9 May 2012 

Policy & Donor Forum in New York marks first year of Decade progress 

Secretary Norman Mineta chaired the Policy & Donor Forum
Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York speaking at the Forum
l – r: Kevin Watkins, Brookings Institute; Jo Confino, the Guardian; and Brice Lalonde, Rio+20 conference coordinator
Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC Transport Commissioner; and Jose Luis Irogoyen, World Bank Transport Director, discuss sustainable roads
South Africa’s transport minister Joel Ndebele speaks as Fred Wegman and Zindzi Mandela listen
Mayor Bloomberg joins Zoleka and Zindzi Mandela to launch the Zenani Mandela campaign
Ileana Arias, Deputy Director of US Centers for Disease Control, address the investment case for road safety

The 2012 Decade of Action Policy & Donor Forum, held in New York City on 2nd May, has reviewed progress in the first year of the UN’s decade-long campaign to drive down road traffic casualties.

The Forum, organised by the Commission for Global Road Safety and the Road Safety Fund, brought together senior policymakers, NGO activists and representatives of the philanthropic and corporate sectors. The meeting, held at the Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue, was chaired by Hon. Norman Y. Mineta, former US Secretary of Transportation and the Chairman of Make Roads Safe North America. Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City and the world’s leading road safety philanthropist, was Guest of Honour at the Forum and made a keynote address as he collected the first ‘Decade of Action Award’ from HRH Prince Michael of Kent. The Forum was also the venue for the announcement of a new ‘Zenani Mandela’ global road safety advocacy campaign led by the Mandela Family in memory of their lost child.

The Forum heard a Decade progress report from Dr Etienne Krug, Director of Injury Prevention at the World Health Organization and the Chairman of the UN Road Safety Collaboration, who highlighted the large number of country level legislative and practical initiatives being developed as a result of the Decade’s launch, as well as updates on domestic and global leadership from David Strickland, Administrator of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Russian Federation’s Deputy UN Ambassador, Dmitry Maksimychev, provided details of the recent UN resolution on global road safety steered through the UN General Assembly by Russia.

The forthcoming Rio+20 sustainable development conference was a major topic for the Forum, in a session chaired by the Guardian’s Executive Editor Jo Confino as part of the media partnership between the Guardian and the Road Safety Fund to increase reporting of global road traffic injuries. Dr Kevin Watkins, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institute, launched a new report ‘Safe and Sustainable Roads – an agenda for Rio+20’, arguing that road traffic injuries and the environmental impacts of road traffic should be recognised and acted on by governments meeting in Rio. The Executive Coordinator of the Rio+20 conference, Brice Lalonde, responded by pointing out that road safety and the wider issues of sustainable transport were still ‘far from the centre’ of the Rio agenda. But ‘it is never too late’, he urged. Jo Confino picked up on the need for governments to take the lead in pushing road safety onto the international sustainable development agenda, questioning South Africa’s transport minister, Joel Subisiso Ndebele, and Sweden’s State Secretary for Infrastucture, Carl von der Esch, on the role their governments could take to make road safety a bigger priority. Janette Sadik-Khan, Transport Commissioner of New York City, described the measures cities can take to make urban space more liveable and accessible to pedestrians and cyclists and agreed that cities can take the initiative without waiting for global conferences to give a policy lead. Finally, Jose-Luis Irogoyen, Transport Director of the World Bank, defended the role of the multi-lateral development banks in their multi-billion dollar lending for road programmes, described some of the positive ways in which the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility was beginning to steer countries in a safer and more people-led course, and agreed that Rio+20 could help to strengthen the arguments for prioritising road safety within the Bank.

