NGO analysis of the High-level Meeting suggests glimpses of progress but concerning omissions

More than 80% of the 73 plenary statements made by Member States at the High-level Meeting on Improving Global Road Safety (High-level Meeting) on 30 June and 1 July 2022 at the UN Headquarters in New York, mentioned a national strategy for road safety. However, only 21% mentioned government funding for road safety.

The Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety (the Alliance) has scrutinized the Member State plenary statements and the Political Declaration A/RES/76/294 against the call to action drafted by NGOs earlier this year.

While not mentioning a road safety strategy or government funding in their statement does not necessarily mean these are not in place, what is said and not said at such a highly political event is a barometer for political will and priorities. Governments cannot talk the talk about evidence-based action, without walking the walk by assigning funds toward those actions.

The High-level Meeting was the first ever UN General Assembly high-level meeting for road safety and follows the launch in 2021 of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021–2030 (Global Plan). As such, the road safety NGO community has looked forward to the High-Level Meeting with the expectation that it could be a catalytic moment for real leadership, clear allocation of resources and commitment to implement effective interventions to reduce road deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030. We fear that without stronger demonstration by Member States that they are putting the resources into implementing effective interventions, we will not achieve the 2030 target.

NGOs’ have a role, defined in the Global Plan, to hold their governments accountable. The Alliance’s analysis supports this role. Alongside NGO preparatory activities, an NGO checklist was developed, reflecting our call to action, and what was mentioned and what was not mentioned in the 73 statements was systematically recorded. The Alliance also assessed the Political Declaration, A/RES/76/294 with respect to key indicators, by comparing them with the Stockholm Declaration and UN Resolution A/RES/74/299, which declared the Decade of Action. In particular, we examined specific action words which indicate the strength of the commitment and how specific those commitments are. Find our full analysis on the statements HERE and the Political Declaration HERE.

See key results here:

Member State plenary statement key observations:

  • 72 statements were made by individual Member States and one by the European Union (representing 27 Member States, 10 of whom made their own individual statements).[1] [2] Data below are based on 73 statements;
  • Only 11 (15%) of statements were delivered by a government minister and 21 (29%) by another ministry or road safety agency official. The remainder were represented by their Permanent Mission to the UN. The concept note for the High-level Meeting encouraged Member States to include Ministers in their delegations and therefore this number is disappointing.
  • Evidence-based action: The concept note invited Member States to “share best practices and lessons learned, and make concrete commitments to mobilize political will” in their statements. 25 (34%) statements mentioned that the Member State was or would be implementing a Safe System approach. However, key specifics aligned to the Safe System were missing. 23 (32%) statements mentioned speed management and only four (5%) mentioned 30 km/h limits, versus 37 (51%) statements that mentioned road user education and 36 (49%) statements that mentioned user behavior. This indicates that implementation of a true safe system, which takes the burden off personal responsibility and onto the system, may be less advanced than implied; 
  • Strategy, target, and investment: 60 (82%) statements mentioned a national strategy. 40 (55%) statements mentioned a specific national road death reduction target. A further 22 (30%) referred to the target set out in the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 (Global Plan) or the Political Declaration. Yet only 15 (21%) of statements mentioned investment in road safety, and, of these, only four mentioned a specific figure. An evidence-based strategy, ambitious target, and appropriate funding reflect political will. This lack of attention to funding is particularly disappointing given that the Preparatory Meeting in December 2021 for the High-level Meeting focused heavily on financing to achieve the Decade of Action.
  • Civil society participation: 34 (47%) statements mentioned civil society participation. We would have liked to have seen stronger recognition of the value and role of civil society.

Political Declaration key observations:

  • Evidence-based action: Stronger, action-based language is used in the Political Declaration for national strategies and targets and implementation of the Safe System. However, the 2030 target diverges from previous documents and SDG 3.6, by referring to the 50% target for deaths but not for injuries; 
  • Political will and investment: The Political Declaration lacks commitment to domestic government funding, acknowledging only the importance of international financing to complement domestic resources, and referencing that the Global Plan recognizes actions should be supported through long-term sustained public and private financing. While domestic government funding might be inferred, this is a serious regression from UN Resolution A/RES/74/299 that invited Member States explicitly “to further invest in road safety at all levels, including by allocating appropriate dedicated budgets for institutional and infrastructural improvements for road safety;”
  • Civil society participation: This shows another regression from UN Resolution A/RES/74/299 to the Political Declaration. Particularly concerning is the implied reinterpretation of “shared responsibility”, which removes the key element of “multi-sectoral collaboration”, suggesting greater emphasis on road user behavior. Also missing in the Political Declaration is the previous invitation in UN Resolution A/RES/74/299 to governments to foster “multisectoral and multi-stakeholder collaboration”. The previous document mentions specifically, not only NGOs, but also youth and victim organizations, neither of whom are mentioned in the Political Declaration.
  • Accountability: The Political Declaration includes three checkpoints for progress during the next five years toward its implementation. The UN Secretary General and WHO are requested to provide a progress report in the 78th and 80th sessions of the General Assembly (September 2023 and 2025) and a second High-level Meeting will be convened in 2026. We welcome this positive step which will help drive accountability for governments to achieve the 2030 target.

Resulting from the High-level Meeting, we call on our governments to:

  • Maintain focus on evidence-based action by implementing a Safe System approach and starting with 30 km/h limits where people move, live, and play. We note slight progress in the Declaration but strong country-level uptake was not apparent;
  • Prioritize evidence-based road safety actions in national budgets;
  • Involve civil society meaningfully so that smart road safety decisions are made at every level of government.

To ensure that these priorities are met, we call for:

  • Member States to report specifically on lives saved, injuries reduced, money spent, and what it was spent on during the 78th and 80th sessions of the UN General Assembly in 2023 and 2025;
  • National road safety agencies to engage with the reporting process and Heads of State to attend the next High-level Meeting in 2026.

With now 3,091 days to reduce road deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030, the window to achieve the target will narrow. Now is the time to act.

Lotte Brondum, the Alliance’s Executive Director, said “Our analysis shows glimpses of progress but concerning omissions with regard to how implementation of the Decade of Action will be achieved, including, significantly, how it will be funded. We have three opportunities mandated in the Political Declaration: in 2023, 2025, and 2026, to benchmark our progress and keep on track to achieve the 2030 target. Between now and then, we need to see serious action and NGOs are watching what their governments do.”

[1] Two other statements were made, but these were not governmental bodies.

[2] The statement by Lithuania was made on behalf of 18 countries and the EU but was a statement about the situation in Ukraine and did not report on road safety progress