General Assembly Adopts Text Proclaiming Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020), Aimed at Reducing Traffic-Related Deaths, Injuries

2 March 2010
GA/10920

General Assembly Adopts Text Proclaiming Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020), Aimed at Reducing Traffic-Related Deaths, Injuries

2 March 2010
General Assembly
GA/10920
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Plenary

74th Meeting (PM)

General Assembly Adopts Text Proclaiming Decade of Action for Road Safety

(2011-2020), Aimed at Reducing Traffic-Related Deaths, Injuries

Texts on End of Second World War, Cooperation with Regional Body Also Passed

Recognizing the tremendous global burden of fatalities resulting from road crashes, as well as the 20 million to 50 million people sustaining non-fatal traffic-related injuries each year, the General Assembly today proclaimed the period 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety, with the goal of stabilizing and eventually reducing the number deaths and injuries.

By the terms of a draft resolution on improving global road safety, one of three texts introduced by the Russian Federation and passed unanimously this afternoon, the Assembly called on Member States to implement activities in the areas of road safety management, road infrastructure, vehicle safety, road-user behaviour, road-safety education and post-crash care.

Also by the text, the Assembly requested the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations regional commissions, in cooperation with partners in the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration and other stakeholders, to prepare a plan of action for the Decade.  It invited Member States to set their own national road traffic casualty-reduction targets, to be achieved by the end of the Decade.

Speakers taking the floor ahead of the resolution’s adoption bore witness to the largely preventable tragedies resulting from road accidents, with Peru’s representative saying it was unjustifiable that more than a million people around the world were killed in traffic accidents each year, and that road crashes were expected to be the fifth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.

Actress Michelle Yeoh, representing Malaysia, described her role as a spokesperson for the “Make Roads Safe” campaign as the most important she had played, calling fatalities from road accidents “an unconscionable waste of human potential, of love and of energy”.

While most speakers focused on the impact of road accidents in low- and middle-income countries, where 90 per cent of them occurred, the representative of the United States drew attention to the 6,000 of his fellow citizens killed and the more than half a million injured in 2009 due to distracted driving, particularly text messaging.  “If we do not act, the problem will only grow worse as the number of vehicles on our roadways rise, and communication technologies such as cell phones and texting devices become even more widely available,” he warned.

By the terms of a draft on cooperation between the United Nations and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Assembly invited the Secretary-General and the world body to engage in regular consultations with the regional entity, noting the importance of strengthening dialogue, cooperation and coordination between the two.

The third text, on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Second World War, invited all Member States, United Nations organizations, non-governmental organizations and individuals to observe 8 and 9 May to pay appropriate tribute to all victims of that conflict, and requested the Assembly’s President to hold a special solemn meeting in the second week of May for that purpose.

At the outset of the meeting, the Assembly was informed that the Federated States of Micronesia had made the necessary payment to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the United Nations Charter, which stipulates that a Member State in arrears of two years would lose the right to vote in the Assembly.

The Russian Federation’s Chief Road Traffic Safety Inspector introduced the draft resolution on improving global road safety, while the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations presented the texts on cooperation between the United Nations and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Oman, Spain (on behalf of the European Union), India and Mexico.

An observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also delivered a statement.

The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Background

As the General Assembly met this afternoon, it had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/64/266) transmitting the report on improving global road safety, prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO), in consultation with the regional commissions and other partners in the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration.

The report provides an update on the implementation status of the recommendations contained in Assembly resolutions 58/289, 60/5 and 62/244 on improving global road safety.  It says that ongoing activities and a series of global road safety developments over the past two years indicate that collaborative advocacy efforts have had a significant impact.  Nevertheless, road traffic injuries continue to threaten health and development gains around the world, with nearly 1.3 million deaths and between 20 million and 50 million injuries resulting from road crashes.

According to the report, road traffic injuries remain among the three leading causes of death for people between 5 and 44 years of age, and the resulting injuries cost an estimated $518 billion globally, as well as costing Governments between 1 per cent and 3 per cent of their gross national product.  They are predicted to become the fifth leading global cause of death by 2030 unless immediate action is taken.  In some regions, road deaths are already the leading cause of death for the most economically productive age group, between 15 and 44 years of age, and the second most important cause of death for the 5- to 14‑year-old age group.

The report recommends that the Assembly, among other things, call upon United Nations agencies and key partners to strengthen their cooperation in the context of the Road Safety Collaboration; to call on States to develop action plans and strategies on road safety, noting that the programmes should be seen to be cost-effective measures, as well as profitable investments; and also to call on States to continue raising road safety awareness at the international and national levels by organizing advocacy events and scaling up existing efforts.

