By Ivan Emmanuel Mwondha
The road sector is ultimately the most important mode of transportation in Uganda as it carries 97 per cent of freight cargo and 99 per cent of passenger traffic. It is imperative that safety on the roads is improved as this would greatly reduce number of fatalities, loss of property and the public health burden associated with traffic injuries. The WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety placed Uganda among the 20 worst performing countries in the world with a fatality rate at 27.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Through the legislative action plan, the World Bank in partnership with Safe Way Right Way and The Parliamentary Forum on Road Safety with funding from the Global Road Safety Facility, will address road safety management in a sustainable and institutionalised manner addressing challenges through stimulating debate in Parliament and society on the urgent nature of action on road safety, the institutional weaknesses with road safety in the country, especially the lack of a lead agency on road safety, among others.
The Parliamentary Forum on Road Safety’s main objectives are pursuing legislation and policy lobbying aimed at improving road safety, highlighting national issues regarding road safety, and advocating for all matters relating to the improvement of road safety. The project will bring into the picture a place of accountability that is respected by all government agencies and will hence improve policy implementation because formulating and implementing policies is necessary for improving road safety. Policies will have no effect on road safety unless they are implemented. This is borne out of the fact that a national policy on road safety is a written document that provides the basis for action to be taken jointly by the government and its non-governmental partners.
In this context, a policy is necessary to raise awareness and create mutual understanding about a situation, which needs to be addressed, articulate ethical and other principles that should justify and guide action, generate a consensus vision on the actions to be undertaken to abate the situation, provide a framework for action, define institutional responsibilities and mechanisms of coordination from within the government side, secure or raise political commitment, engage a variety of key partners, identify measures which are likely to produce good results, monitor progress and effectiveness of strategies. Road safety work is a complex process involving different sectors through the various levels of government. There is thus a need for a functional and effective institutional framework for the development and implementation of policies and programmes to prevent road traffic injuries. This is where the gap lies.
In Uganda, some of the challenges we have faced in a bid to implement the National Road Safety policy include a complex blend of social, economic and political factors because political will and commitment are necessary for effective policy formulation and implementation, the lack of adequate preparation because the process takes time and resources and effort, sometimes key stakeholders are not involved in the entire process as consultation should be conducted with all stakeholders in an open, fair and transparent manner ensuring that all the stakeholders endorse the policy document. This is key if there is to be ownership of the document.
The very act of developing a policy document can bring about significant changes in attitudes and perceptions that can go a long way towards tackling a problem and raising the much needed awareness at the right levels in Government. Implementation of policy is essential once a policy has been formulated and again there is a lull with the implementation process in Uganda. Implementation of road safety measures requires coordinated action. Responsibilities at various levels need to be clearly spelled out. Then once the implementation process is done, evaluating policy implementation is necessary as evaluation provides feedback on how well the policy is working and can lead to improvement of the policy itself. A glaring gap in the Road Safety agenda in Uganda is the lack of a lead agency. Though different institutional frameworks are possible, there is a need to identify a lead agency in government to guide the national road safety effort.
In conclusion, Policy formulation and implementation is a continuous process and sometimes interactive in nature based on the nature of feedback and evaluation emanating. This process is often presented as taking place in phases or stages, to make it easier to identify key elements.
Mr Mwondha is a senior transport specialist at the World Bank Group.