Strong coalitions and advocacy go hand-in-hand, it is hard to accomplish one without the other. They are essential to effective implementation, which relies on cross-sector partnerships. The education sector is a key starting point and important partner, providing evidence and assisting with advocacy and implementation. Engaging with road agencies and local authorities is crucial to successful infrastructure initiatives. Design and implementation cannot take place without their collaboration.

The stronger the partnership across all relevant agencies and stakeholders, the more effective the intervention. Effective leadership, with buy-in from politicians, will help achieve success.

Coalition building and advocacy


Strong coalitions are greater than the sum of their parts. The Child Health Initiative is an excellent example, focusing on ensuring safe and healthy journeys to school. It brought together organisations with technical expertise, advocacy, and a focus on child health, rights, and mobility, creating a global partnership platform. Each organisation offers a unique skillset.

The approaches outlined in this toolkit rely on effective coalitions. For example: The WHO has played a key role disseminating best practices on road safety among partners particularly through the Tool icon UN Road Safety Collaboration. A partnership of the London Sustainability Exchange (LSx) UN Environment and Clean Air Asia has worked to reduce air pollution around schools, highlighting initiatives in London, New Delhi, and Nairobi.

UNICEF has joined forces with technical experts AMEND and iRAP to reduce child road traffic injury. The National Center for Safe Routes to School and ITDP have strengthened each other’s efforts to help Mexico and the US aim for zero deaths among youth, through Vision Zero for Youth.

Child Health Initiative partners conduct their own and joint advocacy to achieve the broader goal of a safe and healthy journey to school. There are two types of advocacy which can be carried out together: advocacy to achieve a specific legislative or policy change; and advocacy to raise awareness or promote behavior change.

In its Tool icon guide to road safety advocacy for NGOs, the foundation for this section, WHO describes ways advocacy can be used, such as increasing funding for road safety or helping to change public misconceptions about road traffic crashes. It has helpful checklists to guide you through the process.

The WHO established the UN Road Safety Collaboration, an informal group to facilitate cooperation and coordination among entities committed to saving lives on roads. Tool icon The page also includes a helpful terms of reference.

  1. Follow the data. Effective policies may contradict public perceptions (the need and efficacy of helmets, or the level of risk posed to people by speeding, etc). Data is necessary to prove effectiveness and change public opinion. Collaborate with organizations with smaller scale programme interventions demonstrating the effectiveness of a policy or behaviour change. In pedestrian safety, this could be community level traffic calming, or small scale infrastructure improvements. Use international examples.

  2. Be strategic. Do your homework and be realistic about what you can achieve. Rather than advocating for road safety broadly or a wide range of policies, target and prioritise policy areas, for example: speed limits around schools, child motorcycle helmets, etc. This should correspond to the current legislative agenda. Conduct a mapping to understand key players.

  3. Avoid duplication. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Find existing organizations that offer materials to support your initiatives, and tailor them to suit your needs.

  4. Speak with one voice. To achieve your objective, build a multi-sectoral partnership/coalition that includes relevant government agencies, police, education sector, local authorities, civil society, media, private sector, transportation and infrastructure providers, etc. Establish a strategic approach with clear lines of accountability and mandate, objectives, targets, and an estimate of financial and other resources required. Agree upon consistent messaging.

  5. Start small: Before implementing a full phased programme, it can be useful conduct a trial, or pilot, to demonstrate effectiveness and results. Use the results to scale up the programme and modify it to get best results.

  6. Connect policy advocacy (promoting specific legislation) and public advocacy (awareness raising and behavior change). Focus on strengthening legislation and enforcement mechanisms, while bolstering data and monitoring. For example, public engagement and education creates a demand for speed management and garners public support for stronger penalties, more enforcement and road engineering changes.

  7. Be context-specific: In some settings, it may be best to use a visible approach, through mass media or organizing events for the public, while in others it may be more effective to focus on meetings with key policy-makers, or a combination of both. For example, consider hosting policy seminars/workshops, or presentations from road safety experts to legislators, briefing policy makers, launching a focused road safety week/day focused on your specific advocacy effort.

  8. Identify champions: Prominent politicians, family members of road traffic victims, celebrity ambassadors help spearhead a push for policy change. NGOs representing victims often lend powerful voices to influence change. The Tool icon Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety offers a collection of NGOs which have achieved impressive success.

  9. Engage the media and communicate results: Address common road safety misconceptions to build momentum via the media. This can help create a demand for road safety around schools, garner public support for stronger penalties, and encourage more enforcement and road engineering changes. Useful tools for media engagement on road safety can be found in the Tool icon WHO’s road safety media brief.

