Press Release

UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety returns to Southeast Asia (5-19 April) to call for more investment in road safety

04 April 2023

The Special Envoy will travel in South-East Asia and will meet with Ministers as well as the private sector, public sector and NGO stakeholders in Lao PDR (5-7 April),  ThailanUN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety returns to Southeast Asia (5-19 April) to call for more investment in road safetyd (10 April), the Philippines (11-14 April) and Malaysia (17-19 April) to advocate for the effective implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 with the aim of halving the number of victims on the road by 2030.    South-East Asia is one of the regions of the world most affected by road crashes.

Road traffic injuries are a leading cause of fatalities and life-long disabilities in Asia, with fifty-eight percent of the world’s 1.3 million road deaths occurring in the Asia-Pacific region.   Although road traffic death in the Asia and the Pacific region in 2019 showed a decrease of 12% from 2016, the rate across the region still remains high and efforts need to be made, particularly for the most vulnerable road users and countries.   

South-East Asia faces high mortality rates…

According to the World Health Organization, South-East Asia has the second highest road traffic fatality rate of 20.7 per 100,000 population after Africa which is 26.6 per 100,000 population. Thailand and Malaysia are among the most vulnerable countries in the region with a fatality rate of 32.2 and 23.6 per 100,000 population, respectively. In Lao PDR, annual crashes rose by 35% between 2010 and 2020, and the number of fatalities increased by 67% to reach over a thousand.  The WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018 shows an increasing trend in road traffic deaths in the Philippines, with a fatality rate of 12.3 per 100,000 population. By comparison, the fatality rate is 9.3 per 100,000 population in Europe.

… and rapid motorization

Asian countries have experienced rapid motorisation in recent years, especially concerning motorised 2-3 wheelers.  Particular attention should be paid to this mode of transport which represent 40 % of crash fatalities in South Asia.  Thailand reports the highest rate of motorcycle-related deaths in the world while nearly 60% of all road traffic deaths in Malaysia are riders of motorcycles. According to the Health Department of the Philippines, 65% of road crash victims are motorcycle riders. According to a survey in Lao PDR, only 64% of motorcycle riders controlled were wearing helmets, with females more likely than men to be wearing one, but only 10% of child passengers wore helmets.  It is therefore urgent to implement proven solutions that can save lives such as wearing a certified quality helmet which could reduce the risk of fatality by 42% and injuries by 69%.

Southeast Asia faces a tragedy on the roads. However, solutions exist, combining policy enforcement and education. Simple gestures can also save lives, such as wearing a seatbelt or a helmet, not driving under influence, not texting while driving, or reducing speed”, highlights the Special Envoy

The region has taken new initiatives to strengthen safety on the roads. For example, activities to implement the Global Plan have been initiated in Malaysia, from the safety of vehicles – especially motorcycles – to improving road infrastructure. In 2021, the Child Restraint System law was implemented with the aim of reducing fatalities amongst children. The country also designed a National Road Safety Plan for 2030 aligned to the 12 UN Voluntary Global Road Safety Performance Targets, in a very big step forward. There are also projects being supported by the UN Road Safety Fund in the Lao, Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia.

Road crashes represent a huge cost to people and societies

In addition to the human loss, road crashes draw the most vulnerable into a vicious cycle of poverty, from medical costs, material damage, loss of economic capacity and mobilization. According to a World Bank report on private investment, road fatalities cost economies $1.7 trillion dollars per year, and from three to five percent of GDP. According to the World Bank (WB 2016), the cost of road crashes represents 5.4% of GDP in Lao PDR, 4.1% of GDP in the Philippines, and as high as 8% of Malaysia’s GDP .  A study by the World Bank (2017) reports that if Thailand would cut road traffic mortality rates by 50% over a period of 24 years, it could generate additional income equivalent to 22.2% of GDP. This shows how investing in road safety pays off.


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 JCDecaux, during the High-level Meeting for Road Safety and to be implemented  in 80 countries by the end of 2024.

Brochure of the Special Envoy and Twitter account.

UNECE hosts the Secretariat of 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.

The UN Road Safety Fund (UNRSF). finances projects implemented in South-East Asia such as Improvement of driver licensing system in Laos PDR; Improving motorized two-wheeler safety in Thailand; and Expanding safe school zone models in selected highly urbanized cities in the Philippines; and a multi-country project that includes Malaysia on Motorcycle Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS).

UN entities involved in this initiative

United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
World Health Organization

Goals we are supporting through this initiative