Health at the World Health Organization, presented a summary of the three multi-stakeholder panels held earlier in Friday’s session. Suggestions on the steps needed to address unsafe and unsustainable transportation systems were made, along with suggestions and concrete examples of the actions underway in many countries and cities around the world regarding leadership, financing, prevention programmes, and the strengthening of trauma care systems. Many participants made commitments to implement solutions that are known to work, while non-governmental organizations and the private sector demonstrated their eagerness to contribute to the efforts of global, national and local communities.
“If we are to achieve that decrease, we have to change, do things better, and with more intensity,” he stressed, urging participants to talk with their Heads of States and Governments. He also urged participants to talk to their ministers for finance as well and underlined the need for funding from both the international community and, in larger part, from national budgets. Road safety interventions are ranked among the most cost-effective interventions that can be done for public health, he emphasized, adding: "They are worth the investment.”
Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and Target 3.6 of this goal are focused on road traffic injuries and aim to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2030.
Today’s session included three multi-stakeholder panels. The first, “Incorporating road safety into sustainable development: political will and whole-of-government approach,” zeroed in on global road safety. The panel aimed to lay out the key elements of effective leadership in road safety; to share the road safety experience of leaders in different sectors and at different levels of Government; consider ways to build a cadre of effective leaders for road safety; and identify key priorities for the next decade. The panel was co-chaired by Zsuzanna Horváth (Hungary) and Gbolié Desire Wulfran Ipo (Cote d’Ivoire) and included a keynote statement by Audley Shaw, the Minister of Transport and former Minister of Finance of Jamaica.
The morning’s second panel, “Mobilizing all stakeholders to accelerate the implementation of the Global Plan and achieve the 50 per cent reduction,” aimed to illustrate the achievements in road safety brought about by international collaboration across the sectors. The panel also Identified the broader range of partners needed to accelerate progress on evidence-based road safety policies and programmes; define how a greater level of commitment and investment would help achieve the global goals and identify the key priorities for the upcoming decade. The panel was co-chaired by Tomas Enroth, Minister of Infrastructure of Sweden and Benaceur Boulaajoul, the Director-General of the National Road Safety Agency of Morocco. Rochelle Sobel, President of the Association for Safe International Road Travel, in the United States, delivered the keynote address.
The afternoon panel focused on financing, “Sustained domestic investments and international financing for capacity-building and development assistance in evidence-based road safety interventions.” The panel highlighted examples of how present investments in transport systems successfully include a road safety component; how different global goal areas can co-operate for mutual benefits; and laid out various financing options for creating safe and sustainable transport systems in the future. It also identified key priorities for the upcoming decade.
The panel was chaired by Saul Castelar, Vice Minister of Transport of El Salvador and the keynote address was delivered by Francois Bausch, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Minister for Mobility and Public Works of Luxembourg.
Also speaking today were delegates from Japan, Belarus, Guatemala, Côte d'Ivoire, Bangladesh, Colombia and Bolivia.
An observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also spoke.