Joint Statement: Rio+20 puts health at the heart of development goals
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, recognizes in its final document the fundamental need to act on the social and environmental determinants of health to create inclusive, equitable, economically productive and healthy societies. Equity should be at the core of this task, with special attention given to the poor and the most vulnerable.
WHO/Europe, the Pan American Health Organization and WHO headquarters, taking part in the Conference, advocated for health as both a contribution to and a beneficiary of sustainable development.
Health in all policies is a key approach to sustainable development
Reductions in air, water and chemical pollution can prevent up to one fifth of the overall European burden of disease. Great opportunities for progress lie in reducing consumption levels and fostering healthy and green developments in energy, transport, housing, urban management and agriculture, as well as in the health sector. Sustainable development calls for a new health governance approach, introducing the health dimension into decision-making processes across all public policy areas.
Good health is a prerequisite for achieving sustainability goals
Universal health care is an important step in enhancing the health status of populations; it requires a multisectoral approach coupled with an overall strengthening of health systems. Promoting affordable access to prevention, treatment and care strengthens the fight against communicable diseases — such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis — and noncommunicable diseases — such as cancers and cardiovascular diseases — which remain a serious global concern, as well as emerging diseases and challenges arising from demographic change, including migration.
Health is a way of measuring the impact of sustainable development policies
Monitoring progress towards sustainable development goals means being able to evaluate the economic, environmental and social dimensions of policy. Investment in health alone cannot solve the problems of sovereign debt, volatile food prices or the environmental impact of climate change. But people’s health remains vitally important as a measure of the impact of policies in all these areas and this should be fully acknowledged by those aiming to promote a fairer, greener and more sustainable approach to globalization. Not only are health outcomes readily measurable, health concerns are immediate, personal and local.
Statement: Remarks by Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director on Sustainable Development in an Unequal World at Rio+20
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 20, 2012
Extract (concluding remarks)
…In short: a pro-equity strategy is not only right in principle; it is right in practice.
To that end, over the last two years, UNICEF has reviewed our programs through an equity lens, and is now working, with our partners, to reach still more of the children our efforts are missing. The almost 20% of children still not covered by routine vaccination … The 67 million children still out of primary school … The infants who die, unnecessarily, from the complications of preterm birth or from pneumonia and diarrhea, the other biggest – and highly treatable – killers of children.
Last week, the global community came together at a conference in Washington DC hosted by Ethiopia, India, and the United States, in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO, to reach those unreached children – by rallying again around the goal of child survival.
More than seven hundred representatives of civil society … faith-based organizations … the private sector … and some seventy governments reviewed significant new modeling, based on innovations in health and education, which shows not only that it is possible to achieve dramatic reductions in child mortality by 2035 – but also that it is feasible to greatly decrease that most outrageous of inequities: the huge gap in child mortality between the poorest and richest nations.
Almost sixty governments, and many dozens of non-governmental organizations, signed a pledge on the spot to redouble efforts to achieve that goal, through measurable benchmarks. We expect many more to follow suit in the coming weeks and months.
In doing so, they will renew the promise the world made in 1990 at the World Summit for Children … in MDGs 4 and 5 … and ten years ago in the General Assembly Resolution on a World Fit for Children.
The goal of 2035 represents a giant step towards what must be our ultimate ambition – a world in which no child dies of preventable causes, of treatable disease.
And with a view to increasing our efficiency and achieving ever better results, UNICEF has developed a new tool to monitor our progress and accelerate those results.
Because results are all that matter … if children’s rights are to be realized.
If we can increase vaccinations so that fewer children die of diseases we know how to prevent … if we can provide more micronutrients so that young brains and young bodies grow strong … if we can give more boys and girls a quality education, we will give children everywhere – this generation and the next – the start in life they deserve. And make sustainable the future of which they dream.
That is their right … our responsibility … and, I hope, one legacy of Rio+ 20