  10. Evaluate performance. Identify measures of success to compare progress before and after your efforts. Don’t be afraid to change the plan if it’s not working. In speed management, evaluation is critical to informing public debate around speed management strategies and scaling up best practices. Remember that momentum and support on road safety can take time to build, and policy/legislative processes are usually relatively lengthy.
  1. Are interventions being coordinated horizontally across agencies to achieve the desired focus on results?

  2. Are interventions being coordinated vertically between national, regional, provincial and city agencies to achieve the desired focus on results?

  3. Have committees and procedures supporting the coordination process been established to achieve the desired focus on results?

The Tool icon WHO’s Road Safety Media Brief helps support journalists producing stories on road safety, and can be used as background research for advocacy efforts.

The Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety has a webinar on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and how you can work to achieve them through advocacy:

Tool icon View Webinar - Part 1
Tool icon View Webinar - Part 2

The LSx Toolkit to promote clean air for schools can be found Tool icon here.

If you are advocating for specific legislation or policy change, you will be engaging with government and policy-makers. Though they may be the target of your efforts, working with key internal advocates from the beginning can make all the difference in finding common ground and accomplishing your objectives.

First, be up to date on the status of road safety in the country, and the status of your proposed advocacy target. Summaries are available in the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety, further details and analysis may be available from the WHO Country Office/Region. Talk to government officials and those working on the front line, as well as experts.

Identify the relevant legislative/policy mechanisms. Understand the legislative system, and seek guidance from experts, including law-makers themselves. Identify points in the law-making/policy process where there are opportunities to provide input. For example, in some countries, once the legislative process itself is under way, there may be opportunities for the public to comment on a draft law before it is finalized.

Identify and engage with key players and key champion legislators. We suggest this Tool icon guide to political mapping from the Global Road Safety Partnership. Based on your mapping, add coalition members that have influence over key decision makers. They should represent various sectors of society who share a common concern, but bring different types of knowledge and expertise to the effort. Partners may come from civil society, national or local government, academia, the media, the private sector or other areas of society. Choose partners who are well-respected and have experience in road safety – road safety NGOs, victims groups, transportation organisations, automobile clubs, etc.

Speed management policies, for example, require a multi-stakeholder involvement and participation. Securing broad support from different stakeholders though joint working groups and advisory groups is critical. Involving the police, medical services, judicial agencies, local communities, civil society, transport authorities, and school representatives with a clear division about their individual roles in furthering the process is key.

Arm yourself with data. For example, if you are focusing on speeding, you may not have speeding data for an entire city, but you may have it for a specific area. If you do not have any data, you can use data about the general danger of speeding, or do a small-scale study with free apps that measure speed (Tool icon see DATA). Disseminating these results or other high impact case study materials via the media is also effective.

If your efforts are working, you will probably face opposition. Be sure to anticipate this and prepare counter arguments.

The Tool icon WHO’s guide to road safety advocacy has a helpful checklist to get started, on page 12.

The Global Road Safety Partnership road safety advocacy toolkit contains a Tool icon political mapping guide.

Johns Hopkins University offers a Tool icon free online course to advocate for road safety legislation.

The Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety helps NGOs apply the star-rating concept, an aim by the Tool icon Three Star Coalition to ensure that roads in developing countries meet a minimum safety standard of three stars.

A beneficiary of any policy, awareness raising, or behavior change initiative - the community, and particularly children - are key advocacy and coalition partners. Well-researched, thoughtful, sustained community engagement is key.

First, pre-test community messaging and materials with representative groups from different affected communities. Once your messaging is set, involve journalists in your efforts to carry your message for you, and mobilise partners and communities to support and implement your communications plan.

As government serves the community, the community plays an integral role in strengthening government expertise and advocacy. Workshops can provide a platform for knowledge sharing between the two. Additionally, they can also be used to support the media to understand the importance of a particular road safety intervention.

Community trainings are also helpful. Train-the-trainer models can help build community capacity, particularly by using communicators that are dynamic and reflect the community demographic, such as animators, peer educators, health workers, teachers and young people. For example, Tool icon Safe Kids Worldwide/ChildSafe improved car seat safety through an international train-the-trainer scheme. In South Africa, they conducted Tool icon walking school bus training. There, Discovery and Childsafe Tool icon trained drivers who transport children along high-risk roads.

Manage and monitor community engagement activities. Ideally, use community monitoring systems among targeted groups. Based on the monitoring data, adjust activities and materials accordingly. Programme and service delivery data, (eg helmet wearing rates, use of safe crossings), also serve as monitoring information and should be used to modify communication activities or messages.

Evaluate and re-plan. Based on the desired results, assess outcomes and if possible any behavioural impact. Disseminate results to partners - including targeted communities – and determine the need for follow-up and for continued support.

