We have an opportunity today, a wonderful opportunity. We have, as the other distinguished speakers have already said, the opportunity presented by the decision of the World Health Organisation to mark this World Health Day with the theme of road safety. It is the first time in the history of World Health Days that this has happened, and the first time that a health issue linked to injury has been given this prominence. We therefore very much welcome the initiative of the German Red Cross, the Minister of Transport, the European Commission and other partners to link the launch of the Good Practice Guide on Road Safety and First Aid for Children to this World Health Day.
The Good Practice Guide is a strong contribution to the worldwide effort being led by the World Health Organisation on this Day. It is, after all, about the most important reality facing the road traffic crisis we are addressing today. It is about mobilising the support of children for what we want. It is about reaching their parents and all adult drivers with the absolute imperative of the need for safety on the roads if the children themselves are to have productive lives in happy communities.
It is about recognising that the terrible cost in human lives and livelihoods - over 1.2 million people will die on the world's roads this year. As many as 50 million more will be injured. The human burden will fall most heavily on children and young, productive people. About 90% of all road fatalities affect people aged between 15 and 40.
The human impact of this is well-known, but what is less well-known is the impact of this loss and the cost of injuries to economies. The UN Secretary-General has estimated, for example, that the total annual cost of the road safety crisis is $518 billion. The direct and indirect cost to countries of the European Union was estimated in 2001 at €160 billion, or 2% of EU GNP.
In developing countries, the cost is the staggering equivalent of double the total amount of official development assistance the countries receive. The problem has an additional dimension in developing countries, for the UN estimates that 96% of the 180,000 children killed on the roads each year are in the developing world.
Depressing as these statistics might be, it is important to look to a future in which young people have a chance. We are working, in Berlin on this World Health Day, to build an opportunity for children to be empowered to work for road safety themselves. We believe, strongly, that if children can be empowered to influence their parents and the adults who drive the vehicles, lives will be saved and communities will grow. This is essential if there is to be a good chance of achieving the bold hope of the EU Commission's White Paper on Transport Policy that road deaths can be halved by 2010.
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of the world can make a vital contribution to each level of the debate which must take place if road safety targets are to be achieved. The fact that we are meeting here today for this launch of the Good Practice Guide is a testament to the energy and dedication of the activities of Red Cross National Societies of the European Union brought together in the Red Cross European Office, the German Red Cross, and the value of its partnerships with the Federal Government and also the governments of the Laender. The German Red Cross has accurately pinpointed the need for such partnerships, and through its leadership and inspiration all European Red Cross Societies have been able to build special programs and partnerships of their own, within a wider European family.
What we in the International Federation are doing now is fostering a series of partnerships designed to bind these activities in a way which adds value to the work done in each country and region, and share the benefits of experience for the benefit of each. We want to take this shared experience to all levels of the debate, and make our contributions where they can be most meaningful. This means working at the same time at the roof of the world - for example in the UN General Assembly - and at the community level with volunteers and community organisations. It also means adding value wherever we can to maximise the strength this value-adding brings.
Our Good Practice Guide contains an important reference to European Added Value. We see our work in each country as contributing to the health of the whole region, and enabling communities to see how what they do to protect and preserve life as contributing to the economic and social advancement of the region as a whole. In this spirit, we work closely with the European Commission, and also with other Europe-wide institutions such as the UN Economic Commission for Europe. In fact, we work in one way or another with all other regional bodies which give meaningful priority to the road safety crisis.
Our ability to help mobilise this community strength is one of the key messages we are bringing forward around the world on World Health Day this year.
Our mobilisation ability comes in many forms. In almost all countries it is a direct and absolutely vital contribution through first aid and other interventions at the scene of the accident or in support of the victims and their families. In many others it involves partnership with national or local government in designing and implementing road safety programs. It commonly involves advocacy and the mobilisation of communities for road safety objectives.
It is a contribution we have been making for many, many years. To give an example, the International Federation gave the issue special prominence in the 1998 edition of its World Disasters Report, the world's flagship publication on disasters. That edition included a chapter entitled "Must millions more die from traffic accidents?" The central message was that, in this second century of the motor car, everyone has a role in tackling the disaster, especially including governments and communities. That partnership message remains urgently true today, and is an important part of the presentation we will be making at the UN General Assembly.
We are saying, at all levels, that effective work against the road safety crisis must involve a sharing between governments and their National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. We are noting that this is well-established and even included in legislation in some countries, including some in the European region. Our resource, including as it does the world's largest humanitarian network, is an asset which must be involved if success is to follow the efforts being made.
