This is a very important topic for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It covers activities which in one way or another are the business of all the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in virtually every country in the world. For many it includes First Aid work, but just as important are the activities which our National Societies centre around injury prevention and the tasks which come with caring for the injured and the families and friends of persons affected.
This is why the International Federation has taken a proactive stance on road safety issues. Our Headquarters in Geneva is the host organisation for the Global Road Safety Partnership, one of the forefront coalitions working in this field. It is unique, for it brings together the World Health Organisation and the other major international organisations with a road safety concern - governments, National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies, the private sector and NGOs.
It is the kind of partnership, bringing together international organisations like the World Bank with community organisations, which the authors of the Millennium Declaration were seeking when they wrote of the need for strong partnerships [involving governments] with the private sector and civil society organisations in pursuit of development.
With this background, the International Federation addressed the UN General Assembly on 14 April this year during the special debate, following up on a statement made to the General Assembly last year, and taking account of work at the regional level. Our central message concerned the imperative need for effective partnerships in this area.
One element of that regional work deserves special note in the context of the discussion at this World Health Assembly. 26 National Red Cross Societies in Europe, with the strong support of the European Commission and Toyota Motor Europe, launched the European Red Cross Good Practice Guide on Road Safety and First Aid for Children at a ceremony in Berlin in April. The ceremony, which was also addressed by the German Minister for Transport, has been followed by the dissemination of the Guide throughout the participating countries, and there are already clear indications of interest from Governments, National Societies and other organisations in using it elsewhere in the world. It is now available in 13 languages, and translation into others is proceeding.
I mention this because the International Federation's experience is that although road conditions and the causes of road injuries vary greatly throughout the world, it is clear that some basic techniques are suitable for use in every country. One such, as the experience of the Good Practice Guide shows is that without education which reaches children and through them their families and communities little can be done with confidence.
Equally, as the Good Practice Guide shows, first aid and the disaster preparedness elements of good practice itself go hand in hand within this subject. This is why issues relating to road safety are on the agenda of two of the International Federation's governance commissions: those dealing with health and disaster relief. It is also a subject which engages the attention of our trained volunteers all over the world, in each of these program areas.
We have brought this and other experience to the attention of the members of the Global Road Safety Partnership, and have also sought to bring it to the various parts of the UN system which are working on the issues. Of these, the Economic Commission for Europe has probably been the most active and concentrated in its assessment of the priority. We are very pleased that the ECE shares our understanding that road safety is not only a critical public health issue, but it is one whose impact strikes at the heart of the sustainable development of communities and nations. For example, it is estimated that road crashes now cost 2% of European Union GDP. This is, of course, very serious indeed, and if extrapolated it indicates a major social and development impact from road crashes in developing countries.
The principal interest of the International Federation in the work being undertaken at this World Health Assembly lies in the way the Assembly will decide to take up the challenge posed by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 58/289 adopted on 14 April 2004. The challenge is no longer to identify the issue, but it is to get the international community working coherently to address it. To find a way, as the Malaysian Ambassador said to the UN General Assembly, to build effective partnerships at all levels. Malaysia knows well the value of partnerships, and of their capacity to generate the support and assistance that all countries, especially developing countries, need if they are to find new and practical ways to produce results.
Our statement to the UN General Assembly also supported the call for a coordinating body to facilitate and harmonise the work of different agencies in the international community.
The International Federation welcomes the decision by the UN General Assembly taken after that debate to ask the World Health Organisation to act as coordinator on road safety issues within the UN system. We trust that a way will be found for the WHO to fulfil its coordination function while at the same time encouraging existing UN regional bodies, like the Economic Commission for Europe, to continue their work. We are not sure how the UN regions will work with the WHO's regional bodies, but as the International Federation has close links with all these bodies we will give priority to helping in whatever way we can to ensure that coordination is results-oriented and practical.
We are, as is clear from everything we say and do, a strong supporter of the WHO and its Violence and Injury Prevention Department. This is a mutual support, and we were honoured to have the opportunity to add our voice to the excellent audio-visual message centre created by the WHO for World Health Day and its historic marking of road safety this year. We need more of this kind of innovative and bold action, making use of the technology which is so widely used now, especially by youth. We will be encouraging our National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to think laterally about the ways in which they enhance their own community outreach, using the Net and anything else that works in their cultures and traditions.
It is our intention to give as much information as possible to our member National Societies on the directions of international community and governmental thinking on this critical issue. We know that a number of governments have built a strong partnership with their National Society, and it is our hope that in those countries where this has not yet happened, discussions will take place in the near future on the best ways of integrating Red Cross Red Crescent experience into the development and management of national road safety plans.
We look forward to bringing that experience to the table in Geneva and New York, and in the regions, linking that practical experience with the special value contributed by the Global Road Safety Partnership. But, in the end the real work to reduce crashes, deaths and injuries must be done at the national and local level in every country in the world. It is there that the auxiliary relationship National Societies have with their governments and public authorities can add real value to the effort.