New Dedicated Unit and Initiatives from World Bank Mark Major Advancement in Global Road Safety

June 10, 2024

In a landmark move, the World Bank has established a dedicated Road Safety Unit, making it the first multilateral development bank (MDB) to do so. This development underscores the World Bank's unwavering commitment to addressing the global road safety crisis.

Road crashes result in almost 1.2 million deaths every year and are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29. According to the World Health Organization, 92% of all fatalities occur in low and middle-income countries.

Nicolas Peltier-Thiberge, the World Bank's Director of Transport, emphasized the significance of the new road safety unit, stating, "Road traffic crashes are preventable tragedies with an unacceptably high toll for developing countries. The World Bank is a big supporter of the global road safety agenda, and we regularly work with client countries to make roads transport safer for all users. The establishment of this new road safety unit demonstrates our dedication to this issue, which we aim to elevate to an even higher priority level."

“This is a major development in global road safety and comes as we approach the middle of the second UN Decade of Action for Road Safety.”


Said Dahdah, Head of GRSF and Global Lead for Road Safety, World Bank

The newly created Road Safety Unit is embedded within the Global Transport Department of the World Bank and will house the Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF), a multidonor fund that supports efforts in low and middle-income countries to halve their road traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

The establishment of the unit marks the fourth major milestone in the World Bank’s increasing commitment to road safety over the past two decades—it follows the establishment of GRSF in 2006, the inclusion of road safety in the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework in 2018, and the adoption of a road safety requirement for all World Bank road and urban transport projects in 2020. “This is a major development in global road safety and comes as we approach the middle of the second UN Decade of Action for Road Safety,” says Said Dahdah, who will manage the new unit and also leads GRSF.

As part of this strategic shift, the World Bank has also restructured GRSF as an Umbrella Program, a powerful financing instrument designed to catalyze road safety development financing from the World Bank and other MDBs. Over the five-year period between 2018 and 2022, MDBs collectively approved $3.6 billion of new financing for road safety. The restructuring of GRSF aims to amplify country-level investment opportunities, with the aim of doubling collective MDB financing for road safety over the next five years.

To meet the moment, GRSF has also launched a new Business Plan for fiscal years 2024 through 2027. The business plan organizes GRSF’s work around three pillars of action, and outlines strategic initiatives to catalyze increased financing, foster road safety innovation, and amplify road safety research and knowledge.

Said Dahdah highlighted the importance of the new strategy, stating, "this new business plan outlines our renewed commitment to work toward the UN goal of halving road traffic fatalities by 2030, and positions GRSF as a key mechanism for boosting much-needed road safety financing in low and middle-income countries. We invite our development partners to visit the new GRSF website to learn more about our new business plan, pillars, and focus areas."

In another exciting development, the World Bank recently established the Hart Schafer Road Safety Award in honor of Hartwig “Hart” Schafer, a former World Bank leader and passionate advocate for road safety who passed away prematurely in May 2023. The award recognizes excellence in advancing road safety financing and innovation in low and middle-income countries.

The first Hart Schafer Road Safety Award was presented during the World Bank Transport Learning Forum on April 23, 2024, to the Bangladesh Road Safety Project. This $358 million World Bank-financed project aims to significantly reduce road traffic fatalities in Bangladesh, where road crashes claim over 25,000 lives annually. It is the first stand-alone multi-sectoral road safety project financed by the World Bank in South Asia, and the largest the World Bank has ever approved.

The award ceremony was attended by World Bank leaders including Axel van Trotsenburg, Senior Managing Director for Development Policy and Partnerships, Guangzhe Chen, Vice-President for Infrastructure, and Martin Raiser, Regional Vice President for South Asia. Axel van Trotsenburg emphasized the importance of multi-sectoral initiatives, stating, "The Bangladesh Road Safety project exemplifies the high-impact operations we aim to advance." Guangzhe Chen added, "Hart dedicated his life to making tangible improvements in the lives of everyday people, which is why we are honoring him and his legacy today."

In light of these exciting developments, the World Bank and GRSF call on their partners, stakeholders, and the global road safety community to join this journey to save lives in low and middle-income countries. Through concerted action, significant strides can be made in reducing road traffic fatalities and injuries, contributing to safer communities for all.