Promoting intersectoral cooperation on environmental health

Policy in many sectors affects environmental health, which decision-makers must take into account. Intersectoral cooperation with sectors such as agriculture, transport, energy, industry and tourism is essential for successful implementation of national environmental health action plans.

Countries need to establish intersectoral mechanisms that will allow them to build a common understanding and a common language of environment and health issues among the sectors.

Many environment and health issues stem from economic activities that are under the responsibility of authorities other than those dealing with health or the environment. For this reason, the development of evironmental health plans requires the cooperation of at least four or five economic sectors, such as agriculture, transport, industry, energy and tourism, in addition to the environment and health sectors.
Economic instruments are one means of promoting intersectoral cooperation and integration; in general, they come under the responsibility of the ministry of economy/finance or at least need its agreement to be put into effect. The challenge is to bring the relevant sectoral authorities and the finance/economy ministry to an understanding of the environment and health problems, and to involve them in identifying the appropriate instruments to address them.

Recommendation A from the European Environment and Health Committee, in their paper, Economic Perspectives on Environment and Health (June 1999), states: European Member States should strengthen the skills of their environment and health authorities in economics, so that they can more successfully ensure that environment and health considerations are taken into account.

Recommendation B from the European Environment and Health Committee, in their paper, Economic Perspectives on Environment and Health (June 1999), states: European Member States are recommended to ensure that intersectoral debates take place between the economic sectors and ministerial departments about the sectoral policies that have an impact on the environment and health. These debates should help to build a common understanding of the issues at stake. In particular, strategic scenarios should be developed using economic analysis and describing possible health impacts.

Counter Claim:
(1) The joint efforts of environment and health departments in developing environmental health plans has resulted in a common position on environmental health problems and actions to resolve them. Unfortunately this has not been the case with other economic sectors, and many of the critical questions relating to the integration of environmental health considerations into the long-term strategies of the other economic sectors remain unresolved. Sectoral policies very often continue to ignore environment and health considerations.

(2) The barrier to intersectoral cooperation and understanding is that the different partners often have potentially conflicting interests. In many countries, this has often led to political choices being made by arbitration rather than negotiation. This has often been to the disadvantage of environment and health status, which is not sustainable in the long run.

Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies