Strengthening national capacities for environmental health interventions

Improving national capacity to identify and reduce environmental health risks
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.

Agenda 21 recommends that comprehensive national strategies should be designed to overcome the lack of qualified human resources, a major impediment to progress in dealing with environmental health hazards. Training should include environmental and health officials at all levels from managers to inspectors. It suggests that greater emphasis should be placed on including the subject of environmental health in the curricula of secondary schools and universities and on educating the public.

Agenda 21 further recommends that developing country efforts should be facilitated by access to and transfer of technology, know-how and information, from the repositories of such knowledge and technologies, possibly on concessional and preferential terms.

Some similarities have been observed in the approaches being used or contemplated by national governments and agencies in developing their environment and health (EH) programmes: (a) the need to prioritize those EH issues to be tackled first; (b) the involvement of a wider circle of organizations and communities nationally, regionally and locally; (c) the seeking of a broader consensus on the use of limited resources; and (d) the devolution of implementation to the local level.

The [United Nations Environmental Programme] (UNEP) is committed to partnership building among Governments, NGOs, centres of excellence and private sector stakeholders in order to increase access by all users to environmental information. This commitment is in response to several mandates articulated in Agenda 21, and the 1997 [Nairobi Declaration] and the 2000 [Malmoe Declaration], adopted by UNEP's Governing Council. The UNEP-INFOTERRA consortium structure is a national-level partnership that represents the most important foundation for global environmental goals.

INFOTERRA is UNEP's global environmental information exchange network operating in 177 countries worldwide through a system of national focal points. INFOTERRA's mandate is to facilitate access to environmental information by reducing bureaucratic, linguistic and technological barriers to information access. In effect, INFOTERRA is UNEP's global advocate on the public right-to-know principle.

Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies