Policy News

UNEP Joins Three International Organizations in Expert Panel to Improve One Health

International organizations are taking steps to strengthen multilateral health architecture.

Four entities, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as well as a number of key international experts, have agreed to set up a One Health High-Level Expert Council to collect, distribute and publicize reliable scientific information on the links between human, animal and environmental health. The aim is to assist public officials in making appropriate decisions to avoid future crises and to inform citizens.

UNEP asked their wildlife chief Doreen Robinson why this is an important development.

[UNEP] The heads of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and UNEP have agreed to strengthen collaboration to address risks at the human-animal-environment interface. Why is this important?

[Doreen Robinson] The COVID-19 health crisis has highlighted the close links between human, animal and environmental health.  Human well-being is impossible without animal and environment health.  In the case of zoonotic diseases that move between animals and people, like COVID-19, the degradation of nature is increasing risks and the whole world is paying a heavy price.  These organizations have been collaborating on these issues for some time, but all recognize the need to strengthen the environmental dimensions to prevent future crises like the one we are facing today. 

[UNEP] What can UNEP bring to the table?

[DR] UNEP provides valuable perspectives at the science-policy interface. With environmental science and investments in nature we can reduce risks from zoonotic diseases, anti-microbial resistance and other challenges at the interface of human, animal and environment health.

The “One Health” approach, supported by UNEP, is a cross-cutting and systemic approach to health based on the fact that human health and animal health are interdependent and linked to the health of the ecosystems in which they co-exist. UNEP is excited to deepen our collaboration and strengthen the environment dimensions of a One Health approach with Tripartite Alliance members WHO, FAO and OIE.

[UNEP] What does the new panel seek to do?

[DR] The challenges we face are complex and cut across different sectors. By bringing science and practical experience together across these different domains, we hope to mitigate risks and improve responses that support healthy people, animals and environment.

Nature is in crisis, threatened by biodiversity and habitat loss, global heating and toxic pollution. Failure to act is failing humanity. Addressing the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and protecting ourselves against future global threats requires strong and global stewardship of nature and biodiversity; sound management of hazardous medical and chemical waste; and a clear commitment to “building back better”, creating green jobs and facilitating the transition to carbon neutral economies. Humanity depends on action now for a resilient and sustainable future.

By United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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