Our cities are becoming inaccessible and clogged up – can implementation of the SDGs help?

Victor Mengot

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 July 2017

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a laudable approach to enhance a people-centred development and the relief of poverty.

As a continuation of the policies enshrined in its predecessor – the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs now include a vital missing link that affects the lives of every citizen – the need for improved transport safety.

Goal 3 focuses on healthy life and the promotion of well-being for all ages. In sub paragraph 3.6, the target is that “By 2020, Member States should halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents”.

This should be considered alongside other major priorities, including maternal mortality, AIDS and universal health coverage in the Health Goal.

Road accident and injuries is a major impediment to sustainable development because of the associated costs of the demand on an over-stretched and under- funded health care system; loss of production – since it affects the economically active population the most; and damage to expensive road infrastructure that was provided through long -term loans from development partners, and the high cost of insurance for existing transport owners and operators.

Goal 11 is to make cities and human settlement inclusive, safe and sustainable. Sub paragraph 11.2 further sets a target to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all; improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons by 2020.

The aforementioned goals are critical to the improvement of our economy, enhance social inclusion and provide much needed employment for the youths.

The transport sector is the unemployment safety net of most developing countries, Sierra Leone included – Okada/Kekeh Riders, taxi drivers, mechanics and even unofficial parking attendants in Freetown would not have been able to earn a living without the existence of this important but neglected sector.

In Europe and indeed the UK – my adopted home, we have laws about transporting animals in a humane manner. But the same cannot be said of our passenger transport system in Sierra Leone and in most African countries.

Our cities are becoming inaccessible and clogged up because of the growing population and the subsequent lack of affordable and safe transportation system.

Important though most of the SDGs are, the neglect of our transport system and the failure to cater for needs of the vulnerable in society such as the elderly, women, children and people with mobility challenges is both an equity and a development issue.

I will conclude with a quote from one of Africa’s Founding Fathers – Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. He said: “Others have been to the moon while we Africans are still struggling to reach our villages”. This is a very apt observation and a clarion call for our leaders to meet the targets set by Goals 3 and 11 of the SDGs.

About the author

Victor Mengot is a Road Safety Consultant and a Chartered Member of the Institution of Highways and Transportation.

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