Reducing road risk through meaningful stakeholder engagement

News, Road Safety Governance and Capacity Building

Last week EASST presented at a webinar on stakeholder engagement in road safety organised by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as part of the UN Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC) webinar series. Speaking about the event, EASST Director Emma MacLennan underlined the importance of this issue:

“In my opinion the one thing that is often done poorly in road projects is stakeholder engagement, yet it is probably the most important of all factors in road safety.”

Effective stakeholder engagement can reduce road risk by ensuring that people’s needs, for example the needs of women or vulnerable road users, are considered in all stages of road and transport projects – from concept to completion. Stakeholders need to be informed about and involved in decisions that may affect their daily routine and understand any risks they might face. The process should be proactive with good communication at all stages.

Sadly, planners and road contractors often see stakeholder engagement as a process that can delay progress, without understanding the benefits. In fact, effective stakeholder engagement can avoid costly mistakes in road engineering which take even more time to correct. These mistakes can put lives and local livelihoods at risk, at enormous cost to the state and to local communities.

The EBRD have made both road safety and effective stakeholder engagement a priority in their projects. In 2019, nearly 1 in 5 fatalities reported to the Bank related to road traffic collisions. If not managed well, road projects can pose risks not just to local communities but to the lenders – including financial risks, business development risks and reputational risk. For these reasons, stakeholder engagement plans for EBRD projects must address road safety impacts on all stakeholders, including vulnerable road users.

The webinar was moderated by Vanora Bennett, the EBRD’s Green spokeswoman, and included presentations from Dr. Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health at the World Health Organisation (WHO), Annemarie Straathof, EBRD Vice President and Compliance and Chief Risk Officer, Debbie Cousins, EBRD Senior Environmental and Social Advisor, and Amy Sexton, a consultant with significant experience working with investors and others to improve stakeholder engagement.

EASST and our partners have worked with the EBRD on numerous projects, reaching out to local communities, ensuring their views are heard and their needs addressed. Road safety NGOs can play a vital role in ensuring good stakeholder engagement. They are very often the critical link between communities and decision makers, road designers, and investors. UNRSC members were encouraged to complain, too, when things go wrong. In the words of Debbie Cousins, responding to a question from a UNRSC member, “We need to break the chain to ensure road projects meet the needs of all road users.”

Meaningful stakeholder engagement is essential if we are to achieve the targets set out in the Second Decade of Action on Road Safety. You may watch (or re-watch) the webinar above.