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2.2 Road safety as a development priority

Road safety and international development goals

In international development, road safety is being linked with the broader vision of sustainable development, poverty reduction, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)1. Previously, international development had a narrow focus on income and spending. However, current approaches promote higher living standards for all, with an emphasis on improved health, education and people’s ability to participate in the economy and society. Development seeks to foster an investment climate, which can encourage increased growth, productivity and employment; and to empower and invest in people so that they are included in the process (Stern et al., 2005; Bliss, 2011a). While no Millennium Development Goal was set for addressing the prevention of deaths and serious injuries in road crashes to 2015, road safety priorities align with other MDGs, particularly for environmental sustainability, public health, and poverty reduction. The post-2015 development agenda is expected to include a formally adopted goal to halve road traffic deaths by 2020 (UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, 2014).

Initiatives leading up to the UN Decade of Action

In preparation for the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011–2020) and its commencement, there was unprecedented agreement from leading international organisations and road safety experts on how to address the road safety crisis emerging in LMICs; the scale of ambitious action required to address this crisis; and the critical factors for successful implementation (Bliss & Breen, 2012; WHO, 2013).

A key development was the release of the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention (see Box 2.1), which was jointly issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank on World Health Day in 2004 (Peden et al., 2004). The World Report highlighted the growing public health burden and forecasts of road deaths and long-term injury and advocated urgent measures to address the problem as a global development and public health priority. Its findings and recommendations for country, regional and global intervention were endorsed by successive United Nations General Assembly and World Health Assembly resolutions (UN 2004-2010).

Box 2.1: Recommendations of the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention

  1. Identify a lead agency in government to guide the national road safety effort.
  2. Assess the problem, policies and institutional settings relating to road traffic injury and the capacity for road traffic injury prevention in each country.
  3. Prepare a national road safety strategy and plan of action.
  4. Allocate financial and human resources to address the problem.
  5. Implement specific actions to prevent road traffic crashes, minimize injuries and their consequences and evaluate the impact of these actions.
  6. Support the development of national capacity and international cooperation.


This initiative was followed by the creation of the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF), which supported the development of new road safety management guidelines to assist countries in implementing the World Report’s recommendations. The GRSF funded road safety management capacity reviews and the establishment and support of international professional networks. It established Memoranda of Understanding with iRAP and other international networks such as the International Road Federation (IRF), International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD), and the International Road Policing Organization (RoadPOL). Further guidelines on interventions were produced under the umbrella of the newly created United Nations Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC), which was called for by a UN General Assembly resolution in 2004 (A/Res/58/289). The International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) was launched providing a key network safety assessment tool for LMICs. The launch of the OECD’s Towards Zero report brought together and further reinforced the Safe System and new thinking on approaches to road safety management (OECD, 2008). The highly visible Make Roads Safe campaign and reports were launched by the Commission for Global Road Safety (2006, 2008, 2011) and caught worldwide media attention. Towards the end of the decade, the first ever global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety took place in Moscow, which provided formal endorsement at the highest level of the need for global action. In a series of statements, the Multilateral Development Banks (led by the World Bank) promised a coordinated response for scaled-up investment in road safety management capacity and for road safety to find its place in mainstream infrastructure projects (MDB, 2009, 2011, 2012).

  • 1.The eight MDGs range from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education; all by the target date of 2015. They form a blueprint (plan) agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions (
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