Tackling the global road safety crisis

Published: 19 April 2012

Statement by Marwan Jilani, Head of Delegation and Permanent Observer of the IFRC Delegation to the United Nations, at the Global Road Safety Plenary Meeting in the United Nations General Assembly, in New York

Mr President,

Often when we speak about the global road-crash crisis, we talk in big numbers. 1.3 million: the number of people killed in road crashes each year. 50 million: the number of people injured in road crashes each year. But these numbers don’t tell the full story of loss. In addition to the sheer scale of the numbers, these losses affect whole communities, and they disproportionately claim the lives of young people, bread-winners, and parents.

In the time since Member States adopted the resolution creating a Decade of Action for Road Safety in May 2010, more governments, civil society organizations and the private sector are working together to try to prevent road-crash related deaths and injuries. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement’s long-term commitment to road safety - along with the depth and breadth of its volunteer network - was a key reason that Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies were recognized as important partners in the UNGA resolution A/64/255.

Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are often first responders in many emergencies, including road crashes. Road crash victims are also often assisted by individuals who have taken Red Cross and Red Crescent first aid courses. Now, as a global network, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement continues its commitment to road safety, by aligning its efforts with the Decade of Action goals and taking an active part in work to prevent road crashes.

Last November, at the 31st International Red Cross Red Crescent Conference in Geneva, National Societies reaffirmed their commitment to road safety as a vital humanitarian concern. In addition, a number of National Societies and the Governments of Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Monaco, the Philippines, Romania and Zambia pledged to work together to improve road safety and to mobilize new resources to implement evidence-based multi-sector programmes.  

Mr President,

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies was one of the first organizations to recognize the road-crash crisis as a global humanitarian emergency with its 1998 World Disasters Report. The following year, in 1999, the IFRC agreed to host the world’s first global multi-sector partnership dedicated to reducing road-crash death and injury in low and middle-income countries.

It is estimated that approximately 85 percent of annual road crash deaths occur each year in low and middle-income countries, costing these countries between 2 and 3 percent of their Gross National Product per year.

Twelve years later, that partnership - the Global Road Safety Partnership - continues to work with government, the private sector and civil society to implement road safety programmes. For example, in Hungary, the Partnership has helped national and local government to develop comprehensive seat belt and pedestrian safety campaigns. In South Africa, the Partnership has helped in efforts to get children safely to school in areas of increased risk.

The Partnership also engages in capacity building. In the last year alone, the Partnership has been active on five continents - working to enhance road safety management systems and facilitating training on speed management; the enforcement of drink driving laws; social marketing; as well as the promotion and enforcement of seat belt and helmet use.

In countries as diverse as Poland, Brazil, China, Vietnam and Cambodia, the Partnership is involved in programmes that are yielding quantifiable reductions in road-crash related deaths and injuries. In North-eastern Poland, for example, one regional government working with the Partnership was able to reduce annual road-crash deaths by 49 percent in the last six years.

In the city of Teresina, in northern Brazil, local officials believe a new partnership approach is a major reason that road-crash deaths were reduced by 22 percent during the first trimester of 2011, when compared to the same time in 2010.

Mr President,

In the humanitarian world, we often refer to crises that do not receive an adequate response as “forgotten” or “neglected”. For too long, the road-crash crisis has been a forgotten disaster. Even today, given the scale of the problem, funding levels remain far too low.  One year into the Decade of Action for Road Safety, we see there are signs that this is starting to change.

This is great news. But it’s just the beginning. Much more can - and must - be done. We must remember that unless our response is rapid, comprehensive and grounded in multi-sectoral partnership, the crisis will in fact worsen as millions of additional people start using motorized transport each year.

Thank you.