Also before the Assembly was a draft resolution titled Improving global road safety (document A/64/L.44/Rev.1), by which it would proclaim the period 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety, with the goal of stabilizing and then reducing the forecast level of road traffic fatalities around the world by increasing road safety activities at the national, regional and global levels.  To that end, the Assembly would request WHO and the United Nations regional commissions, in cooperation with partners in the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration and other stakeholders, to prepare a plan of action for the Decade.

By other terms, the Assembly would call upon Member States to implement road safety activities, particularly in the areas of road safety management, road infrastructure, vehicle safety, road-user behaviour ‑‑ including distractions in traffic ‑‑ road safety education and post-crash care.  Inviting all Member States to set their own national road traffic casualty-reduction targets ‑‑ to be achieved by the end of the Decade ‑‑ the Assembly would call for the inclusion of activities that pay attention to the needs of all road users within the plan of action, in particular the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users in low- and middle-income countries.

Also by the text, the Assembly would call for joint multi-sectoral action to increase the proportion of countries with comprehensive legislation on key risk factors, including seat belts, child restraint and helmet use, drink-driving and speed, to over 50 per cent by the end of the Decade.  It would encourage Member States to continue to strengthen their commitment to road safety, including by observing the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims on the third Sunday of every November.

The Assembly also had before it a draft resolution titled Cooperation between the United Nations and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (document A/64/L.45), by which it would invite the Secretary-General and the United Nations to engage in regular consultations with that body, noting the importance of strengthening dialogue, cooperation and coordination between the two organizations.  In that regard, the Assembly would note the activity of the Collective Security Treaty Organization for the development of regional cooperation in such areas as strengthening regional security and stability, peacemaking, counter-terrorism, combating illegal arms and narcotics trafficking, countering organized transnational crime and human trafficking, and combating natural and man-made disasters.

Also before the Assembly was a draft resolution on the Sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War (document A/64/L.46), by which it would invite all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations and individuals to observe 8 and 9 May in an appropriate manner to pay tribute to all victims of that conflict, and request its President in that regard to hold a special solemn Assembly meeting in the second week of May.

VICTOR N. KIRYANOV, Chief Road Traffic Safety Inspector, Russian Federation, said road safety was of the utmost importance in the context of international development efforts, emphasizing that mortality and injury from road accidents had not only caused a major global public health problem, but had a negative impact on social and economic progress, as well as implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  International recognition of the issue’s gravity had provided a strong impetus for governmental actions, with support from the United Nations, international organizations, the World Bank and regional development banks at all levels.

Civil society and charitable organizations, such as the Global Commission for Road Safety and the International Automobile Federation, were also raising awareness and mobilizing joint efforts, he said, underlining the importance of the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, held in Moscow last November, as an important step forward in promoting global interaction which had established a solid basis for future joint work.  International cooperation on global road safety had been advanced to a qualitatively new level through the active participation of Member States and partners in the United Nations family, he added.

Introducing the draft resolution on improving global road safety (document A/64/L.44/Rev.1), which proclaims the period 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety, he stressed the high level of co-sponsorship that the text had attracted.  The road safety agenda was an area of international cooperation that bore perpetual human value, and had no place for political disputes or tensions.  “All of us must have a common goal, which preserves human lives,” he stressed, adding that reducing road injuries would save the lives of hundreds of thousands while continuing to help the social and economic development of nations.

FUAD AL-HINAI (Oman), after summarizing the WHO report, said that during his annual meet-the-people tour in 2009, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said had urged everyone to make the issue of road safety a subject of family discussion and underscored the need to promote public awareness of it in order to limit the impact of road accidents on progress, growth and modernization.

He went on to describe the steps implemented by the Government to improve road safety, which included the establishment of a national road safety agency and a registry for detailed information on the consequences of injuries.  A Road Safety Institute had been established in 2006 to conduct training programmes for driving instructors, as well as taxi and other public transportation drivers.  The Royal Oman Police ensured compliance with traffic regulations through the installation of fixed speed radars, and as a consequence, there had been a significant decrease in the rate of speeding violations.  Vehicle inspection stations had also been installed, he added.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said road crashes were the leading cause of death and hospital admissions for the bloc’s citizens under 45 years old.  With 39,000 road traffic deaths in 2008 and costs of around 2 per cent of gross domestic product, road safety continued to be a priority area for action.  In 2003, the European Union had set out to halve the number of road-accidents deaths by 2010, a difficult task to achieve, in which multilateral and regional institutions, development banks and civil society had an essential role to play, he said, emphasizing that shared responsibility was a key factor in that endeavour.

