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2.3 The UN decade of action and global plan

THE UN DECADE OF ACTION (2021-2030) and Global Plan

In September 2020, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/74?299 "Improving global road safety", proclaiming the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, with the explicit target to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by at least 50% by 2030.

WHO and the UN regional commissions, in cooperation with other partners in the UN Road Safety cllaboration, have developed a Global Plan for the Decade of Actioin (WHO, 2021). The Global Plan descrives the actions needed to achieve that target. This includes accelerated action to make walking, cycling and using public transport safe, as they are also healthier and greener modes of transport: to ensure safe roads, vehicles and behaviours; and to provide timely and effective emergency care.

The Glboal Plan outline recommended actions drawn from proven and effective interventions, as well as best practices for preventing road trauma (see  Box 2.2). Te various recommendations outlined under each area are designed to support and strengthen the implementation of a Safe Systsem (WHO, 2021). 

BOX 2.2: global plan recommendations to implement and strengthen the safe system

The Global Plan includes recommendations in the following areas:

Multimodal transport and land-use planning: (8 recommended actions):
Multimodal transport and land use planning is an important starting point for implementing a Safe System. Land use planning must include consideration of travel deamnd management, mode choice and the provision of safe and sustainable journeys for all, particularly for the healthies and cleanest modes of transport that are often most neglected: walking, cycling and public transport.

Safe road infrastructure: (7 recommended actions):
Road infrastructure must be planned, designed, and oeprated to eliminate or minimize risks for all road-users, not just drivers, starting with the most vulnerable. Key elements include developing a functional road classification, minimum technical infrastructure standards and undertaking road safety audits. Infrastructure design must also incorporate speed management to ensure the safety of all road users.

Vehicle Safety: (2 recommended actions):
Vehicles should be designed so as to ensure the safety of people inside them as well as outside. Key actions to improve vehicle safety include the application of harmonized legislative standards to ensure that safety features are integrated into vehicle design to avoid crashes (active safety) or to reduce the injury risk for occupants and other road users when a crash occurs (passive safety).

Safe road user: (4 recommend actions): 
Speeding, drink-driving, driver fatigue, distracted driving, and non-use of safety belts, child restraints and helments are among the key behaviours contributing to road injury and death. The design and operation of the road transport system must therefore take into account these behaviours through a combination of legislation, enforcement and education. Action must also be taken to support safe behaviours through road infrastructure, speed management and vehicle safety features.

Post-crash response: (5 recommended actions):
Efficient post-crash care is critically important to survival: delays of minutes can make the difference between life and death. For this reason it is important to develop systems and mechanisms to ensure appropriate, integrated and coordinated care is provided as soon as possible after a crash occurs as well as the provision of rehabilitation services and comprehensive support systems for victims and their families.

Source: WHO, (2021): Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030


The global voluntary performance targets and indicators adopted in 2017 provide a useful framework to assess progress towards the implementation of this plan

Global road safety performance targets

Following a request of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) collaborated with other United Nations agencies and regional commissionis and the United National Road Safety Collaborations (UNRSC) to develop 12 voluntary Global Road Safety Performance Targets. Consensus on the targets among United Nations Member State was achieved in 2017.

These 12 targets are shown in Box 2.3 below. Each target represents a specific goal to be achieved at the global level, based on combined efforts of individual countries that wish to contribute to the global objectives. It should be noted that the time horizon for all targets is 2030, except for the first target where it is 2020. The baseline for all targets is 2018.

BOX 2.3: Global voluntary safety performance targets

Global Road Safety Performance Targets
Source: WHO, (2021)

Stockhom declaration

The Global Plan for the Decade of Action aligns with the "Stockholm Declaration", which is the outcome of the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety held in Stockhom, Sweden, in February 2020. The Stockhom Declaration calls for a global target to reduce road traffic deaths and inuries by 50% by 2030 and invites strengthened efforts on activities in all five pillars of the Global Plan: better road safety management: safe roads, vehicles and people; and enhanced post-crash care. It also calls for speeding up the shift to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable modes of transport like walking, cycling and public transport (Government Offices of Sweden, 2020).

Building on the Moscow Decaration of 2009 and Brasilia Declaratioin of 2015, UN General Assembly and World Health Assembly resolutions, the Stockholm Declaration is ambitious and forward-looking and connects road safety to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Stockhold Declaration also reflects the recommendation of the conference's Academic Expert Group and its independendent and scientific assessments of progress made during the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 and its proposals for a way forward (see Box 2.4).

A key development was the release of the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention (see Box 2.5), which was jointly issued by the WHO and 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 2004-2) 

Generally, in international development, road safety is being linked with the broader vision of sustainable development, poverty reduction, and the achievement of other worldwide goals. That vision was translated into eight Millennium Development Goals at the beginning of the new millennium. In 2015 the General Assembly of the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 3.6 of the agenda calls for a reduction in the absolute number of road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2020, relative to a baseline estimate from 2010. Target 11.2 aims to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all by 2030 (UN, 2015).

