Saving Aral Sea Fund, Themes for South-South Conference among other Texts Passed
Stressing that road traffic deaths and injuries remained a major public health and development problem with broad social and economic consequences, the Assembly today adopted a draft resolution titled “Improving global road safety”, cautioning that, if left unaddressed, the current situation could affect progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Acting without a vote, the Assembly also recognized the economic toll such deaths had on developing countries, with costs for some countries adding up to 5 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) per year, making the reduction of road traffic deaths and injuries both an economic and a social priority.
Underscoring the gravity of the issue, Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, said that, as the number one cause of deaths among young people, road traffic deaths and injuries had become a global cause of concern. She called for measures to counter the rise in road traffic fatalities, including the recently established United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund, which was an opportunity to ensure synergy and coordination action on the ground and ultimately save lives.
Introducing the draft text, the representative of the Russian Federation said deaths and injuries resulting from road traffic accidents had a negative impact on socioeconomic progress and sustainable development. While steps taken by the international community had yielded positive results, more remained to be done, he said, noting that the resolution focused on strengthening multilateral cooperation for the benefit of reducing road traffic injuries.
The representative of the United Kingdom highlighted that, in the twenty-first century, more than 20 million people had been killed and seriously injured in road accidents around the world. That was far too high a price to pay for our essential mobility. Citing his country’s successful experience enforcing the use of seatbelts, he said that, as the result of educational campaigns, seatbelt usage today stood at more than 94 per cent and many lives had been saved.
Other speakers highlighted the difficulty facing developing countries in their road safety efforts, with the representative of Nigeria noting that inadequate funding, bad road networks, lack of awareness and the absence of emergency health-care services remained major challenges. He said his country looked forward to being among the beneficiaries of the United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund in its efforts to halve road fatalities.
The representative of the United States, explaining his country’s position after the adoption, said his delegation disassociated itself from several operative paragraphs, objecting to, among other things, United Nations standards that were not consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) standards. His delegation was also concerned about the use of the term “technical standards”.
Taking up other agenda items, the Assembly also adopted without a vote five other texts, including draft resolutions on World Bicycle Day, 3 June (document A/72/L.43); Cooperation between the United Nations and the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (document A/72/L.42); Scope, modalities, format and organization of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (document A/72/L.46); International Association of Permanent Representatives to the United Nations (document A/72/L.45); as well as a draft decision on the theme and subthemes of the second High-Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation (document a/72/L.47).
Welcoming the adoption of the latter text, the representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said South-South cooperation was a manifestation of solidarity among peoples and countries of the South, contributing to their well-being, national and collective self-reliance and the attainment of internationally agreed goals.
He also reiterated the Group of 77 members’ request for the Joint Inspection Unit to present a progress report on its recommendations on implementing measures to further strengthen the Organization’s Office for South-South Cooperation.
Also speaking today were representatives of Monaco, Luxembourg, Sweden, Oman, Australia, Republic of Moldova, Armenia, Philippines, Brazil, Czech Republic, Nepal, Spain, United Republic of Tanzania, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Uruguay, Honduras and Belarus, as well as the European Union and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke before the text’s adoption.
The Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.
The General Assembly first took up a draft resolution titled “Improving Road Safety” (document A/72/L.48) and a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report prepared by the World Health Organization in connection with that item (document A/72/359).
AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said road traffic deaths and injuries had become a global cause of concern. Indeed, it was the number one cause of death among young people and was responsible for keeping millions of people in poverty each year. Recently, in Canada and India, road accidents had left families and communities distraught. She thanked the Russian Federation for tabling a road safety resolution, which highlighted the issue and outlined a series of steps to address it. Looking ahead, measures were needed to prevent road traffic fatalities that continued to rise. Towards that end, she welcomed the launch of the United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund and thanked all stakeholders for their support, including private-sector entities that had pledged contributions towards the Fund. The new draft resolution and the Trust Fund presented a new opportunity to ensure synergy and coordinated action on the ground, helping save lives around the world. She then called on Member States to contribute to the Fund and step up efforts to achieve road safety targets.
