Region-wide: The Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP)

Transport activities are related to numerous health effects, some positive (such as through cycling and walking, which provide physical activity) others negative (such as road traffic injuries, air pollution, noise and greenhouse-gas emissions). Transport policy options, particularly at the urban level, are important determinants of health, and there is an interest in promoting those that can maximize benefits for human health and the environment.

THE PEP was established in 2002 as a follow-up to the 1999 WHO Charter on Transport, Environment and Health and to the Programme of Joint Action on Transport and Environment of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). By developing a shared policy platform to which the WHO and UNECE provide secretariat services, it has been possible to engage ministries responsible for transport, environment and health of the European Region, who gather at high-level meetings to set a policy agenda for joint action. The last high-level meeting, held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in January 2009, adopted the Amsterdam Declaration, with four regional goals, aiming at achieving sustainable economic development, achieving sustainable and efficient transport, reducing transport-related emissions and promoting safe and healthy modes of transport. The Steering Committee of THE PEP meets yearly to review progress and decide on work plans and is supported by a Bureau with 12 countries representing the three sectors on an equal footing.

THE PEP implements its activities through three main mechanisms:

  1. support for developing national transport, health and environment actions plans,
  2. a series of thematic workshops sharing a common thread (THE PEP Staffette or relay race) and providing an opportunity to build capacity by exchanging experiences and expert support and
  3. THE PEP partnerships, which bring together interested donors and partners to address specific issues.

 The two most recent partnerships under THE PEP are those related to developing economic tools to estimate the health effects of transport policy options and to documenting experiences in creating new green jobs by promoting cycling, walking and public transport.

The lessons learned include the following.

  1. WHO and UNECE provide the legitimate entry point for engaging the health and transport and environment sectors, respectively.
  2. The political agenda set in the Amsterdam Declaration provides each sector with a goal for which they can feel ownership.
  3. The focus on sustainable and healthy transport enables a very distinctive niche that makes this governance process different from any other.

As with all non-binding processes, THE PEP is vulnerable to changes in political priorities and is financially dependent on voluntary donations, which in turn are affected by economic cycles and shifts in political priorities: finding ways to increase its stability and sustainability would be important.