Friday, April 4, 2008

All Roads Lead to Russia for U.N. Conference

By Karl Vilacoba

Question: What’s the number one killer of people ages 10-24 worldwide?

If guessed “road deaths,” you knew something I didn’t.

Earlier this week, a co-worker brought to my attention an interesting nonprofit called the Make Roads Safe Campaign, which promotes public awareness of dangerous road conditions in developing countries and advocates worldwide investments to help combat the problems. According to the group, traffic injuries account for 3,000 deaths per day worldwide, and 1.2 million per year.

Make Roads Safe took out an ad in The New York Times Monday to publish an open letter to the United Nations calling on the body to hold a first-ever global conference on road safety. Later that day, the U.N. passed a resolution deciding it would go ahead with the conference in Russia sometime in 2009. Supporters of the cause claimed a victory, but vowed to press on for concrete results to come out of the conference.

“I am delighted that the U.N. has today recognized the scale of human suffering and economic loss caused by road traffic deaths and injuries,” Lord George Robertson, chairman of the Commission for Global Road Safety, said in a Make Roads Safe press release. “Now we must ensure that the U.N. Conference is not just another talking shop, but secures real commitments and takes real action to reverse the tide of global road deaths.”

The campaign would like to see a few specific items placed on the conference’s agenda. Among them are: a commitment from the international community to fund no less than a 10-year, $300 million action plan to increase road safety in low- and medium-income countries; and assurances that 10 percent of road infrastructure budgets funded by international donors be earmarked for safety.

For more on the Make Roads Safe Campaign, visit

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