Every year 1.35 million people die in accidents on the world’s roads and another 50 million are injured. Road traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among young people and it is the least developed countries that bear the brunt.
These numbers prompted the UN to launch the United Nations Road Safety Fund (UNRSF) in April 2018 to help poor countries initiate road safety programmes.
Saving lives on the road is one of the keys to sustainable development and is comprised in at least two goals of the 2030 Agenda, specifically Goal 3 “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, and Goal 11 “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.
All the UNSRF projects are impact-driven, aiming to immediately improve people’s living conditions and ensure economic value. The partnerships are innovative and the fund involves international organisations, governments, universities and companies, including Pirelli.
The overall objective is to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries, which in turn reduces the economic losses resulting from road accidents. The focus is on low and medium-income countries because this is where 93% of road deaths occur.
In August 2020, two years after it was established, a United Nations General Assembly resolution proclaimed a new decade of road safety actions with the ambitious goal of halving the number of deaths between 2021 and 2030.
Since it was created within the United Nations, the Fund has been able to mobilise the resources and expertise of the 193 member states, with impressive firepower to address an issue with major economic and social implications.
UNRSF is currently funding fifteen projects worldwide. Action is taken at several levels: on roads, on vehicles, on people, on improving accident response systems. There are infrastructural plans, others of a legislative nature, and yet others aimed at improving data collection.
Two projects were completed in 2020. The first concerned the implementation of speed control in the Philippines, raising awareness of more than 75 thousand people through social media about the importance of not exceeding speed limits and training 170 controllers.
The second concerned the Philippines again and also Paraguay, developing a school programme to educate the younger generation about urban planning and engineering interventions that reduce accidents, as well as ensuring that young people are placed at the centre of urban development policies.
Twenty-nine projects were submitted in the last open call for new programmes in 2020, involving a total of 32 countries. For now, the Fund has raised $4 million of the necessary $14.5 to begin work immediately on the areas with the greatest urgency for action.