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Madrid Health and Environment conference

Report of the 2nd High-Level preparatory meeting towards the 5th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health

03.11.2008 |Sascha Gabizon

On 22-24 October, the second high-level preparatory meeting towards the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health and the executive session of the European Environment and Health Committee (EEHC) took place in Madrid, Spain.

The European ECO Forum was represented by Sascha Gabizon (WECF, Coordinator of Environment and Health Issue Group at European ECO Forum), Sonja Haider (WECF), Iulia Trombitcaia (Eco-Accord, Russia) and Emma Anakhasyan (Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment NGO).
The Second High-Level Meeting addressed CEHAPE Regional Priority Goals III and IV. It was preceded by the International Public Health Symposium which provided the opportunity to listen to the most recent research. The major new and debatable issues raised by symposium were endocrine disruptors and the effect of chemicals cocktail. It is not yet clear whether they will get any attention of the Fifth Ministerial Conference in Italy.

Dates, place and programme of Italy
The dates and place of the Fifth Ministerial Conference in Italy were not fixed during the Madrid meeting. The host country proposed October 2009 in Parma, but there were some arguments raised by the WHO, the European Commission and some governments in favor of postponing the conference until March 2010. The agreement should be reached next week. The preliminary programme for the conference was discussed by the EEHC. A lot of proposals were presented. NGOs looked at the possibilities to be more involved in the sessions on socioeconomic inequities, gender inequities, and on working with new stakeholders but we did not manage to clarify these possibilities for the moment.

NGO session
During the Second High-Level Meeting, the European ECO Forum and the Health and Environment Alliance organized an NGO session to present experience of NGOs working on RPGIV in the region. Sonja Haider, WECF, spoke about the “Nesting” project. Diana Smith, HEAL, presented the Chemical Health Monitor project and the Collaborative on Health and Environment. Iulia Trombitcaia, Eco-Accord, spoke about the work of Eco-Accord and other EECCA NGOs to address chemical safety issues in the region and presented the asbestos project. Emma Anakhasyan, Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment NGO, presented the project on human biomonitoring.

NGOs developed and distributed Recommendations on RPGIV (see below in the end of this message).

At the NGO session, Sascha Gabizon (WECF/Eco-Forum) and Monica Guarinoni (HEAL) presented possible NGO contribution to the ministerial conference. In particular, we asked for:

  • Ministers-NGO roundtable in the official programme of the ministerial conference
  • CEHAPE Awards (with a ceremony during the opening of the conference. This already received positive indications from some governments)
  • RPG News

NGOs also asked for 100 badges for participation in the ministerial conference and encouraged all delegations to include at least 1 health and 1 environmental NGO delegate on their delegations. We also encouraged delegations to organize national NGO consultation meetings for the Fifth Ministerial Conference.

During the NGO session, we raised the issue that WHO was restricted in publishing research on nuclear pollution and health effects, through this agreement with the IAEA and that we would recommend that this agreement would be abolished. The WHO responded that this was not true and they were free to publish their research. They immediately distributed a statement of 2001 with arguments on the issue.

Expected outcomes of the Ministerial Conference
The major outcome of the Fifth Ministerial Conference will be the ministerial declaration. The delegations approved the outline and major structure of the draft declaration. They agreed to keep it short, youth friendly and with very limited references to other processes and previously agreed documents. Delegates stressed that there should be an added value in the Italy Conference. The discussion on the future of the Environment and Health process was postponed until the third high-level meeting in April 2008. General comments on the declaration were invited by 10 November. Eco-Forum will send a letter with general comments (see the draft below in this message) in the coming days.

 Another major outcome of the Fifth Ministerial Conference could be a strategy on adaptation to climate change in the health sector. The United Kingdom offered to lead the development of the strategy. This strategy may be an annex to the ministerial declaration.

NIS/SEE needs
There was a discussion about NIS/SEE focus of the process with an introductory speech given by the REC CEE. Eco-Forum clearly spoke in favor of maintaining the focus on the region and making stronger commitments to support and fund activities in NIS states. There will be meetings of NIS governments under coordination of the WHO to make an input to the ministerial conference, with the first meeting on 10-12 November in Kyrgyzstan focused on the health sector. In nearly the same dates, WECF, together with WASH, 5 Kyrgyz NGOs and the government of Kyrgyzstan, will organise a High level Sanitation Conference in Bishkek on November 11-12.

Future meetings

  • 10-12 November 2008, Kyrgyzstan, First Meeting of NIS countries to focus on reform of public health and the role of SANEPID
  • 3-4 December 2008, France, Second Drafting group meeting on Declaration
  • 28-29 January 2009, Luxemburg, Thematic Meeting on Healthy Environments (on the 2nd day – a declaration meeting to endorse the proposals from the Second Drafting group meeting)
  • April 2009, Tajikistan, Second Meeting of NIS countries
  • Dates and place unkown, Meeting of SEE countries
  • 27-29 April, Bonn, Third High-Level Meeting

Communication Network for Young Journalists
In Madrid, the WHO organized a media workshop for 22 young journalists to support the establishment of a World Health Youth (WHY) Communication Network on environment and health. The network will catalyze the involvement of young journalists from European countries in the Environment and Health process. Young journalists (18-28 years old) are invited to join this project. Contact: Mrs. Cristiana Salvi

There still is a chance for youth to get more involved in the preparatory process. There will be a youth pre conference in Italy. If you have young people working on environment and health please ask us how to get them in.

Please do not hesitate to contact me (sascha.gabizon(at) or Iulia (iutrombitcaia(at) for any further information.

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