ALEKSANDR V. GOROVOY, First Deputy Minister for Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, introducing the draft resolution “Improving global road safety” (document A/72/L.48), said road safety remained one of the most pressing issues of modern societies. Deaths and injuries resulting from road traffic accidents had a negative impact on socioeconomic progress and sustainable development. Consequently, it was important that the topic be part of the General Assembly agenda and an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For its part, the Russian Federation had consistently implemented a range of measures to improve road safety. Because of such measures, traffic deaths had decreased by one third over the past 6 years. At the same time, international cooperation on road safety had been strengthened since the inclusion of the item on the General Assembly’s agenda. Steps taken by the international community had yielded positive results, with many States witnessing a trend of decreasing mortality and injuries resulting from traffic accidents. Nevertheless, much more remained to be done. In that regard, he noted that the draft resolution was based on relevant Assembly resolutions, reflected the achievements made by the international community in the field and focused on strengthening multilateral cooperation for the benefit of reducing road traffic injuries.
GERARDUS VAN DEN AKKER of the European Union said 50 million people were injured every year in road traffic accidents, which were a leading cause of death globally. Europe had taken a clear stand on that major health problem, moving closer to its goal of zero fatalities in road transport by 2050 and was committed to the Sustainable Development Goal to halve the number of deaths and injuries by 2020. Doing so required a comprehensive and holistic approach involving all stakeholders. The European road safety policy framework had guided ongoing efforts, which had reduced road fatalities by 20 per cent between 2010 and 2017.
The Union would continue to share its best practices, implement and enforce adequate laws and conduct awareness-raising and education efforts, he said. While challenges sometimes felt overwhelming, there was hope, as many countries had already shown progress was possible through a holistic and multisectoral approach. “Let’s build on these experiences,” he said. “We cannot afford to be complacent on road safety; millions of lives are at stake.”
ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco), expressing support for “L.48”, said World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations should be a guide forward to make roads safer. Prevention and education of future road users were key. For its part, Monaco had made mandatory such education in the school system and was implementing strict laws on road safety. It was also developing innovative tools to make roads safer, including a unit to manage infrastructure. Actions must follow words, she said, emphasizing the importance of taking a multisectoral approach and the realization of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.
FRANÇOIS BAUSCH, Minister for Sustainable Development and Infrastructure of Luxembourg, said road accidents affected all people, representing a common challenge that must be collectively addressed. For its part, Luxembourg had established laws, regulation and awareness campaigns, resulting in a significant drop in the number of road fatalities. Despite encouraging trends, efforts must continue because every road traffic injury or death was too much. The United Nations had a clear target — halving road deaths and injuries by 2020 — and Luxembourg aimed at even further reductions. “My vision remains zero fatalities and zero seriously injured in road traffic, not only in my country, but all over the world,” he said.
SIGRUN RAWET (Sweden) said 90 per cent of road accidents occurred in developing countries, leading to increased poverty for many who were already poor. Road accidents remained the leading cause of death among people between ages 15 and 29. However, road safety was one of the areas where working together at the United Nations could deliver tangible results. Sweden supported the guidelines set out in “L.48”, she said, also expressing gratitude for welcoming her country’s offer to hold the third Global High-level Conference on Road Safety in 2020. The Conference would prepare a forward-looking declaration leading up to 2030.
MAJID YAHYA KHALIFA AL MUGHAIRI (Oman) highlighted that, each year, 1.25 million people died of road accidents, which were the main cause of death of young people. He also noted that, in 2011, the United Nations had declared the Decade of Action for Road Safety, and in 2015, road safety targets had been included in the Sustainable Development Goals. He commended Road Safety Week and efforts made by civil society and the private sector in Oman towards road safety. Despite an increased number of cars on the road, there had been a 5 per cent reduction in accidents in his country from 2012 to 2016. At the same time, Oman had introduced road infrastructure projects and transportation legislation. He thanked the United Nations for road safety initiatives and hoped such efforts would be successful to preserve human life.
Prince MICHAEL of Kent (United Kingdom) said that, in the twenty-first century, more than 20 million people had been killed and seriously injured in road accidents around the world. That was far too high a price to pay for our essential mobility. While in the United Kingdom, there were 38 million motor vehicles and just 1,700 lives being lost every year, that was still far too many. His country’s experience showed that improving road safety required action on all fronts — safer roads, safer vehicles and safer vehicle users. Citing his country’s successful experience enforcing the use of seatbelts, he said all countries could benefit from adopting an integrated approach. Because of educational campaigns, seatbelt usage today stood at more than 94 per cent and many lives had been saved. In that context, it was vital that more countries adhere to United Nations safety norms and standards and he commended efforts made by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy in that connection. He looked forward to the third Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety hosted by Sweden and hoped it would lead to a new level of commitment to road safety action. Now was the time to redouble efforts to set new path of road safety progress, he said.
