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The UNECE pioneered road safety activities in the United Nations system with the establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the prevention of road accidents in 1950. In 1988, the Working Party on Road Traffic Safety (WP.1), an intergovernmental body, was established. The Working Party changed its name to “Global Forum for Road Traffic Safety (WP.1)” in 2017.

Today, Global Forum for Road Traffic Safety remains the only permanent body in the United Nations system that focuses on improving road safety. Its primary function is to serve as guardian of the United Nations legal instruments aimed at harmonizing traffic rules. The Conventions on Road Traffic and on Roads Signs and Signals of 1968, and other UNECE legal instruments that address the main factors of road accidents (road user behaviour, vehicle and infrastructure) are tangible contributors to improved road safety. Many countries across the world have become Contracting Parties to these legal instruments and benefit from their implementation. These Contracting Parties are also the key driving forces keeping these international road safety conventions up-to-date. The UNECE also supports the development and promotion of best road safety practices and the organization of road safety weeks and other awareness raising events.

Participation in Global Forum for Road Traffic Safety (WP.1) is open to all countries across the world. Typically, WP.1 meets twice a year in Geneva, Switzerland. The UNECE Sustainable Transport Division provides the Forum’s secretariat support: it services sessions, prepares documents, agendas and reports, collects and disseminates information and facilitates the liaison among Governments.

In 2010, WP.1 celebrated 60 years of road safety initiatives in the United Nations system. This coincided with the Decade of Action for Road Safety proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 64/255. Since 2010, UNECE has contributed by participating in the development and implementation of the Decade’s Action Plan.

In 2012, the Inland Transport Committee (WP.1's parent body) adopted the UNECE Action Plan for the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) (ECE/TRANS/2012/4 and Corrs. 1 and 2). The UNECE Action Plan is directly aligned to the Decade's Action Plan and aims to achieve the UNECE's overall road safety goals by addressing priority areas of work as well as implementing continuous and future actions for each goal in its geographical area and beyond. It includes actions, initiatives and measures for several UNECE Working Parties, with Global Forum for Road Traffic Safety being the main coordinating entity in the area of road safety.