20 Feb 2020
3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety

Minister Eneroth, Commonwealth Ministers, UN Special Envoy, Mr Todt, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to welcome you all to this special lunch at the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety. I am especially grateful to our Swedish hosts for making this lunch possible today. Here in Stockholm we have the important responsibility not just to review progress but to set new global road safety objectives for 2030. In 2018 I was honoured to represent the UK at the last United Nation’s General Assembly debate on road safety and called for a three-point plan of stronger political commitment, more funding, and a new target to halve road deaths and serious inquiries. I am, therefore, especially pleased to see that the Stockholm Declaration adopted here today endorses all these essential commitments.

The task in the decade ahead is to move beyond merely stabilising the number of road deaths to substantially cutting them. That’s why the target to halve road deaths and serious injuries by 2030 is so important. With concerted effort it is achievable. But It is certainly is not the limit of our ambition. Here in Sweden, of course, it is especially appropriate to endorse Vision Zero. Our aim is to achieve a world eventually free from the scourge of road traffic injury.

If there is one single tragic fact about road transport that should capture all our attention it is this. Road traffic injuries are now the leading cause of death for children and young people aged 5 to 29 years. It is the most natural human instinct to protect our children and yet today we expose them to the greatest risk of lethal injury on our roads. In support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, much is being done – and rightly so – to protect under-fives from the risk of malnutrition and life-threatening diseases, and yet relatively speaking far less effort has been made to make our roads as safe as possible for children and young people.

But to overcome this neglect we must redouble our efforts and create new partnerships for road injury prevention; and that is why I am proud to serve as the patron of the recently established Commonwealth Road Safety Initiative. Our aim is to put road safety on the Commonwealth agenda. This would be timely, as in June the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, will be held in Kigali, Rwanda. And it would appropriate, as across its 54 member countries the Commonwealth countries suffer over 500,000 road fatalities every year.

The wide disparity in road safety performance among Commonwealth countries (ranging from 3 to 35 per 100,000 population) shows that there is huge potential to share best practice and promote capacity building in road injury prevention. The Commonwealth has a proven track recorded of encouraging this kind of knowledge sharing. It promotes networks of expertise and shared interests in every world region. The work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, and the Commonwealth Youth Council are great examples of this kind of international co-operation.

I think it would be tremendous if these networks could be utilised to promote road injury prevention. But to unlock this potential will require Commonwealth leaders to add road safety to their existing commitments to health, young people, and the sustainable development goals.

A compelling case for Commonwealth Heads of Government to include road safety in the Kigali Communique has been made by the CRSI. Our expert panel co-chaired by Dr Agnes Binagwhao and Iain Cameron, has offered recommendations that would help all Commonwealth countries meet the target to have road deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Our Memorandum to the Kigali Heads of Government meeting is available for you to all today. It demonstrates how the Commonwealth can take on a unique leadership role in global road safety.

But to make this happen will require strong political commitment and enough countries willing to include road safety on the Commonwealth agenda. So I am counting on all the Ministers and Government representatives here today to carry a message back to their capitals next week. Let’s put road safety on the Commonwealth agenda! Let’s embrace all the recommendations of the Stockholm Declaration, and across the Commonwealth together dedicate the next ten years to making roads safe for us all, but especially for children and young people.