When I first attended the United Nations in Geneva, about 11 years ago, to listen to the plans for significantly curtailing road deaths globally, I came away not only impressed but also with the distinct impression that given what was, by then, a huge growth in the numbers of motor vehicles in poorer countries, the aim would be to prevent the annual number of deaths rising as global motorization grew. The yearly death toll was then stated as 1.3 million but this figure was projected to rise to 2 million by 2020, thus holding it steady at 1.25 to 1.3 million instead of seeing such a horrendous increase would be a good thing.
The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020 was officially proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, New York, in March 2010, and I was lucky enough to be present for that historic event, too. The goal of the Decade of Action was “to stabilize and reduce the forecast level of road traffic deaths around the world.”
At some point, which I don’t profess to recall, the goal apparently became a reduction of annual global deaths by 50 per cent, by the year 2020, and frankly I have always thought that to be remarkably unrealistic. Now, in 2017, the most recent global figures suggest that the annual number of deaths remains steady at 1.25 million — perfectly on target for the original, laudable goal of the exercise, which now looks likely to be achieved!
Will this somehow be a failure, achieving such stabilization in the face of rapidly growing motorization in so many of the poorer countries? Not in my book.
Sadly, however, there has been increasing talk of the new, tougher goal over the years of the campaign, and as far as I can see, all this will have done is set the stage for what will appear to be a dismal failure! And that is a crying shame.
Anyway, understandably and rightly, wise eyes are now on the future beyond 2020, and — no surprises here — a goal of halving global road deaths (with 2027 now apparently being the target year for that).
In November 2016, a Draft proposal for a UN Road Safety Fund was launched for consultations. It makes interesting reading.
Link added here on August 2, 2017: 2020 UN target for road casualty reduction is unlikely to be achieved