Health Impact Assessment (HIA)

Putting health at the heart
sustainable development at Rio+20

Health in a green economy and global governance
The 2012 Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

A pedestrian path in Durban, South Africa draws considerable traffic. (Photo: Luke Reid).

Health was described as a pillar of sustainable development in the 1992 Rio Declaration of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Two decades later, the Rio+20 conference held 20-22 June, 2012 focused on how a "green economy" and "institutional frameworks" for sustainable development can support both environmental sustainability as well as social equity, better health and poverty eradication.

Including health in Rio+20 agendas

Health can be a key contributor to, and also a beneficiary of, sustainable development. These links received recognition in the Rio+20 Conference, and indicators of health progress should also be integrated with future sustainable development goals, targets and processes.

Universal health coverage can support sustainable development: a healthier population contributes more effectively to economies and societies.

Health in the green economy: some green economy measures, such transport networks for walking and cycling, can yield very large health "co-benefits", e.g. for physical activity. Other measures may pose risks for health that need to be managed. For instance, employees may face new risks, such as exposures to toxics used in emerging technologies.

Health-based measures of sustainable development: Tracking and monitoring of health based indicators/measures – such as the proportion of people exposed to high rates of urban air pollution, or workers' exposures to air pollutants/toxics – can help us evaluate progress towards sustainable development that brings optimal human welfare.

WHO briefing to countries on Rio+20

During the WHO Executive Board's January 2012 session, the EB requested a briefing on the "United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20" (EB 130/136). At the EB's request, the WHO Secretariat also briefed Member State missions in Geneva on February 1, at a meeting convened by the Government of Brazil to discuss health-relevant country contributions to Rio+20. The Missions present asked the WHO to circulate background materials on the conference to WHO country offices.

Mike Kolloffel/Still Pictures

WHO participation in Rio+20

Prior to the Conference, WHO issued a discussion paper highlighting the relevance of health in sustainable development. WHO Health leadership, including Director-General Dr Margaret Chan participated actively in the Rio+20 formal and side events. And at the close of the conference, a WHO statement to the media welcomed the attention that health issues had received in the Conference proceedings and outcomes.

• Links to RIO+20 Events, WHO Position Papers and Final Outcome statements: