World Youth Assembly
First UN Global Road Safety Week (23 - 29 April 2007)
More than 400 young people from over 100 countries participated in the World Youth Assembly on Road Safety organized at the Palais des Nations in Geneva from 23-24 April 2007. It was the first time a conference on road safety had been organized for young people, and it formed an essential part of the First UN Global Road Safety Week held from 23-29 April.
The Week was targeted at young road users including young drivers because young people are over-represented in road crashes. Every day just over 1000 young people under the age of 25 years are killed in road traffic crashes around the world (WHO, Youth and Road Safety, Geneva, 2007). It seemed fitting, therefore, to involve young people in the issue.
Many participants were already involved in road safety issues in their home countries, through full-time work or volunteer work, and all of them will hopefully continue working towards safer traffic conditions upon their return home. The official delegates were appointed by their governments to attend, others came as observers from NGOs, government agencies, schools and institutions.
21-year old Nellie Ghusayni from Lebanon chaired the Assembly together with 5 vice-chairs from Australia, Guatemala, India, The Netherlands and Zambia.
During the opening ceremony, participants heard statements and opening addresses from the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Mr. Marek Belka, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Moby and others (see the Programme for a full list).
Several youth delegates also made presentations about road safety work and organizations they are involved in. Austrian Formula 1 driver Alex Wurz talked about a high-speed crash he survived, and two victims of road traffic crashes gave accounts of the trauma they had experienced.
|Short films and public service announcements for road safety exemplified of how TV/Cinema can help reinforce road safety campaigns. Some of the films were entries in a Global Road Safety Film competition and the winners, along with the winner of a UNICEF Road Safety Essay competition, were recognized through an award ceremony.|
During a press conference for the event, Mr. José Capel Ferrer, Director of the Transport Division, UNECE, explained that although much work has been done to formulate regulations for traffic conditions, rules are not enough. “We need campaigns and events to help implement [rules],” he said. “It is difficult to persuade people to follow the rules,” he continued, “and for this reason we are grateful to these young people because they will be an important instrument in persuading young people and governments to enforce rules.”
Mr. Etienne Krug, Director of Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention, WHO, talking on behalf of the WHO at the press conference, underlined the importance of working with youths saying “We want a strong network of young people who can act as ambassadors for road safety. WHO sees this as a beginning of a process and will support the implementation of the youth declaration and follow up on technical assistance programs.”
When asked what she thought could be done to “tame young people’s wild behaviour” on the roads, the chair of the Youth Assembly, Ms. Ghusayni emphasised the importance of involving them in issue. “It is a rebellious time and kids test boundaries. [We have to] channel that energy in a different direction. Kids don’t want to listen to lectures but give them a voice to express themselves and they will be more interested,” she stated.
Ms. Ghusayni further stressed the Youth Declaration on Road Safety as being the most important part of the conference, saying it was a tool to start implementing road safety.
The Youth Declaration for Road Safety
Mr. Floor Lieshout from the Netherlands, one of the vice-chairs, presented the concept of the Youth Declaration to the Assembly. Initially drafted by a small group of delegates in September 2006, the document was put on a share point website for all delegates to read and comment on. Although not binding by the world's governments, the Declaration provides some background on global road traffic injury prevention, a statement of commitment by the youth delegates to do their part to improve road safety, and a set of recommended actions to be taken by various groups: young people, parents and caregivers, educational institutions, communities, governments, NGOs, private companies, the media, and celebrities and the entertainment world.
“The significance of this Declaration is in our hands now”, declared Mr. Lieshout. “Please don’t let it be ink on paper, not just for ourselves, but for generations to come.”
Outside the plenary sessions, delegates formed working groups (by language: Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish) to discuss how to implement the Youth Declaration. The wide range of suggestions put forth demonstrated the participants’ high levels of enthusiasm, commitment and creativity as they proposed how the Declaration could be implemented locally, nationally and globally. (For more information on the Declaration, please choose from the menu on the left)
The World Youth Assembly officially adopted the Youth Declaration on Road Safety to a standing ovation, and subsequently closed amid statements of support from the President of the UN General Assembly Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa (by live video link from New York), UNECE and WHO.
The UN Economic Commission for Europe wishes to thank everyone who contributed to the events held in Geneva. Many people put in much time and effort to ensure its success and the bringing together of so many resourceful young people from around the world. The World Youth Assembly would not have been possible without generous donations by institutions like the European Commission and the World Bank, the Governments of the Netherlands, Norway and Italy, as well as organizations like the FIA Foundation.
Thanks for all your enthusiasm and continued commitment to road safety!