According to the 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety, about 1.24 million road traffic deaths occur annually on the world’s roads, with little observed change since 2007. Road traffic injuries are the eighth leading cause of death globally and the leading cause of death for young people aged 15–29.
The United Nations recognizes the significant negative social and economic impact of road crashes on populations around the world. Since 2004, the United Nations has issued eight resolutions since 2003 on “Improving global road safety” and called on the United Nations and its agencies to take steps to support governments in improving the situation. It also underlined the need to further strengthen international cooperation, taking into account the needs of low and mid-income countries, to deal with issues of road safety.
UNECE is one of the five United Nations Regional Commissions. One of UNECE’s main tasks is providing both regional and global secretariat services to the Inland Transport Committee (ITC), an intergovernmental body bringing together governments from the UNECE region and other regions around the world on, among other issues, road safety. The Working Party on Road Traffic Safety (WP.1), a working party for the ITC, is the only permanent body in the United Nations system that focuses on improving road safety. Its primary function is to serve as guardian of the United Nations legal instruments aimed at harmonizing traffic rules. The UNECE legal instruments address the main factors of road crashes including road user behaviour. Many countries across the world have become Contracting Parties to these legal instruments and benefit from their implementation. The UNECE also supports the development and promotion of best practices in road safety and the organization of road safety weeks as well as other awareness raising events.
ECA is another United Nations Regional Commission. Its mandate is to promote the economic and social development of its member States, foster intra-regional integration, and promote international cooperation for Africa’s development. ECA plays a leading role in efforts to improve the safety of Africa’s roads. In this context, it has organised several high-level road safety events on the continent, bringing together different stakeholders to brainstorm on the continent’s road safety challenges and opportunities. ECA spearheaded the preparation of the African Road Safety Action Plan for the period 2011-2020, in the context of the UN Global Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020). It also has an important role in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Action Plan. Recently, ECA worked closely with the African Union Commission to prepare the African Road Safety Charter that was endorsed at the 3rd Ordinary Session of the Conference of African Ministers of Transport, held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, from 7-11 April 2014.
As international road transport grows, the United Nations legal instruments increase in significance as they provide a common framework for national standards and legislation on key road safety issues. However, not all governments are familiar with the United Nations legal instruments and many governments are not yet Contracting Parties. In particular, in the regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean the number of Contracting Parties remains relatively low.
IARD is a not-for-profit organization supported by major international producers of alcoholic beverages with a mission to promote understanding of the role of alcohol in society and to help reduce harmful drinking worldwide, including reducing drink driving. IARD has been recognized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council as a non-governmental organization with Special Consultative Status. In 2013, IARD and UNECE cooperated to organize an international symposium as part of Global Road Safety Week “Regional perspectives on preventing alcohol related road crashes involving vulnerable road users” and to launch an e-book with papers presented during the symposium.