From Stockholm to Marrakech: key insights from Claes Tingvall on navigating the road ahead

A cross section of dignitaries at the 3rd Ministerial Conference in Stockholm. © Alhstrom/Elgquist

As we build up to the 4th Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Marrakech, Morocco, next year, the Alliance spoke with Professor Claes Tingvall, the former Director of Road Safety in Sweden and Chairman of the Academic Expert Group for the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety (Ministerial Conference) in Stockholm, Sweden, (3rd Ministerial Conference) in 2020. As chair of the Group, he collaborated with the Swedish government, the Transport Administration, and the WHO. The Group made an independent and scientific assessment of the progress made during the first Decade of Action for Road Safety and from an expert view recommended a road safety strategy for the period 2020-2030. Some of their recommendations included upgrading road infrastructure, reducing speed limits to 30 km/h, ensuring sustainable practices and reporting, and modal shift in transportation. 

In a question-and-answer session, we asked him a series of questions on the legacy of the 3rd Ministerial Conference in Stockholm, his expectations for the 4th Ministerial Conference in Marrakech, and what NGOs can do to strengthen accountability and action in the lead up to the 4th Ministerial Conference and beyond. 

What was the legacy of the Stockholm conference, and what key takeaways do you believe shaped global road safety efforts?

A. Integrating road safety into global sustainability goals

Claes:  Parts of the Stockholm Declaration were included in the resolution [A/RES/74/299] from the UN General Assembly in August 2020. Most of the recommendations from the Stockholm Declaration were included; the main thing being the way it was formulated—the connection of road safety to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the expression of road safety being a part of health, climate, and equity issues. An example of this would be the way we understand child health, including enabling children to walk and cycle safely to school which has an impact on their long term health, education, and wellbeing. 

In relation to climate, active mobility is one of the keys to a mobility that does not contribute to global warming. In terms of equity, for the first time, we formulated road safety in a way that it will contribute to safety in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and avoid excuses of not having enough institutions, authorities, and money. 

B. Achievements from the Stockholm Declaration

Claes: The Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 included many of the ideas from the Stockholm Declaration. Many of the recommendations of the Academic Expert Group have been implemented, including safety testing of trucks and commercial vehicles; 30 km/h in cities; and integrating reporting of safety performance in sustainability reports which has happened through the FIA Road Safety Index.  Some of these recommendations have been implemented for reasons that were not just road safety-oriented, which is a positive sign that it is being integrated in other agendas. 

Looking towards the future, what are your hopes for the outcomes of the Marrakech conference? How do you envision these outcomes influencing global road safety policies and practices?

A. Integrating road safety into broader community issues

Claes: What I hope to see following the Marrakech conference is that the road safety community carries on this journey for road safety to be integrated into something bigger; it is a part of a wider community that cares for its citizens and it is part of public health. People working in other sectors like health, climate, and equity need to understand that road safety is a part of this wider community and they should integrate it as a key element and quality indicator of urban livability and sustainability. We, in the road safety community, must make ourselves understandable to other sectors and agendas by using language that is familiar to them and that fits into the wider agenda. I would like to see other people from other sectors join us in Marrakech and share their language and their way of convincing people with the road safety community. 

B. Bridging the gap in science-driven advocacy

Claes: Road safety has not had enough science and evidence-based solutions. Speed is an example: we need to show that speed is a factor that impacts health, climate and equity and affects sustainability and livability. Speed in urban areas makes no impact on time savings—but that goes against “common sense”, which is the biggest enemy of road safety. This is also where NGOs come in, because they are the link between the science and the dialogue we have in the community with citizens and stakeholders. 

C. Connecting road safety as an integral part of workplace safety 

Claes: The private sector in their global supply chains must treat road safety the same way wherever they operate and must transport goods with the same level of safety in every country. There are many more connections between safe workplaces and road safety than we have previously understood. About 400,000 people are killed at work every year and over 100,000 are employees that work on the roads such as drivers. Another 300,000 to 400,000 are third parties killed in crashes involving someone at work, for example someone driving a bus, truck, or commercial vehicle.This is not a matter of blaming anyone, but when you define a safe workplace, road safety has to be part of it. We should make sure that a safe workplace is a right for everyone, including those on the roads [not just employees]. This means that it is an organizational issue and not an individual issue, with organizations taking responsibility for when their employees are on the roads, to avert risks on themselves and others. This is a new angle to workplace safety that I sincerely hope will come into the bigger agenda. 

How can road safety be effectively integrated into the workplace safety agenda, and what stakeholders and roles should be involved in this integration?

A. Proactive engagement in integrating road safety across sectors

Claes: The workplace safety sector will not come automatically to us, so we need to knock on their door. At the highest level, it will be the International Labour Organization and the unions they work with. We also need to look at the financial sector because poor workplace conditions are a business risk. Corporations and organizations that do not care for the wellbeing of their employees are not seen as good employers. 

We have seen some big companies working in LMICs and high-risk regions with a very high level of safety. They have shown that it is possible. 

How can the private sector and governments enhance investments for road safety and contribute to the broader goals of sustainability and equity in road safety, particularly in LMICs?

A. Role of the private sector in contributing to safer roads

Claes: My view, especially for the private sector, is that it is not just about giving money to support road safety, but to look inwards into their own operations and how they can make their operations better and  to focus on good road safety practices and a safe workplace, such as by buying the best quality vehicles, because these are areas where they can make a real difference.

Investment is one of the reasons why we need to connect road safety to a bigger agenda: alone, it cannot generate the investments needed for improving safety in urban areas, such as safe road infrastructure. So, we need to link our advocacy to active mobility, accessibility, and safe walking and cycling. Linking to sustainability, equity, accessibility, etc. will bring more funding than seeking funding for the road safety sector alone. 

B. Looking beyond national governments to localize responsibility to cities and corporations 

Claes: National governments have a very important role, however, cities have more impact on the lives of citizens. They have power over public transport, taxi operations, transport of goods and services, etc. They can use public procurement and other instruments they have in their hands to improve road safety. 

Multinational corporations should also be held accountable where they operate. It is not an excuse that a poor country means poor safety. These corporations are able to fund safe operations and doing so can have a big impact on improving road safety in LMICs. 

It is not a question of lack of resources but how they are distributed and these resources should be focused on LMICs where they can have a major influence on safety.

What is the role of road safety NGOs in all of these and how can they enhance their impact going into the Marrakech conference to advance global road safety initiatives?

A. NGO role in building synergy across sectors

Claes: I believe that the best road safety NGOs are those that can talk to and understand NGOs working in other sectors like health, climate, and equity and show them what we mean by sustainable communities and the good things that come out of road safety. NGOs have an enormous role in making sure that we stick to science and evidence-based knowledge and solutions for road safety. NGOs are making a big difference and should continue because they are advocates for those who are suffering and for the true picture of road safety. 

B. NGOs as progressive voices in Marrakech

Claes: For the conference in Marrakech, NGOs should talk to everyone they can, including the CEOs from the private sector, NGOs from other sectors, and city officials, and invite them and make sure they attend.  Show them how they are part of the solution and not the problem. 

NGOs need to be the voice of the future and not history: we need a progressive way of thinking where NGOs  do not work against governments or other stakeholders but try to understand their message and ideas and work with them to make it better. 

NGOs should be proud of being a part of that bigger agenda even though it takes time to create change.