The UN Road Safety Fund in a Polycrises World — Global Issues

An aerial photograph of a busy roundabout in Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: UNRSF.
  • Opinion by Nneka Henry (Geneva)
  • Inter Press Service

The sheer number of road fatalities and life-changing injuries in the global south is a crisis that affects millions of people each year. In 2018 alone, the year the UN Road Safety Fund was established, 1.3 million people died on the world’s roads and another 50 million were injured or disabled.

These numbers are all the more sobering in the context of multiple global crises ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to the climate emergency, the cost of living crisis, and geopolitical conflicts. As overwhelming as the growing crises facing the world can be, the millions of lives and livelihoods lost to road traffic accidents have made the Fund as determined as ever to continue to mobilize and coordinate effective responses to very real road safety needs.

Recognizing the world’s state of increasing complexities, the Fund has been meeting the global road safety challenge head-on. It has done so through a coordinated and multifaceted approach that addresses the underlying cause of unsafe roads while addressing the interconnections with other global development crises.

As the only United Nations agency dedicated solely to channeling resources and expertise to address the root cause of the crisis, preventing further loss of life is, and always will be, our ultimate goal.

How could it not be? Taking into account that traffic accidents claim the lives of around 3,700 people every day; the equivalent of losing a large passenger cruise ship at maximum capacity. Through annual calls for proposals, the Fund coordinates and funds projects that help ensure that road safety is treated as the major public health issue that it is.

In Brazil, our project partner, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, worked with the Department of Transportation to correct and improve speed enforcement operations, including the use of portable equipment on all highways in the state of For. The project resulted in a doubling of breathalyzer tests to more than 78,000 carried out in 2022 and contributed to reducing the rate of deaths from traffic accidents by a third, from 6.13 per 10,000 vehicles in 2021 to 4.13 in 2022.

Underpinning the Fund’s ability to effectively address the road safety crisis is our comparative advantage in fostering international collaboration and cooperation through pooled financial resources and technical expertise. The more financial and technical partners that participate in the Fund, the more comprehensive our response has been, spanning legislation related to road safety, compliance, education, the use of technology, and the implementation of international norms and standards.

In the case of west africa – led by our project partners, the United Nations Environment Program and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe – the Fund collaborated on an initiative with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the FIA and the International Motor Vehicle Inspection Committee.

This has helped the 15 ECOWAS member states to adopt and implement a regionally harmonized vehicle directive and technical inspection system, which sets a common standard to safeguard the safety and environmental friendliness of vehicles used in the West African roads. Now you are helping to reduce the number of vehicles involved in fatal crashes due to technical defects by 50%, saving thousands of lives.

The key to strengthening the Fund’s global reach and engagement is our commitment to communicate clearly and effectively with the public, stakeholders, and decision-makers to ensure everyone is up-to-date and engaged with response efforts.

In addition to project planning. briefings that encourage the exchange of knowledge and the creation of synergies and complementary financing opportunities before the end of the projects; the Fund also offers three main flagship events. These include the virtual open day for project partners to share project results, the launch of the Annual Impact Reporttaking place on the sidelines of the International Transport Forum Summit, and the Highlights Country visit for interested parties to delve into the projects that the Fund is supporting.

As citizens of the world, we all face a crossroads of crisis. The Fund’s response has been to invest in supporting interlinkages with other development priorities as a way to build resilience and prepare for future crises.

Mindful of economic crises, the Fund’s investment in safe transport and road infrastructure is vital. This is what we have been doing in support of the Tanzanian government: with project partners, the International Road Assessment Programme, the International Road Federation and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

This initiative has been helping to reduce traffic accidents that place a heavy additional financial burden on families, governments and employers (medical expenses, lost income and reduced productivity), all of which cost the world economy 1.85 trillion dollars each year.

Low- and middle-income countries devote significant public personnel and other resources to the treatment and rehabilitation of people injured in road accidents. Therefore, there is a pressing need to reduce the burden of road traffic accidents on national health systems, freeing up critical resources to address other pressing health problems.

With ongoing health crises in mind, the Fund is investing in effective post-accident responses – a focus area for the 2023 Call for Proposals and an issue we address in countries like bangladeshi and AzerbaijanThey suffer high rates of traffic accidents.

To mitigate the effects of climate change, the Fund also invests in cleaner ways to move around safely, including through the Reclaiming the streets Project in Africa to prioritize safe pedestrian and cycle lanes for pedestrians and cyclists who are also our most vulnerable road users.

During these years of polycrisis, the Fund has relied on the global solutions approach to rise to the challenge of global road safety. And this month, as the Fund celebrates five years, I challenge more nations, companies and individuals to invest in the only global response that comprehensively addresses the root causes of failing national road safety systems around the world. Join us in our sustained effort and rise up to meet the serious and interconnected challenges that is today’s global road safety crisis.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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