FEEDBACK – Without safe and inclusive mobility, no sustainable development?

Posted by: on Jul 13, 2018 | No Comments

On 10 July 2018 in New York City, Humanity & Inclusion, together with the governments of Luxembourg and Belgium held a side event  at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, that is the annual conference to take stock of progress towards reaching the SDGs.

The event entitled “Safer and inclusive roads and transports for cities that leave no one behind: How to ensure safe mobility for persons with disabilities and other vulnerable road userswas co-sponsored by the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities, World Enabled, the Disability Inclusive and Accessible Urban Development (DIAUD).

For HI, this side event was the opportunity to officially launch our latest advocacy study on “Making Cities Inclusive: Safe Mobility for Persons with Disabilities in Developing Countries”.

The choice of the side event theme was motivated by the agenda of the HLPF which includes this year a global review of SDG11 on “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, that incorporate a specific target 11.2 to ensure access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport system for everyone, including through improving road safety.  This target is one of the few in the whole Agenda 2030 that specifically refers to persons with disabilities as a target population group to address the needs of.

It is estimated that by 2050, 66% of the world population will live in urban areas, with the majority of urban growth in developing countries. 15% of cities population are persons with disabilities; not a marginal number.

Yet, today, too many barriers remain for persons with disabilities to fully participate in society. Barriers to their physical mobility in cities that is their ability to navigate through the streets to reach their chosen destination, have a vicious domino effect as these also prevent them from accessing services like education or health, or engage in decent employment. Infrastructures and public transports remain too often inaccessible for people with disabilities. Moreover, road unsafety which sadly continues to kill and injure too many people around the world, hits particularly hard the most vulnerable road users, which include persons with disabilities, as well as children, elderly, pregnant women, pedestrians or cyclists in general.

Without safe and inclusive mobility, a large number of vulnerable road users are exposed to considerable health risks and see their access to services and opportunities jeopardised. Without safe and inclusive mobility, no sustainable development?

To discuss this, eight panelists offered their perspectives during the side event, including:

  • E. M. Christian Braun, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Luxembourg to the United Nations
  • Maitreyi Bordia Das , Manager at The World Bank Global Practice for Social, Urban, Rural, Resilience & Global Lead for Social Inclusion
  • Jean-François Gaillet, Director of the Institut Vias (Belgium)
  • Natalie Draisin, Director for North American Office & United Nations Representative, for the FIA Foundation
  • Andre Dzikus, Coordinator at UN Habitat Urban Basic Services Branch
  • Dagué Guéye Ndeye, Chair of the women’s committee of the National Association of Persons with Disabilities of Senegal
  • Eric Remacle, road Safety Specialist at Humanity & Inclusion

The discussion was moderated by Federico Poitier from World Enabled.

About 60 persons attended the event with very diverse backgrounds: civil society, governments, donors, and academia.

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Main discussion points

In his opening remark, Ambassador Braun introduced the theme highlighting that “safe mobility is not an end in itself but a pivotal step to enable persons with disabilities to access services, such as health or education, access employment, or participate in social and cultural life. Therefore, by enhancing safe mobility, we increase the chances to realize other SDGs.”

Amongst barriers to safe and inclusive he pointed road unsafety, recalling that “road traffic deaths and injuries are a major public health and development issue”, accounting for 1.2 million people killed in road crashes, and up to 50 million injured worldwide, every year.

M. Braun explained that “we need to promote an integrated approach to safe and inclusive mobility and consider road safety and accessibility as mutually reinforcing elements and the components of road strategy”. He pointed that effective solutions exist and have already been tested as in his own country Luxembourg, where through a mixture of prevention and repression, the number of road fatalities dropped to 25 percent in less than 4 years.

Eric Remacle of Humanity & Inclusion, and Jean-François Gaillet of the Institut Vias, helped defining the notion of vulnerable road users. These are those more at risk of a deadly crash, therefore mainly pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists. For example, cyclists are ten to twenty times more exposed to die in road accident than a car driver.

Dagué Gueye NDeye, National Association of Persons with Disabilities in Senegal.

Vulnerable road users can also defined in terms of age category: children and eldery; and also in terms of functional capacities, including persons with disabilities. Dagué Gueye, representing the National Association of Persons with Disabilities in Senegal, shared sad stories of poor women with disabilities losing their lives in the city of Dakar, because of the congested traffic and lack of accessible transports.

Natalie Draisin from the Foundation of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile highlighted the impact of road unsafety on children, in terms of health, as well as loss of opportunities and the jeopardy that this is placing on their future. Andre Dzikus of UN Habitat confirmed the big impact of road crashes on the income opportunities of the victim’s whole family.

Noticeably, women and girls, and women and girls with disabilities even more, have higher risk to be victim of abuses and sexual harassment in collective transports. Dagué Gueye also reported basic safety issues faced by women and girls with disabilities in Dakar during the raining season, when the streets are dangerous and transports still not accessible. In these circumstances, women and girls with disabilities often to choose to stay home, excluding themselves even further from society life.

As pointed by Maitreyi Das from the World Bank, while it is important to call for safe and inclusive mobility for all, it is important to study carefully the mobility patterns, barriers and needs of each category of people individually.  Thus, Dagué Gueye emphasized the importance of advocacy work and dialogue between civil society organisations, including disabled persons organizations, and policy makers to design the most appropriate solutions.

Natalie Draisin called for tackling the problem of speeding as a priority. Reduced speed can increase by so much the chances of a child to survive a road crash. This is why it is very important to make the direct school environments safer.  Federico Poitier of World Enabled highlighted that modern ICT technologies can also be helpful to increase road safety and facilitate accessibility.

Eric Remacle emphasized the importance of integrating both safety and accessibility aspects in the design of infrastructure and vehicles from the beginning, and throughout the mobility chain. Mobility chain is an important concept to identify the barriers that the different users may face when going from point A (e.g. their house) to point B (i.e. their chosen destination), including components in terms of infrastructures (e.g pavement, bus stops) and transports (e.g. taxi, bus). Sometimes may come also from people, such as bus or taxi drivers, who may refuse to take on customers using wheelchairs, as they require longer time and assistance to get on board.

Andre Dzikus recalls that the New Urban Agenda that represents the urban dimension of the Agenda 2030, includes 12 references to persons with disabilities. This is an important framework to foster partnership between the UN, national and local authorities, and CSOs, and together assess mobility needs in an integrated approach.

Maitreyi Das informed that the World Bank recently published a Disability Inclusion and Accountability Framework that lays out all the ways in which the WB engages with its partners to incorporate disability in its inclusive development projects. In China, a project with a medium-sized city focuses on accessibility audits notably for road infrastructures and transports, in consultation with stakeholders.

On its hand, Dagué Gueye shared a positive outcome of a project implemented by Handicap International in Senegal, in partnership with the Dakar’s main bus company which agreed to increase the number of buses with accessible features (e.g. ramps, priority seats) and went further in hiring 25 persons with disabilities as part of their staff. Thus, not only access to transport was improved but also access to employment for those 25.

In conclusion, all agreed that safe and inclusive mobility is urgently needed as a cross-cutting element to reach the seventeen SDGs, especially the SDG 11, without leaving anyone behind.  For this, all stakeholders need to join hands to design and implement in a participative way, inclusive policies and practices, especially addressing road safety and accessibility at the levels of the built environment, transports and people.

 

Arnaud Merle d’Aubigné et Blandine Bouniol