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Strengthening national capacities for road safety management

Every year 1.25 million people die in road traffic accidents while an additional 50 million are injured.  500 children lose their lives on the road every single day, with road traffic accidents representing the leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 29.  With these numbers, road safety has become one of the most pressing health emergencies of our time, to which two targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly respond.

As part of its ongoing mission to improve road safety, UNECE, in cooperation with the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), held a three-day workshop last week on Road Safety Performance Reviews. The Workshop UN Transport Legal Instruments – a tool for better Road Safety Management gathered road safety stakeholders from Albania, Georgia, Cameroon and Uganda. 

The workshop is part of the ongoing project “Strengthening of the national road safety management capacities of selected developing and countries with economies in transition”, led by UNECE in cooperation with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The project aims to assist beneficiary countries (Albania, Georgia, Viet Nam and the Dominican Republic) to reduce fatalities on their roads by identifying the most pressing road safety issues and recommend remedial measures in the Road Safety Performance Reviews. The United Nations Development Account-financed project is complemented with the Special Envoy-sponsored Road Safety Performance Reviews in Africa (Cameroon and Uganda), as part of ongoing cooperation between UNECE, the Special Envoy and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The workshop prompted policy dialogue on improving road safety, offering a valuable opportunity to learn from best practices and the experiences of others, and provided representatives with a chance to discuss progress in the preparation of Road Safety Performance Reviews. One of the most important elements in preparing the Reviews is identifying gaps in national legal and regulatory frameworks and compliance with the United Nations road safety legal instruments (UN Road Safety Conventions). However, even when a country is a contracting party, it does not immediately apply the conventions to their fullest possible extent. In this context, the workshop aimed to strengthen national capacities to efficiently implement UN legal instruments, getting the most out of their application in each country context.

UNECE currently oversees 18 UN conventions and legal instruments related to road safety, with subjects ranging from road signs and signals (Convention on Road Signs and Signals, 1968) to making sure all motor vehicles meet the same safety standards in construction (The 1958 Agreement on Uniform Technical Prescriptions).  Applying these conventions and instruments is a proven way of establishing an effective and manageable national road safety management system.  Currently 68% of countries around the world are contracting parties to at least one of these international agreements. However, this still leaves approximately 1 billion people around the world living in countries which are not applying any of these conventions or instruments. 

Of the four countries participating in the workshop, Albania is a contracting party to 14 UN road safety conventions, Georgia is a contracting party to 10, and Uganda to two, while Cameroon is not yet a contracting party to any. 

Through participation in open dialogue with UNECE, international experts (representing the International Road Federation and the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking) and other beneficiary countries over the course of the workshop, country representatives were able to strengthen capacities on the UN road safety legal instruments and their efficient implementation.  The process of preparing the Reviews and of improving road safety goes on, but this type of cross-cultural engagement and problem-solving is part of the long term solution for creating safer roads for all. 

To learn more about Road Safety Performance Reviews, please visit: www.unece.org/trans/themes/unda-road-safety-management-capacity-building-project.html