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11 July 2007 | Printer friendly

NGO assessment and recommendations on children’s environment and health in Europe (Vienna, 11-15 June 2007)

On the occasion of the Vienna Intergovernmental Mid-term Review (IMR) of the Children’s Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe (CEHAPE), non-governmental organizations from the Pan-European Region were invited to present their assessment of CEHAPE implementation to date, their contribution to the process and recommendations for the way forward.

NGO preparatory conference "Taking Stock of Progress since the Budapest 4th Ministerial Conference on Environmental and Health"

A preparatory conference (final programme) was coordinated on 11-12 June by the Health & Environment Alliance, Eco-forum via WECF Women in Europe for a Common Future and the Austrian Doctors for the Environment (ISDE AUSTRIA), and involved representatives from the scientific community attending the parallel INCHES scientific conference (programme).

The NGO Strategy Conference consisted of:
- an introductory session providing an overview of the environment and health process (presentation);
- parallel sessions on the four Regional Priority Goals including presentations of NGO projects and panel discussions led by key experts,
- a keynote speech by Prof. Philippe Grandjean (presentation)
- reporting back from parallel sessions and preparation for the NGO newscast at the IMR.

An account of NGO projects on children’s environment and health in Europe can be found on the Health & Environment Alliance CEHAPE implementation website.

"Beyond Budapest": NGOs report on progress on children’s environment and health at the IMR

The NGOs provided input to the IMR conference in the form of a lively 45-minute newscast with "reporters from the field" highlighting projects, concerns, challenges and recommendations on the four Regional Priority Goals. The newscast script and power point presentations are available below. A video produced by the Danube Delta Teens entitled "Waste in water hurts our health" and supported by HEAL was shown as well as short clip from the Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environments video project on indoor air pollution (it can be requested at: office@awhhe.am).

The reports from the four RPGs highlighted a number of common themes needing special attention and provided recommendations for governments on the way forward to the next Ministerial Conference in 2009. The common themes and NGO recommendations can be summarized as follows:

- Environmental justice: All reports showed that the poor and ethnically discriminated groups are clearly the most adversely affected and suffer a disproportionate exposure to environmental harms, and it is the children who suffer the most. They are more likely to lack access to safe and clean water, more likely to have air-polluted indoor environments at home and at school, and more likely to suffer the various effects of chemical pollution, or suffer from an accident. Although poverty reduction and inequalities is contained in the CEHAPE as an overarching goal, not much progress has been made in addressing this issue, or at least we have not heard about it.

NGO RECOMMENDATION: Much more should be done by governments and civil society before they meet again in Italy in 2009. For example, a report on measures how to address environmental inequalities and the burden of disease could be prepared and be presented in 2009. Also, we need legislation that simultaneously addresses environmental protection and human rights, not just for today, but for future generations.

- Inter sectoral cooperation: It was clear from the NGO reports that environmental health involves more than just environment and health. Better inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral cooperation would really benefit the process. And speaking of benefits, the EU alone would save about 161 billion Euros yearly if they could just reduce air-pollution deaths.

NGO RECOMMENDATION: More dialogue between the energy, transport, industry, agriculture, planning, education and most importantly the finance ministries is needed.

- Physical vulnerability of children particularly in prenatal stage: Since Budapest, we have come a long way in our scientific understanding of how low levels of exposure to certain chemicals in the womb can contribute to diseases that only occur later in life. Back then, we already thought we needed to move faster, but now we know it! Probably millions of children have reduced intelligence, not only from lead and mercury, which we know about, but potentially from as many as 200 other very commonly used chemicals.

NGO RECOMMENDATION: It’s clearly time to act. Governments should use REACH implementation to prioritize substituting known endocrine disruptors like pthtalates, bishpenol-A and brominated-flame retardants with safer alternatives.

Introduction NGO conference

Keynote presentation: Chemical brain drain, Prof. Philippe Grandjean

Slides NGO report RPG I - Water and sanitation

Slides NGO report RPG III - Air pollution & Respiratory diseases

Slides NGO report RPG II

Script NGO newscast


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