WHO launches partnership of European, Israeli and Palestinian cities
Programme aims at promoting dialogue and improving health
Geneva, 30 April 2003 - The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Solidarity Fund of Cities against Poverty today launched a new partnership for health and human development of European, Palestinian and Israeli Cities. This innovative programme aims at promoting dialogue through enhanced collaboration in the area of health between local governments and civil society.
“The partnership will make an invaluable contribution to addressing the concrete health needs of the municipalities of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO. “In particular, it will focus on improving the health and social conditions of vulnerable groups that result from armed conflict on all sides.”
At municipal level in countries around the world, health services often face similar issues and problems, such as staffing, financial management, and planning. Exchanging information on challenges faced by health systems, analysing strategies and new approaches and identifying needed know-how, has helped health officials and other social sector personnel to strengthen their services.
WHO has invited representatives from seven European cities - Geneva, Barcelona, Lyon, The Hague, Brussels, Torino, and Hamar (Norway) - to launch the initiative. Today, they will decide how cities can best work together to exchange health care expertise. Representatives are meeting today in Geneva with the Deputy Director General of the Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULAI) and the Executive Director of the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA) to develop concrete next steps that will speed up the implementation of this promising partnership.
In an initial phase of the programme, European municipalities, including professionals of the local health and social services, as well as representatives of the civil society, will invite health officials from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to participate in study tours, training initiatives, and workshops. At a later stage direct exchange activities between Israeli and Palestinian municipalities will be arranged. The programme envisages specific collaboration initiatives in the areas of public health, primary health care and the health and social conditions of vulnerable groups. WHO will assist in coordinating these interventions and link them with overall national health policies.
WHO – in the past – catalysed comparable partnerships with cities in the Balkans. Such programmes can have significant benefits for people living in conflict affected cities. They can help to foster a culture of dialogue and tolerance and contribute to reduce social, cultural and professional isolation. “Such a partnership among municipalities has clear advantages,” said Dr Brundtland. “It allows concentration on day-to-day needs and common concerns. It can play an important role in promoting health and peace-building initiatives.”