Georgia Hosted High-Level Regional Conference on TRACECA Road Safety II Project

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The FINANCIAL — The closing meeting of the Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA) Road Safety II project funded by the European Union (EU) was held in Tbilisi recently. 90 high-level representatives from the key government and civil society stakeholders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistanparticipated. Representatives from the EU, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and European Investment Bank (EIB) joined the participants to discuss the main outcomes and impact of the project and to identify the next steps necessary to scale up the impact of the project activities in the beneficiary countries.

Road accidents are already a serious problem in the region, contributing to 19,000 deaths and 200,000 injuries annually. This is costing the region around USD 17 billion each year (around 4% of the region’s annual GDP). This and the fact that it is the young adults who most frequently die in such crashes, means that countries are losing future production of such persons with significant impact on the long term prosperity of these nations.  

Georgia in common with other countries in the region is also suffering serious road safety problems. “According to official data (provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia), the total number of road crashes in Georgia in 2012 was 5,359 and there were 605 persons killed and 7,734 persons injured. These road crashes and casualties are estimated to be costing Georgia over $US 438 Million each year (3.9 % of annual GDP). 

The EU places great importance on road safety and over the last four decades has consistently cut the number of deaths and injuries each year, so that number of deaths and injuries now are only a small fraction of what they were several decades ago. This has been done by applying a systematic and scientific approach to identify the highest risk factors and highest at risk groups and then implementing appropriate interventions to reduce their risk. These techniques and methods are now well documented and proven both within the EU and in a number of the other low and medium income countries. Application of similar approaches in TRACECA countries will we believe, result in significant reductions in deaths and injuries. 

The meeting was hosted by the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Economy of Georgia with the organizational support by the Georgian Red Cross Society and the Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads, the project’s partners in Georgia.

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The participants of the conference, recognizing the urgent and growing problem of road safety in the TRACECA region developed a draft declaration of Tbilisi “Together for Safer Roads in the TRACECA Region” that will be presented to the ministries of transport, internal affairs, health and city halls of the participating countriesfor adoption.

“The declaration outlines commitments in the areas of data collection, institutional and capacity development, road standards, vehicle safety, road safety laws and enforcement, awareness and education, post-collision care, regional cooperation and shared approach, and research and teaching. Through the current declaration, the participants not only committed to working together to make the roads safer in the TRACECA region but also called upon their governments, international financial institutions (IFIs) and donors to assist and support them in their efforts to reduce deaths and injuries in the region which are now resulting in losses to their economies that are far in excess of the development aid the region receives annually,” said Liana Ghukasyan, Project Manager at TRACECA.  

TRACECA Road Safety II project, funded by the EU and implemented in 10 countries in Eastern Europe, the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan) is designed to assist the implementation of the Regional Road Safety Action Plan produced as an initiative of the European Union in 2011. It brings together governments and civil society to actively promote the safety and security of road users, the public, property and the environment within the Europe-Caucasus-Asia region’s transport corridor.

“Focusing onsix actionareas identified in theplan – institutional improvements; safer infrastructure; safer vehicles; safer road users; medical care for crash victims; and changing attitudes to road safety-theimplementation of the project is structured in two parts and is undertaken by the SAFEGE/IMC Worldwide and the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP). The latter is a non-profit organization hosted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and is dedicated to the sustainable reduction of road-crash death and injury in low- and middle-income countries by creating and supporting road safety partnerships between business, government and civil society at regional, national and city levels; enhancing professional and institutional road safety capacity; and delivering and facilitating evidence-based road safety interventions,” said Ghukasyan.

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The project component led by GRSP supports the implementation of the Action Plan with particular focus placed on safer road users, medical care for crash victims, and changing attitudes to road safety. The underlying model for the project is one which involves building both government and civil society stakeholder capacity, promoting long-term and sustainable partnerships and knowledge sharing, and increasing collaboration and cooperation within the Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia Sub-regions.

As Ghukasyan said, in order to accomplish the objective of the project, the GRSP,working closely with government institutions, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and civil society organizations of the Eastern Alliance of Safe and Sustainable Transport (EASST),has applied a multi-pronged approach which includes the creation and support of sub-regional coordination groups and national project advisory groups; organization of sub-regional and national workshops addressing specific road safety challenges; implementation of pilot community-based and school-based road safety interventions; and the adaptation ofGRSPand international resources for local use.

“Over a two year period of implementation, GRSP supported the countries to enhance the capabilities of government and civil society representatives in different areas of road safety; reinforced the importance of multi-sector partnerships in addressing road safety issues; shared global and regional experiences through sub-regional workshops; disseminated best practice and established coordinated and multi-sector in-country cooperation on road safety in the 10 project countries,” she added. 

“Despite the fact that the countries have implemented a number of improvements, there are still challenges ahead,such as:limited in-country coordination of road safety activities and a need for better cross-institutional coordination and partnership on road safety; the need for better quality data and shared access to information from state agencies in charge of data collection; the absence of formal coordinating bodies and national strategies on road safety; the lack of consistent state funding for road safety initiatives;the need for ongoing professional training and resourcing of traffic police; andthe need for fostering a ‘road safety culture’ via targeted public awarenesscampaigns and school programmes,” Ghukasyan told. 

“The key now to moving forward and to saving lives in the region is maintaining a strong commitment from all stakeholders, and to build on the road safety successes achieved within the project,” Ghukasyan told The FINANCIAL

 

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