Every year in Commonwealth countries over 210,000 people are killed in road crashes and millions more are seriously injured. Today road traffic injuries are now the leading cause of death for children and young people aged 5-29 years. This is a major challenge for the Commonwealth as over 60% of its countries’ population is under 30. Road safety in the 53 countries of the Commonwealth is very diverse. Fatality rates in road crashes range from 3 to above 30 per 100,000 population. However, in nearly all Commonwealth countries fatality and injury rates are rising rather than falling. Across the Commonwealth, the level of road deaths remains unacceptably high and urgent action is required to prevent the loss of over 2 million lives in the decade to 2030.
Tragically, road traffic injuries are reaching crisis proportions globally and we lose over 1.35 million people and seriously injure many millions more every year. Road trauma does not affect everyone equally, with inequalities seen between world regions and a death rate 3 times higher in low-income countries (where progress appears to have stalled) compared to high-income countries. It affects greatly the most vulnerable in our communities, our children and young people, as well as the most vulnerable on our roads, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. This all paints a picture of why road trauma is still very much a public health concern.
The expert panel meet in London on 8th December 2019 to launch the Commonwealth Road Safety Initiative Report.
There is a strong potential for youth action for road safety, for example, by supporting the safe routes to school campaign of the Child Health & Mobility Initiative, better road design & speed enforcement to protect vulnerable road users, and effective road safety education & training. Such initiatives are also closely linked to other priorities in sustainable transport such as improving air quality, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting healthy lifestyles. Neglect of these issues are estimated to result in the deaths worldwide of 350,000 children and young people each year.
There is also a strong case for meaningful youth participation in road safety in line with the Commonwealth Youth mission to ‘Engage and Recognize Young People’. When decisions or road safety programs are being made, or when policies are being developed that concern young person, they have the fundamental right to co-decide on these issues. Active youth participation creates stronger policy outcomes for this unique demographic of society. Young people can and should meaningfully participate in all stages of decision-making in road safety, especially for policies designed for youth, where they exist. Young people have a role to play during the development, implementation and evaluation of road safety initiatives and it is crucial to ensure that road safety initiatives foster meaningful participation with youth that avoid manipulation, decoration and tokenism. Young people have a massive opportunity to improve road safety through active engagement in road safety and stimulate positive road safety change as bene ciaries, partners and leaders in road safety across the Commonwealth.
Putting Road Safety on the Commonwealth Agenda
HRH Prince Michael of Kent speaking at the launch of the Commonwealth Expert Panel Report.
Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning, I am delighted to welcome you all to the Royal Society of Arts. We are here to launch the Memorandum and Expert Recommendations of the Commonwealth Road Safety Initiative. Our aim is to put road safety on the Commonwealth agenda. And briefly this morning I would like to tell you why.
The Commonwealth has a proud record of encouraging knowledge sharing and co-operation among its 53 member countries. It promotes networks of expertise and shared interests in every world region. Commonwealth leaders have well established commitments to the sustainable development goals, especially for health and a strong focus on the well being of young people. But to date the Commonwealth has not actively engaged with the issue of road injury prevention. With respect I think this is a missed opportunity.
According to the World Health Organisation, Commonwealth countries suffer over 500,000 road fatalities every year. And today road injury is the world’s number one cause of death of children and young people between the ages of five and twenty nine. What more reason do we need to recognize road safety as an issue of relevance to the Commonwealth?
That is why I am very pleased that the Towards Zero Foundation has launched the Commonwealth Road Safety Initiative. The CRSI has brought together a distinguished panel of experts, co-chaired by Dr Agnes Binagwhao and Iain Cameron. Their work has resulted in clear recommendations to the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Kigali, Rwanda next June. They have set out a compelling case for Commonwealth leaders to devote some of their important discussions in Kigali to road safety. I am looking forward to hearing from the co-chairs very shortly.
With many High Commissioners here today, I would like to take the opportunity to encourage you all to send back to your capitals the positive case for Commonwealth co-operation on road safety. As the CRSI experts will explain there are great opportunities for sharing best practice in road injury prevention across the Commonwealth. Among Commonwealth countries there are world-class centres of excellence and expertise in road injury prevention and in others, there is an urgent need for capacity building in road safety policy-making, legislation and programmes. This is why I believe the Commonwealth is very well placed in the decade ahead to bring together this potential supply and demand for stronger road injury prevention.
Commonwealth action would also be very timely as next year important meetings will determine a new 2030 framework for global road safety co-operation. In February the Swedish Government is hosting in Stockholm the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety. This meeting will reflect on the results of the current UN Decade of Action and hopefully set a new target to halve road deaths and injuries by 2030. Then in April the UN General Assembly will hold a special debate on ‘Improving Global Road Safety’ which is expected to endorse the main recommendations of the Stockholm Ministerial Meeting.
These important high-level events are another strong reason why Commonwealth leaders meeting in Kigali should reflect on how their countries can refocus and re-energise their road safety commitments.
I am very grateful to the Swedish Government for enabling me to host a special lunch for Commonwealth Ministers attending the Stockholm meeting. This will allow us to share the CRSI recommendations with Ministers and I hope to build the case for including road safety on the Kigali agenda. I have just sent invitations to all Commonwealth Transport Ministers and I would greatly appreciate the assistance of High Commissioners to ensure that as many as possible come to Stockholm. The Ministerial meeting and our side event will be a great opportunity to discuss with us the issues we are sharing with you today.
We are also very much look forward to contributing to the Kigali meeting next June. I am very pleased that the High Commissioner for Rwanda, Her Excellency Ms Karitanyi is with us today. Together with Dr Binagwhao and the University of Global Health Equity we plan to organise a side event on road safety. We also hope to engage with other stakeholder events such as the 12th Commonwealth Youth Forum which will bring over 1,000 young people to Kigali.
And that brings me back to the question why should the Commonwealth put road safety on its agenda? Over 60% of the Commonwealth’s combined population is under 30. We know that children and young people face the gravest risk of road traffic injury. So I think perhaps we should put the question in another way. How can road safety not be on the agenda of the Commonwealth?