World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)
At the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, South Africa, sustainable development was reaffirmed as a central component of the international agenda. A wide range of targets and concrete commitments for action to implement sustainable development objectives were agreed and reaffirmed by governments. Health (the theme of the first plenary) was identified as one of five priority sectoral issues under the framework of the Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture and Biodiversity (WEHAB) initiative.
The major outcomes of the WSSD include a negotiated Plan of Implementation (featuring health throughout, as well as a separate chapter on health), a Political Declaration and a number of implementation partnerships and initiatives. Among the most significant achievements of the Summit was a new target to halve the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation by the year 2015. This complements the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without access to clean drinking water by 2015.
Other targets include, by 2020, to use and produce chemicals in ways that minimize significant adverse effects on human health and the environment, taking into account the precautionary principle. In the area of health promotion, there was an agreement to enhance health education with the objective of achieving improved health literacy on a global basis by 2010. There was also a wide variety of actions in the area of health care and disease control, environmental health, nutrition and lifestyle-related diseases and risks, and child health. On women's health and gender issues, it was agreed that access to health care should be consistent with basic human rights as well as religious and cultural values.
Other outcomes of the Summit included:
- Biodiversity: to cut significantly by 2010 the rate at which rare animals and plants are becoming extinct.
- Poverty: to establish a solidarity fund to wipe out poverty, “the greatest global challenge facing the world today”. It was stressed that contributions to the fund are voluntary.
- Aid: recognition that a substantial increase in aid is needed for poor countries to meet agreed development goals. Rich countries are urged to give 0.7% of national income, a target first set in 1970.
- Energy: to take actions to improve access to affordable energy, but there was no agreement on specific targets to increase “substantially” the use of renewable energies, such as solar or wind power, in global consumption. The European Union was in favour of targets but the United States and oil-producing countries were not.
- Fish: to restore depleted fish stocks by 2015 at the latest, recognizing that oceans are essential ecosystems and a critical source of food, especially in poor countries.
- Governance: recognition that good governance nationally and internationally is essential for sustainable development.
The concept of partnerships between governments, business, and civil society was given added momentum by the Summit and the Plan of Implementation. Significant funding pledges were also announced, including a commitment by the United States to spend US$2.3 billion on health in 2003; some of this was earmarked earlier for the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. In health, 16 partnership submissions were received totalling US$3 million.
The 2002 Summit was held 10 years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (the UN Conference on the Environment and Development). Agenda 21 is a declaration resulting from the 1992 conference. It outlines a global programme of action on sustainable development, and forms an overall framework and entry point into a number of development sectors, including biodiversity and the environment, as well as health. Chapter 6 of Agenda 21 emphasizes the fundamental commitment in sustainable development to “protecting and promoting human health”.
Today the achievement of sustainable development, in its environmental, social and economic dimensions, is fundamental to improving health and well-being, and requires new levels of cooperation between health and other development sectors. Of key importance is the need to strengthen the evidence base regarding the health impacts of development sectors, ensuring a sound basis for the formulation of integrated and holistic policies and plans in all sectors that contribute to health and development.