A note about behaviour change initiatives: Behaviour change in particular must have public buy-in. However, in road safety, isolated awareness campaigning or behaviour change education is proven to only have limited results and is always best combined with effective legislation/enforcement and the implementation of safe road infrastructure. Though behaviour change campaigns have minimal impact and only work in certain circumstances, they are four times more effective when combined with enforcement. Road safety behaviour change campaigns alone are generally less successful than other areas of public health. Like other public health behaviour change campaigns, the intervention must be sustained over long periods of time to have any beneficial effect, often not the most effective use of resources.

For developing mass media campaigns in low- and middle-income countries, we suggest Tool icon WHO’s mass media campaigns toolkit. Much of the basic principles also apply to social media.

The Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety has a Tool icon guide to improving your social media engagement.

The Tool icon WHO webpage and the Tool icon WHO YouTube channel has an excellent database of media campaigns.

Ideally, efforts should always be scalable and replicable. Pilot projects are a helpful testing ground to address challenges before scaling up. When replicating or scaling an initiative, it should be modified to be context specific. Partnership with local, established organizations is key to respecting cultural sensitivities and norms, and to ensuring sustainability. Building good relationships with local government is critical to scale up activities. Ideally, programme and projects should develop into embedded programmes owned and run by government entities.

Turning personal grief at the death in a road crash of her daughter Zenani into high profile activism, Zoleka Mandela is a powerful advocate for safer roads and particularly for child rights.

Zoleka launched her ‘Zenani Mandela Campaign’ in 2012 and was the leading figure behind the ‘Long Short Walk’ in 2013, which saw thousands of people from Cape Town to Washington DC taking to the streets to demand action for road safety in the Sustainable Development Goals. She has since advocated for child rights internationally, speaking at the Global High Level Conference on Road Safety in 2015, the World Urban Forum in 2018, and the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs in 2018, and other forums.

Tool icon Read Zoleka Mandela's speech at the Brasilia Conference in November 2015
Tool icon Read 'Zoleka Mandela leads World Urban Forum with #EveryLife call for action'
Tool icon Read 'Global Ambassador Zoleka Mandela demands leadership on NCDs & urban health at UN General Assembly'

Award-winning actress and road safety activist Michelle Yeoh is a UN Goodwill Ambassador who lends her powerful voice to raise awareness and mobilise support for safe and healthy mobility.

Since 2008 Michelle has been a road safety ambassador, for the Make Roads Safe campaign and the FIA Foundation. She is currently the Spokesperson for the FIA’s High Level Panel for Road Safety. She led the ‘Call for a Decade of Action’ in 2008-2009 and spoke on the issue at the UN General Assembly on behalf of her own country, Malaysia, in 2010 and 2014. Her work supporting road safety in Cambodia was recognised by the Deputy Prime Minister in 2014. She spoke at the World Bank Annual Meeting in 2017, the UN High Level Political Forum in 2018, and many other events.

Internationally acclaimed for her roles in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, Ang Lee’s multiple Academy Award-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and its recently released sequel; and portraying Aung San Suu Kyi in Luc Besson’s biopic The Lady, Michelle Yeoh has transferred her skills to the small screen in two BBC documentaries on road safety, produced by the FIA Foundation. For the documentaries, Michelle spoke with road traffic victims, argued on screen with highway engineers, visited hospitals and dodged traffic to highlight the need for action.

Tool icon Read "‘Change the way we move’: Michelle Yeoh at World Bank 2017 Annual Meetings"
Tool icon Read 'Michelle Yeoh calls for safe school journeys at global health conference'

Successful coalitions and advocacy efforts fill a void. This was certainly the case for the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety, which addressed the fact that there was no coalition to harness the power of NGOs to advocate for road safety and road traffic injury victims.

In 2010, the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRST) surveyed 200 road safety NGOs, and found that 9 out of 10 of the 70 nongovernmental organizations that participated agreed that a lead nongovernmental coordinating global body would be valuable to their efforts.

On behalf of a larger network, nine nongovernmental members of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration – Amend, Association for Safe International Road Travel, European Federation of Road Traffic Victims, Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez, Handicap International Belgium, International Federation of Pedestrians, Laser International, Safe Kids Worldwide and YOURS: Youth for Road Safety – founded the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety. Together, they speak with one voice mobilize and empower NGOs from around the world, make roads safer for all, and advocate for road victims’ rights.

It is a broad coalition, and all NGOs with a primary focus on road safety, aligned to the Alliance’s mission, with a successful track record of implementation for three years or more are welcome to apply. The coalition regularly produces capacity-building materials, available for free on their website.

Tool icon Read about the history of the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety

The Child Health Initiative works closely with its partner AMEND in Africa to scale up and replicate success via their School Area Road Safety Assessment and Improvement (SARSAI) in the region and abroad.

