Hon. L. Michael Henry, Ministry of Transport and Works, the National Road Safety Council’s Vice Chairman, Dr Lucien Jones, Executive Director, Paula Fletcher and Council co-sponsor, Earl Jarrett, recently returned from the first High Level Ibero-American Road Safety Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean (EISEVI). The seminar, themed, ‘Protecting Lives”, was held in Madrid Spain between 23 and 24 February 2009.
The Forum, addressed by President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica by video conference and the Deputy Prime Minister of Spain and attended by Government ministers with responsibilities for road safety and health, heads of international organizations, experts of recognised prestige and NGOs representatives, was held to focus attention on road safety, to increase the involvement of ministers and heads of state in the region and to encourage the development of regional and national road safety plans for Latin America and the Caribbean.
At the conference, World Bank Vice President, Pamela Cox, revealed, that if current trends continue, road fatalities and injuries will soon become the second leading cause of death among men and the fourth leading cause of ill health in the world. Dr Cox also spoke about a similar fate for children and that the global cost of road traffic injuries is predicted to increase by more than 65 % by 2020 and by 2030, road traffic deaths and injuries will be the fourth major cause of loss of healthy years for the general population, and the number two cause of death for men.
Jamaica’s Minister of Transport and Works, Hon. L. Michael Henry, the Caribbean representative participated in the Panel Discussion, ‘Identifying Regional Capacity Priorities for Making Roads Safer’ held on February 24. He stated that, “we are here to remind ourselves of our responsibilities, and to commit to, not just simply building roads, but building roads that facilitate the safety of all users. Our strategy must be underpinned by the belief that we can achieve much more collectively and in partnership, than we can do alone.”
During the Madrid trip, the Minister and the Jamaican contingent had productive discussions with representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP). This programme is designed to examine the infrastructure on high-risk roads where many road users are killed and seriously injured. Based on this examination, high-return countermeasures can be identified for implementation.
The team from Jamaica also had positive discussions with the World Bank, and according to Dr Jones, “if all goes well, these discussions should hopefully bear fruit in the very near future.” Dr. Jones also commented, “there is no doubt in my mind that a decision by the Economic Commission for Latin-America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to have a conference in Jamaica in June of this year, involving the Caribbean countries, would not have happened were it not for the relationships achieved by working on the Transitional Committee of the Latin American and the Caribbean region.” The theme for this conference is, " Setting Targets for reducing road fatalities and injuries."
The Jamaican team was even more inspired to hear about the “Vision Zero” programme in Sweden, termed by one speaker, ‘the only ethically defensible position to adopt’. Dr Jones noted that, ultimately, the target should be to have no deaths on our roads, whether or not this can be achieved.
Despite many challenges and disappointments, regional road safety organizations continue to save lives and prevent injuries in the region. Inspired by the leaders of the region, Jamaica’s NRSC, together with partners in the private sector, launched the ambitious SAVE 300 LIVES PROJECT last October.
The NRSC looks forward to working more closely with regional road safety organisations, to share information across the region that will assist in learning about each other’s problems, collectively developing solutions and jointly developing best practices and standards for the region. Minister Henry, who is supportive of this process aptly stated that, “as a region we need to outline the critical direction and interventions necessary for safety, and apply the best practices that are available for attaining this goal.“
The participants at the conference agreed to develop a regional report for the first UN Ministerial summit on Global Road Safety to be held in Moscow in November 2009. Commitments were also given for road safety efforts to remain inclusive of all countries in the region and that road safety should have a multi-sectoral approach. The participants also pledged to increase lobby efforts with their political leaders to ensure long-term support.
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