LLEW O’BRIEN (Australia) said road traffic accidents placed a heavy burden on communities and economies globally. Since co-sponsoring the resolution that had established the Decade of Action in 2011, Australia had supported global efforts to address road safety and was pleased to sponsor the current draft resolution on improving global road safety. He welcomed the inclusion of specific road safety targets in the Sustainable Development Goals and recognized the importance of setting ambitious targets to reduce deaths and injuries from road crashes. For its part, Australia had adopted a safe system approach to road safety and was willing to share its experience, as well as learn from others. As part of its leadership on the issue, Australia had launched an event at the Sydney Opera House for Global Road Safety Week in 2017 on behalf of WHO.
ANDRIAN CANDU, Chairman of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, said the international community must remain diligent to make roads safer and prevent millions of deaths and injuries. Without resolute measures, the future was dimmer. The road safety targets in the 2030 Agenda were a guide to, among other things, better road management and ensure vehicle safety. The meeting today was an opportunity to share actions that could help countries reach those targets. While road fatalities in the Republic of Moldova had decreased in that past decade, numbers had increased in recent years. As such, the Government had passed a road safety manifesto and launched a new plan to improve infrastructure.
SOFYA SIMONYAN (Armenia) said “L.48” was a landmark blueprint for action to prevent road accidents resulting in injuries and death. As Armenia embarked on its new national road safety programme, efforts were geared towards translating the commitments in the draft resolution into tangible, life-saving measures. Armenia had seen great improvements during the Decade of Action for Road Safety. Despite improvements, road accidents remained a major public health and development concern. Developing countries faced particular challenges, including poor road conditions and inadequate structures. More coordinated efforts were needed to ensure safe road infrastructure, vehicles and users, she said, calling on stakeholders to intensify national, regional and international collaboration.
CESAR V. SARMIENTO (Philippines) said road traffic deaths and injuries not only adversely impacted the economy, but devalued human life and sent signals of hopelessness and despair. Despite efforts made to address the issue, the number of road traffic crashes globally remained unacceptably high. At the current rate of progress, halving the number of global road crash deaths and injuries by 2020 may not be met. Likewise, his country was having difficulties meeting that target. Although demoralizing, it was important not to lose hope, he said, noting that many road accidents were preventable. He called for strengthened resolve to address the issue so that lives could be saved and injuries prevented. He concluded that “one life is too precious — one death is one too many”.
FREDERICO SALOMÃO DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) said the Decade of Action had provided a framework for international cooperation, but greater awareness, stronger political will and increased investments were crucial to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal target 3.6 of halving global deaths and injuries from road accidents by 2020. In 2017, Member States had agreed on 12 voluntary global performance targets on road safety risk factors and service delivery mechanisms to reduce deaths and injuries, he said, encouraging all countries to work together with WHO to implement those goals. For its part, Brazil had developed legislation that had reduced accidents and in January 2017 had approved a law creating a related national plan. Moving forward, national action and international cooperation must be improved to achieve results on the ground.
OLGA SEHNALOVÁ (Czech Republic), aligning herself with the European Union, said road safety was an issue that must be seriously addressed. Thanks to legislative measures, road fatalities in Europe had decreased from 31,500 in 2010 to 25,300 in 2017. In that context, she highlighted one of the measures that her Government had worked on — the deployment of a public emergency call system — that had significantly reduced the arrival time of rescue services. Despite developments in road safety, too many people died or were seriously injured on roads every day. Strategic goals needed to be set for the next decade to halve the number of road deaths and serious injuries by 2030 compared to 2020. She welcomed the establishment of the United Nations Trust Fund for Road Safety and urged all to strengthen efforts to reduce the number of road accident victims.
LOK BAHADUR POUDEL CHHETRI (Nepal) expressed alarm that road accidents were responsible for the deaths of more than 1.3 million people each year — the tenth leading cause of death worldwide. For that reason, Member States must work together to reduce accidents through initiatives to ensure road safety. He called for the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Decade of Action for Road Safety, and highlighted the importance of the recommendations of the global road safety status report. Nepal was focused on effectively addressing the key recommendations pointed out in the report of the Secretary-General, particularly in respect to the use of data, as well as the mobilization of funds and resources through partnerships, among other actions.
