In a landmark move, the World Bank has established a dedicated Road Safety Unit.

This is the first multilateral development bank (MDB) to do so, and it underscores the bank’s unwavering commitment to addressing the global road safety crisis.

Cutting the toll

Road crashes result in almost 1.2 million deaths every year and are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29.

According to the World Health Organization, 92% of all fatalities occur in low and middle-income countries.

Nicolas Peltier-Thiberge, the World Bank’s Director of Transport, emphasised the significance of the new road safety unit.

“Road traffic crashes are preventable tragedies with an unacceptably high toll for developing countries. The World Bank is a big supporter of the global road safety agenda, and we regularly work with client countries to make roads transport safer for all users.”

Thiberg added: “This is a major development in global road safety and comes as we approach the middle of the second UN Decade of Action for Road Safety.”

New international focus

The newly created Road Safety Unit is embedded within the Global Transport Department of the World Bank and will house the Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF).

This multi-donor fund supports efforts in low- and middle-income countries to halve road traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

Establishing the unit marks the fourth major milestone in the World Bank’s increasing commitment to road safety over the past two decades.

It follows the establishment of GRSF in 2006 and the inclusion of road safety in the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework in 2018.

Automatic for the people

All World Bank road and urban transport projects in 2020 must incorporate road safety into any plans and projects.

“This is a major development in global road safety and comes as we approach the middle of the second UN Decade of Action for Road Safety,” says Said Dahdah, who will manage the new unit and lead GRSF.

As part of this strategic shift, the World Bank has also restructured GRSF as an Umbrella Program, a powerful financing instrument designed to catalyse road safety development financing from the World Bank and other MDBs.

Over the five-year period between 2018 and 2022, MDBs collectively approved $3.6 billion of new financing for road safety.

Coordinated advances

A new Business Plan revolves around three pillars of action and outlines strategic initiatives to catalyse increased financing, foster road safety innovation, and amplify road safety research and knowledge.

Said Dahdah highlighted the importance of the new strategy, stating, “this new business plan outlines our renewed commitment to work toward the UN goal of halving road traffic fatalities by 2030”.

In light of these developments, the World Bank and GRSF call on their partners, stakeholders, and the global road safety community to join this journey to save lives in low and middle-income countries.

Significant strides can be made to reduce road traffic fatalities and injuries through concerted action, contributing to safer communities for all.