Following the lively debate on Rio, the Forum was reminded of the human cost of neglecting road safety. Zindzi Mandela, daughter of Nelson Mandela and grandmother of Zenani, the 13 year old killed in a car crash on the eve of the 2010 South Africa World Cup, announced the launch of a new ‘Zenani Mandela campaign’. With her daughter (and Zenani’s mother) Zoleka listening in the audience, Zindzi Mandela described how the campaign would be for “every child who leaves for school in the morning and does not return in the afternoon… let us commit to work together on this vital cause for public health, sustainable development and human rights”. She said the campaign was formed in the spirit of public service and sacrifice which had defined Nelson Mandela’s life, and would be an important element of the annual Mandela Day. Zindzi and Zoleka Mandela were joined by Mayor Bloomberg, who strongly endorsed the Zenani campaign. “Every year almost 1.3 million people are killed and millions more injured on the world’s roads – and many of those victims are children. That is simply unacceptable. There’s a strong and growing network of organisations working around the world to implement proven interventions including tougher speeding, seat-belt and helmet rules and an increase in safe school crossings and more footpaths. This campaign is yet another positive step forward in efforts to address this leading cause of death and save more lives”, Mayor Bloomberg said.

The work of some of those organisations was highlighted in a series of presentations on the ‘investment case’ for road injury prevention by NGOs active in middle and low income countries. The Forum heard about work on safe routes to school in Tanzania led by Jeffrey Witte, Director of US NGO Amend; a successful campaign by the Gonzalo Rodriguez Foundation in Uruguay to introduce safe seat belts to school buses in the country, led by Nani Rodriguez, President of the Foundation; a presentation from Greig Craft, President of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, on the highly successful ten year motorcycle helmet campaign in Vietnam, and the expansion of the programme to other SE Asian and African countries; and from Rob McInerney, CEO of the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP), on the charity’s work to eliminate high risk roads through network-wide road safety assessments. All these projects receive core funding from the Road Safety Fund, and the role of the Fund in catalysing activity for the Decade of Action was showcased by its director, Saul Billingsley, in a presentation that included the announcement of new funding from UPS, the logistics company, for a fleet safety initiative in southern Africa, and highlighted the support of other corporate donors such as Allianz, Bosch, FedEx and Johnson & Johnson. A surprise celebrity guest appearance by Sesame Street’s Grover – an ambassador for the Decade of Action – and a powerful presentation by the International Director of Sesame Workshops, Robert Knezevic, demonstrated the media impact of Sesame Street in promoting social and public health objectives to children and parents around the world, and the potential for the organisation to do the same for road traffic injury prevention.

The role of existing donors and the challenge of encouraging new supporters to the cause was the final theme of the Forum. Dr Ileana Arias, Deputy Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, described the role the US government is beginning to play in supporting global road safety activity, including through supporting and evaluating the Global Helmet Vaccine Initiative in Cambodia and Uganda. David Ward, Director General of the FIA Foundation, moderated a discussion panel including Dr Kelly Henning, Director of Public Health at Bloomberg Philanthropies, as well as some of the leading figures in the corporate response to global road safety: Patrick Lepercq, Vice President of Michelin; Gabriel Kardos, Fleet Safety Manager of Johnson & Johnson; Mike Watson, Global Road Safety Manager for Shell International, and Moisses Huntt, Vice President of UPS. The panel was generally optimistic that, based on their own experience of pushing the issue internally, more companies could be encouraged to recognise the impact of road injury, both for their own operations and also for society at large. Kelly Henning described the work Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting through its ‘Road Safety in 10 Countries’ programme, and argued that the key to bringing other major philanthropies into the road safety sector would be to demonstrate measurable success in the RS10 investment.

In his closing remarks, Secretary Mineta highlighted again the need for continued momentum towards the UN goal of preventing 5 million deaths by 2020, and urged support for the Road Safety Fund as a key mechanism for delivering life-saving interventions in the Decade of Action.

The Policy & Donor Forum is intended to be an annual event showcasing the best activities of the Decade of Action, recognising achievement and building the international coalition of supporters and partners. The Commission for Global Road Safety and the Road Safety Fund acknowledge the generous support of the FIA Foundation in making the event possible, and will shortly announce the location and date for the 2013 Policy & Donor Forum.