'Road safety is central to our common development endeavour'

By EBRD  Press Office
@ebrd

Global Sustainable Development Goals on Road Safety

Delivered by: 

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, EBRD President

Venue: 

EBRD HQ, London

Event: 

Global Sustainable Development Goals on Road Safety

Good morning.

Welcome to the EBRD and today’s conference on Global Sustainable Development Goals on Road Safety.

It is a pleasure to see such a great turn out.

I would also like to bid a special welcome to Jean Todt and all our other VIP speakers and guests.

And say thanks to our many partners who have helped put together such an interesting programme for the day.

Our focus today is, quite rightly, global.

Road safety affects us all.

It is no coincidence that, through its inclusion among the Sustainable Development Goals, road safety is now acknowledged as central to what we might call our common development endeavour.

But allow me to begin my remarks with a more personal perspective on the issue.

A personal story

I started my professional life as an economist in Botswana working on transport and communications infrastructure.  Investment in roads was a major part of my focus.

I would have liked to say that, even then, I identified road safety as a pressing concern for us all.

But I didn’t.

For us back then it was very much an afterthought, if we gave the matter much thought at all.

That changed, however, when a friend with whom I played football was killed in a road accident in Botswana.

I can’t say that this changed my overall approach to building infrastructure and the transport sector.

But it was most certainly a wake-up call for me personally.

The SDGs and Road Safety

More than thirty-five years later we can justifiably say that the whole world has woken up to the problem.  

There it is, in the SDGs.

The SDGs are, to my mind, the best possible statement of all the complexities of economic development that we face today.

They represent a credible – and achievable – plan of action for us all.

For the first time ever we have goals that emphasise the underlying drivers of sustainable development, as well as a wider set of critical outcomes. 

Furthermore, the SDGs also integrate the challenges faced by the middle income countries where we work in a way that was simply not the case previously.

Given all that, it is entirely proper that road safety should be included on our global development to-do list.

Whether with the specific target of halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020.

Or, by 2030, providing access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.

We know the scale of the problem.

Unfortunately, it is large.

We know what is at stake.

Put bluntly, taking action on road safety is about improving the lives of people and communities.  And about reducing the significant social and economic burden of deaths and injuries caused by traffic accidents.

It is thus entirely consistent with the EBRD’s mission to invest in changing lives.  

And, crucially, the evidence on how to achieve this is already out there.

Many countries have done so.

Our challenge is to spread the word and create the conditions whereby others can follow suit.

Stating the problem

First, a few words about the scale of the problem.

The number of road accidents and deaths in EBRD countries remains unacceptably high.

To be more specific, we are talking about 85,000 deaths and over 800,000 serious injuries.

Every year.

This is true of our regions as a whole.

But the figures are especially alarming in some of them.

So in what we call the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean the death toll is 19 people per every 100,000 per year.

It’s the same in Central Asia.

Indeed, the average in our EBRD countries is 13.

This compares to nine across the European Union.

And three here in the United Kingdom. 

Of course, every death or serious injury is a tragedy in itself.

But, together, they represent huge losses of potential, for those killed or maimed as a result, for those they leave behind, and for society as a whole.

That is potential measured both in terms of human happiness and individual achievement.

And economic growth.    

The average annual loss to our countries of operation GDP caused by road crashes and deaths is over 3.0 per cent.

That breaks down as a cost from fatalities of some $50 billion.

And another $150 billion from serious injuries

For an overall annual total of $200 billion.

The good news is that we know what the solution to this problem is.

We know what it is in theory.

And we can point to the experience of many countries which have applied it in practice.

I know I am addressing an audience of experts today. I won’t burden you with my analysis of current best practice in the field.

But we all know that a familiar mix of hard and soft measures can both reduce the number and lessen the impact of accidents on the roads.

So speed management, safe road design, higher vehicle safety standards, improved post-crash care, better laws and their stricter enforcement, and the encouragement of key behaviours such as the use of seat-belts and an end to drink driving are all part of the solution.

The EBRD and Road Safety

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud of the EBRD’s efforts in this sphere.

Ever since the start of the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety we have helped our countries of operation address this challenge far more systematically and thoroughly than in the past.

We have – for example - worked with them to raise standards in safe fleet management for commercial fleets and in road construction.

We are also among the first of the IFIs to include full road safety assessments for all of our road investments.

In the last four years the total value of all our projects which have already had or will have road safety assessments is €3.7 billion.

What does this commitment to road safety mean in practical terms?

Well, as we sit here in London, more than three thousand miles away in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, we are investing in changing lives by supporting safer roads and more sustainable driving.

Together with our partners, we are promoting the benefits of wearing seat belts and saving fuel and protecting the environment.

According to surveys in Dushanbe, fewer than one in eight car drivers and passengers wore seat belts, mostly the drivers themselves.

And there was a lack of awareness of what ‘eco-driving’ means, despite motorists’ general concern about the environment and reducing driving costs. 

So, as we speak, the Safe and Sustainable Roads message is going out to the city’s drivers.  

I should thank the Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport and the Young Generation of Tajikistan for all their help in organising this particular campaign.

But also point out that this is only one of many, many road safety projects we are involved in across our regions.

For exampIe, I am very pleased to announce that a project initiated and supported by the Bank to improve fleet road safety in Moldova, one in which we are working with the Automobile Club of Moldova, the Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport again and a number of our clients in Chisinau, is tomorrow being awarded a Prince Michael International Road Safety Award.

Through training in occupational road safety management, that project in Moldova has brought about a substantial improvement in fleet safety, cutting road crashes involving public transport by half in the first year alone.

Conclusion

The EBRD has been one of the IFIs in the vanguard of efforts to put road safety at the heart of the development agenda.

My own commitment here is heartfelt.

My colleagues are determined to deliver the targets defined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

And I know you are too.  

Please enjoy the rest of the day.

And I will look forward to hearing how it went.

Thank you.