More from UNDESA Vol 23, No. 08 - August 2019

From local to global: Sub-Saharan infrastructure saving Caribbean lives

At first glance, there may seem to be little in common between the lush Caribbean island of Jamaica and the sea-port city of Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, with a population three times larger than the entire island nation. However, technical innovations developed for sub-Saharan schools are helping protect children across the globe from danger as they make their most important journeys – the ones to access education.

Road crashes are the leading cause of death for children over the age of five. The majority of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries despite the lower rates of motorization. In sub-Saharan Africa, home to just 2 per cent of the world’s cars, a child is twice as likely to die on the roads than in the second most dangerous region.

Cities where streets are designed for vehicles, not people, pose the greatest risk. This danger is particularly stark around schools where hundreds of pupils flood the streets on the way to school and back. The School Area Road Safety Assessments and Improvements (SARSAI) program by the African-based NGO, Amend, identifies schools where students are at risk of road injury and death. Engineers and statisticians assess surrounding infrastructure and implement simple changes such as speed bumps, footpaths, and traffic-calming measures, along with education to change driver and pedestrian behaviour.

In Dar es Salaam, SARSAI identified the 28 most dangerous schools and protected more than 38,000 students.

Most significant is the measurable impact of the programme’s interventions: schools with SARSAI experienced 26 per cent fewer traffic injuries, while vehicle speeds in school zones dropped as much as 60 per cent.

It is the first peer-reviewed method of its kind, proven to reduce road traffic injuries and deaths in the region, with applications for schools around the globe. Projects, which provide empirical proof of impact, are vital examples of best practice and have wide-ranging impacts across the interlinked issues of access to education, health, sustainable communities and others, which are too often siloed within one particular Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).

Amend is part of the Child Health Initiative (CHI), a partnership building a coalition of country and donor support for safe and healthy journeys to school for all children by 2030. It focuses on the rights of children to safe, accessible mobility which enables access to education while maintaining a healthy environment. To achieve these goals, it links partners’ regional work to collaborate and share best practice to address similar challenges, and advocates through the ‘This is my street’ campaign.

The campaign is calling for a UN Global Summit on Adolescent Health to combat two of the leading killers of children and young people – traffic crashes and air pollution. Every day, 700 children die in road crashes and thousands more are seriously hurt. Over 2 million children miss out on education each year because of death or injury in road crashes. And around 300 million children are breathing dangerously toxic air, polluted – in large part – by traffic.

The collaborative nature of CHI led its partner, UNICEF, to translate lessons from work across Sub‑Saharan Africa to Jamaican roads where three children die each week. At a workshop, Amend presented how to design, implement and conduct infrastructure impact assessments with local engineers to address risks around schools.

Then, UNICEF and Amend joined forces to make the streets of Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, safer by implementing safe infrastructure around a pilot school. At the official project launch, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, welcomed the programme.

Jamaica’s adoption of the SARSAI programme demonstrates how international collaboration with evidence-based best practice can translate a single city pilot into tangible national and regional action. The joint efforts of CHI and UNICEF will be repeated in eight more countries, tying in global coordination and advocacy to leverage further resources for road traffic injury prevention.

This ability of the SARSAI project to be successfully scaled up and replicated in a different country context, has prompted UN DESA to include it in a database of over 500 good practices for the SDGs, which gathers inspiring breakthroughs and success stories from around the world that are helping to make the SDGs a reality.


*The views expressed in this blog are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of UN DESA.

The case for making the polluters pay

Ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit on 23 September, UN DESA’s latest Monthly Briefing on the World Economic Situation and Prospects develops the case for internalizing the cost of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – or put more simply – to make the polluters pay.

Climate change is moving faster than we are, as pivotal records are being shattered before our eyes. Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at the highest levels in 3-5 million years. The last time this occurred, the earth’s temperature was as much as 3 degrees warmer and sea levels as much as 10-20 meters higher. The years 2015-2019 will be the five warmest on record. And sea levels are not only rising – but rising at an accelerated pace.