In Jamaica, UNICEF, iRAP, AMEND, the JN Foundation, and government partners exchanged lessons learned to assess risk for thousands of children on their journey to school and implement ‘safe system’ infrastructure solutions to address road traffic injury.

The project kicked off with a forum convened jointly by the Jamaican Government, its National Road Safety Council and the Child Health Initiative. It involved all the major stakeholders in Jamaica, UNICEF and international partner representatives including from AMEND, iRAP, the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. Jamaica’s double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson gave a keynote speech and Transport Minister Lester Michael Henry signed up to the #EveryLife Declaration for every child’s right to safe and healthy streets.

A few months later, UNICEF convened a workshop on child traffic injury prevention and safe and healthy journeys to schools with implementation partners. The workshop supported partners in Jamaica in learning from the experiences of SARSAI programme and iRAP’s Safe Rating for Schools app. AMEND and IRAP shared practical knowledge on how to design, implement and conduct impact assessments of infrastructural measures to address specific risks around schools. The workshop also involved hands-on road infrastructure assessment around Denham Town and Hazard primary schools. Participants in the workshop included representatives of the Ministry of Transport and Mining–Road Safety Unit, the National Road Safety Council, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the Jamaica Social & Investment Fund, UNICEF and the JN Foundation.

In Morocco, iRAP and AMEND worked alongside the Mobilité Club Maroc (MCM) to provide safe journeys to school. In a workshop hosted by the MCM, the club and local partners were provided with training from iRAP and AMEND on assessing, rating and implementation to improve safety on the road network around the schools. The International Road Federation is also collaborating as a project partner.

At Rhamna Primary, the MCM and its partners will use iRAP’s ‘Star Rating for Schools’ methodology to assess the safety of the surrounding road network, and will present a 1-5 star rating. The partners will also work with AMEND to identify which countermeasures – such as safe sidewalks, road humps and crossings - should be implemented to reduce risk and improve safety. MCM hopes to scale up project work at two further schools.

Tool icon Read 'Child Health Initiative workshop plots safer journeys for Jamaican children'
Tool icon Read 'Jamaica makes safe journeys to school commitment'
Tool icon Read 'Safe journeys for the children of Morocco'

In Vietnam, a strong partnership of government agencies, international donors and bodies like the World Bank and UNICEF, road safety NGOs and private companies worked together for several years in a ‘helmet wearing coalition’ to build public awareness and implement a helmet standard, legislation and strong police enforcement. The results, since 2007, have been dramatic: helmet wearing rates of more than 85% in urban areas, a 12% reduction in fatalities, a 24% reduction in serious injury and a consequent saving to the Vietnamese government of at least US$200 million.

To transfer the lessons and techniques learnt in Vietnam to assist other countries, the AIP Foundation established the Global Helmet Vaccine Initiative (GHVI) in 2009, with a vision of ‘A helmet on every head in the Decade of Action’. As well as continuing its work in Vietnam, GHVI expanded to neighbouring Cambodia and Thailand and is partnered with campaigners in Africa, Europe and Latin America.

In Cambodia, the ‘Cambodian Helmet Vaccine Initiative’ established a national office staffed by local road safety practitioners, building a strong relationship with the police and government and securing funding from corporations. The program’s core elements included: research, monitoring & evaluation, working in partnership and with the financial support of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and with Handicap International; providing technical assistance, for example through advising on the introduction of Cambodia’s new helmet standard and draft helmet legislation; public awareness education (the initiative’s ‘One Helmet. One Life’ campaign included an 8 part soap opera ‘Regrets’ on national TV about the impact of a road crash on a typical Cambodian family. The TV drama was introduced with a personal video commendation from the Prime Minister); and free provision of crash helmets to low-income children. The Cambodian Helmet Vaccine Initiative also cooperated closely with other partners working on helmet safety, including the ‘Road Safety in 10 Countries’ program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and led by the WHO national office in Phnom Penh.

Replicating success, another national coalition was established in Uganda, where Road Safety Fund financial support was complemented by CDC and the Global Road Safety Facility. The project had three key objectives: to build political awareness and support for helmet safety interventions; to support the Kampala police in their efforts to drive up helmet use amongst ‘boda boda’ motorcycle taxi drivers and their passengers; and to support government efforts to implement a new helmet standard. The World Bank facilitated a high-level mentoring workshop for senior Ugandan police officers with members of Road Pol, the World Bank’s traffic police advisory network. A national office was founded with a local director, working with local partners including the Automobile Association of Uganda, with an emphasis on building sustainable local capacity.

Tool icon Read about the AIP Foundation's Global Helmet Vaccine Initiative
Tool icon Read more about the Global Helmet Vaccine Initiative