WHO South-East Asia Ministerial Meeting on Accelerating Actions for implementation of Decade of Action for Road Safety

29 November - 1 December 2017, Phuket, Thailand

Excellency Professor Piyasakol, Minister of Public Health, the Royal Thai Government, Hon’ble State Minister from Bangladesh H E Mr Zahid Maleque, Hon’ble State Minister from Maldives, H E Ms Dunya Maumoon, Head of Delegations from Member States of South-East Asia Region, experts, distinguished partners, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege to address you today, and to have the opportunity to speak on this topic.

You all agree and your very presence is indicative that road safety is an important though often overlooked public health issue.

Every day road incidents cause some 865 fatalities across our Region. Twenty to 50 times that number are injured or disabled and require long-term care. Road fatalities are the leading cause of death among young persons, while road safety incidents are costing upwards of 3% of GDP.

Vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are most affected, accounting for around half of all fatalities in the Region. In some Member states this share is near 80%.

I am inspired by your efforts to address this toll in recent years. The Global Plan for the Decade for Action on Road Safety has inspired a range of measures, from encouraging the use of helmets among motorcyclists to the building of new pedestrian bridges and crossings.

Indeed, I am pleased we now have the opportunity to reinforce and build on our progress, and to strengthen each of the five pillars of road safety.

That means gathering more and better data to inform national road safety strategies, plans and targets. It means improving road safety infrastructure and implementing safety conscious planning, design and construction. It means harmonizing Region-wide vehicle safety standards, especially for motorcycles. And it means enforcing better road behavior, at the same time as increasing responsiveness to post-crash emergencies.

I here want to focus on strategies and measures key to enhancing the safety of vulnerable road users in particular, and which reflect the ‘safe systems approach’ we are all working so hard to implement.

Prioritizing road safety is essential for this. Across the Region, road safety should be declared a national priority, with lead agencies identified and strengthened, and national plans drafted and implemented. As part of this, key legislation should be revised and – where appropriate – amended and enforced. Post-crash response systems should meanwhile be scaled up and fortified.

High-level commitment is likewise crucial. This is vital to ensuring that road safety programmes have adequate resources to function effectively and can carry out the full range of interventions needed, from enforcing vehicle standards to planning and building road safety infrastructure. It is also vital to overcoming barriers to care and strengthening health workforce Region-wide.

To promote ownership and engagement, cross-sector unity is essential. Multi-sectoral coordinating mechanisms that promote shared targets and indicators, and which create the systems needed to track progress, are an excellent way to create the buy-in needed to make lasting change.

So too is effective knowledge management. To this end, institutional and collaborative plans of action should be implemented and enforced. Comprehensive safety assessments should be conducted and followed up on. And targets should be established, developed and reviewed.

This meeting presents an opportunity to make road safety a core concern of government at all levels, and a public health issue that we are keenly attuned to.

I trust that your discussions will be productive, and will show the way forward to enhancing road safety and protecting vulnerable road users across the Region.

Thank you.