Coupled with intensifying weather-related natural catastrophes, this presses home the point that speaking just of climate change may no longer do justice to the extent of the global challenge at hand; instead of climate change, the more accurate description appears to be climate crisis or climate catastrophe.

In this unfolding climate crisis, and with the window of opportunity to counteract closing rapidly, policymakers must urgently identify the measures that will prove sufficient to put the world on a sustainable development path.

A key requirement is immediately moving away from fossil fuels. This will require a wide range of measures, including phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels, increasing and fine-tuning the targeting of renewable-energy subsidies and making greater use of regulatory instruments such as efficiency standards. However, a key element across all these various measures is putting a price on CO2.

Carbon pricing would fix a fundamental flaw in the economic system, which allows the greenhouse gas emitters to bear no cost of the damage their emissions are causing to our societies and economies, and ultimately, to the planet’s entire life-supporting system.

This understatement of costs has dramatic consequences: certain goods and services are produced and consumed at a quantity that is greater than the environmentally sustainable level. In other words, we are unlikely to change our everyday decisions, which are causing a global climate crisis, unless we see them directly hitting us in the pockets.

Carbon pricing makes producers and consumers internalize into their economic decisions what has so far been offloaded as a negative externality onto society. Creating a market for CO2 emissions would essentially establish CO2 as a commodity, whose price has then to be factored into economic decisions.

Carbon pricing can take different forms, but generally falls into one of two categories: emission trading systems and carbon taxes. While both have their pros and cons, policymakers should also ensure that the costs do not fall too heavily on the most vulnerable. This underpins the advice of UN Secretary‑General António Guterres:  “Tax the polluters, not the people.”

More in-depth analysis and a review of recent economic consequences of climate shocks in regions including Central Asia, Australia, Africa, Pacific Islands, South Asia and the Caribbean is available here:

August Monthly Briefing on the World Economic Situation and Prospects 

SDG 13 in numbers

Climate change is the defining issue of our time and the greatest challenge to sustainable development. As greenhouse gas levels continue to climb, climate change is occurring at a much faster rate than anticipated. We are already seeing that its compounded effects can be catastrophic and irreversible: accelerated ocean acidification, extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, continuing land degradation, and loss of biodiversity.  Although countries have taken positive steps by preparing nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and increasing financing to combat climate change, far more ambitious plans and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society are needed if we are to prevent runaway climate change.


Geospatial experts look at the bigger picture of the 2030 Agenda

Geospatial information exists in many forms and mediums, integrating all digital data with a location dimension. It can be as simple as a name on a map or as complicated as a multi-layer 3-dimensional model of that place – containing anything from cities, land-use and traffic distribution to monitoring the environment and climate variables.

All countries and all sectors need geospatial information to make informed decisions, to develop national development plans and strategies and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Collaborative information systems that are comprehensive, coordinated and integrated, underpinned by geospatial information technologies and applications, provide the evidence on ‘where’ people interact with their place, their city and their environment.

At the ninth session of the UN Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN‑GGIM), which will take place from 7 to 9 August at the  UN Headquarters in New York, experts from across the globe will discuss ways to better manage and coordinate the use of geospatial information to help countries develop national strategies and sustainable development priorities.

Geospatially enabling the SDGs for all countries is a principal focus of the Committee of Experts. At its upcoming August session, the Committee will consider several geospatial frameworks, principles and guides, including:

  • The Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF), which translates high-level strategic geospatial information concepts into practical implementation guidance and action by Member States.
  • The Global Statistical Geospatial Framework (GSGF), which enables a range of data from both the statistical and geospatial communities to be integrated to inform and facilitate data-driven decision making.
  • The Framework for Effective Land Administration (FELA), to improve advocacy, promote coherence of concepts, and translate globally agreed methods and approaches for practical implementation by governments to determine, record and disseminate information about the relationship between people and land for sustainable development.

For more information:

9th session of the UN Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management

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