Polis actively contributed to the WHO's stakeholder consultation on "Environment and Health for European Cities in the 21st century: making a difference"

The meeting was convened in the framework of the European Environment and Health Process, as part of the preparations for the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, to be held on 13-15 June 2017, in Ostrava, at the kind invitation of the Czech Republic.

Its scope was to hold a consultation involving WHO Member States, representatives of Cities and Local Authorities and their networks, Inter-governmental Organizations and Agencies, with views of making recommendations on the commitments, initiatives and actions that could foster greater collaboration and policy alignment across different levels of government and among stakeholders in relation to environment and health issues of priority at the sub-national and local level.

Scope and purpose

With more than 80 % of Europeans expected to live in urban areas by 2030, a rapid ageing of the population, and increasing immigration, the urban environment is where different policies can be integrated and leveraged to promote and protect health and wellbeing from environmental threats through a complex array of exposures and mechanisms.

In cities, policies related to housing, land use, transport, green spaces, water, sanitation and municipal waste management, as well as to climate change adaptation and mitigation, come along with opportunities for education, employment, health care services, leisure and security, which could reduce socio-economic inequalities.

In addition, cities play a pivotal role in steering the transition towards a low-carbon society, the uptake of cleaner technologies and shifts towards renewable energy sources. At the same time, their resilience to extreme weather events related to climate change needs to be increased.

Cities will be central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Goals, including and beyond SDG 11 “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, as well as of the “New Urban Agenda”, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), held in Quito, Ecuador, on 17-20 October 2016.

A 2-day stakeholder consultation event

The 2-day meeting was opened by Mr Victor Everhardt, Deputy Mayor of Utrecht who welcomed delegates and introduced Utrecht's apporach to a Healthy Urban Living – health at the heart of urban development strategy.

Mr Srdan Matic and Mrs Francesca Raccioppi form the WHO introduced the objectives on the consultation exercice with stakeholders and Member States. Mrs Brigit Staatsen from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) chaired the event.

The meeting was attend by representatives of the city network Polis, youth and health-related assocciations, the European Commission, and UN Agencies.

Participants were invited to participate in three side events to relevant projects in the City of Utrecht:

  • People: Working with the people of “Overvecht” which was identified as one of the unhealthiest communities in The Netherlands;
  • Planet: The Central Station area redevelopment plan as an icon in healthy urban living and a unique approach in the so-called living labs;
  • Profit: The Jaarbeurs Innovation Mile, the Utrecht Region example of ‘health entrepreneurship’.

In the afternoon delegates reconvened in the meeting room. After an introduction to the European Environment and Health Process and the preparation of the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, a series of short presentations gave an overview on the international policy environment supporting environment and health action at the sub-national and local level, notably:

  • The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its significance andimplications for cities and sub-national levels of government;
  • The New Urban Agenda adopted by the UN Conference on Housing andSustainable Urban Development (Habitat III)
  • Health 2020 as an entry point to create supportive environments andresilient communities.

Key aspects raised during the moderated general discussion related to: transport and active travel, air pollution, urban equity, energy, waste and water management, sustainable development and physical and societal resilience of communities and cities, climate change adaptation, impact assessment approaches.

The draft document "Environment and Health for European Cities in the 21st century: making a difference” was presented by Dr Laurence Carmichael of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments, University of the West of England, Bristol. The document focuses on the proposed scope of possible priorities for action related to cities and sub-national levels of government to be agreed at the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health.

A short meeting report and conclusions wil be made availabel shortly by the WHO.

For more information, please visit the EHP Environment and Health Process webpage.