BOX 2.4: recommendations of the academic expert group for the 3rd global ministerial conference

The conference's Academic Expert Group proposed nine recommendations targeting the following areas:

Sustainable practices and reporting: across sectors and organisations including annual public sustainability reports with road safety disclosures, and requiring the highest level of road safety according to the Safe System principles included in policies and practices internally and throughout the supplier value chain.

Procurement: utilising the buying power of public and private organisations across their value chains by prioritising road safety in all procurement decisions.

Modal shift: urban and transport planning along with mobility policies to shift travel toward cleaner, safer, and affordable modes incorporating higher levels of physical activity such as walking, bicycling anuse of public transit.

Child and youth health: encouraging active mobility by building safer roads and walkways including routes frequently travelled by children to attend school and for other purposes.

Infrastructure: realising the value of Safe System design as quickly as possible incuding allocation of sufficient resources to upgrade existing road infrastructure to incorporate Safe System principles.

Safe vehicles across the globe: adopting a minimum set of safety standards for motor vehicles, incentivising use of vehicles with enhanced safety performance where possible, and requiring the highest possible levels of vehicle safety perforamnce in private and public vehicle fleets.

Zero speeding: protecting road users from crash forces beyond the limits of human injury tolerance with businesses, governments and other fleet owners taking a zero-tolerance approach to speeding and collaborating to utilise the rull rand of vehicles, infrastructure, and enforcement interventions.

30 km/h: that a maximum road travel speed limit of 30 km/h be madated in urban areas to prevent serious injuries and deaths to vulnerable road users when human errors occur.

Technology: bringing the benefits of safer vehicles and infrastructure to low- and middle-income countries including incentivisation ofr the development, applications, and deployment of existing and future technologies to improve all aspects of road safety from crash prevention to emergency response and rauma care.

Source: Swedish Road Adminstrations, 2019
Saving Lives Beyond 2020: The Next Steps

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 organisatioins 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 rease of the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention (see Box 2.5), which was jointly issued by the WHO and 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). 

recommendations of the world report on road traffic injury prevention

1.  Identify a lead agency government to guide the national road safety effort.
2.  Assess teh prolem, 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 resoures to address the problem.
5.  Implement specific actions to prevent road traffic crshes, minimize injuries and their consequences and evaluate the impact of these actions.
6.  Support the development of national capacity and international cooperation.


The 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 a Memorandum of Understanding with iRAP and other international networks such as the International Road Federations (IRF), International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD), and the International Road Policing Organization (RoadPOL).

Further guielines 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 resoulution 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 attetntion. 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 ighest 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).

The abovementioned initiatives resulted in the unanimous adoption of a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 announcing the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. This was followed by the launch of a Global Plan produced by the UN Road Safety Collaboration in 2011 (UN, 2010a; UNRSC, 2011a).

The goal that was set as part of the first Decade of Action aimed to stabilise and then reduce forecast road deaths by 2020 (WHO, 2013). This represented an estimated saving of 5 million lives (Figure 2.1) and 50 million fewer serious injuries, with an overall benefit of more than US$3 trillion (Guria, 2009).

Figure 2.1 Goal of the first Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020 - Source: Adapted from Guria, (2009); WHO, (2013).

The Global Plan for the first Decade of Action adopted the Safe System approach and recommended that countries work within the five pillars of action, as summarised in Box 2.1. National road safety performance is monitored at an international level and periodic status reports are published by the WHO (WHO, 2009, 2013, 2015, 2018). 

Box 2.1: The Global Plan pillars

Pillar 1: Road safety management

This pillar highlights the need to designate a jurisdictional lead agency to develop and lead the delivery of targeted road safety activity and to provide capacity for this and related multi-sectoral coordination, which is underpinned by data collection and evidential research to assess countermeasure design and monitor implementation and effectiveness (see The Road Safety Management System )

Pillar 2: Safer roads and mobility

This pillar aims to raise the inherent safety and protective quality of road networks for the benefit of all road users, especially the most vulnerable (e.g. pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists). This will be achieved through the implementation of road infrastructure assessment and improved safety-conscious planning, design, construction and operation of roads (see Road Safety Management of this manual).

Pillar 3: Safer vehicles

This pillar encourages universal deployment of improved vehicle safety technologies for both passive and active safety through a combination of harmonisation of relevant global standards, consumer information schemes, and incentives to accelerate the uptake of new technologies.

Pillar 4: Safer road users

The aim of this pillar is to encourage the development of comprehensive programmes to improve road user behaviour, and sustained or increased enforcement of laws and standards, combined with public awareness/education to increase seatbelt and helmet wearing rates, to reduce drink-driving, speed and other risk factors.