We would like to see all regions and regional organisations recognise the critical importance of tackling road safety, in all its dimensions. We believe that other regions in the world can benefit from working with the experience that Europe has generated through the activity of the European Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Europe, and we have noted that there is a debate taking place in New York now on the possibility that the ECE's Working Party 1 will be given a global responsibility in this field. If we are able to add value to this work through the combined efforts of European Red Cross Societies, we will certainly do so.
It was with all this in mind that many European Red Cross Societies came together, with support from the European Commission, to mount a road safety campaign in Europe during 2004. It is targeted at children, under the slogan "You've only got one life - take care". This is where the Good Practice Guide occupies a central place.
The GPG is the now product of hard work by 26 Red Cross Societies involved in its preparation, with generous support from Toyota Motor Europe. Alongside this, the European Red Cross Societies are grateful that the Commission has so readily seen the value of working with the Red Cross network to bring effective policies into action at the community level. As Vice President Loyola de Palacio says in her Foreword to the GPG, the Red Cross has proved to be an efficient partner in the fight for safer roads.
We would say the same in response. We have found the European Commission to be not just an efficient partner, but a sensitive one too. A partner able to see the value of the community outreach which is one of the great strengths of the Red Cross, and a partner which sees that our resource reaches from the communities to the United Nations General Assembly, with a common message and the ability to mobilise support for humanitarian causes in all parts of the region, and through it the world.
We would also say, in response to the same message from the Vice President, that we are delighted by the opportunities this program provides to build and consolidate strong relationships with all other sectors concerned about the road safety crisis. It is, therefore, particularly gratifying to us that such valuable support and encouragement has been given to the European Red Cross Societies by Toyota Motor Europe. As Vice President Mr James Rosenstein says in his Foreword to the GPG, this campaign generates synergies across Europe which, by working through grass-roots, should reach a very large number of children and parents and promote practical action to save lives.
We always stress the value of our work at the local level, but we also acknowledge that such work is never enough on its own. One global partnership which is of the greatest value to the hundreds or even thousands of local partnerships formed by our network is the Global Road Safety Partnership, hosed at the International Federation Secretariat in Geneva. This partnership brings together the resources of the International Federation and its member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, Sweden's International Cooperation and Development Agency, the Netherlands Ministry of Transport, the UK Department for International Development and, very importantly, the World Bank, WHO and private sector members such as DaimlerChrysler, Ford/Volvo, DEKRA, and energy companies Shell and BP.
As such, GRSP is an active global partnership dedicated to the improvement of road safety in transitional and developing countries. It builds local partnerships between these three sectors in selected countries, to stimulate the sharing of information and experience, to bring forward policies and actions and broker projects aimed at the effective and sustainable reduction of road deaths and injuries. The dissemination of knowledge, and the expertise collected, also makes the programme relevant for governments and civil society organisations, including Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, everywhere.
One of the key points all these partnerships, and all our activities, teaches us is a point constantly being reinforced by the observations of others. It is that road safety is not just a problem for the transport ministries of member states. Death and injury on the roads is a social and public health issue that affects all parts of society, and one that all parts of society must address - whether as government, business or civil society we must work together. This key message was also delivered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on 7 January this year in an interview, when he spoke of the need for work to address the crisis as a task for the whole of government, well beyond Ministries of Transport.
The European Commission has recognised this, and several years ago took the step which Kofi Annan has urged other governments to take. The European Commission has developed an integrated plan to address the crisis, and has linked with the Red Cross and similar organisations to find the best ways to make progress.
In our view Europe has offered the world ideas about how a regional grouping can work through partners to bring a macro-problem to the understanding of people at the community level, even to children going to and from school. Our task at the International Federation now is to take Europe's experience, Europe's way of adding value, to the rest of the world. It is also our task to bring back to Europe the experience we gain from the work being done in other countries, and from that to make the whole world a safer and more prosperous place.
It is in this spirit, and with this conviction that the GPG is being launched today. Its content might seem rather basic to some, but it contains 36 tried and tested practices from 18 countries. It deals with the most basic needs for children, things like getting to school safely, crossing roads, riding a bike, learning about first aid and lifesaving procedures, and more. It is about catching the attention of children, and through them adults, and sensitising whole communities. We are confident that the young people for whom it is written will grow and live in a much better planet if the message they will carry can be absorbed by their parents and other drivers.
This is our challenge. Can we commit ourselves to using this Guide to its best potential? Can we share our experiences with it for the benefit of our neighbours and the whole region?
Of course we must. After all, to repeat the slogan for the European campaign, "You've only got one life ... so take care".
Thank you. And thank you for the opportunity to speak at the launching of the Good Practice Guide, which is now formally launched to Europe and the World.