Speeches & Transcripts

Safe Roads - Safe Kids Global Road Safety Summit: Remarks by Pierre Guislain, World Bank Senior Director for Transport & ICT

December 11, 2014

Pierre Guislain Safe Roads - Safe Kids Global Road Safety Summit Washington, D.C., United States

As Prepared for Delivery

Washington DC, December 11, 2014 -- Pierre Guislain, World Bank’s Global Practice senior director for Transport and ICT, addresses the Sake Kids Global Road Safety Summit in Washington D.C. Guislain stressed the need to scale up and speed up the international community’s impact on improving road safety around the world. Read his full remarks:


  • Lack of Road Safety is a real development issue.  Why?  Because it stands in the way of our twin goals: reducing poverty and boosting prosperity.
  • The World Bank is committed to eradicating extreme poverty in the developing world—our first goal. But this will not happen as long as 90% of the killed and injured on the roads come from countries with limited or no safety nets, with whole families getting thrown back into poverty almost overnight, and when the main breadwinner is killed or maimed for life in a road crash.
  • Moreover, more than a quarter of those deaths involve children.  So the World Bank’s relationship with Safe Kids is no accident.  What’s the point of investing in schools and dispensaries if so many kids get killed every day just trying to reach them?
  • Our second goal is to boost the prosperity of the bottom 40 percent of the population—but this group is the most affected by road crashes!  So our mission demands that we protect vulnerable road users, and this means improving road safety for all.
  • The Decade of Action for Road Safety must be the opportunity to take decisive action.  This is why we contributed to its enactment and are supporting its implementation worldwide. But is real progress being made?  Are the Decade goals going to be met?  If not, what is missing in the plan? 
  • As we approach the Decade mid-point in a year from now, these are the questions to ask—and the answers to seek.

Our Commitment

  • The World Bank is addressing this challenge head on.  Back in 2007 the proportion of road safety activities in our total road lending was less than 2 percent.  In 2014 it will be over 8 percent.
  • In 2011 the decision was made that all new road projects will have to include a road safety activity, so over half of our road portfolio now includes road components, and it should reach 100 percent within the next two years or so.
  • The Global Road Safety Facility was established by the World Bank in 2006 to scale up our efforts and assist our client countries in systematically tackling the road safety agenda.
  • I want to thank here two of the GRSF sponsors, the FIA Foundation who has been one of our founding donors, alongside Sweden, the Netherlands, and later Australia and the United Kingdom, and Bloomberg Philanthropies who chose the GRSF among the partners that will help implement its road safety initiative.
  • In using GRSF resources, leveraging is the name of the game.  Even as we strive to increase the GRSF funding base, it will remain a pump-priming facility, providing seed money to get countries on the road—a safer road.  And so far the pump is pumping: for every dollar granted, about 80 dollars are mobilized in Bank financing and client country commitments.
  • Our own commitment today is to use this leverage to its full extent to help our client countries implement their plans under the Decade of Action.  And this cannot wait, hence our efforts to broaden the funding base of the GRSF.

What we do

  • The WBG follows the Safe Systems principle for road safety, a comprehensive or holistic approach that looks at all components of an effective road safety policy: institutions, infrastructure, behavior, enforcement, post-crash care.
  • A few examples:

    • Technical assistance and advisory services to various governments in Africa (i.e. Nigeria, Ghana) to facilitate the establishment of relevant regulatory frameworks and policies, including well-funded and functioning road safety agencies;
    • The development and transformation of road assessment programs, for example in China, into self-sustaining entities capable of not only supporting domestic programs, but also other countries;
    • The assessment of more than 40,000 of kilometers of roads for stronger safety measures in various countries, including the Philippines, India, Brazil and others;
    • The establishment of a regional road safety observatory in Latin America to improve data collection, along with capacity building in more than 20 countries; and the replication of similar work in the Pacific Islands;
    • The improvement of safety awareness amongst children and youth in Mengzi City (China) to reduce risky traffic behaviors and the occurrence of traffic injuries, deaths and disabilities on school roads;
    • The development of schools’ safety zones in Kerala state (India) along transport corridors, with emphasis on demarcated safety zones around school perimeters and safeguarding infrastructure to protect children and other vulnerable users.
  • We know this approach is working, in a departure from the piecemeal approach—mostly fixing black spots and blaming the victims—that tended to define road safety programs in the 20th century.
  • And within this philosophy let me also acknowledge the role of advocacy groups and nongovernmental organizations like Safe Kids Worldwide for bringing attention to the plight of children for safer roads, and providing valuable funding support and technical assistance, both instrumental in achieving concrete results.

Cross-sectorial cooperation

  • The Safe Systems approach is contingent upon cooperation across sectors, Transport and Health in particular.
  • For example, we know that rural roads can help prevent maternal deaths by providing timely access to childbirth facilities.  The strengthening of pre-hospital and emergency health services can also save the lives of road injury victims.
  • In Vietnam, a road safety project reduced accident rates in project corridors by 36 percent and deaths by 61 percent between 2005 and 2013, in part by providing the ministry of Health with equipment and training for an emergency medical services program along three demonstration transport corridors. The project also delivered 34,000 safety helmets to schools for the benefit of children, completed a comprehensive national road safety campaign and trained 150 road engineers to act as Road Safety Auditors.
  • In India, in the state of Karnataka, a World Bank project is bringing the transport and health sectors together to increase the effectiveness of road safety interventions: the transport project will help develop and strengthen infrastructure, law enforcement training, education and awareness on road safety, while the health project will improve resources for post-crash care and provide critical baseline and monitoring & evaluation data for the demonstration corridor.

To conclude

  • All this sounds good, but looking at the big picture the landscape is still sobering.  Progress is too slow.  The goalposts of the UN Decade of Action seem to keep moving farther away. We know many countries risk falling short of the 2020 goals.
  • The agenda is clear, the road map is defined, all stars look aligned on the global stage, so what is missing?  Two things: adhesion and resources. 
  • Agreement is not adhesion.  Everybody needs to move away now, and for good, from the idea that somehow road crashes are the unavoidable collateral damage of growth.  They are not.  They are the collateral damage of conventional wisdom.  What we need today is innovative wisdom: that is what the Decade of Action is about, and that is what governments across the world must adhere to now.
  • As to resources, what is required is relatively little compared to what is devoted to other global health causes, for which we still look for remedies.  But for road crashes, we have the prescription, we know the remedies, we just need the delivery mechanism.  This does not cost that much, but we are still far from having got the resources we need.
  • So on both counts, we will continue to act, forge alliances with NGOs like Safe Kids, bring forward road safety in our policy dialogue with our clients and, yes, we will drill in every spot we can to raise the funds required to achieve faster progress towards meeting the Decade of Action goals by 2020.
  • Of course we cannot do this alone. We need your support. I cannot overstress how crucial partnership and collaboration are in this effort. We need the contributions of all relevant stakeholders –ministries of transport, police, urban planners, mayors, health authorities, car companies, international organizations, NGOs, foundations and public and private donors. 
  • And in working together we will get the job done. We will improve road safety for kids, for the poor and the vulnerable, and then simultaneously help achieve both the goals of the Decade of Action and the twin goals of reducing poverty and boosting prosperity.
  • The Decade of Action is almost halfway through—it is time to scale up and speed up our impact!
  • Thank you.

Media Contacts
Transport & ICT Washington, DC
Lucie Blyth