International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA)
  • Date submitted: 31 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA)
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Youth (4 hits),

Full Submission

?Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature? ? Principle 1 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992
This position statement and submission is delivered in response to the request for input from the co-chairs of the UNCSD Bureau, dated 14 March 2011, to the compilation document used to prepare the zero draft of the UNCSD Rio+20 outcome framework.


The International Federation of Medical Students' Associations (IFMSA) represents 1.3 million medical students from 91 countries across the globe.

We affirm our commitment to the principles outlined in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and of Agenda 21. In particular, we believe that human health and wellbeing must be a central tenant of any global agreement made at the UNCSD Rio+20.

Whilst acknowledging the considerable improvements achieved in development and poverty eradication (in no small part as a result of the Millennium Declaration), we note the limited progress made in bringing together historically independent social, environmental and economic policy at a national and international level.

Rio+20 must support global recognition that social, economic and environmental principles underpinning sustainable development are mutually enhancing, not mutually exclusive. Evidence and experience have proven that health and sustainable development are interdependent and indivisible. Progress thus far in sustainable development has been impeded by constrained thinking, which assumes that economic growth coupled with a focus on specific disease and discrete sectors in isolation to one another, will stimulate development.

Objectives from Rio+20

We call for a return to the principles of health and human rights as enshrined in Article 1 of the 1992 Rio Declaration and of health as the highest social goal as enshrined in the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Mata. This should place health at the centre of the international negotiation process, as a necessary precondition for sustainable development, fundamental to social, environmental and economic development. Such an approach must address the social, environmental and economic determinants of health as a means to reduce health inequities through integration of health in all outcomes of the summit.
Shifts in a geopolitical world have exacerbated many of the challenges faced by Majority World Nations. Chief among them are the provision of access to medicines, health services, adequate food and clean water for drinking and sanitation. We look to Rio+20 to elevate and further validate the social determinants of health nexus as a core concept in sustainable development.
Rio+20 must provide a comprehensive and ambitious plan of action for the mainstreaming, enhancement, and accelerated implementation of Agenda 21. Such strategies should include formal mechanisms to ensure the co-implementation of social, economic and environmental policies and the securing of resources for development and implementation of Action Plans.

Health in the Green Economy

We view the green economy as a means to achieving the overarching goals of global poverty eradication and improved health and well-being for all, and not an end in itself.
We support the initiatives and strategies outlined in the World Health Organisation?s ?Health in the Green Economy? Series1 which proposes a series of co-beneficial solutions for health and climate change mitigation and adaptation, relating to health systems, housing and household energy, and the transport sector. We call for a Health in All Policies (HiAP)2 approach to sustainable development, which outlines the need for cooperation between all sectors of society, to advance human development, sustainability, and equity. Such an approach emphasise that all implementation strategies which emerge from Rio+20 will be best achieved when integrated with health and well-being as a key component of their policy development. A key factor in the green economy must involve strengthening the capacity of national healthcare systems with an emphasis on devolved yet integrated care, and embedded prevention thinking to face the emerging epidemiological and demographic challenges in health. Such an approach will coincide with the development and implementation of sustainable practices within healthcare systems.

The promotion of holistic and long-term sustainable city planning based on environment-sensitive master planning that takes into account population growth, resource utilization, building design, efficient transportation and waste management. Sustainable architecture should strive to improve living conditions, reduce vulnerability and diminish exposure to hazardous materials, tackling the social determinants of health. This could be made possible through financial incentives and mandatory technical standards for new developments.
The implementation of environmental policies must stress green strategies which enhance health and economic benefits in an equitable fashion, rather than environmental protectionist strategies, concerned only with environmental benefit.

Youth Engagement and Capacity Building

Article 25 of Agenda 21 states that "Youth comprise nearly 30 per cent of the world's population. The involvement of today's Youth in environment and development decision-making and in the implementation of programmes is critical to the long-term success of Agenda 21." We agree with the sentiment expressed in Article 25 and call upon all parties to engage Youth organisations and in particular young professional organisations, with sustainable development decision making processes. As future health professionals who will be involved in the delivery of healthcare and as young people whose health will be affected by failing to develop sustainably we request all parties to listen to the views of future health professionals on sustainable development.
With regards to capacity building, we take the concepts outlined in Article 6 of the UNFCCC and would like to see them applied to the field of sustainable development. We call on parties to further ?the development and implementation of education and training programmes, including the strengthening of national institutions and the exchange or secondment of personnel to train experts in this field in particular for developing countries?. We would also like to see this incorporated within existing professional education programs so as to enable future professionals to actively participate in tackling sustainable development problems and promoting of their solutions.
Implementation, Accountability, and Building Momentum
We support the use of key health-based indicators as a measure of global progress, and in the evaluation of all sustainable development policies implemented as a result of Rio+20. Unlike sustainable development, health is a simplistic and tangible concept, with immediate and personal benefits. As such, health outcomes generate significant public interest and additional political will.

We look to the World Health Organisation, and their established tools and instruments useful in evaluating the social impacts of policies across all sectors. Member states should implement similar evaluation and monitoring mechanisms to obtain specific data on the effectiveness of the policy agreements made at the Earth Summits, feeding back to regional reporting and support systems to ensure enhanced political accountability.

Whilst broadly supportive of proposals to upgrade the UNEP to a Specialised Agency, in that it would advance the sustainable development agenda, we believe the integration and strengthening of health and human rights institutions to tackle issues in sustainable development to be of equal importance. As such, any additional Specialised Agency should include the economic, social and environmental principles of sustainable development in its mandate.

We support an evidence based, precautionary approach to sustainable development detached from the biases of the political process. As such, we see great merit in the establishment of an intergovernmental scientific body tasked with reviewing and assessing the scientific, technical, and socio-economic information relevant to sustainable development. Such a body would simultaneously act to form a link between policy- and decision- makers, and sustainable development science.
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