World Summit on Sustainable Development

WHO at the World Summit on Sustainable Development

Plenary on Partnership Events (26 August 2002)

Health was one of the five priority areas singled out for special attention by the UN Secretary General under the framework of the WEHAB initiative. WHO helped organize the partnership plenary session on health and environment. A keynote address was delivered by Dr David Nabarro, Executive Director, Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments, WHO, followed by an interactive panel discussion with panellists Robert Hecht of the World Bank, Vanessa Tobin of UNICEF, Kunio Waki of UNFPA, and Angela Mathee of the Medical Research Council of South Africa. A number of priority health issues were identified, including communicable diseases; diseases and conditions resulting from degraded environments; occupational health and safety issues; health issues facing vulnerable populations; and women's health, including reproductive health. Among the many solutions suggested were the need for political will and long-term commitments, sound policies and strategies based on the best scientific evidence, clear targets and timeframes for monitoring and evaluation, capacity-building in countries, advancing research and development, mobilisation of adequate financial resources, addressing human resource needs inside and outside the health sector, and intersectoral action and partnerships with key stakeholders.

Address by WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland at the "General Statements by Non-state Entities" Plenary Session (29 August 2002)

Dr Brundtland addressed the plenary session on health at WSSD by highlighting the need to invest in the health of people and the prevention of ill-health: "the cost of repairing damage is much greater than the upfront spending to prevent it." She reported that investing in the prevention of environmental threats--such as contaminated water and air, polluting fuel, lack of sanitation, disease-bearing insects--would save millions of lives each year and pay major dividends. Dr Brundtland also drew attention to the current crisis in southern Africa that is a manifestation of insufficient investment in people's basic needs. The result is vulnerability to the effects of drought, illness (most of all HIV/AIDS), under-funded health services, insufficient clean water, environmental degradation, and social systems that cannot cope. The world's poorest communities were not sharing the benefits from globalisation, she said. Dr Brundtland stated that the world knows what it will take, in terms of both financial and technical resources, to scale up health measures around the world. She went on to insist that now is the time to move from knowledge to action, and improve the lives of poor women, men, and children. She specifically highlighted the new Healthy Environments for Children Alliance, saying that such alliances can stimulate local initiatives and global movements, the one inspiring the other. Read the full address.

WHO/UNICEF/UNEP/PSR Side Event (30 August 2002)

"Health and Environment in the 21st Century: Priorities and Action Strategies to Secure Our Children's Future."

This side event highlighted the importance of health and environment in the context of sustainable development. It comprised an interactive discussion on topics including linkages between health and environment; the economic burden of ill-health related to environmental degradation; and investing in children and environment. It resulted in the identification of key policy actions in health, environment, and sustainable development at national and international levels in the post-WSSD period.

Speakers included:

  • Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General, World Health Organization;
  • Mrs Carol Bellamy, Executive Director, UNICEF;
  • Mr Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director, UNEP;
  • Mr Ian Johnson, Vice President, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development, World Bank;
  • Hon. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, Minister of Health, South Africa;
  • Hon. David Anderson, Minister of the Environment, Canada;
  • Dr Robert K. Musil, Executive Director and CEO, Physicians for Social Responsibility;
  • Dr Carlos Santos Burgoa, General Director of Environmental Health, Ministry of Health, Mexico;
  • Ms Linda Fisher, Deputy Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency.

WHO Parallel Event (31 August 2002)

"Health and Sustainable Development"

This parallel event, organized by WHO and the Department of Health, South Africa in association with a number of other key institutions, included five plenary sessions. It commenced with a ministerial roundtable on the theme "Pushing back the frontiers of poverty", which was followed by four panel discussions. Sessions on investing in health, children's health and the environment, research partnerships, and intersectoral action in practice explored key policies and action strategies. Click here to download presentations from the event.

Participating institutions: WHO; Department of Health, South Africa; United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Institutes of Health of the Department of Health and Human Services; International Development Research Centre (IDRC); United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF); International Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE); Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR).

Initiative on "Healthy Environments for Children"

29 August 2002 Individual Partnerships for Sustainable Development

The UN General Assembly, in Resolution 56/226 on WSSD, encouraged new initiatives that would contribute to the implementation of Agenda 21 and other outcomes of UNCED by strengthening commitments at all levels. This includes through reinvigorating global commitment and partnerships, both among governments as well as between governments and major groups. Click here for more information relating to these partnerships and initiatives, also referred to as "type 2 outcomes".

WHO, together with a number of partners involved in the founding of the "Healthy Environments for Children" initiative (including representatives from UN organizations, governments, and NGOs), gave a presentation on this newly formed alliance at the session "Individual Partnerships for Sustainable Development". The initiative is intended to contribute to the implementation of the outcomes of the WSSD and the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals. Speakers outlined the impact that unsafe and unhealthy environments have on children’s health, the rationale for creating a broad-based inclusive alliance to safeguard healthy environments for children, and how this alliance might be developed.

1 September 2002 Inauguration - Healthy Environments for Children Alliance

Subsequent to the partnership presentation, the "Healthy Environments for Children Alliance" was officially inaugurated at an evening reception held 1 September. Strong support for the alliance was received from many quarters, including Royalty, Health and Environment Ministers and officials from a large number of countries, Heads of UN agencies, the European Commission, NGOs, youth, members of civil society and others. At the reception, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO, was awarded the International Environment Prize for 2002 from the City of Goteborg, Sweden. In accepting the award worth one million Swedish krone, Dr Brundtland announced that the prize money would be donated to the new initiative to get work off to a flying start.

UBUNTU Village Exhibit

WHO’s exhibit "Strengthening the Role of Health in Sustainable Development" was located at the Ubuntu Village. It explained the relationship between health and sustainable development and described WHO’s contributions to WSSD.

Virtual Exhibition

The Virtual Exhibition showcased sustainable development projects from around the world, including WHO’s Healthy Cities Project, which seeks to put health higher on the agenda of decision-makers in cities, and to develop a local participatory approach to dealing with environmental, social and economic determinants to health. A video showcasing the Healthy Municipality programme of Versalles, Colombia, and interactive sessions completed the exhibition.

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