Ms. GIRON (Spain) provided a snapshot of national efforts, highlighting significant reductions of road accidents between 2004 and 2014, and sharing lessons learned. Among them was the effectiveness of national programmes that cooperated closely with regional, State and municipal authorities, targeting vulnerable populations and promoting education. Countries should also share best practices in road safety, she said, adding that “L.48” was a useful guide forward.
AKINREMI BOLAJI (Nigeria) said road traffic crashes were among the most pressing health emergencies and development issues of the time. While road safety was recognized as a key issue for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, inadequate funding, bad road networks, lack of awareness and the absence of emergency health care services remained major challenges. Nigeria had intensified efforts in tackling such challenges by mainstreaming the work of its national road safety commission into state policies. It had also approved a road trust fund that would accelerate the construction of safe roads, especially in rural areas and industrial clusters. As a developing country, Nigeria looked forward to being among the first beneficiaries of the United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund in its efforts to halve road fatalities.
MODEST J. MERO (United Republic of Tanzania) said road traffic injuries were an important public health issue for his country, which had among the highest levels of road crashes. Noting that the problem was predominant amongst adult males, he reinforced the need for preventative measures and pre-hospital emergency services. Contributing factors, including high-speed driving, intoxicated driving and failure to use seatbelts, must be addressed through the enforcement of legislation. Nevertheless, developing countries faced challenges, including quality of roads. He highlighted many initiatives his Government had undertaken to strengthen road safety, including the improvement of accident data collection, the launch of public awareness campaigns and the introduction of road safety education in primary schools.
LIANA GHUKASYAN, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, pointing out its mandate to prevent and alleviate suffering in all its forms, said it had been among the first international organizations to call attention to the tragedy of road crashes, as shown in its 1998 World Disasters Report. For its part, the Federation had partnerships with more than 40 countries to advocate for stronger laws and policies. As road safety was an issue easily overlooked, the silent humanitarian crisis touched almost everyone and the Assembly had taken bold steps by adopting the Decade of Action and creating the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration. As the Decade of Action would end in 2020, more must be done to ensure that no one was left behind.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution without a vote.
The representative of the United States, explaining his country’s position after the adoption, said his delegation disassociated itself from operative paragraphs 5, 6, 8, 18, 19 and 21, objecting to, among other things, United Nations standards that were not consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) standards. While the objective of the draft resolution was well intentioned, he questioned the need for it and expressed concern about the mention of the 2030 Agenda, which was a non-binding instrument. His delegation was also concerned about the use of the term “technical standards”. National Governments were best positioned to adopt their own standards, he said.
World Bicycle Day
AKSOLTAN ATAEVA (Turkmenistan), introducing the draft resolution “World Bicycle Day” (document A/72/L.43), said cycling was already delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals and played a major role in personal mobility worldwide, with more than 1 billion riders. Noting the importance of sport as a factor in ensuring sustainable development, Turkmenistan reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen international cooperation aimed at implementing the principles of development and peace. For its part, Turkmenistan had hosted a cycling event in early April 2017 in Ashgabat. The primary purpose of establishing the Day was to celebrate on an annual basis the bicycle, which had been in use for two centuries. Among the secondary goals was the global unification of the bicycle enthusiasts’ efforts to present cycling’s role as a solution to worldwide challenges, including transportation, pollution, climate change, poverty, health and quality education. With many noteworthy days of recognition celebrated by the United Nations, she said “the bicycle as a loyal instrument of humankind deserves a day of recognition too”.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution without a vote, declaring 3 June as World Bicycle Day.
Taking up the draft decision “Theme and sub-themes of the second High-Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation” (document A/72/L.47), the Assembly adopted it without a vote. By the terms of the draft, the Assembly noted that the theme would be “Role of South-South cooperation and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: challenges and opportunities” and the subthemes would be: comparative advantages and opportunities of South-South cooperation; challenges and the strengthening of the institutional framework of South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation; sharing of experiences, best practices and success stories; and scaling up the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda in support of South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation.
The representative of Egypt, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, explained his position after the adoption. Welcoming the suggested overarching theme of the role of South-South cooperation and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, he said such cooperation was a manifestation of solidarity among peoples and countries of the South, contributing to their well-being, national and collective self-reliance and the attainment of internationally agreed goals. It must be set by the countries of the South and continue to be guided by the principles of respect for national sovereignty, national ownership and independence. It also offered opportunities to strengthen international cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and was a complement to North-South cooperation.
He reiterated the Group of 77 members’ request for the Joint Inspection Unit to present a progress report on its recommendations to the United Nations development system on implementing measures to further strengthen the Organization’s Office for South-South Cooperation. Commending Uganda and Argentina for their role in promoting such cooperation, he extended high expectations for the second High-Level United Nations Conference, which would step up cooperation on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action and the Nairobi outcome document of the first High-Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation.
The representative of the United States called for transparency going forward. His delegation expected a detailed timeline for preparations for the Conference. It was inappropriate for a Member State to use a multilateral forum to promote an asymmetric, non-colonial agenda.
The representative of the European Union welcomed the Secretary General’s background note on the High-Level Conference on South-South Cooperation and looked forward to a timely and transparent process of its outcome document. She suggested that the Assembly’s annual resolution for South-South cooperation be replaced by the contents of the final outcome document adopted during the High-Level Conference.
The Assembly then took up consideration of the draft resolution on “Cooperation between the United Nations and the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea” (document A/72/L.42). By its terms, it would note the need for further improvement of the activities of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea to strengthen regional cooperation in such areas as social and economic development; environmental protection and response to natural hazards; water resources management; adaptation to climate change and mitigation of its consequences; exchange of information; science and innovation; and other related areas.
Ms. ATAYEVA (Turkmenistan), introducing the draft resolution, underscored the broad regional support for the text. During the negotiation process, every effort had been made to maintain a constructive atmosphere and achieve consensus. Today, the Aral Sea was associated with ecological disaster in the Central Asian region, she said, noting that, before it had started shrinking, it had been the fourth largest lake in the world. Over the past 50‑55 years, the volume of water in the Sea had decreased by more than 15 times, its level had decreased by 29 metres and 5.5 million hectares of salt sand areas had formed. The draft resolution would draw attention to Member States of the need for support and assistance from international financial institutions and developed countries. Without the leading role of the United Nations, it was impossible to solve the problem, she said.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution without a vote.
The representative of Kyrgyzstan said her country had in 2016 decided to freeze activities in the Fund because of its ineffectiveness. Further, negotiations by experts had not led to any result. Issues of reform should involve negotiation of all members of the group and participation by all Member States, including all that were involved in the Fund’s management. Her country had taken part of negotiations by all Central Asian States and hoped that the Central Asian countries would agree on the reform of the Fund to improve its effectiveness, considering the concerns of all Central Asian States.
The representative of Afghanistan expressed his support for the resolution, while noting that common water sources were platforms for engagement and cooperation. His country believed in principles of sustainable water management and as an observer State of the Fund for the Aral Sea, he assured Member States of its positive role to address the challenges of that body of water.
High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases
The Assembly then adopted without a vote the draft resolution “Scope, modalities, format and organization of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases” (document A/72/L.46). By the terms of the draft text, it decided to hold a one-day meeting, on the third day of its seventy-third session, to undertake a comprehensive review of the issue, with the overall theme being “Scaling up multi-stakeholder and multisectoral responses for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
The representative of the United States, explaining his delegation’s position after the adoption, said his country looked forward to advancing progress and accelerating efforts to address the issue of non-communicable diseases.
The representative of Uruguay said his delegation was looking forward to working towards the high-level meeting. The process of consultations on the outcome document was inclusive, transparent and Member State-driven.
International Association of Permanent Representatives
The Assembly then took up the draft resolution “International Association of Permanent Representatives to the United Nations” (document A/72/L.45), which recognized the important role played by the Association, invited States to support its work and authorized the Secretary-General to continue to provide it with facilities on a non-remuneration basis and to replace its current office with a more suitable space to enable it to convene meetings.
MARY ELIZABETH FLORES (Honduras), introducing the text, said the establishment of the Association in 1988 had furthered the role of the diplomatic community in harmonizing the actions of all nations for the attainment of common ends. The Association had advanced intercultural dialogue and strengthened the work and prestige of the Organization, she said, expressing hope that the draft would be adopted without a vote.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution without a vote.
The representative of Belarus, explaining his position following the adoption, said the Association was the single most undervalued tool of breaking through the walls of United Nations formality. It conveyed a simple yet potent idea that people continued to matter most, he said, paying tribute to current and past Association presidents.