Diageo and UN unite on road deaths

03 June, 2016

Diageo and the United Nations’ Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) have formed a partnership to try and reduce traffic death and injuries globally.

The world’s largest premium alcoholic drinks company and UNITAR have signed a two-year agreement to collaborate to build institutional and individual capacity to improve road safety, worldwide.

Road traffic injuries from all causes claim more than 1.2 million lives each year and have a disproportionately large impact on health and development, according to UNITAR and Diageo.

Scheduled to start in July, training will be run in 15 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin and Central America, with a focus on countries with the highest death rates related to road traffic accidents.

More than 60 countries will be invited to participate. The training activities will reach approximately 6,000 participants who will be a mix of government officials, young people, and other relevant people, through training workshops for government officials at the national and local levels, awareness-raising road shows for young people and high-level conferences on the issue.

According to the joint statement, Diageo was selected as a partner for a two-year partnership entitled ‘Road Safety Initiative for Cities’ due to the company’s track record in supporting programmes and policies to address drink driving.

Diageo has a long history of working to reduce alcohol-related fatalities and crashes and supports numerous drink drive prevention programmes around the world.

These range from supporting high visibility enforcement through random breath tests in countries such as Ghana, Mexico and China, to funding safe rides and free public transportation, and supporting laws to establish maximum blood alcohol concentration levels in countries where none exist.

United Nations assistant secretary-general and executive director of UNITAR, Nikhil Seth said:  “Achieving the 2030 Development Agenda and its different goals will only be possible through innovative partnerships with the private sector such as this one, where different stakeholders join forces to reach specific beneficiaries and targets by sharing their respective expertise and resources, thereby achieving common objectives.”

Diageo chief executive,  Ivan Menezes said: “We believe that a single death caused by drinking and driving is one too many and can be prevented. We are encouraged that over the last few years, the number of alcohol-related fatalities has fallen significantly in many countries. However, there is more to do and we are committed to playing our role in eradicating harm caused by drink driving. This new partnership with UNITAR is important as it will allow us to work together to deliver the global goal of halving road traffic deaths.”

UNITAR reports that road accidents are the 9th leading cause of death across all age groups globally and the leading cause among young people aged 15 to 29, costing governments approximately 3% of GDP on average and 5% of GDP in low- and middle-income countries specifically (WHO, 2015). Most importantly, 95% of road traffic deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

In 2011, the WHO launched the Decade of Action for Road Safety. The United Nations’ secretary general Ban Ki Moon, then highlighted the need to “…move this campaign into high gear and steer our world to safer roads ahead”. Road safety is also a priority in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which gives the target of reducing road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2020.

More recently, in April, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 70/260 entitled, ‘Improving Global Road Safety’, which renewed the call for governments to take a leading role in the implementation of the road safety-related SDG targets and the activities of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.

Picture caption: Breathalysers are used in Ghana as part of campaign to tackle drink driving.

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