Pillar 5: Post-crash response

This pillar targets increased responsiveness to post-crash emergencies and improved ability of health and other systems to provide appropriate emergency treatment and longer-term rehabilitation for crash victims.

Source: UNRSC, (2011a).

Regional targets and plans

Experience with regional targets indicates that they can play an important road safety role and provide a focus for regional and national intervention (ETSC, 2011).  (see Box 2.2 and Box 2.3; UN, 2010b, UNRSC 2011b).

Box 2.7: Examples of current regional road safety targets

 Asia and Pacific Region:

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) developed regional road safety goals, targets and indicators for Asia and the Pacific as a follow-up to a Ministerial Declaration on Improving Road Safety. At subsequent road safety expert group meetings in 2009 and 2010 these goals, targets and indicators were further defined in order to align with the targets and indicators of the Global Plan of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. Subsequently, ESCAP has resolved to develop a regional plan of action in line with the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 and related Global Plan.

European Union:

Regional goals and targets have been set by the European Commission. These are that by 2050, the EU should move ‘close to zero fatalities’ in road transport and target halving road deaths for the interim by 2020. The EU has reaffirmed its ambitious long-term goal, to move close to zero deaths by 2050 with new intermediate targets to halve the number of fatalities and - for the first time - also the number of serious injuries on Eurpean roads by 2030, from a 2020 baseline. While highly ambitious aspirations, these are very important statements that road safety must have a priority status if EU countries are to continue to lead in global road safety, as desired by all the EU institutions.

Eastern Mediterranean Region:

Currently, more than 80% of countries in the Region report having an agency which leads national road safety efforts. In only 10 countries, lead agencies are funded and in seven countries they are fully functional in terms of coordination, legislation, monitoring and evaluation. Road safety strategies are present in about 80% of countries in the Region. Eleven countries have one national strategy while four countries have multiple strategies. In 52% of countries the strategies are partially or fully funded. Targets on fatal and non-fatal injuries exist in the strategies in 43% and 24% of countries, respectively.

Regions of the Americas: 

The Pan American Health Organization in 2011 announced a Plan of Action on Road Safety with guidelines for Member States. The plan will help countries of the Americas meet the goals of the global Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020. 

Sources: ESCAP, (2015); EC, (2011a, 2011b, 2020); WHO (2013, 2015)


Box 2.8: Regional support: African Road Safety Action Plan 2011–2020

The Second African Road Safety Conference held in 2011 was organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Sub-Sahara Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP) and the Government of Ethiopia, in collaboration with the International Road Federation (IRF), the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the World Bank. The objectives of the conference were to:

(i) examine and validate the African Road Safety Action Plan that would serve as a guiding document for the implementation of the Decade of Action;
(ii) propose and validate a resource-mobilisation strategy and a follow-up mechanism; and
(iii) learn from good practice and share experiences.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) requested that SSATP write the Road Safety Policy Framework to underpin an African Road Safety Action Plan, which was approved by the Ministers of Transport and vetted by the Heads of State in January 2012. The plan is organized around the five pillars of the Global Plan and aims to reduce forecasted fatalities for 2020 by 50%. This involves stabilising the number of deaths at 320,000, then gradually reducing them to 270,000. If the target is met, more than 1 million forecasted deaths and 10 million serious injuries will be prevented, with a social benefit of around US$340 billion.

Pursuant to the recommendations of the African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Transport, Transcontinental and Interregional Infrastructure, and Energy (STC-TTIIE) meeting in Cairo in 2019, UNECA and AUC formulated Africa's post-2020 Strategic Directions for Road Safety and prepared a draft of Africa's Road Safety Action Plan for the decade 2021-2030.

Taking not of these initial strategic directions, and the UN Resolution A/RES/74/299 "Improving gloval road safety", the STC-TTIIE adopted an updated versions of the "Strategic Directions for the post-2020 Decade: African common position" with the target to reduce road deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030 as well as to promote the implementation of the Safe System approach. The STC-TTIIE requested AUC to finalize the Action Plan in collarboration with ECA, taking into consideration the Global Action Plan for the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety. 

Source: African Union, (2011, 2022).

National targets and plans

National target-setting in road safety is an international success story. Setting challenging but achievable quantitative targets towards the Safe System goal in order to eliminate death and long-term injury has been identified as international best practice (OECD, 2008). Until sufficient management capacity and performance data are available in LMICs to set meaningful national targets, countries are advised to adopt the long-term Safe System goal and target reductions in specific corridors and areas using survey data of infrastructure safety quality (e.g. Road Assessment Programmes) and safety behaviours (e.g. speed, crash helmet and seatbelt use, drinking and driving). Full discussion and detailed guidance on national target-setting and the development of targeted strategies, plans and projects is provided in Targets and Strategic Plans.

Reference sources

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