He said the European Road Safety Action Programme 2011-2020 would guide regional efforts in the fight against road accidents with a focus on key priorities such as accidents on rural roads (responsible for 60 per cent of fatalities) and vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and elderly people.  The European Union would also focus on strengthening controls and penalties, adopting national initiatives to combat driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, investing in road infrastructure and improving legislation governing driving licences and standards to measure fitness to drive, he added.

MICHELLE YEOH (Malaysia) said that as an actress, the most important role she had played was as a spokesperson for the “Make Roads Safe” campaign.  A year ago, she had launched the call for a “Decade of Action” for road safety with a march by 2,000 children through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, because a similar number of children were killed or seriously injured every day on the world’s roads.  “It’s an unconscionable waste of human potential, of love and of energy,” she said, noting that the real work would begin with today’s decision on the “Decade of Action for Road Safety”.  The only result that would count was the number of lives saved and injuries prevented, she added.

She said her country had set a strong example with the establishment of the Ministry of Transport’s Road Safety Department in 2004 whose task was to outline holistic strategies to reduce injuries and fatalities resulting from road crashes.  That had resulted in the “Road Safety Plan of Malaysia 2006-2010”, which covered the “4Es” ‑‑ education, enforcement, engineering and environment.  The Government had also formulated a long-term policy known as the “Zero Fatality Vision”, she said, adding that, despite the increasing number of drivers in Malaysia, fatalities had barely risen and accidents had been significantly reduced in 2009.  Malaysia had also emerged as one of the road safety leaders in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, she noted.

GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ REINEL (Peru) said that, for developing countries, road accidents were among the main causes of premature death and a public-health problem affecting people’s rights.  It was unjustifiable that 1.2 million people around the world died in road accidents each year, and that by 2030, they were expected to be the fifth leading cause of death worldwide.  For Peru, the figures were chilling, he said, pointing out that 10 of his compatriots died in accidents every day.  Over the last decade, 32 million had died and more than 342 million had been injured.  Some 78 per cent of the 3,500 annual deaths from road accidents were mere passers-by, he said, noting that accidents disproportionately affected those who could not afford the aftermath.  That represented enormous economic losses for Peru, amounting to more than $1 billion a year.

Emphasizing the need for urgent concerted action to introduce legislative reforms and secure appropriate technical and logistical support, he said it was painful to acknowledge that road accidents were avoidable and that they resulted partly from a series of failures in management.  Peru aimed to reduce by 30 per cent the incidence of road accidents by, among other things, promoting road safety, reviewing and revising the relevant legal framework and strengthening its National Road Safety Council, he said, adding that the country would soon introduce a new transportation code to enforce standards.  Its strategy also aimed to ensure quality and timely care for the injured or disabled.  Still, the commitment of civil society, the international community and development partners was needed since it was clear that the road safety crisis could only be addressed through a multi-sectoral approach.

JOHN F. SAMMIS (United States) said thousands of people died on the roads each day, and tens of millions were injured every year, the majority of them young people and those living in developing countries.  There was a need to continue the push for increased helmet and seatbelt use, as well as for reductions in speeding and alcohol-impaired driving.

Deeply concerned about the risks posed by distracted driving, particularly “texting”, he said 6,000 people had died in the United States last year as a result of that activity and more than half a million had been injured.  “If we do not act, the problem will only grow worse as the number of vehicles on our roadways rises, and communication technologies such as cell phones and texting devices become even more widely available,” he warned.

New technologies had helped solve many global road safety challenges, even as they distracted some drivers, he said, adding that, while there was a need to spur the promise of science, it was also important to minimize its accompanying perils.  The President of the United States had issued an executive order directing Government employees not to engage in text messaging while driving official vehicles, he said, encouraging other Member States, as well as the United Nations system, to issue similar directives.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said the importance of addressing road safety clearly had a key development dimension, noting that road transport was his country’s dominant mode of transportation and that road traffic accidents claimed more than 80,000 victims a year, constituting a major public health problem with considerable social and economic costs.  Given that its economic growth depended in part on the rapid expansion of its infrastructure, including roads, India was conscious of the imperative to address road safety and reduce the adverse consequences of traffic accidents, he said.

