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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 104, August 2007





1. Context

1.1 The Rally for safer Roads held on Monday 23rd April 2007 in London, UK was organized as part of the First United Nations Global Road Safety Week (23-29 April 2007). The First United Nations Global Road Safety Week was called for in the October 2005 United Nations General Assembly resolution A/60/5 on Improving global road safety. The resolution invited the United Nations Regional Commissions and the World Health Organization (WHO) to jointly organise the Week. The Week was modeled after previous road safety weeks orchestrated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and after World Health Day 2004.

During this Week in 2007, there were a series of Global, Regional and National events held to focus political and public attention on the global traffic injury epidemic that claims the lives of 2.1 million people and injures around 50 million annually.

1.2 The Rally in London was organised through the commission for Global Road Safety and largely sponsored by the FIA Foundation for the automobile and society.

1.3 Attendance at the rally was primarily from those who enforce and work in the area of Road traffic: the police, the motor industry, local government, the Red Cross. Other than myself, there was no representation from any Christian Church or religious organisation.

1.4 Whilst the majority of those attending were from the United Kingdom, there were representations from: Sweden, Finland, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Italy, Romania, Austria, Netherlands, France, Israel, Germany, Bulgaria and Japan.

1.5 There were a wide range of speakers and topics covered. In addition to a considerable amount of data and statistics, included were issues such as:‘ Road safety and the Millennium Development Goals’, Young people at risk on the roads’ and ‘Taking action for global road safety’. Speakers came from the British political arena, Unicef, The World Bank, the Automobile industry and from motor racing. 

2. Make Roads Safe

2.1 ‘Make Roads Safe’ is an international campaign to put global road traffic injuries on the G8 and UN sustainability agendas. Building on the work of the Commission for Global Road Safety, the Make Roads Safe campaign aims to raise public and political awareness of a global road traffic injury epidemic that kills at least 3000 people, and 500 children, every day.

2.2 The basic objectives of the campaign are: Recognition by the G8 and the international community that global road traffic injuries represent an urgent public health emergency and a major development challenge.  

3. Some basic statistics

3.1 Road traffic Injury Mortality rates (per 100,000 population - 2002)

Africa region 28.3 -
Region of the Americas 16.2 14.8
South –East Asia Region 18.6 -
European Region 17.4 11.0
East Mediterranean Region 26.4 19.0
Western Pacific Region 18.5 12.0


3.2 Estimated Annual Crash Costs

Region GNP Estimated annual crash costs $ Billion
  1997 $ billion GNP% Costs
Africa 370 1 3.7
Asia 2454 1 24.5
Latin America & Caribbean 1890 1 18.9
Middle East 495 1.5 9.9
Central and Eastern Europe 659 1.5 9.9
Sub-total 5615   64.5
Highly moterised Countries 22665 2 453.3
TOTAL     517.8

3.3 Predicted Road traffic fatalities

WORLD BANK REGION % Change 2000-2020
South Asia 144%
East Asia & Pacific 80%
Sub-Saharan Africa 80%
Middle –East & North Africa 68%
Latin America & Caribbean 48%
Europe & Central Asia 18%
Sub-total 83%
High Income Countries -28%
Global Total 66%

4. Road Traffic Injuries: A New Priority For Development

4.1 The health burden: Road traffic crashes kill 3000 people, and 500 children, every day. Annually, 1.2 million people are killed and 50 million injured. More than 85% of these casualties occur in low and middle income countries.

As a public health issue, road injuries are on the same scale as Tuberculosis and Malaria. Yet globally, road traffic injury prevention commands a tiny fraction of the resources that are justifiably deployed to fight TB and Malaria.


1 Ischaemic heart disease 12.6
2 Cerebrovascular disease 9.7
3 Lower respiratory infections 6.9
4 HIV/AIDS 4.8
5 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 4.8
6 Perinatal conditions 4.3
7 Diarrhoeal diseases 3.3
8 Tuberculosis 2.7
9 Trachea, bronchus, lung cancers 2.2
10 Road traffic injuries 2.1
11 Diabetes mellitus 1.7
12 Malaria 1.6


4.2 The economic cost: The economic cost of deaths and injuries in developing countries is estimated at $65-100 billion a year. By comparison overseas aid from OECD countries totalled $106 billion in 2005.

