WSSD Health and Environment Theme Status Report (June 2002)

Lisa Donnelly
WSSD Health and Environment Theme Status Report

Dear Lisa

Further to your request for input, herewith my comments, in my capacity as Chair of the Board of CAPE. My comments are confined to the proposal put forward by Canada to the World Summit on Sustainable Development for a “type 1” initiative on health and environment linkages.

  • While this proposal is sub-titled “Moving from Knowledge and Experience to Action” it is not at all clear to me where the “action” part is. The initiative seems to consist primarily of a “synthesis of existing knowledge on health and environment” which will commence in early 2003 and be completed by the end of 2005. I recognize that there is also an objective relating to “on-going support to countries in need in order to facilitate the transfer and the use of the knowledge gained through the synthesis” but it all seems a little vague and it all seems to end at the end of 2007.
  • Moreover, the whole project seems to be about providing assistance to others (I presume that means less developed countries), but not about action undertaken by the G-8 and/or OECD to reduce their devastating impacts on health and the environment.
  • There is a reference to “realigning domestic health and environment programs”, but it must be recognized that these programs have been devastated both federally and provincially in Canada. A splendid example of a failure to realign health and environment programs in Canada is the disgraceful manner in which the Cabinet vetoed improvements in both the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Pest Control Products Act that have been proposed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. If we cannot walk the walk, we should not be talking the talk.
  • There is reference in the proposal to “remediation”, but the initiative is curiously silent on the topic of prevention.
  • There is talk about “educating the public to make choices that will protect them from environmental harm” but no reference to governments taking action to protect the public from environmental harm caused by development and corporate practices.

In short, I am not at all convinced we need a three year effort to do the sort of synthesis that the World Resources Institute, the World Health Organization, the UN Environment Program and others have done in recent years. What we do need is action.

The inadequacy of mere provision of information to effect change is vividly demonstrated, for example, by the massive international collaborative work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Despite a great deal of synthesis, the resulting action on the basis of this overwhelming evidence of human-induced climate change and its devastating impacts is pitiful. Even Canada has failed to ratify the Kyoto Accord, and I see little to suggest that it will.

All the talk of synthesis of information, facilitation, communication, training, etc., is not worth the paper it is written on unless there is a serious commitment to action. I see no evidence that there is. It will be nice if this initiative could at least provide some more concrete evidence of commitment to action.

Dr Trevor Hancock
Chaie of the Board, CAPE

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“Donnelly (HEMA),Lisa [NCR]” wrote:
(le francais suivra)

As part of our health and environment stakeholders distribution list, we have contacted your organization to seek your views and insight on health and environment issues. Your views have helped shape Canada’s approach as we were preparing for the meeting of Health and Environment Ministers of the Americas (HEMA) and as we continue to develop Canada’s position on Health and Environment for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainble Development (WSSD). Since HEMA, and as the world prepares for WSSD we have been busy responding to the burgeonning international interest on environment and health issues. Canada has consistently promoted greater linkages between environment and human health including at HEMA, at the Environment G8, the upcoming North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation and at all preparatory committee meetings for the WSSD. Attached, for your information, is a status report on Health and Environment for WSSD. As part of the preparatory process for WSSD, Canada is playing a leadership role on environment and human health issues. A key initiative that we are promoting is the Health and Environment Linkages: Knowledge and Experience for Capacity Building (a description of the proposal is appended to the Status Report in Annex 1). As you will read in the Status Report, this proposal has generated interest and support from various countries and international organizations. As we continue to develop this proposal, your organization’s views are important to us. Please, email your comments to me, before June 21. For additional information, please contact Julie Charbonneau at Environment Canada at (819) 953-3392 or Dorothy Walker, Health Canada at (613) 952-4518.

I look forward to your reply,

Lisa Donnelly

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Votre organisme étant inscrit sur la liste de diffusion aux intervenants en matière de santé et d’environnement, nous avons communiqué avec vous dans le cadre de notre démarche de consultation pour solliciter vos points de vue et vos commentaires sur les questions relatives à la santé et à l’environnement. Vos points de vue ont aidé à façonner l’approche du Canada en vue de la réunion des ministres de la Santé et de l’Environnement des Amériques (MSEA) et continuent de nous inspirer au moment où nous élaborons la position du Canada en matière de santé et d’environnement pour le Sommet mondial sur le développement durable (SMDD) de 2002. Depuis la réunion des MSEA, et alors que le monde se prépare pour le SMDD, nous nous sommes affairés à répondre à l’intérêt de plus en plus manifeste, à l’échelle internationale, pour les questions d’environnement et de santé. Le Canada continue de promouvoir des liens accrus entre l’environnement et la santé, particulièrement dans le contexte de la réunion des MSEA, la rencontre des ministres de l’environnement du G8, la réunion prochaine des ministres de la Commision de coopération environnemental de l’Amérique du Nord et à toutes les réunions préparatoires du SMDD. Vous trouverez ci-joint, à titre d’information, un rapport d’étape sur la santé et l’environnement pour le SMDD. Dans le cadre du processus préparatoire du SMDD, le Canada joue un rôle de premier plan dans la promotion de liens plus étroits entre la santé humaine et l’environnement. Une des principales initiatives dont nous faisons la promotion est intitulée Lien santé et environnement: du savoir et de l’expérience à l’action (une description de la proposition est jointe au rapport d’étape, à l’annexe 1). Comme vous pourrez le lire dans le rapport d’étape, cette proposition a suscité l’intérêt de plusieurs pays et organisations internationales, et obtenu leur appui. Les points de vue de votre organisme sont importants pour nous aider à étoffer cette proposition. Je vous saurais gré de me faire parvenir vos commentaires par courriel d’ici le 21 juin. Pour de plus amples renseignements, veuillez vous adresser à Julie Charbonneau, à Environnement Canada, au (819) 953-3392, ou à Dorothy Walker, à Santé Canada, au (613) 952-4518.

J’espère pouvoir lire votre réponse sous peu,

Lisa Donnelly

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