Road safety required coordination of engineering and design, enforcement and education, as well as the involvement of civil society to spread awareness, he said, adding that the Government was striving to make road safety a health, transportation, law-enforcement, education and development priority.  It was widening the national highway system, and increasing the use of information technology in the road transport sector, while taking steps to develop a “road safety culture”, he said.  International cooperation was imperative in helping developing countries and there was a need for increased efforts to secure additional financial support for road safety projects.  However, specific circumstances in various parts of the world should be taken into account, he said, cautioning against setting universal standards that may have been developed in a single region.

SOCORRO ROVIROSA (Mexico) said that improving road safety was a significant matter for her country which had the third highest number of crash-related deaths in the Americas, after the United States and Brazil, with between 117,000 and 124,000 fatalities annually.  Two years ago, Mexico had introduced the “Iniciativa Mexicana de Seguridad Vial”, which contained three elements for improving road safety:  a comprehensive approach based on epidemiology and public health; a basis in scientific evidence; and a multi-sectoral perspective.

The measure had been introduced during the Moscow Conference as a model for others, she said, going on to say that her country would host two events in the framework of the Decade for Road Safety ‑‑ the Third Forum of Road Safety Stakeholders in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Second Ibero-American Encounter on Road Safety.  A decade of work on road safety would help ensure that the ability of countries to address underreporting and other problems, she said, stressing that the main challenge would be strengthening a structure for national and municipal multi-sectoral cooperation.

MATTHIAS SCHMALE, observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that since its 1998 release of the World Disasters Report highlighting road safety as a key issue, the Federation had become increasingly concerned about the rapid escalation of the global road safety crisis.  Urgent action was required to reverse the crisis, which killed 3,000 people and injured 50 times as many every day, disproportionately affecting young people, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.  What made the crisis so horrific was that those deaths and injuries were preventable, he said, pointing out that it was also characterized by a shortage of international funding to address it.

Yet, the Federation was encouraged by the growing international response to the crisis over the last decade, he said, underlining in particular the Good Practice Manuals produced by the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration.  Civil society and other business and Government partnerships were increasingly using them to make a real change, showing that proven, cost-effective solutions could be shared across the globe with significant results.  National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies were committed to promoting road safety, and the Federation had taken on the issue as a priority of its strategic direction for the next decade.  It was also working closely with the Global Road Safety Partnership, he said, emphasizing that it was prepared to do more and better.

Action on Draft Resolutions

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution titled Improving global road safety (document A/64/L.44/Rev.1).

It then turned to the draft resolution Cooperation between the United Nations and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (document A/64/L.45).

VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation), introducing the text on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said the body had held observer status at the United Nations since 2004.  Its emerging peacekeeping mechanism would ensure that its capacities could be increasingly used in coordination with world efforts, he said, adding that it gave pride of place to the use of political means, in line with the United Nations Charter.

He further stressed that cooperation between the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the world body was particularly noteworthy given the increasing relevance of combating new challenges, and the latter’s goal of enhancing its coordination with regional organizations.  A consensus adoption of the text would help boost comprehensive interaction between the two organizations, he said.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) then introduced the draft resolution entitled Sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War (document A/64/L.46), recalling that dozens of millions of people had given their lives for the ideals of humanity during that conflict, and that the aspiration to eliminate the scourge of war had been the basis for establishing the United Nations.

The coalition against the Hitler regime had been an unprecedented example of nations coming together and overcoming their differences, he said.  That was why their victory was of particular significance today, when the international community must overcome such challenges as terrorism and transnational crime.  The Second World War had been a great tragedy and it was important to recall its lessons, he stressed, suggesting 6 May as the date to convene a Special Session of the General Assembly to commemorate the event.

Mr. MARCHESI (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the horrors of the past and the cruelty of war should never be forgotten.  Everyone had a responsibility to ensure that the war crimes and crimes against humanity that had taken place would never recur.  The sacrifices made and the victims of the war and the Holocaust should never be forgotten, he stressed.  The United Nations had been conceived with the aim of preserving peace and security, he pointed out adding that there was a need to overcome the war’s legacies while building on the progress made since the end of the conflict by promoting democratic values, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

He underlined the importance of remaining conscious of the fact that it was not just the two world wars that had brought untold sorrow to humankind over the last 100 years.  Efforts for peace had failed too often and the European Union, born from the ashes of the Second World War, was committed to working with all members of the United Nations to end the scourge and create a more peaceful, just and prosperous world for future generations.  An honest and thorough debate on history would facilitate reconciliation based on truth and remembrance, he said.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.