Road safety is a sustainable development challenge for the Asia-Pacific Region. The ESCAP region accounted for 60 per cent of the global road crash fatalities in 2016. Moreover, the Vulnerable Road User fatalities are a major concern for the region.
Since 2004, a total of nine resolutions were adopted by the General Assembly and since 2010, three ministerial declarations were adopted by the global community. The third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety was held in Sweden, in February 2020. Against this background, the UN General Assembly adopted a new resolution on global road safety proclaiming the period 2021–2030 as the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety the goal is to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by at least 50 per cent by 2030.
Regional initiatives and activities have followed suit in the ESCAP region. ESCAP resolution 74/3 entitled “Improving road safety in Asia and the Pacific for sustainable transport systems” called upon member States and the secretariat to further strengthen international cooperation and knowledge-sharing on road safety at all levels. It encouraged all members and associate members to intensify national efforts and regional collaboration with a view to meeting the road-safety-related targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to take steps to improve road safety, including by promoting the Regional Action Programme for Sustainable Transport Connectivity in Asia and the Pacific, phase I (2017–2021).
As encouraging as this is, effective monitoring and evaluation of progress is contingent upon accurate data systems to measure and monitor road traffic deaths, injuries, and crashes. This is proving to be a formidable challenge in Asia and the Pacific. In response to this data discrepancy, in early 2019, ESCAP joined the initiative towards the establishment of a road safety observatory for the Asia-Pacific region.
ESCAP as one of the Participating United Nations Organizations, assists the member countries and stakeholders of the Asia-Pacific Region to prepare and implement road safety projects under the United Nations Road Safety Fund which was established in 2018.
Domestic Ferry Safety
The safety record of domestic passenger ferry services requires further attention. Approximately 2,000 deaths are known to occur annually as a result of passenger vessel accidents globally. Practically all of them involve ferries on domestic voyages. The vast majority of these accidents occur in Asia and the Pacific. Unseaworthy vessels, passenger overloading, deficiencies in evacuation, lifesaving equipment and search and rescue, are some of the key issues calling for action and enhanced safety standards in the region. To address this, ESCAP and the International Maritime Organization jointly organized a virtual Expert Group Meeting on 17 March 2020. The ensuing “Bangkok declaration on enhancing domestic ferry safety in Asia and the Pacific and on the development of model regulations on domestic ferry safety” marked the beginning of efforts towards the development of relevant action plans and the implementation of capacity development programmes in this area.
The ESCAP region has an estimated 400 million people living in extreme poverty below the threshold of USD 1.90 a day. At the higher international poverty line of USD 3.20 a day, the number of the poor rises to 1.2 billion, accounting for more than a quarter of the region’s total population. Furthermore, almost 60 per cent of the world's 650 million persons with disabilities live in Asia and the Pacific. In many parts of the region, a large share of these people still lack access to basic infrastructure and services, including transport.
The availability of reliable transport infrastructure and services that enable people and goods to reach a range of destinations at reasonable costs and within reasonable time frames, is not only essential for economic growth. It is also indispensable for a balanced distribution of economic and social benefits, while ensuring a proper management of the environmental impact of human development.
Against this background, ESCAP is scaling up its activities on inclusive and accessible transport, in particular through enhanced research and data collection, to form a basis for further capacity development and technical assistance activities.
A flagship project meant to enhance the region’s capacity to assess the full scope of sustainability implications of transport policies is being implemented by ESCAP over the period 2020-2021 entitled “Enhancing cooperation among transport research, education and training institutes and government agencies for sustainable transport development in selected countries of Asia and the Pacific”. The project aims to establish a regional network for exchanging knowledge among transport research, education and training institutes and government agencies within the ESCAP region. The project will also develop a comprehensive sustainable transport education and training programme for transport professionals, meant to directly enhance countries’ capacity to implement sustainable transport strategies and policies. Furthermore, the project will directly benefit transport professionals and contribute to building a qualified human resource base that can fully assess the wider social, economic and environmental impacts of transport systems and services, as well as utilize appropriate new technology in implementing sustainable and inclusive transport policies and programmes.