Press Release

UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety’s South-East Asia tour to advocate for helmets and safe mobility for all

14 November 2022




The goal of the mission of the Special Envoy is to advocate for more investment in safe and sustainable mobility in one of the most affected regions in the world: South-East Asia. Starting the tour with Thailand, the Special Envoy will also visit Viet Nam and Cambodia to meet Government Ministers and partners to ensure the effective implementation of the new Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 with the perspective of halving the number of victims on the road by 2030.  

With 1.3 million people killed on the road every year worldwide, road crashes rank as the first cause of death in young people aged 5 to 29, while more than 90% of road fatalities occur in low- and middle-income countries. Road crashes are the leading cause of the fatalities and injuries in South-East Asia. According to WHO (2018), Thailand and Viet Nam are the most vulnerable countries in the region with a fatality rate of 32.2 and 26.4 per 100,000 population while in the European Union, the fatality rate is 5.4 per 100,000 population. 58 per cent of the global road deaths occurred in the Asia-Pacific region.  

Road traffic death figures in the ESCAP region in 2019 showed an 11 per cent decrease from 2016.  Despite this progress, efforts still need to be made in the region, combining policy, enforcement and education targeting the most vulnerable on the roads. In this regard, the Transport Ministers of the Asia-Pacific region adopted the five-year high-level strategic direction for the region through the Regional Action Programme for Sustainable Transport Development for Asia and the Pacific (2022-2026) in which road safety has been identified and highlighted as one of the key thematic areas. 

Road death and serious injuries cost economies $1.7 trillion dollars per year, and from 3% to 5 percent of GDP. In Vietnam, it represents 2.9% of GDP, while it costs 1.7% of Cambodia’s GDP.  A 2017 study by the World Bank (2017),  reports that if Thailand cuts road traffic mortality rates by 50% over a period of 24 years, it could generate additional income equivalent to 22.2% of GDP.  Furthermore, the majority of the victims are from families with a disadvantaged background. "In addition to the tragic loss of loved ones, road crashes draw the most vulnerable into a vicious cycle of poverty, from medical costs, material damage, loss of the economic capacity and mobilization of resources", highlights the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Mr. Jean Todt 

The Special Envoy will start his mission in Bangkok on 20-23 November to speak at the opening of International Transport Forum (ITF) and at the High-level roundtable: Achieving transport-related Sustainable Development Goals through sustainable, inclusive and resilient transport development in the region at the 7th Session of the Committee on Transport organized by the Transport Division of ESCAP. Despite the efforts, Thailand has still one of the 10 highest road traffic fatality rates in the world (WHO 2018). It also has the highest rate of motorcycle-related deaths in the world: the equivalent of 60 deaths a day. According to the World Bank, the situation is particularly alarming in South-East Asia, where motorized two-wheelers account for up to 70% of total vehicles with motorization rate per population far exceeding that of cars.  Motorized two-wheelers are also 30 times more at risk than cars on the road and represent 40 % of crash fatalities in the region. Wearing a certified quality helmet reduces the risk of fatality by 42% and injuries by 69%. 

The ESCAP event will be also the occasion to organize a Side event: Sustainable Mobility for Asia and the Pacific #RoadSafetyMatters, where an exhibition will be launched to highlight projects funded by the UNRSF and implemented by UNESCAP and partners in the Region. The exhibition will also demonstrate how The Global Plan of Action can be implemented at the regional level through the Regional Plan of Action for Asia and the Pacific for the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021–2030 and how investment in road safety will contribute to achieve the global agenda and the impact on SDGs such as access to safe and sustainable transport to all, health, mitigating climate change, access to education, jobs or gender equity. 

In Phnom Penh, the Special Envoy will meet Government Ministers and will close the Achievement Dissemination Workshop on an  Eco-Safe Driver Training Program, organized on the 24 November by the non-profit AIP Foundation, supported by GIZ and VF Corporation

The Special Envoy will close his South-East Asia Tour with a visit to Hanoi on 28 November where he will meet high-level Government representatives and will visit a school engaged on road safety working on speed reduction in school zones. Lastly, the Special Envoy will visit the Protec Tropical Helmet Factory in Vinh Phuc Province, which produces UN-ECE 22.05 standard helmets using latest technology. 


Media Contact: 

Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety: 

Priti Gautam 

Stephanie Schumacher  


Notes to Editors: 

The United Nations has invested significantly in tackling the problem of road safety globally. Following the “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020”, the UN General Assembly in August 2020 adopted a resolution on “Improving Road Safety”, that reconfirmed its commitment to halving the number of global traffic deaths and injuries and to providing access to safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems for all by 2030. In July 2022, the road safety community met in New York City for the first ever High-Level Meeting on Improving Global Road Safety at the United Nations General Assembly, unanimously adopting a text titled: “Political declaration of the high-level meeting on improving global road safety”. 

To galvanize intersectoral actions and raise the visibility of road safety, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appointed in 2015 Jean Todt as his Special Envoy for Road Safety. He was reconfirmed in this role by the new UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in 2017 and in 2021. In 2018, together with 14 UN organizations, the Special Envoy launched the UN Road Safety Fund (UNRSF). 

The Special Envoy recently launched a new campaign to raise awareness about road safety #streetsforlife, in collaboration with JC Decaux, launched during the High-level Meeting for Road Safety and to be implemented  in 80 countries by the end of 2024. 

UNECE acts as the secretariat for the Special Envoy for Road Safety. UNECE is the custodian of the United Nations road safety legal instruments applicable worldwide, such as the Convention on Road Traffic, the Convention on Road Signs and Signals, and the 1958, 1997 and 1998 Vehicle Regulations Agreements.  UNECE services the ECOSOC Committee of Experts on Transport of Dangerous Goods, as well as the only permanent United Nations intergovernmental forum on road safety (Working Party on Road Traffic Safety) and the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, both in the framework of the Inland Transport Committee, which is the only permanent UN forum specialized in inland modes of transport. 

Sources- 2018 WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 

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