UNDP–Bridge Collaborative roundtable discussion

Opening remarks at UNDP–Bridge Collaborative roundtable discussion “Essential Actions and Partnerships to Accelerate Integrated Health and Environment Solutions for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”

September 25, 2018


As prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Mandeep, for the introduction. I am proud to host this roundtable with our Bridge Collaborative partners, and I am delighted to see this wonderful group of experts around the table – many of whom I know well.

Integrated health and environment solutions are critical for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the hope for today’s conversation is to have an in-depth exchange of ideas on promising approaches, while also reflecting honestly about the political, financial, communication and other challenges standing in the way of progress.

Because of the range of institutions and sectors represented in the room, and the diverse perspectives that you each bring to the conversation, I am confident that this dialogue will help uncover new insights, spur innovative ideas, and hopefully foster new partnerships.

For this audience, I don’t need to repeat the statistics, but I do believe that simple, clean figures are powerful and effectively communicate the urgency to policy makers and can help create bottom-up demand for action. For example, almost a quarter of global deaths are attributable to unhealthy environments .
Of course, ‘clean numbers’ often mask inequities - the fact that the poorest and most marginalized are disproportionately impacted. And ‘clean numbers’ often mask complexity -  dynamic interactions and feedback loops, potential for co-benefits, and trade-offs. In fact, policy incoherence is a real challenge for progress on this agenda. Roughly 6.5 percent of global GDP goes to subsidizing dirty fossil fuels  while air pollution, to a large extent due to the burning of these same fuels, kills 7 million people annually  and costs our economies over US$200 billion in lost labor income .

Our main goal as a development community is to create a virtuous cycle that benefits both people and planet, reduces poverty and inequalities, and grows economies sustainably. I believe that health can be a compelling narrative for action, whether on climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and more.  We saw this in China, for example, where the public demanded greater action on smog and air pollution, largely because of health reasons. This led to China’s unprecedented engagement and commitment to tackling climate change .

Yet action requires more than simply a compelling narrative: inclusive governance, adequate finance, accountability, data, innovation, are all needed. I look forward to your reflections and recommendations on how to speed up the pace of progress and regret that I am not able to stay beyond the opening section.  

But I can commit my organization, UNDP, to continue to work hand in hand with the WHO, UNEP, and other partners to advance the integration of health and the environment in our support to countries to implement the 2030 Agenda. We have large policy and programmatic portfolios across health, environment, climate change mitigation and adaptation, gender equality, poverty reduction, and governance. And are already working with partners on various initiatives at the nexus of health, environment, energy and climate change. For example, our “Solar for Health” project in collaboration with the Global Fund has helped install solar systems in remote health facilities across Africa. And we work closely with the WHO to support climate-resilient health systems.

We hope to further develop existing relationships and programmes in the coming years and foster new ones for even greater impact. This discussion is a good step in that direction and I thank the Bridge Collaborative for partnering with us today.
I now give the floor to my co-chair Mark Tercek.