Meet Another Foundation on a Drive to Improve Global Road Safety

Global road safety has not been a hot topic among funders. That's curious, since traffic accidents contributed to approximately 1.25 million deaths in 2013, and that number is set to rise over time. Also, the U.N. has called attention to the importance of road safety in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) three and 11. Among their many goals, SDG three aims to cut the number of traffic-related fatalities in half by 2020, and more broadly, SDG 11 is working toward improving road safety.

One of the few steadfast road safety funders is, of course, Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has committed nearly $260 million to related projects and campaigns in low- and middle-income countries since 2007 through its Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Road Safety Initiative (BIGRS). 

Related: Be Like Mike: Bloomberg’s Road Safety Giving Is Saving Lives. Where Are Other Funders?

We've written several times about Bloomberg's road safety funding. But, until now, we haven't paid much attention to another major funder in this space, the U.K.-based FIA Foundation. 

The FIA Foundation was established in 2001 with a $300 million donation from the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) the “non-profit federation of motoring organizations and the governing body of motor sport.” The FIA made an additional $60 million donation to the foundation in 2008, earmarked for promoting safety in motor sport. It's important to note that the FIA Foundation is a completely separate entity from the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile

In its first decade, the FIA Foundation focused its energies on improving road safety, sustainable mobility, and making motor sports safer. During that time, it did some heavy lifting to affect change and build momentum in all three of its major priorities, particularly in road safety. This included locking down the first global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in 2009 and helping launch the United Nation’s Decade of Action for Road Safety.

In 2011, the foundation conducted a strategy review, which involved determining the trajectory of its work in the next decade.

As a result, the FIA Foundation's main agenda remained the same, focusing on “safer roads, safer users, in safer vehicles,” and its geographic focus on regions of the world that have a high and rising levels of traffic injuries and fatalities also remained unchanged. The main adjustment came in the form of the foundation's strategy, moving from its role as a chief advocate for the U.N.'s Decade of Action for Road Safety to ensuring that the Decade of Action’s goals were achieved. This meant that foundation would shift gears, concentrating on advancing best practices in road injury prevention at both the regional and national levels, as well as working to “sustain the momentum for action by governments, the U.N., development banks, private sector, etc. by holding them accountable to commitments made.”

According to Natalie Draisin, manager of the FIA Foundation's U.S. office, the foundation has “spent approximately $100 million on road safety since 2002.” That may be less than half of what Bloomberg has put up, but road safety isn’t exactly a matter that’s getting a lot of play from funders, so $100 million is a big deal. While the foundation does operate its own research and advocacy programs, its main line of business is grantmaking.

Speaking of grants, the foundation is keen on developing long-term relationships with its grantees and prefers to take an active role in its funding partnerships. A big reason behind this approach is because the foundation has found that it has been more difficult to measure impact and determine the long-term benefits of one-off grants.

So the standard modus operandi at the FIA Foundation is continued support for longer-term partners such as the Gonzalo Rodriguez Memorial Foundation, which is a regular recipient of the foundation's grants, having received over $500,000 from the foundation over the past few years. Funds went to support the foundation's Child Road Safety programs in Uruguay and the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region.  

With over $1.5 million in grants over the past few years, the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF) has received a good deal of support from the foundation as well. The foundation’s support has gone toward AIPF's projects like its Global Helmet Vaccine Initiative and toward the expansion of AIPF's Child Helmet Public Awareness Campaign (PAC) in Vietnam and Cambodia. In Cambodia in particular, the FIA Foundation is a co-funder of PAC, along with USAID and the UPS Foundation.

It’s worth mentioning, here, that global road safety is also an important funding matter at the UPS Foundation. Earlier this year, the foundation announced a total of $14 million in grants and in-kind services. While most of that money went to back humanitarian response efforts, funds were also earmarked for programs promoting the use of bike helmets and advocating for safer roads. The UPS Foundation has also been a big supporter of the Road Safety Fund, an initiative of the United Nation’s Decade of Action for Road Safety.

Related: Care Package: UPS Boosts its Backing of Global Humanitarian Causes in a Big Way

It can easily be said that governments bear the burden of things like transportation safety regulations and enforcement, along with adequate infrastructure. But governments, as most of us well know, cannot affect widespread change alone. Which is why outfits like the FIA Foundation, Bloomberg, and the UPS Foundation play such an important role, here.

As we've said before, even bending the curve slightly on traffic deaths over coming decades could save hundreds of thousands of lives.