Most of those killed or injured in developing countries are pedestrians. They are also breadwinners for their families. Research in India and Bangladesh shows that 50% of families losing a member in a road crash subsequently fell below the poverty line.

4.3 The impact on trade: While there is considerable political emphasis on tariff costs as a barrier to fair trade, transport costs often constitute a bigger burden for developing countries of the cost of exporting. Freight and insurance costs represent 15 per cent of the total value of African exports, making it still more difficult for African companies to be competitive. The Commission for Africa report states that transport costs in Uganda can add the equivalent of an 80% tax on clothing exports.

Across sub-Saharan Africa fewer than 20% of roads are paved. Yet as new roads are built to encourage development, road safety is being forgotten. This means local communities, and road users, are dangerously exposed. The cost of road traffic injuries represents 1-5% of African nations’ Gross National Product (GNP).  

5. Make Roads safe: The Manifesto

5.1 Political Commitment. The G8 must address global road safety as an integral part of its sustainable development strategy. The United Nations must recognise the role global road safety can play in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UN must host a Ministerial summit to coordinate a global response to the road traffic injury emergency.

5.2 Global Action.  A ten year Action Plan, funded with at least $300 million, is needed to help developing countries tackle their road safety problems. G8 countries, other donor governments and grant-making Foundations must together fund this essential life-saving work.

5.3  Safer Roads. The World Bank and other development banks are spending $4 billion a year on roads in developing countries, but little attention is paid to road safety. In the coming years thousands of kilometers of unsafe roads could be built in the name of development in Africa, Asia and South America. At least 10% of these road budgets must be devoted to road safety, if millions of people are not to be killed or maimed in the years ahead.  

6. Summary of Key recommendations

6.1 New road infrastructure is essential for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. But new roads must be safe. At a minimum 10% of all road infrastructure projects should be committed to road safety. This principle should be rigorously and consistently applied by all bilateral and multilateral donors.

6.2 The G8 countries should work with the Africa Infrastructure Consortium to invest at least 10% of the total cost of planned road infrastructure development into safer roads and a stronger regional capacity to develop national road safety plans.

6.3 An Action Plan for global road safety is needed to develop sustainable road safety capacity in low and middle income countries. The Action Plan should be managed by the new Global Road Safety Facility, hosted by the World Bank.

6.4  The Action Plan should be effectively resourced by means of a ten year commitment of US$300 million, of which US$200 million could be contribute by donor governments and US$100 million from other sources.

6.5 A Ministerial Conference on Global Road Safety should be held in 2008 under the auspices of the UN, bringing together Transport and Infrastructure, Health, and Interior Ministers.

6.6 A Global Road Safety Charter should be created, through which stakeholders can pledge their support to the implementation of the World Report and progress to reversing the rising toll of road traffic deaths and injuries.

6.7 To encourage a sustained reduction in global road traffic deaths and injuries, the Commission recommends that governments in low and middle income countries should adopt their own national road traffic casualty reduction targets. These targets should be ambitious but achievable and supported by use of key performance indicators, such as levels of seat belt and helmet use, and supplemented by regional road safety targets where appropriate. 

7. Observations

7.1 The ‘Rally’ was clearly what it was meant to be: a public relations exercise. There was much data exhibited and many of the talks (which lasted only 10 minutes each) were highly emotive and often repetitive. However, they were striking in their attempt to highlight the epidemic that is occurring globally in relation to road injuries.

7.2 There was much focus on the economic aspect and repercussion of the mortality and injury rates. There was little or no use of phrases such as ‘dignity of the human person’ and ‘sanctity of life’ in the presentations and discussions. Other phrases such as ‘hidden Epidemic’, ‘The plague of our children’, ‘Giving away of lives’ and ‘Scandal of tolerance’ were used.

7.3 There were no connections made between those who live and work on the roads (Clochards, Lorry-drivers etc) and road safety.  There were no statistics given in this regard.

7.4 It is clear that if the crisis continues that between 2015-30, road accidents will be responsible for the highest loss of children in developing countries. 


Fr Jeremy Fairhead

Observer appointed by the PCPCMIP


* Meeting realized on Monday 23rd April 2007, in London, UK