Countdown to Stockholm: setting the global road safety agenda to 2030
Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, Chairman of the FIA Foundation, reviews the role of the charity in supporting global road safety and looks ahead to the 2030 agenda that will be shaped by the forthcoming Stockholm Ministerial Conference on Road Safety:
“In just two months, ministers from around the world will gather in Stockholm for the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety.Hosted by the Swedish Government, with the World Health Organization, it will review the impact of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 and set an agenda for action over the next ten years.
Committees of experts convened by Sweden and the World Health Organization are currently undertaking a review of the Decade of Action. We can be certain that the Decade won’t have achieved its target – to ‘stabilise and reduce’ global road traffic fatalities – let alone the far more ambitious target, set by the world’s governments in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and yet subsequently ignored by most of them, to halve the number of deaths.
But have we at least stabilised? Road traffic deaths were estimated at 1.3 million in 2010, and projected to increase to 1.9 million by 2020. The most recent WHO estimate is 1.35 million. The gap between the projection and reality can be measured in millions of lives, real people who are returning home each night safely to their loved ones. If the Decade of Action has contributed in any way to this, we can all be truly proud.
As someone who has been actively engaged with this effort from the start, first as Chairman of the FIA Foundation’s Commission for Global Road Safety, which first called and campaigned for the Decade of Action from 2008, and latterly as Chairman of the FIA Foundation itself, I will follow the discussion and conclusions in Sweden with interest.
The contribution of the FIA Foundation to the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 has been significant, both in its conceptualisation and delivery. We have been involved in many of the successes, as well as some of the failures, of the past ten years, and can offer a perspective on the future agenda.
Funding the Commission for Global Road Safety, and its Make Roads Safe campaign, from 2006, the Foundation, in partnership with WHO, the World Bank and the Russian Federation, led the agenda in successfully calling for the first-ever Ministerial Conference on Road Safety and the Decade of Action.
In 2011 we committed to a decade of support for two key international initiatives, the Global New Car Assessment Programme and the International Road Assessment Programme.
Through Global NCAP, more than 130 cars have been crash-tested, with the results published in the media, in South East Asia, Latin America, India and South Africa. This has transformed public awareness and political debate, and led directly to regulatory change in India and to car manufacturers producing home-grown ‘Five Star Cars’ in the emerging markets where they were previously content to dump failed zero-star killers.
iRAP, a programme born out of the FIA automobile club network, has matured into the leading global assessment tool for governments and development banks to ensure their infrastructure is designed safely.
Now active in more than 100 countries, iRAP has influenced more than $60 billion of road investment and seen real and measurable infrastructure improvements in more than 30 countries.
Both of these programmes have undoubtedly prevented tens of thousands of deaths and injuries.
It is particularly pleasing to us at the FIA Foundation that Bloomberg Philanthropies – which, under the leadership of Michael Bloomberg, has done more and invested more to support the implementation of the Decade of Action than any other organisation – has adopted both of these programmes, created and nurtured by our Foundation, as part of their own global road safety initiative.
Having secured the Decade of Action, we continued our ground-breaking public policy and campaigning, seeking to embed road safety into the wider global development agenda. The Foundation devised and led the campaign to include road safety in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The result, SDG target 3.6, is arguably more important than the Decade of Action for Road Safety itself, and has been described by the academic experts group established by the Government of Sweden as “a remarkable accomplishment with far-reaching implications”.
The latest phase of our continuous and consistent campaign, which began back in 2006, is to ensure that road traffic injury – the leading cause of death for children and young people over the age of five – is properly integrated into a resurgent adolescent agenda. The Foundation has devised and is leading calls for a first-ever Global Adolescent Summit, aiming to unlock new resources for youth issues, which is gaining support from influential child health organisations.
If we can unlock new funds, they must have a destination. Working with expert regional partners, we have built the evidence that road safety saves young lives. From motorcycle helmet campaigns in Vietnam and Cambodia, supporting the hard work of moving governments from legislation to implementation, to working with cities to provide sidewalks and safe crossings for schoolchildren in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Foundation’s grant programme has invested in local knowledge and people who can deliver real and measurable results. Increasingly, FIA automobile clubs in developing countries are also building the skills and capacity to be able to play an important role in both national advocacy and programme design and delivery.
In myriad ways, the Foundation has provided the funding fuel to generate the Decade of Action and to strengthen its institutions. Grants to the NGO Alliance for campaigns and forums; air tickets and hotel rooms for UN staff to attend important meetings; funding WHO’s road safety strategy in 2001, and UNICEF’s first road safety programme in 2015; support for research networks, data observatories, legislators’ forums and university courses to train the next generation of road safety professionals. Support for civil society networks like EASST, which coordinates road safety NGOs across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and FISEVI, organised by Fundacion Gonzalo Rodriguez, which provides a forum for NGOs in Latin America, is also crucial for capacity building.
Other initiatives supported by the FIA Foundation have included: core funding for FIRE AID, this year’s recipient of Prince Michael’s Premier Award; support for research and advocacy leading to the new EU direct vision regulation for trucks; providing $5 million seed funding to launch the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility, and co-hosting the first ever joint meeting of development banks on road safety in 2008.
Since the early days of the Make Roads Safe campaign, the Foundation has focused on raising political commitment for global road traffic injury prevention. Today, through support for the FIA High Level Panel for Road Safety, bringing together institutional and private sector leaders, and through our funding of the UNECE – hosted office of the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, the Foundation is helping to push the message through more Presidential, Prime Ministerial and CEO doors than ever before.
With the launch of the new UN Road Safety Fund, to which we have committed $10 million, the largest single donation so far, the Foundation is helping to build the platform for a determined push, post 2020, to save hundreds of thousands more lives.
The Stockholm Ministerial, on 19-20 February 2020, is the opportunity to shape the agenda and build momentum.
The prevailing political view that road safety is mainly an issue of personal responsibility for safe behaviour, rather than a failure of system design, must be challenged, and the Safe System approach promoted and reinforced. As an integral element of the ‘Decade of Action for the SDGs’ launched by the UN in September 2019, road traffic injury prevention must be better connected with other key development priorities, including climate change and child & adolescent health, if we are to build stronger alliances for action. Linked to this, we must also see a step change in political commitment and resourcing for road safety from governments and the international community, and there must be stronger accountability for failure to act. These will be the key messages of the FIA Foundation, and our Child Health Initiative, as we prepare for the Ministerial Conference.
It is clear that, despite many achievements by the global road safety community, the challenge we collectively face is as great as ever. So, for the FIA Foundation, our charitable mission is so vital, for an issue so neglected, that, together with our partners, we must redouble our efforts from 2020 to make roads safe.