World Summit on Sustainable Development


HECA at the Commission on Sustainable Development Partnerships Fair

The World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNEP, in collaboration with stakeholders in the Healthy Environments for Children Alliance (HECA), held a panel discussion during the Partnerships Fair of CSD-11 on Wednesday 7 May 2003. The Partnerships Fair is being introduced into CSD-11 to enable those with experiences or information about sustainable development partnerships, and those who wish to become involved in such partnerships, to meet and share experiences. The event was moderated by Dr Robert Musil, Executive Director and CEO, Physicians for Social Responsibility and panelists included: Dr David Nabarro, Executive Director, Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments, World Health Organization; Dr Vanessa Tobin, Chief, Water, Environment and Sanitation Section, UNICEF; Mr Adnan Amin, Director, New York Office, United Nations Environment Programme; and Ms Susan West Marmagas, Director, Environmental Health Programs, Physicians for Social Responsibility. The HECA event during the Partnerships Fair was an opportunity to present HECA, brief delegates on developments since WSSD and the outcomes of HECA alliance-building efforts, and engage in a dialogue with potential stakeholders/interested parties on opportunities for involvement and action in the global alliance. The official Web site on the Partnerships Fair can be viewed at:

Issues and Challenges in Health and Sustainable Development

The keynote address "Issues and Challenges in Health and Sustainable Development" [.pdf, 1.44MB] was delivered by WHO Executive Director Dr David Nabarro at the Health and Sustainable Development Conference, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands (1 April 2003).

Health at the Heart of Sustainable Development: Highlights of the World Summit on Sustainable Development

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), sustainable development was reaffirmed as a central component of the international agenda. New impetus was given to global action to protect the environment and fight poverty. The development needs of Africa were identified for special attention and support by the international community. A wide range of targets and concrete commitments for action to implement sustainable development objectives were agreed to and reaffirmed by governments. Health (the theme of the first plenary) was identified as one of five priority sectoral issues, along with water, energy, agriculture and biodiversity (see the WEHAB document “A Framework for Action on Health and the Environment” - [.pdf, 196KB]).

The major outcomes of WSSD included 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 by the year 2015 the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation.

Examples of targets in other areas was one that aimed, by 2020, to use and produce chemicals in ways that lead to the minimisation of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment…taking into account the precautionary approach. 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. A wide variety of actions in the area of health care and disease control, environmental health, nutrition and lifestyle-related diseases and risks, child health and women’s health, and intersectoral policy and planning initiatives were addressed throughout the implementation plan.

An agreement to diversify energy supply and substantially increase the global share of renewable energy sources with the objective of increasing its contribution to total energy supply was significant, even though the Summit failed to reach agreement on a specific target. There was also support for the establishment of a world solidarity fund for the eradication of poverty and promotion of social and human development in developing countries.

New measures to strengthen institutional arrangements for sustainable development at international, regional and national levels were called for as well as an enhanced role for the Commission on Sustainable Development in reviewing and monitoring progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 and fostering coherence of implementation, initiatives and partnerships. Also of significance was the agreement to take immediate steps in the formulation and elaboration of national strategies for sustainable development, aiming for implementation by 2005.

Over 8000 civil society participants attended the Summit, which was reinforced by a number of parallel events, including one by WHO, the Government of South Africa, and other institutions on Health and Sustainable Development.

The concept of partnerships (referred to as “type 2” outcomes) between governments, business and civil society was given added momentum by the Summit and the Plan of Implementation. Over 220 partnerships with 235 million dollars in resources were identified in advance of the Summit and around 60 partnerships were announced during the Summit by a variety of countries (see the Health and Sustainable Development Partnerships listing on the official WSSD Web site). Many more were announced outside of the formal Summit proceedings.

Significant funding pledges were announced, including a commitment by the US to spend 2.3 billion through 2003 on health, some of which was earmarked earlier for the Global Fund. Sixteen partnerships submissions were received in health with USD 3 million in resources.

WHO organized a series of meetings and events to prepare the health agenda at WSSD (see WHO Preparations for WSSD). It also contributed a number of documents to the WSSD, including “Health and Sustainable Development: Key Health Trends,” “Health in the Context of Sustainable Development: Background Document,” and “Health and Sustainable Development: Addressing the Issues and Challenges.” At the WSSD itself, WHO provided technical support and ensured a high profile for health and sustainable development including through the following activities organized with a wide range of partners:

  • Side Event on "Health and Environment in the 21st Century: Priorities and Action Strategies to Secure Our Children's Future"; WHO, UNICEF, UNEP, and Physicians for Social Responsibility. This resulted in the identification of key policy actions in health, environment, and sustainable development at national and international levels in the post-WSSD period.
  • Parallel Event: "Health and Sustainable Development"; WHO, Department of Health, South Africa, in association with other institutions. This all day parallel event consisted of five plenary sessions, including a ministerial roundtable and panel discussions on investing in health, children's health and the environment, research partnerships, and intersectoral action in practice.
  • Inauguration of the Healthy Environments for Children Alliance (HECA). The Director-General of WHO officially presented the global alliance aimed at scaling up global action to address priority health dangers and environmental risks in the places where children live, are educated, and play.
  • WHO's UBUNTU Village Exhibit “Strengthening the Role of Health in Sustainable Development”.
  • Virtual Exhibition—WHO’s Healthy Cities Project was included in the Business Action for Sustainable Development/UNDP Virtual Exhibition, which showcased sustainable development projects from around the world.

Further information can be obtained by viewing the WHO Contributions section of this Web site, which features summaries of WHO preparatory activities, documents, and event announcements relating to health and sustainable development at WSSD.