Film festival: the road to safety

​​​Over 1.4 million people die each year on the world’s roads and up to 50 million suffer non-fatal injuries. The majority of casualties occur in Africa and Asia.

“While these numbers may seem chocking, they don’t capture the devastating scope of a tragedy that occurs on the roads everyday: the loss of a child, the loss of a caregiver, the life-altering disability,” Jean Todt, UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, said of road casualties at the opening the Global Road Safety Film Festival in Geneva.

For two days, online visitors will be able to watch 232 films from 41 countries on a website dedicated to the festival. A number of prizes will be awarded by a high-level jury which includes the Executive Secretary of the UNECE, Christian Friis Bach; UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein; filmmaker, Luc Besson; actress and UN sustainable development ambassador, Michelle Yeoh; actor Jean Reno; President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach; and the President of the Jury, Jean Todt.

As a survivor of a road traffic accident of few years ago that left him in a perilous condition for a number of weeks, Zeid said that he realised then that road safety is a human rights issue.

“All human beings have the right to move around freely without possibly enduring any harm. It is incumbent upon Governments to make sure that the right infrastructure is in place, to make sure that the right emergency services are available, the health services work, that people have access to health,” he pointed out.

“It is through a film festival like this, the extraordinary films which depict the horror, the dreams, the recoveries of individuals that we will sensitise the rest of the world to the importance of road safety,” Zeid added. “It is fundamental for all of us to stand up for road safety, stand up for human rights, and I as a survivor of what was a horrific crash feel very keenly for all those who go through the same experience and also for the families lose their loved ones.”

Michelle Yeoh pointed out that road safety is included in some of the targets for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Yeoh has been engaged in road safety for the past 10 years and has been travelling the world to learn about the problems faced by developing countries.

“It can be shocking to see how vulnerable people, especially children, can be on the world’s roads. However, I have also seen that small things can make a huge impact: initiatives like helmet laws, the design of roads, the awareness campaigns that help our children who are crossing the street reach the other side safely,” she said. “It takes engagement to make even the smallest changes happen. It takes passion. I know the impact that even a short film like the ones that are in this festival can have … They can motivate us and they can spur us to action.”

Todt pointed out that although the tools for increasing road safety exist through UN road safety conventions managed by the UNECE, more than one billion people live in countries that have yet to join a single one of these conventions.

“We have to change the culture of road safety at the political level and at the level of everyday people. This is where films like the ones in this festival can and will help us,” Todt said.

The productions selected for the Global Road Safety Film Festival can be viewed here, free of charge.

20 February 2017

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