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2.3 The UN decade of action and global plan


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).

A key development in preparation for the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011–2020) was the release of the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention, which was jointly issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank on World Health Day in 2004 (Peden et al., 2004). 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).

Other initiatives followed:

  • Creation of the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF); it supported the development of new road safety management guidelines to assist countries in implementing the World Report’s recommendations. It established Memoranda of Understanding with international networks such as the International Road Federation (IRF), International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD), and the International Road Policing Organization (RoadPOL).
  • 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), provided guidelines on interventions
  • OECD’s Toward Zero report (OECD, 2008) on Safe System and new approaches concerning road safety management
  • Make Roads Safe campaign launched by the Commission for Global Road Safety (2006, 2008, 2011)
  • First ever global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Moscow (2009), which provided formal endorsement at the highest level of the need for global action
  • Several statements of the Multilateral Development Banks (led by the World Bank), promising 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).

An ambitious goal was set to stabilise and then reduce forecast road deaths by 2020 (WHO, 2013). If achieved, this would mean 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 Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020 - Source: Adapted from Guria, (2009); WHO, (2013).

The Global Plan adopts the Safe System approach and suggests that countries work within the five pillars of action, as summarised in Box 2.1. National road safety performance is being monitored on international level and periodic status reports are published by the WHO (WHO, 2009, 2013, 2015). Mid-term and final reviews will be presented by the World Health Organization at global ministerial conferences.

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 2.2: Examples of current regional road safety targets

 Asia and Pacific Region:

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific 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.

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. 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); WHO (2013, 2015)


Box 2.3: 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.

Source: African Union, (2011).

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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