Statement by H.E. Mr. Bui The Giang
Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative,
at the General Debate on Agenda item 46 on “Global road safety crisis”
of the 62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, 31st March 2008
I would like, first of all, to thank the Secretary-General for transmitting the report entitled “Improving Global Road Safety” to the General Assembly for consideration. I would also like to thank the World Health Organization (WHO) for preparing this report in consultation with partners of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration. Our special thanks go to the Delegations of Oman and Russian Federation for their relentless efforts in drafting the resolution on improving global road safety which my Delegation is honored to co-sponsor.
We are encouraged by the fact that since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 60/5 in October 2005, considerable collaborative efforts have been made at the national, regional and international levels towards addressing road safety. A number of products have been developed by the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration to provide technical support to countries in implementing the recommendations identified in the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention. Some agencies of the United Nations system have started to take steps to improve road safety policies within the jurisdiction of their own organizations. Many goverments have continued to intensify data collection and prevention efforts and strengthen services for those affected. There has been increased participation of the private sector. The creation of the Global Road Safety Facility by the World Bank has also helped to accelerate the process whereby funds targeted at road safety efforts are mobilized and distributed.
However, we are alarmed by the report that this year road traffic injuries continue to be a major health problem and a leading cause of death, injury and disability around the world with nearly 1.2 million people losing their lives and millions of others being injured and disabled. They constitute not only a major health concern, but also a threat to the hard-earned development achievements in many countries. The annual costs of road traffic crashes in low- and middle-income countries are estimated to be between US$ 65 billion and US$ 100 billion, more than the total annual amount received in development aid. The point of regret here is that, as suggested by WHO, such tragicroad traffic injuries could have largely been prevented and controlled through rational analysis and counter-measures.
Vietnam has always been among those countries in the spotlight whenever the issue of road traffic safety is raised. Given its high population density, fast urbanization process, and continuously high economic growth rates resulting in the rapid increase in numbers of road vehicles, Viet Nam’s transport infrastrutures failed to develop accordingly. Awareness of road users remained low with regard to observance of traffic safety legislation. Consequently, the number of road traffic accidents went up sharply. Official statistics showed that in 2007 there were approximately 15,000 cases of road accidents, making up 96% of traffic accidents of all types. Most deaths and injuries occurred to people aged between 15 and 49 who account for 56% of the total population and who are the most economically active. A study conducted from a mere economic perspective by the Asian Development Bank estimated that in 2002 and 2003, traffic accidents in Vietnam cost the country close to US$ 900 million per year.
Deeply conscious of the tremendous consequences of road traffic accidents, especially the links between road safety and sustainable development, the Government of Viet Nam has attached great importance and given high priority to the issue of road safety. The National Strategic Plan for Traffic Safety Improvement 2001- 2010 was designed to upgrade the transport infrastructure system; develop a legal system relevant to ensure traffic safety; establish a traffic accident database; put in place information, education and communication (IEC) campaigns; involve all governmental and non-governmental, national and local organizations in road traffic safety; set up a vehicle safety inspection system; and carry out strict enforcement measures. A series of policies and mechanisms have been introduced to provide incentives for good practices and impose sanctions against violations. The National Traffic Safety Committee (NTSC) was established as the interagency governmental body responsible to lead and coordinate the implementation of national road safety plans among various ministries and localities. And last year saw the first United Nations Global Road Safety Week observed in Viet Nam, with diverse IEC activities conducted and safety regulations and law enforcement tightened.
All these efforts combined have brought about certain initial positive results. Here, due to time constraint, let me give you just an example of such a result as seen in the reduced head trauma level caused by accidents involving motorcycles, the most popular means of personal transport in Viet Nam.
By October 2005, Viet Nam had around 16 million registered motorcycles, approximately one motorcycle per five people. In 2005, 70% of the road crashes involved motorcyclists, and 88% of death tolls resulted from head trauma. Data from Cho Ray Hospital – the largest hospital in the largest and most populated city of the country -Ho Chi Minh City- shows that 85% of its traffic-related patients were motorcyclists and nearly 74% of its traffic-related hospitalization were due to head injuries. Therefore, safety for motorcyclists through helmet wearing has been considered a policy issue of top priority by the Vietnamese Government. All possible ways like education, publicity campaigns, law enforcement ect. have been resorted to in order to raise helmet wearing levels. And a real breakthrough was made when Government resolution N# 32/2007/NQ-CP was endorsed according to which, starting on 15 December 2007, helmet wearing became mandatory on all roads in Viet Nam. The past 3.5 months since then represent a very short time, and I do not have concrete figures yet about the improvement of the traffic safety situation. However, as a witness of the surprisingly strict observance of this resolution throughout the country, I can assure you of the visibly and significantly lower rates of death tolls among traffic accidents.
The credit of all this goes to many players: The Government, with its political will; the population with their increased awareness and better sense of law compliance; the private sector with its initial yet energetic involvement, and the people’s organizations with their innovative and flexible participation. Last, but certainly not least, the foreign factor has an extremely important role to play. Over the past years, we have worked closely with and received the valuable financial and technical assistance from many international partners, among them the World Bank with a major traffic safety project; the Asian Development Bank with a regional technical assistance project for ASEAN countries; the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) with the work in the health sector, the national injury reduction strategy and safe communities work; WHO with the Vietnam Road Traffic Injury Prevention Project, to name a few. Many non-governmental and civil society organizations which include, among others, the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF), the Handicap International, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) and its French and American member societies, etc. have all been active in Vietnam, bringing to us fruitful cooperation and assistance. In the helmet wearing campaign alone that I have mentioned a minute ago, we have enjoyed organic collaboration from many international organizations and individuals, most notably the Global Road Safety Initiative, the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, and movie star Michelle Yeoh, the good will Ambassador of the International Automobile Federation. Let me avail myself of this opportunity to express the profound gratitude of the Vietnamese Government and people to the international community for their great contributions to addressing traffic problems in Viet Nam. In this connection, I would also like to express our appreciation and support to the offer by the Government of the Russian Federation to host in 2009 the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, and look forward to positive practical results from this major event.
As we look ahead, the road traffic safety remains an issue fraught with huge challenges demanding for synergetic global efforts. On the part of Vietnam, we are committed to doubling our efforts in developing and effectively implementing road safety programmes and action plans, using the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention and the resolution on Improving Global Road Safetyto be adopted by this General Assembly session as a framework in order to reach the target of 5 - 7% reduction of deaths involving traffic accidents by 2010 as outlined in Decision N# 259 that our Prime Minister signed early this month, on 4 March 2008. Again here, we sincerely hope that Vietnam will continue to receive the highly needed cooperation and assistance from the international community.
I thank you, Mr. President.