Around the world, road traffic accidents take more than 1.3 million lives every year. Even more alarming is their impact on youth: according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 29.
How can the global community collaborate to reverse this trend? This was the key question addressed during the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, co-sponsored by the World Health Organisation, which took place in Stockholm (Sweden) last week. It was attended by 1,700 delegates from 140 countries, including Ministers of transport, health and interior from Member States, senior officials from United Nations (UN) agencies, representatives from the world of industry and research, international institutions and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), including cycling and walking advocacy organisations from around the world.
The conference marked the end of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020 and the starting point for continued international collaboration on road safety towards 2030. The Stockholm Declaration – which calls for a new global target for reducing road deaths by 2030 - was an essential outcome of this conference and was presented by the Swedish Minister for Infrastructure, Mr. Tomas Eneroth. This statement connects road safety to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, linking road safety to several targets set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including for climate action, gender equality, health and well-being, and sustainable cities and communities.
Focusing on active mobility, the Stockholm Declaration intends to “speed up the shift toward safer, cleaner, more energy efficient and affordable modes of transport and promote higher levels of physical activity such as walking and cycling as well as integrating these modes with the use of public transport to achieve sustainability”. It also reflects the 9 recommendations of the conference’s independent Academic Expert Group, developed to support a reduction of worldwide road deaths by one-half by 2030. Among the nine recommendations, two highlighted the need for measures to increase active mobility, which includes cycling and walking, amongst both children and the general public.
A vast array of road safety side events
Numerous side events, hosted by organisations attending the conference, marked the week in Stockholm dedicated to road safety, with several initiatives also highlighting the need to promote and strengthen active mobility amongst and with the youth.
Prior to the start of the conference, the FIA Foundation-led Child Health Initiative launched its new Manifesto 2030: Safe & Healthy Streets for Children, Youth and Climate. The Manifesto calls for a transformation of urban streets by 2030 into safe, low speed and accessible space that puts people first, encouraging zero carbon walking and cycling, by deploying the ‘Speed Vaccine’: safe footpaths and crossings; protected cycleways; and maximum 30 km/h speed limits in all areas where children and car traffic mix.
In addition, the 2nd World Youth Assembly for Road Safety took place prior to the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference. The Assembly was entirely youth-driven and organised by a global taskforce of young leaders convened by global NGO “YOURS – Youth for Road Safety”. It brought together 200 young leaders and change-agents from more than 75 countries, all selected for their exemplary leadership activities in the communities. The Assembly explored road safety and cross-cutting solutions to challenge the number one cause of death for youth. As a tangible result, the young leaders adopted the Global Youth Statement for Road Safety demanding immediate action, while expressing their commitment to achieving the goals established in the global agenda.
With so many tools in hand, and numerous promises of strengthened collaboration between public authorities, the private sector, NGOs and institutions around the world, the Stockholm Declaration will hopefully provide a tangible pathway to ensure that road deaths are reduced and ultimately avoided, and most importantly, that cyclists and pedestrians – otherwise known as vulnerable (or better described as valuable by Walk21) road users - are protected on our roads.