New agreement between UN Environment and WHO to further strengthen collaboration in the Region

WHO/Chris Black

Mr Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO

On 10 January 2018, the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and WHO agreed upon a new global collaboration framework to tackle environment and health risks. For the WHO European Region, this agreement builds upon long-standing and strong regional collaboration through the European Environment and Health Process, in which UN Environment is a key stakeholder.

Many of the agreement’s thematic areas complement the 7 key areas for action of the Declaration of the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, held in Ostrava, Czechia, in 2017.

Globally, this represents the most significant formal agreement on broad environment and health issues in over 15 years. It follows the Ministerial Declaration on “Health, Environment and Climate Change”, signed at the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Marrakesh, Morocco, in 2016.

Mr Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, signed the agreement. It scales up joint action in key areas of environment and health, namely:

  • air quality monitoring, assessment of the health impacts of air pollution and joint management of the BreatheLife advocacy campaign;
  • climate change and its threat to health, and promotion of health adaptation and healthy mitigation;
  • water and sanitation, and collaboration on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets related to waterborne diseases, water quality and pollution;
  • biodiversity and assessment of the health benefits of ecosystem services;
  • chemicals and waste management, and implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management;
  • antimicrobial resistance and understanding of environmental interactions; and
  • food systems and nutrition.

“There is an urgent need for our 2 agencies to work more closely together to address the critical threats to environmental sustainability and climate – which are the foundations for life on this planet. This new agreement recognizes that sober reality,” said Mr Solheim.

“Our health is directly related to the health of the environment we live in. Together, air, water and chemical hazards kill more than 12.6 million people a year. This must not continue,” said Dr Tedros.

The new collaboration creates a more systematic framework for conducting joint research, developing tools and guidance, building capacity, monitoring progress on SDGs, strengthening global and regional partnerships, and supporting regional health and environment fora.