The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is very pleased to have the opportunity to speak under this item this year. It is an item containing a topic of very great significance to many national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the European region, and indeed around the world.
The Commission has before it a proposal which would open membership of the Working Party on Road Traffic Safety (Working Party 1) of the Inland Transport Committee to any countries which are parties to the 1968 Conventions on Road Traffic and on Road Signs and Signals, even if they are not themselves members of the ECE.
The International Federation believes this would be of great benefit to WP 1, the ECE and to the international community's work to reduce the human and other costs of road traffic injuries. We also believe that the ECE, through WP 1, has made a very significant contribution to the world's awareness of the extent of road traffic injuries.
It has also made important contributions in some areas of strong relevance to the daily work of our National Society members. One such is First Aid, and in September 2004 WP 1 considered a note prepared by the World Health Organisation and the International Federation on the contents of a vehicle first aid kit.
That work was organised in a small group on assistance to road victims (France, Israel, the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims and our International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies). In our view it also deserves to be recorded as an achievement, especially in the year which saw road safety given such international prominence.
WP 1 is acknowledged in all regions - well beyond Europe itself - as the leading body in the United Nations itself in this field. It brings together governments, specialised agencies, other international organisations, NGOs and the private sector in a unique collaboration on a matter of the greatest importance for sustainable development. The ECE Transport Division is also widely praised for its support for the Working Party and its members.
This ECE contribution is one which deserves to be highlighted at this Session, for 2004 was a very important year for work to improve road safety conditions, in Europe and around the world.
It is also important to recognise the significance of road safety as an issue in economic terms. I won't dwell on this aspect in this statement, for the facts are well-known. It is, however, relevant to note for the purposes of the mandate of this Commission that the cost of road injuries to developing countries in Europe and other regions far outstrips the value of all development assistance received by those countries.
For developing countries and countries in transition the costs amount to 2% of GDP, virtually all of which is preventable through strong and effective programs. Road transport is also, in all countries, the economic lifeline on which their development depends. Finding ways to make it safer and surer is and needs to remain a priority for the whole international community. We are also deeply conscious of the need to make progress on the issue for the poverty eradication and sustainable development purposes so central to the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
It is also a priority for every community in every country. The annual human cost of road injuries and fatalities - well over 1 million fatalities and around 50 million injuries - is an intolerable burden, far heavier than the human cost of even the worst natural disasters and conflicts, every year.
These are among the reasons why the issue is of such importance to Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. In the case of my own country, Germany, the Red Cross "Rettungsdienst" is at work 24 hours a day, every day, bringing life-saving support to road traffic victims. Last year we responded to almost 2 million emergency calls, in Germany alone.
To demonstrate its commitment to road safety, the German Red Cross took the lead for the European Union Red Cross Societies in their second European campaign on the issue. That culminated in the April 2004 launch of the Red Cross Good Practice Guide on Road Safety and First Aid Education for Children.
The launch took place in Berlin, and involved presentations by the President of the German Red Cross Society, the Federal Minister for Transport, the European Commission, the International Federation and Toyota Motor Europe. The event, and the Guide itself, is an excellent demonstration of a strong partnership at work.
This Guide was produced by the European Union National Societies with the support and encouragement of the European Commission through its Transport Division and with important private sector support. It has also been noted by the World Health Organisation within its Road Safety website on the theme for World Health Day in 2004.
The Good Practice Guide is now available in 13 languages. It is written and published in a way which should make it attractive to and usable by teachers and parents, as facilitators for road safety for children.
This is not just because of the extreme vulnerability of children to road injuries but because of our belief that if children accept the road safety message they will ensure that their parents and adult drivers remember it.
This is, in our view, a critical element in any strategy aimed at improving driver behaviour.
I mention driver behaviour because of its obvious relevance to any discussion of road safety. But there is much more, of course. That is why we are pleased that WP 1 and the ECE include in their councils the private sector, car manufacturers, insurance companies, and why the International Federation hosts the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP), a grouping that includes the World Bank, regional development banks, the World Health Organisation, several government road transport administrations, manufacturers and others.
GRSP is a partnership between business, civil society and government, aiming to help all those sectors build the capacity of local institutions to achieve safety in an age of increasing motorisation. It is currently working with its partners on the production of a booklet containing internationally accepted good practice guidelines and best practice. We look forward to the publication of the guidelines as a strong example of what can be achieved by partnerships like that represented by GRSP.
The International Federation has been motivated by National Society responses to the same needs at the national level. The needs are usually expressed through the priority our member National Societies give to their first aid and ambulance programs, but just as important to many Societies are the disaster preparedness and injury prevention actions they support.
Both these dimensions were important to the decision by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to include a specific reference in its 1999 Plan of Action to the value of drivers obtaining a first-aid certificate as a condition to their drivers licence test.
This is an issue which National Societies take up with their governments in their capacity as auxiliaries to their public authorities in the humanitarian field. It is also a question to which the International Federation will be giving more attention in the future, including through regional discussions about the best ways of making progress.
In the immediate future in Europe, the leadership of the Road Safety work by European Union Red Cross Societies has now passed from the German Red Cross to the British Red Cross. This is a rotational arrangement, and my National Society is just as strongly committed to our shared goals as before. We are, however, pleased that the British Red Cross will continue working in close cooperation with the Red Cross / EU Office in Brussels to provide increased European visibility for road safety issues with a strong attention to the circumstances confronting children and young people.
This attention will be a highlight in a coordinated road safety tour which will travel through 26 European countries between July and September 2005, supporting partnerships and synergies of value at the national and regional levels.
The European Red Cross Road Safety Campaigns have benefited from the encouragement and support of the European Commission and other regional bodies in the past, and it is our hope that this will continue in the future. The road safety campaigns will continue to evolve, and we and the International Federation will seek to apply the lessons we learn through our community and national work at the regional and international levels.
In this context, I am very pleased that the International Federation is able to be an active participant in the meetings which have been convened by the World Health Organisation since the adoption by the UN General Assembly of its 2004 Resolution with its request to the WHO that it assume coordinating responsibility for the handling of the issue by the international community.
We look forward to the continuation of this important work, and were very pleased that the first meeting of the group included such a wide representation from all regional groups and concerned organisations, including NGOs.
This breadth of representation is important, for although much of the most important practical work has been initiated in Europe and been discussed in WP 1, some of the most important leadership in the United Nations has come from countries well beyond Europe. It is well-known, for example, that the country which led the New York debates to the resolution in 2004 was Oman.
The International Federation is now looking for ways of building its own presence for progress on this issue in the Arab world, utilising the strength of National Red Crescent and Red Cross Societies and the inspiration they have received from campaigns like that now under way in Jordan under the sponsorship of Their Majesties the King and Queen.
I mention the importance attached to road safety initiatives in the Arab world as just one example of what is done all around the world. Road safety has the dimensions of a large and ever-present disaster in all countries, and far too little attention has been given to it on a properly coordinated basis.
It is our earnest hope that the work of the ECE, through WP 1, will be of great benefit to the WHO as it takes its coordination role into action. It is also our hope that the ECE and all other UN regional commissions will be given the resources necessary to develop the comprehensive partnership programs necessary if lasting achievements are to be recorded.
It is our view, as shown by the nature of the programs now being managed in Europe, that lasting achievements will depend on a mixture of effective programs.
We are keen to share and exchange experience with others holding this commitment, and are grateful to the ECE for giving us the opportunity to speak to the issue under this important item on achievements and constraints.