“This conference makes it clear that over the past ten years, we have witnessed a truly worldwide recognition of the problem of road traffic crashes that the International Federation described as alarming and global in its World Disasters Report, back in 1999”, noted Dr Vadim Kadyrbaev Vice-President of the Kazakhstan Red Crescent Society.
Dr. Kadyrbaev spoke as the representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), at the Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, held in Moscow on 19 and 20 November.
More than a thousand high-level representatives of governments, non-governmental and international organizations from nearly 140 countries attended the first-ever governmental-level ministerial meeting on the subject of road safety. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev addressed the conference calling all participants, among other things, to join in an international effort to address this crisis, as vigorously as during the recent world financial crisis.
World Health Organization statistics illustrate the tragic toll of road crashes – almost 1.3 million people die on the road each year, and up to 50 million more are injured.
The Conference adopted a declaration aiming to reduce the global toll of road deaths. The document declares 2011-2020 a decade of action for road safety, it appeals to the international donor community to ensure funding for global, regional and national road safety programmes and it emphasizes the necessity to evaluate progress. The declaration will be the basis for the fifth UN resolution on the subject.
“One of the enemies of road safety is our fragmentation, the fact that we are all working separately in different countries,” says Andrew Pearce CEO of the Global Road safety Partnership (GRSP), a programme hosted by the IFRC.
“One of the most important features of road safety is bringing people together from different walks of life. Without solving the fragmentation problem, the funds will not be found. We need to make a difference to address this problem, and this conference helped take a step forward.”
The IFRC calls for urgent and global action
The IFRC took an active part in the world forum and presented its recent advocacy document, entitled: Road Safety - Call for Action.
The Call for Action is addressed to governments, the business sector and civil society. It explains the scale of the rapidly escalating road safety crisis, reviews the response of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and details simple, cost-effective and proven preventive measures which can reduce the mortality and injury rate on the roads.
“The last decade has been used to prepare both minds and nations to effectively address the road safety issue. It is now clearly, urgently, time for action. This is what we advocate in our report,” explains Gerard Lautrédou, IFRC road safety advisor.
“The main challenge of the Moscow conference was to obtain commitments for more action and more sustainable funding over the next decade, in order to reverse the deadly and increasing toll of road crashes and their tragic human, social and economic consequences,” he said.
Out of the three factors – roads, vehicles and the human factor, people’s behaviour accounts for nearly 90 per cent of road crashes because of speeding, drinking and driving, or not wearing a seatbelt or a helmet.
“We, as leaders in the health and social sectors, must set a good example in our countries by persuading our staff, our volunteers and our partners to be model road users. That’s why we have designed a Personal Road Safety Commitment Card, which I invite you to use and adapt to your context,” Vadim Kadyrbaev said, as he presented it to the world community of road safety experts. The card lists ten road safety commitments which the cardholder promises to respect.
In developing nations, the cost of road crashes reaches between 1 to 3 per cent of the gross national product, often exceeding the amount of international development assistance received each year. Reducing these costs can alleviate poverty. Better road safety saves lives and livelihoods, helps build safer communities and reduce poverty.
Tatyana Lineva, a member of the IFRC delegation and of the Russian Red Cross, drew the attention of participants in the panel discussion to the necessity for proper and continuous first aid training. “Some 30 per cent of deaths on the roads happen because people do not have basic skills to provide first aid before medical crews arrive,” she noted.
More than one third of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are actively involved in road safety programmes. Many have integrated road safety in their first aid programmes. They implement public awareness campaigns on safe behaviour for road users, promote road safety education for their staff and volunteers as well as for students, and provide first aid courses for professional drivers and the general public, among other activities.
“National Societies can play a crucial role in addressing this global crisis,” says Gérard Lautrédou. “At the national level they can persuade decision-makers to pass and enforce effective traffic laws, to improve road conditions and emergency health services. At the local level, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff are particularly effective in terms of informing the general public about road safety and persuading people to become responsible road users,” he said.
Getting together, ensuring global support
Road safety is clearly a UN priority - under the coordination of the WHO, a global platform was established, known as the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration, which includes UN agencies, some 30 organizations active in the field of road safety, the IFRC and the GRSP.
The GRSP supports Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other organizations to either reinforce existing services and resources or identify and implement new road safety activities, mainly in developing countries.
Together with five other organizations, the GRSP will receive a substantial grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to collaborate in a five-year, 125-million-USD programme to reduce death and serious injury on the roads of low- and middle-income countries.
“We are confident that news of the Bloomberg Philanthropies investment – by far the largest single donation ever to road safety - will serve as a motivator to governments, business and civil society both to raise their investment levels and to work together to reduce and ultimately eliminate this man-made crisis,” said Andrew Pearce.